Russell and Duenes

Does our resistance to androgeny suggest something?

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At church today our pastor was talking about Ecclesiastes and time, and he presented the following excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ December 23, 1950 letter to Sheldon Vanauken,

And now, another point about wishes. A wish may lead to false beliefs, granted. But what does the existence of the wish suggest? At one time I was much impressed by Arnold’s line ‘Nor does the being hungry prove that we have bread.’ But surely tho’ it doesn’t prove that one particular man will get food, it does prove that there is such a thing as food! i.e. if we were a species that didn’t normally eat, weren’t designed to eat, would we feel hungry? You say the materialist universe is ‘ugly.’ I wonder how you discovered that! If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it you don’t feel at home there? Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always, or would not always be, purely aquatic creatures? Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. (‘How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up and married! I can hardly believe it!’) In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something about us that is not temporal.

As I said, my pastor was relating this quote to the issue of time, but as he spoke, I saw another application: toward the innate differences between men and women. Our culture makes much of the notion that, save the biological plumbing, men and women are virtually identical. I’ll skip going into all the details on this, but suffice it to say that if one argues for certain role distinctions that pertain to each sex respectively, one is liable to be thought a sexist. This egalitarian notion of the sexes is prominent among certain evangelicals as well.

But what I find interesting is that many of these evangelical egalitarians want to say, in some way, men should be men and women should be women. In other words, men and women can fulfill the very same roles without distinction, but they should be distinct in how they fulfill them. Their deep down “wish,” to use Lewis’ word, is that women be feminine and men be masculine and that these be different and complementary. The problem is, they struggle, in fact, fail, in their attempts to describe what these male-female distinctions might entail, lest they be charged with sexual “stereotyping.”But the egalitarianism doesn’t always sit well because of its androgenizing tendencies.

So, back to Lewis. As I pondered his words, I thought, “Couldn’t it be that the reason a kind of sexual egalitarianism, yea, androgynism rests so uneasily upon the hearts of many evangelical egalitarians is because there is something profound about us as male and female that is not egalitarian? In other words, we don’t feel at home in androgeny because everything about us is non-androgenous.”



Written by Michael Duenes

September 14, 2009 at 4:36 am

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

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