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Volume 17, Issue 1: Husbandry


Douglas Wilson

We live in an egalitarian era, one in which fierce denunciations confront anyone who would dare to generalize about anything. The extent to which we have taken this teeters on the threshold of insanity—indicating that deep idolatrous commitments are involved. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Transportation Secretary Administration issued a directive that airport security screeners were not permitted to pay special attention to more than a certain number of middle-eastern looking passengers per flight. In the interests of an abstract "justice," all passengers must be indiscriminately searched, and if a little old lady from Minnesota gets the treatment and a single male from Saudi Arabia is waved on through, we accept it as the price we must pay in order to have our equitable society. "Profiling" is out because it might hurt someone's feelings and make too much sense. But if a white man knocks over a convenience store, how much sense does it make to search all the black neighborhoods in the interests of equity? And I admit that I changed the previous sentence so that it was the white guy who knocked over the convenience store—to have done otherwise would open me up to charges of racism, and who needs another controversy?

All this is to prepare the way for a defense of generalizations, which in turn prepares the way for a defense of generalizing about men and women. The Scriptures provide us with numerous examples of generalizing, and the generalization is true when taken for what it is. When it is heard as making a claim about every member of a class, head for head, it is of course false. And that is how some people try to refute generalizations instead of simply trying to understand them. Jesus condemned the Pharisees as a class, even though there were godly Pharisees (Lk. 13:31). And St. Paul said that Cretans were evil beasts, lazy gluttons and liars (Tit. 1:12)—an ethnic slur!
Let us start with some simple ones, just to get acclimated. Men are taller than women. Anyone upset yet? We all know certain women who are taller than certain men, but that is not the point. The generalization is still helpful. Radical feminism has insisted that men and women are the same, with the obvious physiological exception, and that other differences are to be accounted for as the result of social conditioning. This in turn justified a public war on all generalizations about the nature of being male and female, in order to prevent such nefarious social conditioning. The result is that many Christians who want to say something that reflects reality have to look both ways and lower their voice. But women are weaker than men (1 Pet. 3:7). Men are more rebellious and destructive than women (Rom. 5:12; 2 Cor. 11:3). Women are more easily deceived (1 Tim. 2:14). But it does not matter anymore how true the observation is. Even if a Christian believes it to be the truth, he still hesitates to say it, knowing that he will be regarded as a boor, a conservative mossback, an idiot, or all three. At the least, talking this way is a breach of good manners.
But it is not possible for the older women to teach the younger women how to love their husbands properly (Tit. 2:3-5) unless "husbands" as a class share certain features in common. Women cannot be taught to guard their own hearts against common temptations unless young wives share many temptations in common. All this is so obvious that even in a world dominated by feminist sensibilities, it is possible to get away with generalizing if you put it the right way (Men Are From Mars . . .). Some of this is the result of blowback because early feminists were guilty of over-reaching. More is the result of great advances in studies of the human brain; to deny the hard-wired differences between men and women is to be the neurological equivalent of a flat-earther. The result is that it is now relatively safe for us to come out of hiding, look around, and say out loud what Adam and Eve discovered about forty-five minutes after they were introduced, and which we all knew down to the 1960s.
These differences go all the way to the bone. This means that conditioning cannot "fix it," although such attempted conditioning can really screw us up. The differences are God-given, which means that they are meant to harmonize and complement one another, as we reflect the nature of our triune God. The point is not competition, but rather mutual gifting. The differences mean that one is weak where the other is strong, and vice versa. This means we must know where we are weak, and we must know where they are weak.
One key thing to remember is that the differences between men and women are fun. In a home characterized by kindness, and a complete rejection of egalitarianism, the men and women in the household provide endless amusement for the other sex. Men and women use the English language differently—and both are standing at a crossroads. Resentment or enjoyment? Men and women react differently to a messy living room—resentment or enjoyment? They do not approach sexual relations the same way—resentment or enjoyment?

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