Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wedded Wednesday- Gender Roles

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of married bloggers sharing their inspirations,

anecdotes, struggles and thoughts regarding
the amazing union of two separate people, as one.
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In college, I was a Sociology major. One of the classes that I had to take was Sociology of Gender Roles--and it quickly became apparent that the professor's thesis was that there was essentially no difference between men and women, and that any and all differences that occurred were socially constructed. Now, while I was able to regurgitate the material in order to get a good grade (even writing a paper critiquing gender stereotypes in Disney movies), the glaring problem with this whole idea for me was that men and women ARE different...down to their physiology.

Aside from their anatomical differences, Dr. Marianne Legato from the Partnership for Gender Specific Medicine Columbia University has talked about the idea that men and women are genetically different because of the Y chromosome, and the 21 specific genes attached to this chromosome. Dr. Legato says that one example is how men can typically drink more alcohol than women without becoming intoxicated--something that is related to a specific enzyme produced by one of those genes specific to the Y chromosome. Essentially, science tells us that men and women ARE different.

In our Bible Study yesterday, we were talking about the differing roles of men and women in marriage. It's a concept that mainstream society doesn't tend to look favorably on (though, I recently caught an episode of Millionaire Matchmaker, and was surprised that the extremely successful matchmaker was advocating for "traditional" gender roles within the relationship and often refers to men as the "hunters and fishers").  But, I do think that Biblically, men and women have different purposes in marriage. However, I think that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that different doesn't have to mean unequal. In my opinion, misinterpretation of the verse calling for wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22), is the main reason for this perceived inequality, and one of the reasons that so many are hesitant to discuss the differing roles in marriage. {I highly suggest this article, which explains how and why this verse is often misinterpreted, and what it really means contextually}

I would argue that having differing roles in marriage doesn't necessarily mean an inequality-- you can have two different items that have different purposes, but have the same worth. And I believe that men and women are equal in God's eyes, though they have very distinct purposes within marriage.

The blessing of this all is that when we're together, my weaknesses are made stronger by Justin's differing strengths; Justin's weaknesses are made stronger by my strengths. I've said it before, and I'll say it again--we're stronger together than we are apart. Or, as Justin said last night, "We're like ears and eyes--one could exist without the other, but they sure work better together!"

So what do you think about gender roles in marriage? Do they exist? Should they?


  1. Gosh, I definitely agree with you here. I think gender roles in marriages do exist and I really do think that if you keep to those roles, chances are you may make it as opposed to a couple who doesn't. I'm not saying people who don't believe gender roles exist in marriages won't make it, but I think it works well for us. We are different people, the hubby and I, and it works for us to have these gender roles. Don't get me wrong, we each help out with other things when needed. We are so much stronger together than we are apart and there are some things where I lack that hubby picks up my slack and vice versa. So yes, I think there are and probably should be gender roles in marriages, it just works smoothly.

  2. I'm one bajillion percent with you girl! It saddens me when the idea of submission is so poorly understood. So many people don't understand that God's design for marriage is what makes a marriage WORK. Well said!

  3. Nicely stated dear. I understand your memory of writing Bologna (good Bologna) just to please the teacher rather than writing about what you really feel. I did that many times. Often without even realizing it. Until one time a prof said, "Taryn, you don't have to agree with me or this author. Make your own opinion." That changed my life!

    Anyway, my sister is a psych major and I was fascinated by the two different schools of thought on gender differences. I agree with you and we are just plain different. Look at us! But as the same time, we are not lesser. And it is a hard concept to grasp. I think to be different is often thought of as lesser- just because it is different and difference in a culture that seems to lift up conformity is seen as a flaw or failure.

    I am different than Chris- but not less.

  4. Great post! I definitely agree. There should be gender roles in marriage, because the weaknesses in one person may very well be the strengths in another.

  5. Hi, I'm a lurker. I've been following your blog for some time, and I really enjoy it. Thanks for being such a great writer!

    Normally I'm too shy to comment on blogs, but this one struck me. Just two days ago my husband and I were discussing how we absolutely do not have distinct roles in our home. We've been married for a year and a half and living together for 6 years, so we've had long enough for roles to develop, they just haven't. We take turns making dinner, cleaning, yard work, paying the bills, laundry, fixing things, and remodeling our home. I was a sociology major with a minor in women's studies, and I wrote my papers fully agreeing with the professors about the social construction of gender roles. My husband grew up in a home of all men (his dad and two brothers), so he was not socialized in gender roles at all. I grew up in a home with a disabled father and a very handy mother, so my role model for being a woman did everything in our home. I think it just proves the point that without being socialized in specific gender roles, we don't feel the need to recreate them in our own relationship.

    If gender roles were natural or some sort of predestined responsibility in a marriage, then they would be found across cultures and across history. Having so many exceptions to the rule, like us, shows that it's socially constructed. But that doesn't mean that you can't choose to have roles if you want them, it just means that it's not unnatural to choose not to use them. Each couple decides what works for them, and clearly you have found a system that makes you two happy, that's what's most important. I think when a couple decides together on what their system will be, then that's equality regardless of who does what. It's when people are told by others that they MUST fulfill a certain role that there is inequality and a lack of freedom.

  6. I couldn't agree more with you (or with the article you linked to) about this! There are many people out there who misinterpret this verse, thus either using it to their advantage (men) or others to ridicule Christianity.

    Our marriage very much reflects these gender roles--BECAUSE of our understanding of Ephesians 5:33.

  7. Lisa- You bring up a great point that I want to make sure is addressed. I don't mean "gender roles" in terms of who does the cooking and cleaning (those ideas are definitely socially constructed). I mean that men and women are biologically and emotionally different, and that those differences are actually something to be embraced in the marriage relationship.

    For example, I think most women tend to respond to situations more emotionally. Men tend to respond less emotionally. Does that mean that women can't respond to situations logically? No! But it means that when husbands and wives respond to situations together, the outcome is often much more thought out, in my opinion.

  8. great post, mere. like you, i was a sociology major .. and for years after, took pride in being in an "egalitarian" relationship. 50-50, no difference in roles or responsibities, and i thought that was the way it should be!

    it is now so clear to me that God created us so beautifully different, with gifts and strengths and passions and even visions that differ and complement. i am so THANKFUL for my husband; for his gifting and strength and uniqueness as a MAN in our marriage! and he prizes and celebrates and adores all that makes me unique as a woman.

    our society most certainly has (successfully, i must admit) perverted the beauty of God's design. man and woman: equal, valuable, lovely and loved by their Creator ... and different. =)

    and taking it a step further: for me, understanding and really EMBRACING my hubby's differences and uniqueness has set me free from the expectations that set me up for disappointment and letdown. he can't and won't think like me, act like me and respond like me ... and rather than expect that (which is so easy to do), i am free to let that go! and LOVE my man!! =)

  9. I think there's a huge difference between physiological differences between men and women--which undeniably exist--and the societally accepted roles men and women fulfill and their capability to meet the requirements of those roles, which is entirely socially constructed. One need only look at Soviet Russia in WW2--Russia being, incidentally, a notoriously patriarchal society--to see that women are just as capable as men at any modern societal function you can imagine. All the rest is, as my marxists would say, superstructure.

    As to the question of equality in the Bible: I think it's a misinterpretation to project 21st-century sensibilities onto a document written 2,000+ years ago. When those texts were written, it was generally accepted by the participating cultures that women WERE inferior, and that this was how the world was meant to be. Even the Romans, who had probably the most 'liberal' attitude toward women in the region (rich women, anyway), viewed them as morally and socially inferior to men. So while I disagree with that, you can't approach the Bible anachronistically. Perhaps this inequality wasn't intended by god--there being Bible passages that support this thesis (I think namely of parts of Genesis--other parts of Genesis ironically being blatantly misogynistic)--but it certainly was the intent of the Bible's human writers.

    Chalk it up to human fallibility in the face of divine infallibility, since I know few here are of my opinion on the matter.

    As to gender roles in relationships... I personally dislike the idea. One cannot deny that each member of a relationship fulfills a specific role, but I believe those roles are specific within the relationship, and certain ones--breadwinning, housekeeping, whatever--are associated with genders ONLY because of social pressures that have far more to do with the peculiarities of societal development than with inherent physiological characteristics.

  10. Meredith,
    Thanks for the recommendation of the Provocative Christian Blog. I am thrilled that you enjoyed it and that it was helpful to you and your readers. I look forward to visiting your site in the future.
    Dan Lacich


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