June 8, 2008

Male = Masculine, Female = Feminine? PART 1

The title of this post might cause you to think that I'm in favor of a relativistic view of gender, that perhaps I see no difference between male and female. To put that notion to rest, let me say that I believe the opposite is true. There are obvious physical and biological differences that cannot be viewed relativistically or regarded as cultural constructs. For example, females, naturally, have the capacity for pregnancy, males do not. In the news recently, there was a story about a pregnant person living as a man, but this person is not male, she is female. The capacity of the body to function in particular ways points directly to maleness and femaleness. Even surgery, an attempt to be stripped of certain physical characteristics that are evidence of the maleness or femaleness, doesn't change the sex of said person. In the pursuit of transgenderedness, a male cannot contain the natural reproductive system of a female. The male, unsatisfied with his maleness, cannot fully conquer his gender.

Now that I've addressed what God in nature has fixed as male and female, my question is, is what is naturally male automatically masculine? Similarly, is what is naturally female automatically feminine? While I don't believe the physical/biological categories can ever be viewed relativistically or simply discarded, I believe we have a problem with the terms masculine and feminine. I believe in trying to define male and female through masculine and feminine we run into problems, even from a theological perspective.

The etymology of the word feminine dates back to the 14th century and finds its meaning in the Greek term thele, meaning nipple as it relates to function. I find satisfaction in understanding feminine in terms of a fixed anatomy with fixed function as these are absolute ways of understanding the distinction between feminine and masculine, even through every surgical attempt a person might pursue.

What I see happening within evangelical Christianity is an attempt to define feminine in terms of culturally influenced likes and dislikes that are far from fixed. While it is common for boys to like sports, it is not fixed by nature that only boys will like baseball. While it is common for girls to like cooking with mom, it is not fixed by nature that only girls would enjoy this activity. What is fixed by nature is that the cultural mandate to fill the earth requires both male and female, and that each has a distinctly different role in this act of recreating. The capacity to function in these ways is, where I believe, femininity and masculinity resides.

At this point, I haven't entirely answered the question, the title of this post. Look for part 2 shortly.


Anonymous said...

i really appreciated this article. I agree a whole lot with what your saying. Being a Christian i am more of a tomboy adn find myself attracted to men who like more femanine things rather than being more of the mans man. I agree that our culture has men and women pegged to certain rolls adn it is wrong.

Anonymous said...

I am feminine type male. I feel quite feminine from inside and love to be submissive like women and I get attracted to girls who are very masculine and are dominant type. Hence, I feel gender stereotyping is entirely wrong and few people fit the stereotypes of masculinity and femininity.