The Battle of the Sexes
Gender issues never seem to go far away from our news headlines. They aren’t usually expressed in such terms but nevertheless that is what they are – from remembering the death of the suffragette Emily Davison 100 years ago to current horror stories about grooming of young girls for sex, the devastating report released from the Centre for Social Justice about children’s experience of fatherlessness and virtual ‘men deserts’ to Caroline Lucas’ page three protest in parliament this week. We have not managed to progress well when it comes to relating as male and female despite the valiant attempts of the feminist movement. Many things have changed for the better in the UK; girls are educated and women have the vote. But many women struggle as single mothers, some children grow up without any male role models and one girl in a recent sexual abuse case stated that she thought it was normal to travel to London to have sex with a man’s friends. Last weekend saw the charity concert headlined by Beyoncé and Madonna seek to raise awareness about education, health and justice issues for girls and women around the world. Gender issues do not go away.
As Christians we should not be surprised, just as sickness, death and decay came into our world at the fall so did on-going conflict between the sexes:
To the woman he said,
I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you. Gen 3:16
None of this is good. I can personally testify to the pain of childbirth and the history of the world points to continuous conflict between the sexes. Although this verse is hotly debated I think the best way to understand the word ‘desire’ and ‘rule’(master) is from the way they are used in the next chapter:
sin is crouching at your door; it ‘desires’ to have you, but you must ‘master’ it. Gen 4:7
This verse reinforces the image of a battle and a fight; women will want to overturn men and men will put women down often with great cruelty, a cycle which perpetuates in each generation. We will be distressed by the endless horror stories we see on the news - it is part of the ugliness of our fallen world. It is right that we try and redress this battle -it is not good. Fighting for women’s rights (and justice for fathers etc.) are things we should do in the same way we work to combat sickness. But at the same time we need to remember that these things reveal the truth about ourselves – we are fallen, our experience is one of living in a world under God’s judgement and we desperately need rescue. The bible is realistic about our world and gender issues.
Is there a way we can help others see the world as God sees it when these issues come up? When we chat with women and they are complaining about page three, sexism, or inequality we agree that these things are wrong but can we help them see that God agrees that these things are wrong as well? It will be an odd idea to many of the women we know that we take Genesis so seriously but if we share this with them they may ultimately discover that the bible is the place in which they will find truly liberating news.
This is the second in the series ‘women and the gospel’.