No one gets to choose their gender.
No one should consider themselves superior because of their gender.
I am a woman. I was raised to be a strong, independent woman. My mother was fiercely independent and my parent's marriage was one of equality. My father took his precocious daughter with him just about everywhere he went and I quickly learned about men by being with men, all types of men, in my growing up years. I never even considered that men were from one planet and women were from another, to be honest. I just accepted and learned to respect and appreciate each as I encountered them as individuals. Likewise, I learned a great deal about women from my mother and grandmother and their female friends. Listening to hours and hours of conversation over the years - women with women conversation, women with men conversation and men with men conversation - I soaked up the nuances of relationships. I suppose not all are intense students of human behavior, but I always have been.
As time went on, I worked in the retail and corporate world from the time I was 16 until I was due to have my daughter at age 28. In that time, I encountered still more personal relationships...working relationships, girlfriend relationships, drinking buddy relationships. Still more study of human behavior...making observations and drawing conclusions. However, I still had the foundation of equality; I am an equal to both men and women while maintaining my own identity as a strong woman. I encountered some disrespect directed at me because I was a woman, but was always able to overcome it with my intelligence, skills and humor. Earning the respect of men and women alike was something that became a part of my life (even if I didn't always earn the same pay as my male counterpart). My reputation became a foremost consideration in my mind, one that was based in honesty, integrity and compassion. It is not surprising, then, that my marriage also reflects respect and equality in our relationship, as well as in how we parent our children and in making family decisions.
It was shortly after my daughter was born that I began to attend worship services on a regular basis. In my growing up years, we did not attend any services despite the fact that both my parents believed in G-d. I chose a safe, large church where I could be anonymous - come and go as I pleased. And, I'm happy to say, that I didn't encounter any disrespect because I was a woman. However, I did hear an interpretation of the husband-wife relationship that was completely foreign to me. It was not the fair equality that I had always known from my parents model or from my own marriage, but one of the 'head of the household' being the decision-maker and the wife being submissive. Well, this didn't really jive with what had been the norm in my life, but if that's what others wanted to do, I thought that was fine. I fully respected their choices.
However, when I began attending a much smaller house of worship, this 'head of household' idea began to take on a wider meaning, at least for those around me. I still held to my equality and independence, but it became more and more obvious that I was different from the other women. I was alright with being different, and held to the belief that I could respect all viewpoints, even if they weren't the same as mine. Much to my chagrin, in the course of service within this community, I started to suspect that my voice and my opinions were tainted because of my gender. Somehow, my voice wasn't as weighty as the opinion of the man standing next to me. It was shocking...and hard to take. I tried to deny it, live with it, even ignore it, without much success.
I have wondered if this is a prevalent way of thinking in small, fundamental congregations. Expanding the words of the Apostle Paul regarding the role of women in the marriage relationship and applying it across the board to the congregation, and life in general, is not something that I can embrace easily.
It's not only Scriptures that are used to put woman in a less than respectable light; it is my experience that Christian books do this, as well. I have a particular dislike of books that make sweeping gross generalizations regarding the differences between men and woman and that make recommendations on how to better understand your marriage partner. In my poking around on the internet, I got physically sick at some of the thoughts, not to mention jokes and cartoons, that pit men and women against each other. Sure, men and woman are different in how they are 'wired', but to read and incorporate into your life thoughts from books that delineate stereotypes is disrespectful to both men and women. Sure, men like intimacy - that's a given. And women are multi-taskers - yes. But to suggest that men and woman cannot understand each other unless they know these 'secrets' supposedly common to all men or all women is shortsighted and limiting. (Somehow these types of books all come around to exhorting women to avail themselves to their husbands more than they would like...take that for what it's worth.)
[The best teaching I have heard on marital relationship was based in good, common sense. It is the idea that if the husband puts the needs of his family above all else, making sure he is aware and considerate of the needs of his wife, then the wife will in turn respect him, love him and want to spend time and effort making him happy. Simple, huh?]
I believe that men and woman can have appropriate friendships and fellowship with those other than their marital spouses. I've seen lots of them - I've participated in lots of them. Some of the best friends I've had have been men, both co-workers and personal friendships. We have had interactions and good times without an unhealthy fear of inappropriateness. Is this careless on my part? No, I think that is just maturity, responsibility, being friendly and loving your neighbor. And, if we cannot interact with the opposite sex outside the bounds of marriage, then we are a sad lot indeed. Can you have a healthy community if you can only interact with your spouse and those of your same gender?
No. I don't buy it. I believe that men and women can interact maturely and responsibly.
I believe that they can have working relationships, enjoy fellowship and even friendship with those of the opposite gender.
I believe that Scripture dictates that we love our neighbor, not only love those of your same gender.
I believe by saying you "love" your neighbor, you are not implying you love them as a lover. Two different types of love, in my view.
I believe that all people, whether men or women, deserve respect equally and that we are all different in many ways - ways that are worthy of getting to know and appreciate.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of G-d through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
~the Apostle Paul writing to the Galatians
I don't know...I guess this is a hot button for me. Should we not treat each other as Paul suggests? We all make choices and face the consequences, it is true. We are faced with temptation on a daily basis, and make decisions according to our convictions - and rely upon the Holy Spirit to direct our steps. But in the choices I make, it is my hope that those around me, both men and women, feel loved and respected by both my words and actions.
“Men are respectable only as they respect.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson