The blowback from last week’s controversial column, “The War on Men,” got me thinking. I cover the complementarian/egalitarian issue every semester, and it’s been a long time since anyone switched sides because of their understanding of Scripture. Both sides seem dug in at this point—there may be less undecided voters on this issue than there were last month in Ohio—and we’re going to have to learn to live together. We need to establish some ground rules, and right now I don’t know what they are.
This is my initial, and perhaps foolish, attempt in that direction (I’m not sure it’s safe to voice this post out loud, but here goes). I’ve noticed that it’s difficult to mention that men and women are different without saying something that will offend someone. If you’re talking about what it means to be a man, invariably that will include something about their strong desire—let’s call it a need—to provide and protect, which will then raise the question, “What? You think women should stay at home and let their man take care of them?”
If you say that men like to take the initiative and women like to receive—a fact demonstrated in the act of sex (even liberals bemoan the popularity of 50 Shades of Gray, noting that it’s hard to imagine men being turned on by a story of sexual bondage in which the man plays the victim) and in the marriage proposal (nearly all women still want to be asked rather than do the asking)—it’ll sound like you’re saying that women shouldn’t ever lead.
So here is my question: what gender differences can we mention that aren’t offensive? How do you describe the difference between men and women in a way that doesn’t sound demeaning to men or women? Are we allowed to acknowledge the truth that men and women are different? If so, how?