08 February 2018

Stop Hating on Girls

Misogyny is a popular accusation leveled against the mainstream evangelical church these days. It's not entirely without grounds, in my opinion. Many sects of the church today are full of thinly (and sometimes not-so-thinly) veiled animosity toward the female sex, for what oftentimes seems like no reason at all.

Here'a case in point (ironically, from a book called 25 Days to a Happier Home):

"Raising four girls and two boys has taught me that girls naturally have a problem with their tongues. We girls love to talk and chat. Unfortunately, many of us enjoy gossiping and nagging as well. We have to fight those temptations to "tell it like it is" or "speak our minds."

"It's so easy to compare ourselves with each other. We all have been guilty of this evil, unforgiving comparison game. It's my observation that women are the very worst at this unfair game! You don't believe me? How many times have you had these thoughts run through your mind? "She's prettier than me." "She's skinnier than me." "She's more talented than me." "She cooks circles around me." These are only a few of the thoughts that can float around in our self-centered, female minds."

The author linked to her blog from the e-book, so I went there and had a look around. Sure enough, there was more of the same:

"Girls can just be plain mean. I’m talking about ruthless, vindictive, green-eyed monster mean. Having four daughters at home, I have seen mean girls of all ages and I am trying to help my daughters deal with mean girls in the best way possible. Moms, I guess we should totally fess up. Our gender is made up of some catty backstabbers, isn’t it?"

...Wow. (This lady actually proves her own point pretty well!)

I am picking on only one person's writing, but really, it typifies so much of this kind of attitude among Christian bloggers and book authors (and even those who don't share their opinions on an official platform). It also highlights one of the biggest ironies about complementarianism: So much time is spent talking about the vast and enormous differences between men and women, but when it comes to discussions about women as a group (or men as a group), suddenly, everyone is the same: Women are naggers. Women are snarky. Women are catty. Women talk too much. And on and on it goes. So much hasty generalization that's offensive, one-sided, or just plain inaccurate.

Most of us probably know deep down that generalizing is bad, but if you need some reasons, here they are. (By the way, these can also apply to unfair generalizations about men and boys as well.)

First of all, these types of generalizations are unfair, unkind, and unnecessary. Unfair, because they aren't backed by solid proof or evidence of any sort. Unkind, because they're insulting to the woman as an individual capable of proving herself on her own merits if given the chance. Unnecessary, because how does your prejudgment help her? For that matter, how does it help you?

Worse yet, declaring negative traits to be inherently and exclusively "female" suggests that we believe God created women and girls this way. It's a terrible insult to God, if you think about it. Or, perhaps we wouldn't go that far, but we have no problem saying that women and girls are predisposed to certain sins. Thus we tend to accept that envy and gossip are "female sins" while anger and lust (for example) are "male sins".

The problem with that is, there's no Scriptural or historical evidence to make that case. It is true that these ideas sound reasonable to us because we've been socialized to accept certain cultural stereotypes of men and women, but this is a pretty flimsy reason for believing in them as fact. No matter where you look -- past or present -- examples abound of women and men who sin with their words, their anger, their failure to love their neighbors; their desire to have what they are not entitled to. Nobody has the market cornered on particular flaws!

There's another reason to avoid jumping to conclusions about women: If you're going to generalize about 50% of the human race, you had better be prepared with hard evidence. Most of us aren't, and here's why:

In the absence of a properly conducted, valid research study, it's pretty difficult to make a fair generalization about a group of people. You must have (among other things) a sufficiently large body of information from which to form a true and accurate conclusion. This is known as a representative sample.

Obviously, the larger the group you're generalizing about, the larger the sample size you'll need. For a very narrow subset of the human population -- say, Harvard graduates who majored in business, or Eastern European immigrants in the American Midwest -- a smaller sample size is acceptable.

However! When you are generalizing about one half of the entire human race, guess how large of a sample size you should have!? A very, very big one! Not only that, but then you have to ensure that your informants are diverse enough -- in age, ethnicity, location, occupation, religion, educational background, income level, and more -- to fairly and accurately represent the population being studied.

Needless to say, most people who go around painting entire categories of humanity with broad strokes haven't actually done any research. They're just calling it the way they see it through their own prejudices, preconceived notions, and biases (one of which is confirmation bias, the tendency to see only the answers that line up with what we already believe to be true, while ignoring or glossing over other information).

The next time you hear someone make a blanket statement about the way all women or men act, ask to see their research. I can virtually guarantee you they won't have any, because they're just talking out of their you-know-where. This is okay to some degree: It's a free country, and there's no law against having an opinion, even if it's a wrong one. What's not okay is that these opinions are being presented (and accepted) as absolute truth by adults with fully formed consciences and intellects who, quite frankly, ought to know better.

Finally, and not least of all, unfair generalizations are bad because people, especially children, tend to live up to your bad expectations of them -- whether they realize it or not. The opposite is also true. Think of those individuals whom we hold up as a great inspiration to the rest of humanity: Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa... They didn't become so by their negativity. They did it by looking for the good in people (even when at times there was precious little good to be found), and then affirming it and encouraging it -- fanning those small sparks into a mighty flame.

As for the author I cited above, I pity her children -- especially her daughters. They have to live with the knowledge that their mother expects the worst of them in certain areas simply because they are female. What a terrible burden for a child to carry! Even as an adult, knowing that someone close to you is always and evermore assuming the worst about you is wearying and demoralizing -- so much so, that after awhile, you'll probably give up trying to prove them wrong. The upshot of this is that the pessimist tends to get exactly what they expect, while not realizing that they're perpetuating the very behavior they condemn.

However, the good news is, it's within each person's power to break that cycle (or, at the very least, to ensure that we are not participants in helping it to go on). It's pretty simple, really: Refuse to make hasty generalizations, and don't agree with them when you hear them being made. Take a good look at each individual who crosses your path in life, and be willing to put aside your initial assumptions while you get to know them for who they actually are.

As a side benefit, if you're looking to have a happier home, I'll just bet this way will work a whole lot better.

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