Culture Is Not
My intention with this post is to argue that all people should be seen as fitting into one category, the human race, rather than pigeonholed by limiting and restrictive boundaries.
The focus is primarily on Women’s Rights, or maybe I should say the abuse of women’s rights, but admittedly women aren’t the only class effected. Women represent only one subheading, but how widely spread the abuse of rights is, is not the biggest problem. In the case of women it was endemic to every culture.
The rules – whatever they were, however they were written – that denied women their basic rights (their individuality and personhood) were honored in every home, in every era. The home is the cookie cutter for culture. It’s not easy to escape the shaping of such a widespread mechanism.
It was self perpetuating in an almost unrecognizable way. It was abuse wrapped in “civility.”
To be clear, the argument isn’t that men and women are all exactly the same. We know that isn’t true, but that’s also true for all men and all women. Everyone is an individual! No person is exactly like any other person.
Not all women are athletic but many are, just like men.
The fact is, the difference between one gender and another is biologically determined. Biology! Nothing more, nothing less. No one should be disallowed an opportunity or universal, inalienable privilege because of gender.
Dilly is an induced state. It is the outcome of duncifying cultural rules. Telling a person they aren’t allowed to do something is the same as telling them they aren’t able.
Stereotypical thinking or what I like to call framing, is the problem. We like to fit groups into little boxes with predefined sets of good or bad qualities, and greater or lesser capabilities, and we do this even for the smallest groups.
If you live in a certain neighborhood, you must be smart.
It’s the easy way out. Rather than take each person at face value, and allow them to emerge one way or another, we frame entire groups with what we believe to be the dominant features of the group. If several are headlined as criminals, they must all be criminally predisposed.
The short of it is we like frames, and we particularly like to frame people.
- All doctors are incapable of writing legibly.
- All Asians love mathematics.
- All people with multicolored hair are insecure.
- All athletes are dumb jocks.
Jannie Du Plessis illustrates how inaccurate these stereotypes can be. Even though he plays at the highest level in one of the hardest hitting sports, Rugby, he’s also a qualified doctor. The man’s got smarts.
Stereotyping is easy. We don’t have to work so hard at figuring people out if we can place them in one of the predefined boxes, if we can assume what they’ll do next. But it’s all wrong. Stereotypes are anecdotally generated and culturally fed. There’s no basis in credible research.
But that’s not all.
Science inadvertently contributes to the stereotyping mindset. Research has revealed:
- Five love languages. (Gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service and physical touch)
- Four personality types. (Choleric, sanguine, melancholy and phlegmatic)
- Three learning styles. (Visual, auditory and kinaesthetic)
- Three body types. (Endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph)
- Three different races. (Caucasian, mongoloid, negroid)
- Two natures. (Extrovert and introvert)
And these findings are quite helpful when it comes to self discovery. It’s easier for a person to manage their self-life if they understand how they are put together.
The problem isn’t the framing. The problem is the negative or positive perceptions we assign to the frames.
We assume, for example:
- That certain personality types are more desirable than others.
- That certain learning styles are more enriching than others.
- That certain body types are more attractive than others.
- That certain races demonstrate a greater variety of high quality capabilities than others.
- And that certain natures are more influential than others.
The worst part is the fact that people tend to take on the characterizations. If a person grows up being told they are stupid or clumsy or thoughtless or criminal, they’re inclined to live up to the expectation.
Nature Doesn’t Determine Leadership Ability
Susan Cain is an introvert and the author of a significant book on the topic, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Susan readily admits that introverts are quiet, contemplative types – they’re not the life of the party – and they don’t intentionally gravitate to positions of leadership. According to her research, however, many do become leaders and the book makes the argument that introverted people are equally as capable at leadership and influence as extroverts.
If you don’t have time to read the book, you can listen to her on TED Talks.
Susan helps us realize that a person’s nature doesn’t define their capabilities and shouldn’t be the basis for prejudgment. Gandhi, she noted, was an introvert but the impact his leadership had on society is well documented.
She is focused only on the Introvert vs Extrovert question, but there’s an interesting secondary outcome of her book.
She dispels all the negative perceptions and pigeonholing associated with any of the frames.
She didn’t debunk framing. She didn’t say introverts could become extroverts if they worked at it hard enough. She debunked the negatives associated with framing.
Gender Doesn’t Determine Ability
What about Gender?
We all admit there are only two but we aren’t happy with that simple observation. We do with gender what we do with any other frame.
We over define each one and in the process restrict each one to certain expected roles.
Do a Google search for images of CEO’s and 99% of your results will be pictures of men.
A good question to ask, though, is who does the assigning? Who says one gender is this way and the other is another very different way?
Of course, most of the time it’s not so much assigning as it is restricting, for any reason, under all circumstances. You’ve heard the declarations:
Women are not allowed to do this or that. Women don’t need to make what a man does and must retire earlier. Woman mustn’t wear this or go there or act a certain way.
Keep in mind that these strictures have little to do with ability. It isn’t a matter of the best man (person) proving his or herself and earning the privilege. These are culturally legislated roles based on gender.
In Saudi Arabia women aren’t allowed to drive at any age for a very UNscientific reason. Driving, they say, would open women to all kinds of vices.
That’s an extreme case but you find gender based rules and stereotyping everywhere you find women; in every region and in every era. Those who make the rules have the power. Unfortunately, they aren’t always the smartest, best informed individuals.
The one thing you can truthfully say about men is they are the more physically dominant and imposing. They can easily make and enforce ridiculous rules. They do it all the time.
The Bible Doesn’t Endorse Culture
Some argue that the Bible supports female stereotyping but the idea is inferred only. It’s never stated specifically and the Scripture references are few in number and often taken out of context.
For example, when Paul referred to a pastor as “the husband of one wife” the inferred understanding was “a wife, therefore, can’t be a pastor,” since she obviously can’t be the husband of one wife.
As a side note, one principle we can extract from Scripture is we should attempt to work with culture as much as possible, but we do that for the sake of ministry, not as an endorsement of culture. In other words, we make sacrifices – endure cultural unpleasantness to a point – in order to conduct ministry. But this applies to men as well, not just women.
The idea that women should be viewed as equals isn’t just a popular feel-good notion. In a very direct way, the Bible puts an end to stereotyping:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
This is what I call a “get in the way verse.” For some it’s kind of like “In your face!”
It disturbs our philosophical status quo. It disrupts cultural thinking. Not only does it not agree with popular thinking, it reverses it.
Jews and Gentiles are equals. Slaves and the free are equals. Males and females are equals.
The Bible isn’t known for reinforcing culturally accepted viewpoints. It rather says things we desperately need to hear but aren’t inclined to receive and this verse is a good example.
Remember that the next time you’re reading a few verses. God may be saying something you’re not mentally prepared to hear.
Love your enemies!!!!
Spiritualizing this statement or turning it into some kind of a say-nothing, mean-nothing metaphor misses the point. The real meaning is lost.
When God made the first woman, she wasn’t an afterthought. She wasn’t the oops of creation. She was another highly capable and endlessly versatile human being. She wasn’t the servant to Adam or his other half.
She was different but those differences made her unique and special. She had limitations but those limitations were no greater or more extensive in her than they were in him.
She could do certain things he couldn’t and he could do certain things she couldn’t but they shared many capabilities.
It’s just as ridiculous to think all women are incapable of leading as it is to think that all men are natural leaders.
When Sojourner Truth was told that women couldn’t have the same rights as men because Christ wasn’t a woman, she responded with much more logic than the men she was dealing with:
Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothin’ to do with Him.
She wasn’t educated but she had more sense than those who were.
Truth: Every individual person, regardless of frame, came from Adam and Eve. Each one inherits all the potential qualities that God originally introduced into the human race.
You can restrict a person culturally but you can’t change who and what they really are.