One of the most potent lies in America today is that men and women are the same. I don’t just mean equal, I mean the same. Feminism is based on this idea that gender is socially constructed — you act female just because you were raised in an oppressive male-dominated environment. If we can overthrow this, all of the world’s problems, including violence and war will be solved. This was widely believed in our culture for nearly 40 years, and is only recently starting to be seen as the completely ridiculous farce that it actually is. No culture at any time in history has believed this, because it’s manifestly not true. Men and women act differently because of reasons that are biological not just social. Nevermind the fact that God created man and woman differently, just take a secular look at the biology… Things like testosterone. Men are born with a lot of it, and it does all kinds of things to your development. It makes you assertive, focused and driven. And things like the wider corpus collosum, which allows women’s two halves of the brain to work together better than a man’s more focused brain. Some people have not gotten the bulletin yet that gender sameness is a myth though, so you may encounter this false and damaging belief. You need to become OK with the fact that men and women are naturally different, and you should counsel out of that understanding.
Flowing from this idea that men and women are naturally different, we should understand that God created us to be complementary. The second message of feminism was that men and women are the same, but women are still superior. Yes, this is bizarre and contradictory but it’s exactly what is believed. The truth is that men and women are different, and that God created us to play complementary roles. Therefore neither one is superior overall, but in some areas men have an advantage, and in some areas women have an advantage. To suggest that women are better than men overall or in some ways is completely acceptable in our culture, but to even suggest that men might be “better” than women in some ways is like swearing. You might as well don your KKK suit. Since it’s not culturally acceptable to praise masculinity, that means a whole generation of men has grown up starved for affirmation.
At the same time feminism has wounded the women by telling them that since they are better than men, and gender is this socially constructed prison cell, they have to be and do everything. I remember in First Grade having a conversation with a girl in my class that went something like this. She says, “Anything a man can do, women can do better.” Stunned and thinking I say, “Well you can’t have babies without boys.” Snidely she replies “We’re working on it.” And that’s the pressure that a whole generation of girls has grown up under. You need to have an awesome career and be the CEO and be the amazing nurture mom of your two kids. Not just “can” you have it, you MUST have it. You need to be it all.
The net effect of these pressures has been predictable. Men were told they are good for nothing and so they act like it. Women are told they have to be everything, so they act like that. In addition men were told they need to be more in touch with their emotions, since after all, masculinity is the cause of all problems, and women were told they need to toughen up to win in the hard-edged man’s world. So now we have a generation of women who can’t cry and men who won’t stop. Women are feeling overwhelmed and craving strong men all the more now that none are too be found, and the men are baffled as to why being sweet and sensitive doesn’t make them an attractive mate. Bad boys get the girls, because at least they act like men.
If you look carefully what you’ll see is that feminism leads to a complete inversion of God’s design. God created the woman from the man. He made the man stronger and more driven naturally. In other words, he made the man to be the leader and the woman to be the supporter. He made the man edgy and less sensitive to criticism and he made the woman more aware of others and wanting to please them. He is hard, she is soft. Is this hard for you to read? It’s only because you live in post-feminist America where we believed in myths. Unbiased observation makes it plainly obvious. Of course many people will respond by saying “well I’m tougher than any man I know” or “I’m a man but I’m sensitive and in touch with my emotions” and that then becomes their evidence that the created order is false — these are just stereotypes. When in reality, what they are presenting is evidence of how far our culture has gone from the created order.
In other words, to really fulfill God’s model, our men need to learn to become strong again, and our women need to learn to become soft again. Men need to learn to control their emotions, and women need to learn to express theirs. Women need to learn to submit to leadership, and men need to learn to act like leaders. And, honestly, even if I were secular, I would be saying this. The inversion of gender roles is damaging to all parties. We’re stuck doing what we’re worst at and feeling bad about it instead of what we’re best at and appreciating what the other person can do.
What does this have to do with pastoral counseling? Well everyone is dealing with the pressures listed above in a variety of ways. It comes up very often in marriage counseling. Not all, but almost of the marriages I’ve been involved in fit this exact upside-down pattern. The man is emotional, and the woman is not. And then in some cases, on top of it, the woman is driven and the man is not. But even before the marriage happens is the person’s underlying identity. And to be honest, the church often makes this issue worse not better. I think of the man I counseled who was perfectly masculine until he got saved, and then managed to marry a domineering woman who wanted to kill him while being told by his pastors that he was the problem for not loving her enough. This bizarre counsel is repeated over and over again by pastors and counselors who are counseling a chauvinistic world that no longer exists. We think it is normal to crack jokes from the pulpit about “checking with the boss” and sermonize our men on how they have to submit to their wives equally and be more loving.
The contextual message is all wrong. We need to be helping our men overcome the lies of feminism that have stolen their masculinity: You are a leader. God made you to protect the woman. She is weaker in important ways that you are strong in. She needs you. You need God’s approval, not a woman’s approval. You will never get the same attention that a woman will get, but God didn’t make you to be pretty, he made you to be strong. He made you for war, and that’s good. Not only that, as a side effect, women like a man who has confidence inside himself, instead of one who craves her attention. Your role as a counselor is to help the man recover or shore up his masculine identity, and that may involve freeing him from messages he is receiving even from pastors or friends, and most definitely family.
For the woman, it’s a bit different. Only a few women in the church today actually believe all this nonsense. They can’t figure out why the men are all absent. Yes, there are some that you will have to confront because they are unsubmissive, but most simply have taken on all of the roles they have been told to. They have been told to play the woman and the man instead of to play the woman and look for a man and help support him in being that. They often find it a relief when you tell them, no you don’t have to be everything. And usually that exposes the underlying trust issues. She takes on all these roles because she has been hurt or her mother was, and was told not to trust a man and to be tough and steely. The journey for her is to release her from these extra burdens, and help her to trust again, and to realize that it is actually good for her to cry, to be vulnerable and to depend on a man.
This gets even trickier when the man and woman married “upside down.” A submissive person will usually marry a dominant. So if the man is passive, he will tend to marry a dominant woman. This means that their reversed gender identities become institutionalized in the marriage and will be passed on to the children. Both parties need to work actively to get their God given roles back. It takes time and may not be completely achieved, but it a very important part of personal wholeness for everyone.