Going With the Grain: Why Traditional Gender Roles Aren’t Necessarily Evil.

Believe it or not, I enjoy wading through controversy about as much as I enjoy snapping a wasps’ nest down my gym shorts. That being said, I think we could all do with some good ol’ fashioned plain speaking now and then, especially when those [issues] that must not be named keep emerging from the forest to scratch their names on the door.

If we’re honest, most of us will admit an inherent ‘grain’ to the universe – that, even without a road map, things seem to veer in a certain direction. Thus, whether we’re referring to the prevailing hair on a badger or the inner grain of an aspen tree, we can expect them to generally run the same way. Certainly this is partly because our experience has proven it to be so, but there is also something inside of us that instinctively squirms when we try to run against that grain.  Not even to mention the consequences of stroking a badger the wrong way.

What is this something? The modern mind has many names for it – “cultural constructs”, “conservative nurturing”, or what I like to call “progressaphobia”. I would argue however, that these apparently involuntary inclinations find their generation not only from our environment, but in the fractured but inherent remnants of God’s image within us. We cannot escape from it – nor, if we knew the potential for its restoration, would we want to.

When these remnants observe phenomena in the world which correspond with this preloaded design, they secretly high-five – which is why beholding a straight line or a perfectly round circle are among some of life’s truly great pleasures (I don’t get out much.) However, when these same remnants encounter something which was clearly made to do one thing, being forced to do something else, they inwardly revolt. The natural grain is subverted – the ax kicks back, the badger hisses.

You might have felt this inward revolt during the latest gruesome spectacle of the “new and improved” Star wars saga. Here the age of the female war hero has truly blossomed into a spectacle all its own. Here you have men who are almost uniformly corrupt, cowardly, conflicted or cracked; and women, who are nearly always wise, winsome, whole and weighty. There is a definite agenda here which I won’t enunciate, but that I will tell you rhymes with “sheminism.”

The propulsion behind much of its modern expression is the assumption that men and women are essentially the same. So now when someone even raises the possibility that certain occupations tend toward certain poles on the gender spectrum, a ramshackle false dichotomy shack is immediately thrown up. Either you let women do all the things men do, or you can sit in the corner and wear the misogynist cap of shame. Case closed.

But still this inner turmoil remains. You might feel it rise up upon viewing a massive, muscular, female bodybuilder or a male in tights pirouetting across front and center stage. Of course, even as you read these things you are inserting me somewhere amidst the ninth circle of hell – but you can’t deny the uneasiness.

There is, of course, fluidity to these qualities. Women can, and do, exert tremendous strength and courage; and men can, and do, evidence tender, domestic qualities. But there are also undeniable differences (beyond the obviously biological of course.) If a couple wake up suddenly to a bump in the night (perhaps it’s that badger you rubbed the wrong way), you will think pretty poorly of the man who stays trembling in his bed while his wife goes to investigate with the nine iron. She may be capable, but we are all inherently aware that it is the man who should take the initiative to protect his family.

Now Scripture is clear about two things: 1. Men and women are different. 2. They are both wonderfully made. The important thing to remember here is that differences do not not infer the inevitable inferiority of one party – somewhere along our culture’s winding path to nowheresville that fact dropped out of someone’s pocket.

It is interesting that a culture which so prizes itself on diversity can so despise it in its simplest, most observable form. But in our fury to enforce homogeneity, we are in danger of losing that compelling unity which emerges from disparity.


Important Note: Though these thoughts are my own, they would not have been possible without the help of this important lecture by Joe Rigney.

4 thoughts on “Going With the Grain: Why Traditional Gender Roles Aren’t Necessarily Evil.

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  1. The bump in the night scenario is an excellent point. The battle of the sexes is raging. I can’t help it, every time I read an article about the latest high profile male that’s been accused of sexual misconduct, I like to read the article comments and see what each side has to say. I can’t help but feel sorry for men right now as I feel the scales are tipping too far off balance. I’m sure I would receive a lot of heat for that statement from some women I know because it’s supposed to be “our time.” As far as entertainment goes, that’s an interesting observation about Star Wars. And then there’s Wonder Woman and many more…I do adore a strong female character but regardless of sex, we are all human and have character flaws.

    I recall a conversation I had with an ex where he expressed his discomfort about my weightlifting. He said I was obsessed and taking it too far, and that he didn’t think it was natural for women to be lifting weights. I’m looking fairly muscular these days but even I have a limit to how far I’ll go, and that’s when I feel I’ve passed the not-looking-feminine any more threshold. I also think it had to do with me looking stronger than him since he doesn’t lift weights at all or look athletic, and if I’m being honest, I’d prefer to date someone who looks beefier than myself, or at the very least is a good deal taller.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just coming across this blog entry, I am a bit mystified that it is, in fact, written in Canada in 2018…
    I have not seen the latest Star Wars film, but, good or bad, it seems refreshing to me that the heroes are women, after the hundreds maybe thousands of films in the last 80 or so years with solely male protagonists. I certainly don’t feel that traditional gender roles are bad, but do feel that there must be room for those who, for lack of a better term, are non-traditional. In the 1940’s, my mother’s closest female friend was a doctor, working as a GP and helping her husband through medical school. I know women engineers, electricians, ministers, politicians,
    and also know male nurses, childcare workers and ballet dancers. I can’t understand why anyone would have difficulty with this, or feel that it is somehow going ‘against the grain’. It is not always the ‘man’ who rushes to protect the family, but often the single mother, the same-sex partner, or the woman who simply has an equal role in a partnership. This is harmony too.


    1. Hey Anne, thanks for stopping by, although I am a little mystified at your surprise – its like showing up to a farm and being indignant when it smells like hay. The fact that it’s 2018 doesn’t inherently justify whatever zeitgeist happens to be in vogue. Also, If you’ll notice, I did mention the possibility of exceptions and some measure of fluidity to certain traits and activities. That does not make what I call the grain of the universe any less real. If you’re really determined, you can cut against the grain – going against nature, you’ll make a bloody mess of course, but it can, and is, being done. I can only carry my case so far based on natural law however – at the end of the day, the perimeters for human relationships are delineated in the Bible.


  3. Sorry, Ben, I can’t agree with any of that. And don’t try to kid a farm girl – even farmers move with the times! I suggest that you follow what is right for you, and accept that, with women being positive role models in film, in becoming doctors or religious leaders, or politicians, and with women worldwide working in traditional male professions, we are all much better off…. To say nothing of women using their skills and abilities, (gifts from God afterall), to make the world a better place.


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