Doesn’t Fit

If my marshaling of scientific evidence against the test failed to change many minds, I hope that the narrative in which that evidence is embedded makes my larger point: that human beings are far too complex, too mysterious and too interesting to be defined by the banal categories of personality tests.http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/06/25/483108905/personality-tests-are-popular-but-do-they-capture-the-real-you
When I saw this quote the other day, I realized that it’s author had stumbled across a similar truth: human being are far too complex, too mysterious and too interesting to be defined by the banal stereotypical categories of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood teachings. Think about how broad and difficult to define the various categories are:

My friend is a a woman. Since women wear dresses, that must mean that she, as a woman, wears dresses. But she doesn’t. She’s a woman who doesn’t wear dresses. Since women wear make-up, that must mean that she, as a woman, wears make-up. But she doesn’t. She’s a woman who doesn’t wear make-up. Well then, women wear high-heels. Except for the ones who don’t. Women have children, except for the ones who don’t. Women like pink, except for the ones who don’t. Women like crafts – except for the ones who don’t have any crafting ability whatsoever. etc…

Same is true of men, for everything you can think of as being feminine or masculine, you’ll find healthy examples for it and against it in both men and women. The problem is that for far too long, there’s been a either/or thinking about the nature of men and women. Either men are this or women are that, but not a both/and way of thinking about human beings – both men and women share these traits together. Sadly, books that talk about men being from Mars and women from Venus, or men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti are exceedingly popular. I remember listening as a young mother talked about reading ‘Wild at Heart’ so she could better understand her boys and raise them to be young men. The problem with ‘Wild at Heart’ is that it – like many other men’s book – tends to view men as active, outdoors-men and sports enthusiasts. It would suggest that men who enjoy cooking or stamp-collecting or model-trains are far less masculine than other men are. The same issue exists with women’s books, shoe-horning them into specific activities and suggesting that women who like anything outside of that are far less feminine than they should be.

One thing that has been tried and that has always failed is to normalize different people into the same thing. Decades ago, left-handed students were forced to switch, to be made more normal by using their right hands. The process wasn’t always a gentle one, some teachers would hit a student’s left hand whenever they tried to use it, others would tie their arm behind their back, and often they were called names like ‘stupid’ and ‘ignorant’ and ‘dummy’. The results were chaotic, some managed to become functionally right-handed in the interest of their own self-preservation, others became ambi-dextrous, but some weren’t able to be forced to switch. All of them had decreasing levels of self-confidence, some even developed stuttering and other speech impediments. These days, we recognize that more harm than good was done in the attempt to normalize handedness and we accept left-handedness as a viable alternative to right-handedness (and pretty useful when it comes to playing sports.)

Decades ago, white settlers tried to normalize native Americans to be more like them. They forbid the use of native American languages, traditional clothing, traditional hairstyles, and even using their own names. They were given an education where they were required to speak English, wear settler-style clothing, have settler-like hairstyles, to be known by setter names, and where they required to attend church and forbidden from believing in the spiritual tradition of their ancestors. Because of this cultural assimilation, many ancient traditions were lost. Today we recognize that as one of the many regrettable wrongs committed by people in the past who thought they were doing the right thing.
The more we look into history, the more we see attempts to normalize waves of immigrants, small break-away groups of people, smaller less-powerful groups of people, according to the preferences of the more powerful group. Sometimes it’s something we do without even realizing it. In recent years, that’s what Biblical Manhood and Womanhood teachings have been doing – trying to anchor us into the normal of a more traditional society out of the fear of what our informal, breaking-with-traditional society will become if nothing is done to stop the changes that are going on around us.

The more we try to normalize people into categories the more people will slip right out of them. The more we make it normal that women ought to like pink, the more we slight women who don’t like pink. The more we make it normal that men ought to be this or do that, the more men we slight who aren’t or don’t. The more books that are written about how women are to be like this and how men are to be like that the more we ignore the beautiful complexity, the mysterious diversity, and the interesting nature of who a person is – not as a man or as a woman, but as an individual.

I wonder why there isn’t a book on Biblical Individuality – there could be no end of the various possibilities of how and what people can be like – but then people would see how they – as a man – share this trait with a woman. Or they, as a woman, share that hobby with a man – it would destroy the whole us vs them dynamic it all is built upon. And Christianity is all about sexual differentiation right now. They teach that God made men as men even before they were born, and women as women, to be two totally equal and different – totally separate sorts of people. We can’t have people realizing that these differences amount to making a mountain out of a molehill – it’s all they have to keep the story going and the money coming in. But I suspect the rest of us have read books and realized that we don’t fit what they say we should. I suggest that the problem isn’t in us, but in the answers we’re being given to questions we didn’t ask.

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