The Emperor's New Clothes - Chapter 2: Everything You Were Taught About Gender is Wrong




[I am writing a book and plan to post chapters as I go, here is Chapter 2. I already posted chapter 1 and an introduction. You can start with the introduction here. I will update this link to the future chapters when they are done.]


Men and women are not different. Women can do everything men can do. Men can do everything women can do. Gender is a social construct. But sadly, somewhere along the line, western culture created a patriarchy that was designed to hold women back while promoting the needs, desires, and ambitions of men. Thanks to this patriarchy, women have been raped, oppressed, and made into baby factories while the men enjoyed life at their expense. Thankfully feminists fought against this patriarchy and have successfully been able to secure the vote, be accepted in academia, and achieve some level of political power. And yet great challenges remain. The patriarchy still allows a rape culture, women still get paid less for the same jobs, and there is a constant battle to maintain hard fought rights.

The girl power culture I grew up in taught me these things....

But the emperor has no clothes. None of this is true.

For starters, the differences between men and women are not due to cultural constructs. Nor are they due to some sort of patriarchy. And despite our culture's insistence that they are not there.... they are obviously there. Comedians joke about them, kids point them out, and every married couple experiences them. But like the clothes of the emperor, we are all scared to name them. To point them out.

Well, that is the point of this book so here we go. Below I will list some innate differences between men and women that are obvious to anyone that will open their eyes.

Before I list them though, let me anticipate an objection. Any difference I list will be countered with an example of a woman that doesn't fit what I say or a man that does. People will provide anecdotes that appear to counter this. But this is not actually an effective counter argument. All categories in life are imperfect. When describing the difference between a house cat and a dog, for example, we might say that the dog is bigger and more friendly to humans while the cat is smaller and more independent.This is true. It is a genetic truth. Genetically, dogs are "pack animals" and cats are not. Dogs are genetically larger and cats are not. But... anyone that has owned cats and dogs knows that there are exceptions. Tiny unfriendly dogs exist. Large very friendly house cats exist. And you could go on with every trait of every thing in this world and see that you can find counter examples. What is the difference between a doll house and a human house? Size? I'll bet I could find some billionaire that built his daughter a giant doll house that is larger than one of those tiny houses that are popular these days. What is the difference between a table and a chair? What is the difference between a tree and a bush? What is the difference between a book and a magazine. A golf cart and a car? I promise you that no matter what difference you list for almost any category of thing, I can find an example of something that does not fit. A horse has four legs? What about that particular horse over there that has three due to a birth defect? A bird can fly? What about the ostrich?

This difficulty of categorizing anything perfectly was actually at the heart of "Plato's forms." Plato argued that no object perfectly described its category but instead said that there was a heavenly form that functioned as a paradigm by which all things in this world could only come close to (never reaching). The heavenly chair then might have four legs, a high back, and be able to be sat on by a human. A chair on this planet might be missing a leg but otherwise meet the form and still be called a chair. It is then not a particular trait of a thing in this world that places it in a category but a collection of things that reflect the perfect form in heaven. Regardless of whether you agree with Plato's heavenly forms theory or not, you have to agree that categorization of objects, animals, and concepts cannot be disproved by any one exception. Instead it is to some idealized form that we compare things to as we categorize them. So when I say that men are bigger than women you pointing out a small man and a large woman is not a counter argument. Men (in the idealized form) are larger than women (in the idealized form). Not all. But most.

With that preface, let's look at some things that characterize men and women. Since I already mentioned this obvious one, let's start with size.

Men Are Bigger, Stronger, and Faster Than Women

 In 2017, retired tennis great, John McEnroe, was being interviewed about the still active female tennis great, Serena Williams. He stated that she might be the greatest female player ever. He was then asked by the host if the qualifier, “female” was needed. His answer was that yes it was needed because if she played with men, she would be ranked 700. His response was met with widespread horror for stating that the greatest female tennis player could not compete with men. But the outrage is insane. Of course the greatest female player cannot be compared to men. This is the whole reason we have different categories for men and women in sports.  But in today’s world, this simple fact must be denied in the interest of gender denial and John McEnroe violated this agreed to rule.

I have started with what should be the least controversial difference between men and women: size and strength. Men are, on average, much taller (in the US the average man is 5 foot 10 inches tall and the average woman is 5 foot 4).  Men are able to run faster, throw harder, hit with more force, lift more, and jump higher. Men are gorilla-like giants compared to women.

Is this an area of superiority for men? Not unless you assume that bigger is always better. The simple comparison of cell phones from the 1980s to today would tell us that there are times when smaller is better. The smaller size of women means that they require less calories a day (a great skill for survival). The smaller size of women means that they are more easily carried when injured (another good survival skill). And the smaller size is more aesthetically pleasing. Women are able to enjoy plane trips better than men. They are able to give the kids more room in the back seat. They are able to enjoy twin sized beds. In short, there are many many cases where being small is a good thing. There is no better. Sometimes it is good to be small and sometimes it is good to be large.

Understanding this difference is very important because there is a lot of danger in denying it. Feminists are upset that men think women should be protected. They laud movies where the female lead is able to karate kick men and dominate men physically. But if we start with McEnroe’s simple truth: women are physically much much weaker than men, we have to then build a society where men do look out for the physical well-being of women. Women need to be protected from male predators by giving them separate bathrooms, encouraging them to avoid going out alone at night in dangerous areas, and encouraging them to avoid to places where they could be physically or sexually assaulted.

Men are Different Sexually

Which brings me to the next obvious difference between men and women. Men and women are very different sexually. In the early years of the 21st century, there has been a big push to allow biological men who identified as women in women's bathrooms. This is argued to be compassionate and tolerant. But some raised alarm bells on the grounds that biological men, being bigger, might do creepy sexual things to women while they are in there (everything from filming them to assaulting them). Women who I expressed this concern to seem confused. Why would a man want to see a woman go to the bathroom? Why would a man be anymore likely to assault a woman than a lesbian? These questions logically bring another question: why are do we need separate bathrooms at all? Bathrooms are intended to go to the bathroom and not for sexual purposes. The idea that we need to put men in one place and women in another is strange. Should we not just teach men that they should control themselves?

The answer is that of course men should not act creepy around women in the bathroom. Men should not peek into the stalls at women. Men should not sexually assault women. But the reality is that you know that if we mixed public bathrooms, this is exactly what would start happening.

On the other hand, there would be almost no assaults the other way around. There would be very few examples of women creepily peeking in while the man is sitting on the toilet. Very few assaults.

Why? What's going on here?

Women are right to argue this is a moral problem with men. Men should control themselves. This is a moral imperative. But there is also a clear genetic aspect to it. Because the sort of immorality men have is quite different than the immorality of women. Immorality is always bad but it manifests differently for men and for women. And for men, that immorality often gets creepy. Men can get weird sexually.
 
Culture taught me that societal norms around women and modesty are part of the patriarchy but the more I think about it the more convinced I am that those norms are there to stop men from being giant creeps. Immoral men say creepy things, stare at private parts, follow women, and make crude jokes. Immoral men that are also criminals take all of these things to the horrific next level by grabbing, flashing, and raping. There are plenty of immoral women out there but their immorality rarely manifests itself in these ways. They might be promiscuous. They might cheat on their husbands. But rarely do they act in the particularly creepy way that men do.

Why is this so? Because inherently, men operate differently from a sexual standpoint. Comedian Norm MacDonald has a bit where he says the difference between a man and a woman is that if a woman takes a man back to her apartment and learns that the man is a Nazi, she kicks him out and never goes out with him again. But the man who takes a woman back to his apartment and finds out she is a Nazi will first have sex with her and then never go out with her again. This joke is funny because the emperor has no clothes. The bit was funny because everyone knows it is true. Men without the Christian sexual ethic are happy to have sex with almost any woman who consents. In contrast a woman is typically much much more picky. She requires a man with a good job, who is funny, reasonably attractive, and not a Nazi. Often she wants more than a one-night stand. Despite fifty plus years of society telling women to be "sexually liberated" by rejecting the Christian sexual ethic and to act like men sexually, women still do not act the same.

In a world that thinks that there are no inherent differences, let's admit that men and women are different sexually.

Emotional Sensitivity

When it comes to admitting differences between men and women, emotional sensitivity is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows it. No one wants to say it out loud. Women are waaaay more emotionally sensitive than men. Jerry Seinfeld has a bit where he says to women, “I bet you would like to know what men are really thinking. Would you like to know? Alright, I will tell you...... Nothing.” His joke is that men tend to be oblivious and take things as they are. This, of course, is a generalization (as everything I am writing here) but it points to another general rule. Women are sensitive to how others are feeling and thinking in a way that men simply are not. Most kids know that when they are hurt or sick they should go to mom not dad because they will get more sympathy. 

Does this mean men are bad? Nope. Sometimes being numb to the emotions of others is a good thing. It is especially important in war or in business when hurting others (via guns or layoffs) is important for the greater good. But neither is it bad for women to have this sensitivity. It is a beautiful thing that everyone around women appreciate. This is not a difference that is good or bad. The differences are just reality and they make the world beautiful. 

Arguing Skills 

Women are better at arguing. One piece of advice that was given to me before my wedding and I pass on to every young man I know is to learn to apologize quickly. Why? Because as every experienced husband knows, continuing a fight, especially when you have any fault at all (but also when you have none) is a losing proposition. Wives have this amazing ability to not only win an argument but to leave a man bruised and battered as a result. I have never met a man that regularly wins arguments at home. And even when men win, they often find themselves regretting the argument anyway. She will cry. She will bring it up later. She will find ways to pay him back. And, if he is smart, he learns to avoid arguments like the plague.

It is simply a fact that women are better at family arguments than men are. It is like me playing Lebron James in basketball. I might get lucky and hit a shot on very rare occasions but the score at the end of the day will always be very one-sided. 

Ancient cultures have realized this and built in things to their culture to account for it. One first century Jewish writer wrote, "Women, submit to your husbands." This sounds oppressive but every man knows that it is more of a desperate plea. Because if the woman does not submit, the man will every single time. And the marriage doesn't work.Women have to look out for the man's interests or the whole marriage will be geared towards her own. And while this might sound great to many women, a marriage cannot last that way. She will get her way every time.....until he leaves.

Communication

My wife is able to tie multiple lines of thinking and conversation together in one conversation while I get lost if we get beyond one single line of discussion. This can be an issue. She will be talking about the kids and suddenly be continuing a conversation from hours earlier about her mother. I get lost. She wonders what my problem is.

And this is not just my wife. Every woman has this superpower. Women often get frustrated with men because men cannot tell what they are thinking.

Men, if you come home from work, think your wife might be upset, ask her if she is okay, and she answers "I'm fine," please know that she is not fine. And she will be upset that you cannot tell that she is not fine. Women communicate well and want men to communicate equally as well. But we just cannot.

Many married couples have problems when women insist on talking and men want to go back into their den and be alone. This general principles is seen clearly by watching how men and women talk on the phone. Men typically have terse and short conversations. One word statements and short phrases. 'Yes.... No.... I will pick you up. ...Okay. ...Bye.' In contrast, women are comfortable with long conversations and rarely have such short interactions (especially with other women).  
These differences are built in. Neither is better. But they are realities that every married person should accept and be prepared to deal with. 

Defensiveness

 Men and women have different ideas on how defensive they should be about the family.

CS Lewis, in Mere Christianity, discusses the fact that mothers often are more defensive of the family. He notes that wives often think one of the primary problems with their husbands is that they do not stand up for their family enough. If someone slights the family (by rude behavior, a neglected invitation, or outright insult), the mother is prone to want the husband to stand up to the offending party. If a boss is rude, if a schoolteacher is gruff, or any other person besmirches justice and due respect, the mother tends to demand that the husband stand up for the family honor.

On the other hand, the father tends to want to keep things as calm as possible and is only be prone to confront in the most extreme situations. Think about your typical family dynamics. How often does the mother ask the husband why he is not standing up for the family (versus the other way around)? Like the others, this gender difference can be a good thing. In fact, a healthy family needs both. The husband is prone to allow every sort of slight. The wife is prone to jump on every sort of slight. The back and forth that often goes on in healthy marriages is a needed tug of war that prevents either extreme from dominating.

CS Lewis argues this characteristic is one of the reasons that the bible says that men are the heads of their households. There needs to be a certain level of moderation of the defensive nature when dealing with neighbors, school administrators, and church deacons. But the man would be wise to listen to his wife's complaints before being too quick to ignore slights. Sometimes something does need to be said. 

Life Goals

I have a female friend who is in a PhD student in a computer science program of a nearby college. One of the things she works on is trying to encourage women to go into computer science. But her efforts have had mixed results at best. For some reason, women just are not as interested as men in working long hours behind a computer screen while eating stale pizza. Why? A better question might be why men are willing to do this ridiculous, difficult, and generally unpleasant thing. Why are men willing to set aside human friendships, family, and walks in the park in order to work 18 hours a day writing software? Sure a woman could do that but any sane woman ask why she should when there are so many other life options. 

So what is going on here? Despite being told that men and women are essentially the same and that any sort of differences in performance are due to the patriarchy or cultural conditioning, the truth is that men and women are oriented differently when it comes to thinking about what we want to accomplish in life. Much of the social engineering coming out of feminism misses this. And assuming that this difference is due to social constructs and not due to genetics is a mistake.

Our society bemoans the lack of women in the sciences. Engineering schools wonder why they do not get more female applicants. Corporations have to implement programs to recruit and promote women and there are still a surprising lack of women in the higher levels of the corporate world. But this not due to structural sexism or the patriarchy. Steven Pinker, in The Blank Slate, argues that these differences are due to genetic differences. Women are certainly capable in these fields but choose to do other things. They prefer other fields. They prefer fields with relationships and social interactions. And they prefer to have children and while many enjoy working, they tend to place a much heavier emphasis and to get purpose from things outside of work.

In other words, when it comes to life goals, women tend to be people oriented while men tend to be task oriented. As HL Mechen once said, "Man is always looking for someone to boast to; woman is always looking for a shoulder to put her head on." Trying to change this genetic trait is a losing proposition. It is not that there is structural sexism but that men and women choose different fields by free choice.

Why Are there Men and Women in the First Place?

 Okay. Have I shouted loud enough? The emperor has no clothes? Women and men are different in some significant and real ways? 

Okay. Let's talk about why.

The idea that gender is a social construct, though now widely held in academia is a strange philosophy to hold. Almost everyone agrees that there is a certain purpose to the way animals including humans are. Whether you are an atheist who thinks that unguided evolution is the reason things are they way they are or a creationist who believes that things are designed, everyone agrees that things are the way they are for a purpose - either the design and purpose of God or the demands of survival and procreation (or both).

With this in mind, why does gender exist? Why are some born with penises and some born with vaginas? Why do some bear children and some not? Why are humans (and many other animals) born into these two categories? And why are the above differences so deeply ingrained?

No one can say for sure but one obvious benefit of having half the population focus on bearing children (for 9 months) and then nursing (for another year) and then raising (for another 10+ years) while the other half just spreads seed has huge survival benefits.

Imagine an ancient tribe of early humans roaming somewhere in the horn of Africa foraging and hunting. Sometimes they have to fight other tribes. Sometimes they have to fight lions. Survival of that tribe depends on reproduction. Women need to carry babies to term. Babies need to be raised until they can contribute (about a decade). Having as many babies as possible is important because there are so many threats. Disease, famine, war, and wild animals will take a sadly large number of your children.

For this thought experiment, I would like to make a strange sort of tribe. This tribe in humanity's early development has men and women that are about the same size and temperament. Other than the women's ability to bear children, there are very few biological differences between them. The men and the women are equally able to fight, kill, hunt, and run. They are a tribe of forty with twenty men and twenty women. Our tribe learns that a neighboring tribe is about to attack. What should they do? They decide that 20 people will be needed to win the war. But who should they send? Anyone at random? Men? Women? Let's explore the options.

If they randomly sent both men and women (20 people random members) and ten people died in a winning war effort, the expected result would be that the dead would include five men and five women. The triumphant tribe would now have 15 men and 15 women. They go about procreating and later that year they have a maximum of 15 babies. Not bad in terms of their hopes for passing on their genes to the future generation. But can they do better? What if they decided to send just the women. If the women went to fight (remember these are strong women that are able to fight as well as the men), and they also lost ten people, then the maximum number of babies to be born later that year would be just ten. Five fewer bundles of joy to help perpetuate the gene pool than if they just sent everyone. Clearly a worse result than sending 20 at random. There is a third option, they could send the men only. The men go and fight and ten of them die before they return triumphant. How many babies can they have that year? The answer is 20. The best possible thing for the tribe (even if men and women were of equal fighting ability) would be for the women to stay home from the fight and the men to go.

If this is the best option for survival, we can assume that over many years, early tribes of humans would develop (or be designed) in such a way to optimize this option. The most successful tribes would be the ones with aggressive big males that would enjoy going to war and be physically fit enough to do it well. The women of the successful tribes, would not be so inclined to go fight and would only fight when absolutely necessary (i.e. the enemy is at the gates and her babies are at risk). 

The most successful tribes would have big strong aggressive men and motherly and gentle women (who get defensive when they think their little ones might be at risk). It all comes down to the fact that the male part of procreation is quite quick. One man can get 20 women pregnant in a few days while a woman can only get pregnant once a year at the most. Sperm is cheap, fertilized eggs are very expensive...

And the differences that are driven by cheap sperm and expensive fertilized eggs do not stop with behaviors relating to war. In fact, they explain pretty much all the differences we discussed starting this chapter. For example, let's consider sexual behavior. A successful tribal woman who can only procreate once a year at the most would want to be very very careful about who she had sex with. Sleeping around with anyone interested would not be in her interest or the interest of the tribe. No - she would want to pick a winning man. A man who had plenty of food and who was a good fighter. This would give her and her baby the best chance to continue on to the next generation. In contrast, a successful man would seek to spread his seed far and wide with the hopes of having as many offspring as possible. Being picky is not very important at all when it comes to survival of the tribe. Another example would be from the attitudes toward work. Successful men in this tribe during times of peace would be active in providing food for his wife(s). He would have almost singular focus on making sure that his family had food and protection. While it might be nice for him to be social, it would hardly be necessary to survival. On the other hand, mother's milk is necessary for infants for at least a year after birth (and likely longer). The most successful women (with procreation being the goal) would always have a baby or two around the house and would need to be nursing regularly. Given the need to be present to nurse when babies are hungry, it would make sense that her focus would be on maintaining the house rather than on hunting and providing.

So obviously our tribe thought experiment is more than a mere thought experiment. This is clearly designed (or evolved in) as a survival skill. It is the way that any ancient tribe should best organize their society to survive the many dangers that the ancient world provided them.

And it makes sense when we look at the men and women of today. Men are still bigger and more aggressive than women. Women are still smaller and less prone to physical confrontation. Men still enjoy sleeping around. Women are still more likely to want to settle down. Men are more likely to pursue difficult jobs that require long hours in the hope of being good providers. Women are more likely to be happy building a nice home.

In short, we are not far from our ancient ancestors. Geneticists say that human genetics have not changed much from our hunter gatherer days.

But does it need to be this way? That is the question that some might ask. Why not change things? We no longer, for example, require men to fight lions or combat neighboring tribes with sticks and stones. We have a safe environment and when wars do need to be fought we have guns and missiles and a nerdy man (or woman) sipping a latte in a Pentagon office can use a drone to wipe out a whole village. Women for their part, thanks to a reduction in infant mortality and a rise in life expectancy, no longer need to have babies like crazy to sustain the human population. An average of 2.1 children per woman keep our population steady. And with modern technology, her reduced physical frame allows her to do many if not most of the things that men can do in the world. So why not reorder society to make it more egalitarian and get away from the old order that was once needed but is no longer needed?

Well, you can't say we haven't tried. This is exactly what we have tried to do for at least the past 60 years. We have so convinced ourselves that change is both good and possible that any mention of differences between men and women is viewed as damned near hate speech. When mentioned at all, the man in the restaurant looks right and left for overhearing ears before whispering his thoughts. In an effort to change these genetic qualities, we have all agreed to pretend that men and women are equal in every respect. Equal in capability. Equal in interest. And equal in achievement. And where inequalities exist, we are told, there lies evidence of systemic oppression or societal bias. Our movies can no longer have a weak maiden in distress to be saved by the hero. Our TV shows are as likely to show a woman beating up a man as the reverse. Our literature promotes egalitarian adventures where the genders could be swapped out without any affect on the plot.

For 60 years, we as a society have tried to change the differences. But we have failed. Whispered or no, we all see that the differences are still there. 

But is that such a bad thing? If the differences are truly genetic, I would argue these efforts will do much more harm than good. If outlooks toward work, sex, and many other things are inherently dissimilar and if our thought experiment is true, then men and women - from the moment of our birth - are going down different paths with different pleasures, different goals, and different outlooks on life. What if all this social engineering is making everyone more miserable not less? Is it possible that, due to our biology, a more traditional society makes everyone (men and women alike) more happy? What if instead of making women feel inferior for not being career minded, we let them do what they want? What if instead of making men feel dumb for being so focused on work, we recognize that there is something genetic going on and give them a bit of encouragement and love? What if many of our problems are self inflicted due to our attempts to rewrite a genetic code that cannot be rewritten?

Can we all agree that the happiest lives are spent doing what one naturally loves? Can we all agree that freedom (without bureaucrats trying to socially engineer our behavior) gives the highest chance of joy in life? And if genetically, men and women are born differently, should we as a society not respect that? Should we really be trying to change genetic preferences using social engineering? And to what end?

Men and women are different. Respect that and we will all be happier.

What about the patriarchy?

Imagine a world in which this was true:

- Women died earlier than men
- Women had less parental rights in a divorce
- Women were drafted and sent to war while men could stay safe at home with the kids
- Women suffered more work related accidents
- Women suffered more from suicide and substance abuse
- Women were expected to go down and fight a burglar that had broken into the house
- Women were expected to be the last ones to leave a sinking ship
- Women were expected to make most of the money around the house
- Women had no say on whether a pregnancy could be terminated but a man had absolute and final say
- Women were the most common butt of jokes in commercials
- Women were expected to ask men to dances/dates/marriage and men simply had to say yes or no

I could go on but I think you get the point. Can you imagine the outrage? The howls and screams?

But you probably already guessed that all of those things are true for men. Men have a tough road in this life. But somehow we never complain about the 'Matriarchy.' In fact, men are usually proud of these things. We are happy to work the dangerous job so our wife does not have to. We are happy to march into war to protect our wife and kids. We are happy to go out and work long hours to provide for our wife and do not mind if she stays at home (but also usually are pretty supportive if she wants to work).

So... why do so many women complain about the 'Patriarchy?' I think that women will point to some things such as:
 
- Not having the right to vote until fairly recently
- Being excluded from various "men's club" sort of things (golf courses, various businesses, etc)
- Getting paid less
- Much higher rates of rape and abuse

Well, much of that is BS though. Let's look at those points. The gender pay gap is a myth.  To the extent that pay is different it usually relates to hours put in and breaks taken out during the middle of a career. When women put the same time in as men and don't take time off for family, they tend to make just as much or more.

On men excluding women from clubs... I would argue that for many things, women do exclude men but men just don't care. If women started a "Comedy Club for Women" I doubt there would be any protest. They could exclude men all day and we would say fine. Women could start golf clubs that excluded men and men would not care. Women could do anything alone and I promise you that most men would be grateful for her to have something to do rather than bitterly protest about not being allowed in. Even in business, if a woman started a business and only decided to hire women, I bet most men would not care at all. Go for it.

On rape and abuse, that is probably true (although men do get sexually abused and physically abused more than you would think). But one would argue this is an argument for putting more protections in place for women rather than trying to make more equality or egalitarianism in the world.

What about the voting? The principle on voting historically was that men represented their wife and kids. Husbands and wives have shared interests. Women would live with their parents until they married. Men would move out upon being an adult. So having men vote was an easy way to have each household represented. It was a cultural way of saying that we are not atomistic individuals but we function as families with shared interests together. Did it work perfectly? No. Is it good that it changed? Maybe... but I don't think it makes as big a difference as most people think. Like I said, women always had power and representation ... just indirect versus direct.

But regardless of how you feel about that... it was 100 years ago! Everything else I listed is today. There is no patriarchy holding women down and there are plenty of challenges that are unique to the male experience.... to the point where you could argue matriarchy if you wanted.

But few men care about that stuff. Men's rights groups are considered a joke in part because they ironically seem sort of feminine. Men take no pride in complaining about being oppressed and we are generally happy to serve the women in our lives. Just stop telling us that our service is abuse and some sort of power trip. We love you and are happy to work hard for you. Just chill out.

So.... are there no problems? Feminism's concerns are pointless. Women are always treated great? Obviously no. In many societies and in many contexts, women have been treated terribly. It is true that with men's larger size and aggressive disposition that we have historically been able to rule over women harshly if we wanted. Further, with our sexual bent this oppression often took the form of sexual abuse.

So if the solution is not a feminism that smashes the patriarchy and tries to make men and women essentially the same (against our genetic nature), what is it? How can we build a society that loves and respects the natures of both men and women without abusing or diminishing either?

Feminism is ironically named. Those who we call feminists almost never promote femininity. In fact, most hate all things traditionally called feminine and are probably quietly stewing as they read the word here. Instead, they promote masculine things for women. Rarely does a feminist give out awards to women that achieve excellence in areas traditionally done by women (crafts, cooking, homemaking, etc) but instead insist that women who excel in historically male fields receive lauds.  Women that achieve in sports, the military, or business are considered especially worthy of being held up as examples. Nor do feminists encourage women to dress or behave in traditionally feminine ways. Short hair, pants (vs skirts), and a lack of makeup are considered feminist markers. And feminists go further encouraging women to behave like men sexually and suppressing the one thing that women can do that men cannot do - have children - by the pill and abortion. This is not any sort of true feminism. This is confused misogynistic nonsense mislabeled.

So, what would a true feminism look like? It would do some of the things that feminism was originally and ostensibly there to do: affirm the humanity of women, celebrate what they do, protect them from abuse, and etc. But in addition to this, it would not deride the strengths of women but celebrate those. Far from encouraging women to give up the one thing that sets them far above men: the ability to create humans in their bodies, a true feminism would praise them for this, encourage society to protect and support them while pregnant, and provide a social network to support them during the long and difficult days immediately after birth. A true feminism would of course want women to be able to pursue many goals in life but would not deride or downplay traditionally female roles

So, is there a true feminism in history? Yes, the Christian Church.

This may sound counter intuitive to many of you. Let me finish this chapter by providing some ways in which Christianity provided a true feminism that protected women as humans without diminishing their femininity.

Christianity Ended the Widespread Female Infanticide

A first century Roman named Hilarion wrote a letter to his very pregnant wife,

"I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I receive payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered of a child [before I come home], if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it."

Nice. If its a boy, keep it. If it is a girl, discard it. Romans did this quite a bit. Infanticide was not illegal and was often encouraged.

Historian Rodney Stark argues that female infanticide was quite prevalent in the ancient world. It was so bad that the ratio of men to women in the Roman Empire grew to 7 to 5.  Consider a study of 600 ancient families from Delphi where only six had raised more than one daughter. This is a spectacular display of misogynistic murder.

But this changed when the church began to spread through the empire. Christian families were strictly prohibited from following this practice.  One of the earliest Christian documents in existence, the Didache (c 100 AD), states, “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born.” And this was lived out throughout Christianity. It has been argued that this practice of not killing baby girls is one of the primary reasons that Christianity grew so much over the next few centuries.

The Christian world had a disproportionate number of women. This created growth in two ways. First, it had the obvious effect of a higher birth rate within Christianity. Second, many men, looking for wives, would convert simply to get married.

Christianity Ended Legal and Socially Acceptable Sex Slavery

When Julius Caesar conquered Gaul, he brought back more than fifty thousand slaves. The men could work in the fields or as security but the women had one primary purpose: sex. Women of all ages were used for the sexual pleasures of men. In brothels, in temples, and as household concubines, women were bought to pleasure their masters. To deny the man sex would bring severe punishment and possibly death. This practice was widespread, it was socially acceptable, and it was perfectly legal.

But this changed as Christianity spread. I will repeat the Nancy Pearcy quote from chapter 1, "The most reliable index of how deeply Christianity had permeated a society was whether it outlawed sexual slavery." Suddenly, as towns became Christian, slaves no longer had to pleasure their masters. They could seek sanctuary in the church and in the courts. Now, we must not be naive to think that there was no sexual abuse during this time but there was legal protection and that protection grew with time. By the sixth century, the West had almost completely given up any sort of slave trade at all.

This change in the law and the environment for women was novel. No other major empire in the history of the world afforded women so many protections - especially when it came to sexual protections.

Christianity Created Equal Marriage Rules for Men and Women

What is the point of marriage? Is it a way of saying, "I really love you?" No. That is what our modern sentimental society has said it is about but historically the purpose was never (primarily) about love. It was a covenant between two parties with two objects in mind: children and women. Men got something out of the marriage: Children that they knew were their own. Women got something out of the marriage: protection and property. Basically, marriage was a promise on the part of the man to protect and provide for the woman (in a world where women were abused and neglected). Why would he promise this? Because the woman would promise to give him an inheritance. Children. Now, of course, this required her to be sexually faithful. It would not work for the man to spend his time and money protecting the woman only to have the baby pop out looking like the neighbor. So, historically, wives were expected (at least during their fertile years) to be sexually faithful to the man. In contrast, men were pretty much permitted to do whatever they wanted. Going to prostitutes and sleeping around was fine. Adultery was not cheating on your wife.... it was stealing another man's wife. In other words, marital fidelity in most ancient cultures was a one sided thing.

But with Christianity, this changed. Consider this passage from 1 Corinthians 7,

"[Each] man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife."

You can see that the end starts like the traditional ancient marriage: Women cannot cheat. But it ends with something novel: "In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife."

Suddenly, men were being called to be faithful as well. This Christian innovation gave birth to what we call the nuclear family. It created a better life for children but also created a better life for wives who no longer had to accept their husbands showing love and affection to other women while they remained bound to fidelity.

The reason we now think of marriage as a way of saying, "I really love you," is this innovation. Men and women suddenly were bound not only to a contract about kids and property but covenant in which two people exclusively give their affections to each other.

Christianity Prevented Men From Dumping Women When They Got Old

But there is another way that Christianity changed marriage. Go back to the original meaning of marriage given above. If the promise the woman makes is to provide children (that the man knows are his) to the man, what value does she provide when she turns 45 or so? The answer is that her purpose in the marriage has passed. Either she has provided the man with heirs or she has not but she can do no more. But the man's responsibilities, in theory, continue. His wife still needs protection, food, and property. But think about this from the man's perspective. Why would he continue to do this? What is in it for him? He might have to spend the next 40 years providing for a woman that can no longer bear children (the whole point of the marriage). Why would he do that?

And many men did not. In many ancient societies, the divorce laws were such that the man simply had to say, "I divorce thee," and he would be divorced. For a woman, particularly one past child bearing years, this might be condemnation to poverty and abuse. The ancient world was tough on women. Given their smaller size, they could not do many of the labor intensive jobs that society required, they were unable to fight in the army, and in a society with limited police protections, they were particularly vulnerable to thieves and rapists.

But Christianity mandated that only in death could a marriage be ended. A man that left his wife, even after she was old and no longer able to bear children, was excommunicated from the church and the church would then help the woman with protection and care. This change was almost purely to the benefit of women. Consider this passage from the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 19),

"Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

This is a humorous passage to our modern ears. The disciples (all men) learn that divorce is not allowed and their response is.... shock and disappointment. It would be better not to get married if you cannot divorce her.

Christianity Gave Women Positions of Influence, Honor, and Intellectual Contribution

A common prayer in both the Jewish and non-Jewish world was to thank God for not being a woman. Spartan men would not even let their wives outside. This varied from ancient society to ancient society but generally speaking, women were not decision makers in society. When August Caesar's wife started to get too much influence, he had to reassure the public that she was not calling the shots. A woman directing things would surely be a disaster for the empire. Women were not even allowed to be witnesses in court.

But literally from the very beginning of Christianity this changed. The first witnesses of Jesus' resurrection (the very heart of the Christian message) were not men.... they were all women. All four gospels record that women were the first to see the risen Jesus and report it back to the rest of his followers. This was an embarrassment to the Christians. Celsus, the second century Greek philosopher, mocked Christianity by saying, “This faith is just based on the testimony of some hysterical women.” 

But there they were. From the beginning. People of import and influence. This acceptance of the testimony of Christian women is reflected in the first century writings of the apostle Paul who said that, "In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28)

And from the earliest days, women played arguably a more important role in the development of the church than men did. It was the wives of noblemen to lent their houses as churches. It was the wives of leaders to lobbied to prevent Christian prosecution. Women were some of the most loved saints (the highest Christians saint being thought to be the mother of Christ).  A Christian woman was as able to be sainted and venerated as any man. As nuns, Christian women were the prayer warriors of the church and were honored and respected.

Women became doctors of the church with their writings. Their ecstatic visions were read widely. Their acts of charity were held up as examples to all. No other ancient religion offered women these positions of honor, influence, and respect.  And so it is no surprise that within the Christian world, women enjoyed a status not enjoyed in any other major empire and certainly more than the Roman Empire that Christianity grew to replace.

And throughout all of this, femininity was honored and respected. Never were women expected or pressured to act like men. This is true feminism.

The history of the world is one of abuse. The strong abuse the weak. The rich oppress the poor. But Christianity turned this all on its head. Christianity insisted that women could not be killed, raped, or abused. Christianity insisted that, in Christ, women were every bit as important and worthy of the love of God as any man. The modern feminist movement has nothing on historic Christianity when it comes to women. Only in Christianity are women both respected as humans and allowed to be women.

Men and women are different. The patriarchy is a myth. And true feminism is nothing like modern feminism. 

The emperor has no clothes... 


Further Reading
Eggs are Expensive, Sperm is Cheap by Greg Krehbiel a little book I read a while ago that helped me understand many of the concepts I discuss above

Steven Pinker's Blank Slate has an extended discussion on the genetic differences between men and women that I found helpful. Fair warning that Pinker is sort of a rabid atheist and I don't recommend much in this book. But the discussion on gender was helpful. 

Rodney Stark's brilliant, The Rise of Christianity, has an extended discussion on how Christianity changed the Roman Empire with regards to women.  



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