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Saturday, November 17, 2007
The Benefits of Gender Stereotypes?
Men are logical. Women are emotional. Men know how to fix carburetors. Women know how to make a home look beautiful.

Lately, I've come across quite a few Christians who seem to have truly bought into many gender stereotypes. They seem to be almost comforted by the boundaries they've created between what men do and what women do, what men are and what women are by default. This isn't going to be a post in which I rant about these attitudes, though. I simply want to understand them.

Where is the benefit in assuming that all men are X and all women Y? Is there something I'm not getting here?


posted by Lydia at 10:54 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 11/17/2007 03:23:00 PM, Blogger Lainie Petersen

    I think that it is human nature to sort and categorize people. I also think that it is something that we need to resist.

    There is an agenda among complimentarian/gender hierarchalist types, as well. If they can categorize men and women according to appropriate personality characteristics, they can more easily justify their position.

    Since there are two genders, I think it is easier to fall into "either/or" polarizing stereotypes, when men and women as individuals are a lot more complex than folks would like to admit.

  • At 11/17/2007 05:17:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I think its just so we can get out of doing stuff we don't like and make someone else do it... now if there was only the stereotype that men have to clean the toilets then I'd be happy... :)

    But honestly, I find it amusing that so many Christians believe that these stereotypes are universal and biblical. I really wish that people would just study history or at least anthropology and see that the roles we often assume are inherent to one gender have flipflopped genders throughout history. It's easier to dismiss Western cultural imperial attitudes than it is to dismiss what people assume is "biblical"

  • At 11/18/2007 11:50:00 AM, Blogger sarah chia

    So the logical next question is:

    What does it mean to be a woman? What are the differences?

  • At 11/18/2007 12:16:00 PM, Blogger Weiwen Ng

    From a cognitive psych perspective, humans have only a limited capacity to process information. stereotypes help us organize the world into chunks that our brains can manage. they reduce processing time.

    that said, I think just about all psychologists would recognize that stereotypes operate imperfectly.

  • At 11/18/2007 06:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I think that for some people the "boxes" simply work for them. They are comfortable in their box and so they continue to perpetuate their stereotypical boxes. I am routinely surprised to find the number of women who are comfortable with the complementarian/heirarchical box so much that they urge others to stay or get into their box even to the extent of perpetuating disparaging and oppressing viewpoints towards their own female personhood.

    I exprienced this recently in one of my seminary classes when the professor raised the discussion, "Why are men absent from our churches?" One woman spoke up and said she believed it was because in our attempt to empower women in the church we have emasculated the men. "YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING me!" I thought.
    And then I actually said it out loud.....its not empowering the women that has caused the men to be disinterested. I think its because men realize that the stereotypes traditionally taught by the church as "male" are not real. I think men are tired of trying to live up to all the "personality" driven characteristics that have been deemed "male" because they don't fit every male. And they don't help them to succeed in relationships with others who are not going to put up with their stereotyping!

    Additionally, the dominate voice in the church is still male. Why in the world would someone (especially a woman!) blame the lack of men in the church on the women when women still have a limited influence in Church leadership as a whole??? The only thing I can conclude is: here is a woman who likes her box and wants to make sure she and other women stay in it.

  • At 11/19/2007 12:21:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    jenni - blaming women for the problems in church is one of my biggest pet peeves. It seems to be the trend though these days...

  • At 11/20/2007 05:37:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    I think that it is human nature to sort and categorize people. I also think that it is something that we need to resist.

    Definitely agree with this. "Natural" l doesn't always mean that something is a good thing.

    What does it mean to be a woman? What are the differences?

    You should start a new post with this Sarah. :)

    So, here's what I'm thinking:

    This might sound simplistic, but maybe part of the reason why some Christians/people in general rely on gender stereotypes is because they work for them?

    If (the general) you has always felt like you fit into the "typical" mold of what a woman (or a man) is, and if you've never really gotten close to anyone who is vocal about their struggles with it, I can see how that individual could have no problem go through life believing that, yes, men do X because they're men while women do Y.

    I think very similar things happen with issues related to class, race, sexual orientation, disability, etc. If (the general) you happens to live outside of what is the "norm" (a healthy, heterosexual, middle-class, white male), I think there's a higher chance that you'll be personally invested in issues related to it.

    If it doesn't affect (the general) you personally, I think the chances of general-you taking the time to think through it are smaller. This isn't to say that it won't or doesn't happen of course, I just think it's less likely.

    What do y'all think? Does this make sense?

  • At 11/20/2007 06:08:00 PM, Blogger Naomi

    I suspect that sometimes it simply makes life as a christian woman _easier_. It's scary to start seeking out who we are and what to do in our unique situations... often far easier to say, "I am a woman, therefore I will want ____, I will like ____, I will do _____." Makes conversations at church easier too... more common ground, less awkward silences.

    The above might sound a little cynical. It's not meant to. It's just that, in the most liberal of churches, sometimes there's an accidental cookie cutter shape that people are subconsciously expected to fill. And honestly, sometimes I find being different tiring. It seems easier to go with the stereotypes, then the rules are clear. When you forge your own path, it's not always obvious how to go about it, you've got to contruct your own framework.

    Anyhow, having gone from sounding cynical to sounding world-weary, I think I should desist for now :-)

  • At 11/21/2007 11:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I think that stereotypes perpetuate a false confidence in ones' own gender.

    A need for feeling comfortable in ones' own sex implies a general feeling of discomfort among people.

    What is so uncomfortable in being alike save for biology?

    AND, are some stereotypes true?

  • At 11/21/2007 03:23:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Amie - I think some stereotypes can be true for some people. It is when it is assumed that they must be true for all people that the problems arise.

    But even if people think a stereotype applies to them, I wonder if they think that just because they have always been told that and honestly have never attempted to examine who they are. That of course sounds really offensive to a lot of women, but its something I've personally discovered to be true over and over again.

  • At 11/24/2007 07:06:00 PM, Anonymous John

    Each of us possess both feminine and masculine traits. This does not make us predictable my any means.

    Some men may prefer to garden rather than watch football on TV for instance and some women may prefer to mow the lawn because of the sheer endurance of the sport, as oppossed to cooking.

    Some men may actually like posting on the emerging women blog... :)


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