Is Chivalry Demeaning to Women

It is the season of prom in the local high schools. In a recent discussion with some students, the idea of the boy paying for the girl’s dinner came up briefly. One of the ladies in the group responded that girl’s don’t need a guy to pay for them, they can take care of themselves. While I totally agree that women are capable of taking care of themselves, this statement has had me thinking about what chivalry communicates. (see The Opposite of Masculinity) Does a man paying for his date’s dinner diminish the woman? That is a fair question. And I think the answer lies in the motivation for paying and is fundamentally an issue of identity. Payment could indicate control. Not paying could be a bruise to the man’s ego. It could subtly communicate that something is owed later. Now the woman is in the man’s debt. Another form of control Unfortunately, too many men have used finances in such a way. Making the response that woman can take care of themselves completely understandable. Needing to be in control and needing to demonstrate control are an issue of a poorly developed identity. One that seek to affirm significance by keeping another – in this case a date – under their thumb. And by the way, this is not just a man issue, women struggle in their attempts to control others as a way to sustain identity as well. (see The Opposite of Femininity) A man paying (or a woman paying for that matter) should not be for the purpose of controlling another, but rather as a way to demonstrate the significance...

The Opposite of Femininity

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about passivity and its relationship to masculinity. (See The Opposite of Masculinity) Among the responses that were generated by this post was a question I had not previously considered. What is the opposite of femininity? I offer this answer after meditating on several biblical passages and having conversations with godly women I admire. Masculinity is not the opposite of femininity. They are complements. The opposite of femininity is busyness – an inability to receive. Busyness erects barriers. Femininity receives. Busyness dominates. Femininity respects. Busyness diminishes. Femininity nurtures. In the home of Mary and Martha, both busyness and femininity were on display. (See Luke 10:38 – 42) While Mary was available to receive, Martha was busy with all the things that needed to be done. That is the covering for the shame inherent in the broken image that busyness provides. If things get done then that ‘proves’ the worth of the woman. Busyness is a way to feel needed. (See Covering Up the Broken Image) Busyness is a manifestation of the false self – the identity rooted outside of Christ. It gives a false sense of security and control. Often these things are felt by others – particularly a spouse – as domination or isolation. Passivity (opposite of masculinity) and busyness (opposite of femininity) are false complements. At first they seem to fit well together, but they are both opposite of the masculine and feminine facets of the image of God each spouse has been given. It leads to division – a woman angry that the man will not step up, and a man angry...

The Opposite of Masculinity

Femininity is not the opposite of masculinity. They are complements. The opposite of masculinity is passivity. Passivity waits to be acted upon. Masculinity initiates. Passivity avoids. Masculinity enters. Passivity enables. Masculinity leads. Passivity backs away. Masculinity stands firm. In the garden, men and women were both giving the image of their Creator. They were created differently; they were created to be complements; they were created for oneness. (see Created In God’s Image) Yet, in relationship, men tend toward passivity. It is the pattern of male brokenness started in the garden by Adam, who backed away to let his wife – bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh – face the temptations of the serpent alone. He was not the bearer and handler of truth, so his wife succumbed to the lies. It the sin of looking away from God – in fact, just looking away and choosing not to see. And God spoke to Adam’s sin first. Passivity is not the complement of femininity. In the presence of a passive male, women are allowed (or encouraged) to live out of sync with their own design, leading to anger and resentment toward their spouse. A friction that creates shame and thus ingrains the passive pattern more deeply. Passivity is a manifestation of the false self. It is a covering that is apart from God. It provides the false sense of comfort, security and protection that the false self craves to cover shame and prove “I’m OK.” (see Justifying a Diminished Masculinity) Passivity says… If I don’t risk, then I cannot feel the shame of failure. If I don’t initiate, then I cannot...

Justifying a Diminished Masculinity

Men justify the diminishment of their masculinity by their wives by throwing out excuses like “but she’s a good mom” as if that is a fair trade off for being relegated to the back seat of the marriage relationship. I was actually struck by the number of responses from guys who saw themselves in that blog. One friend of mine challenged that a man cannot have his masculinity diminished unless he allows it. That is a true statement that leads to a deeper question – why? Why do men allow it? Why does the road of passivity seem like the attractive option when it causes so much internal damage? Here are some of the reasons that a man will take the road of “gutting it out” in a relationship and justify being diminished. Culture is saying, louder and louder, that the desires a man has are wrong. His desire to lead is chauvinistic. His desire to provide subjugates a woman. His desire for sex is self-serving and perverse (an ironic contradiction is if the man was single, his sexual desire is seen as a strength). He tells himself that if he just performed better as a husband then there would be no issues. So, being dismissed is really his own failure to please his wife. Many men feel that their own needs are less important than other concerns. This scarcity mindset says that emotional or physical energy in the relationship directed at them would leave a deficit elsewhere. This is simply pride. Because much of masculinity is learned. A man will repeat generational patterns and may not understand what...

But She’s a Good Mom

I have been having a lot of conversations with guys lately and these talks often turn to marriage. There seems to be a common them to the marital relationships of many of the guys I talk to. The are just gutting it out. Doing what is right, yet not connecting with their wives. Afraid to voice their dissatisfaction. All the while, spinning their wheels trying to please their princess. Despite trying to maintain the appearances of having it all together and weathering the storm, these men are stewing internally. It is hard for them to understand how they can be seemingly discarded and disrespected. When asked what prohibits them from taking a stand and setting a bottom line of what is acceptable behavior between spouses, the response is fear. Fear that they are getting what they deserve. Fear that this woman who once loved them will leave. But the fear and insecurity is often deflected by saying something like – “It’s not all bad, she’s a good mom.” As if good mothering skills is a justified trade-off for being tread on by your wife. But, this is a statement that is also worth challenging. What lesson does a son learn by observing a woman who diminishes the man she’s married? What is he learning about how his future wife should treat him? If this is what “love” looks like in the home he grows up in, it is likely that is what he will seek out in his own. What lesson is a daughter learning about what it means to be a wife? Does it help this girl develop...

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