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Emma 2009

Article response (re: men, women, and gender essentialism)

Tonight, a friend sent me a link to an article.  This article rather upset me, and thus I've written a post as a response.  Said response, though defiantly opposed to several points of the article, also contains much which opposes current political, cultural, moral, and social trends.

Original article link
My response, written as I read it:

I take minor issue with the dismissal of hemaphrodites - an issue which the church has not addressed in any serious way that I've seen, and I think deserves a lot more thought than "oh, that's not a normal thing, let all us normal people be normal together."  Yes, they are a tiny, tiny minority - but they exist, and are in the image of God (even though a broken image, just like the rest of us).



Sorry, been something I've been upset about for some time.  All people deserve our love as they have the undeserved love of God, regardless of their particular instantiation of the fallenness of the world.


Running, jokes, guns, abandon - they are all learned behaviors.  If there is a point to be made about the essential difference in born nature, it is made exceptionally poorly here.  Also, I really hate the way activities like "helping mothers" and "baking" are clearly regarded as "less masculine."


I agree that a boy means future man.  That's an excellent point - all boys need to be taught to fill the role of man - father, husband - things that women can never be.
I also absolutely agree that being a man means you are a begetter, that the bond between father's and children is not the same as that with the mother.


I also agree that a mother, if she loves and respects her husband (or if she's single, for whatever reason, other male figures in her and her son's lives), she will encourage her son to pattern his behavior after theirs.


I do reject the implication that girls should be kept in diapers.


I currently (I'm still willing to be convinced, but the more people try, the less I see it) absolutely reject the notion of chivalry as the Biblical way men should relate to women.  Men and women should try to serve each other, and let each other serve themselves.  I do not see anything in the Bible that says "men should be the ones to do physically hard things, and women should be the ones who do the nice things that don't matter and don't require muscles."


I do agree that in a romantic and spiritual relationship of marriage, the man should lead.  There are many nuances in how that works, and I cannot stress enough how I think there are many ways of leading - some men lead bluffly, confidently, some men lead introspectively, quietly - and I do think that a failure to lead is a sin in a husband.  But I do not think there is one way to lead, and I tend to reject ideas of leadership as a monolithic concept rather violently.


I think that while friends of the same sex share the same biological and social expectations, I think the gap between upbringing, desires, personalities, etc, are generally as large as any between men and women.  I do not think I share a stronger bond with my brothers because of my sex (though I obviously share roughly the same experience of puberty as opposed to my sisters - but that is a physical one, not a mental or spiritual one).


I do not see why a wife is not a playmate.  I do not see how separation is honor.  Every time I have come across separation of essence arguments about gender, it inevitably leads to implied of outright contempt for one of the sexes.  As here, where girls should be kept in diapers (and more on that later).


I think that indiscriminate mingling does not breed indifference, but understanding.  Separation breeds contempt and confusion., at least it has in my experience.


I do not generally experience naturalness and ease with other men, especially not of those my own age.  While I don't experience it naturally with women my own age either, I more commonly do form connections of a friendly (philia) nature with women than men.  I strongly reject the idea that this tendency on my part make me less "masculine" or less of a man.


Here we get to more of the denigration of women.  Women do not have integrity.  Women do not stand by their words.  Women make excuses.  Women don't know the difference between bravery and recklessness.


If this is not the case, why make these things essential (in the very nature of) to being a man?  What is a woman's relationship to integrity, keeping their word, responsibility, and bravery?


I absolutely agree about the mechanics of sex - and admire the way my parents were forthright about sex, never waffling about awkwardness or hiding things from me.  They wanted to protect me from sin, and give me hope for a happy, blessed, glorious married life.


Ah, yes, because television and the internet are naturally evil.  Yes, there is horrible evil for a Christian in the media - but there is also great good.  Additionally, parents have the duty to teach their children discernment (not too soon, though different children are ready for it at different ages) - not cultural avoidance.  How will we have artist who proclaim the beauty of God and the pain of living in a broken world if they do not know the skills of telling those stories in whatever medium they are gifted in?


I do think there's an attitude of "the good old days" to this piece that is not really appropriate for a Biblical perspective of history.  Yes, there were good things about the old days.  There were also bad things - the racism and sexism (which are not completely eradicated today) were not, and were pernicious things that good Christians should have (and did, sometimes) stood strongly against.  There are good things about today - the connections we can make with people all over the world, the increased knowledge of the way the world works (it's difficult to see the good in the middle of the bad).  But a narrative of increasing evil and a golden age in the past is just as destructive as the progressive narrative of great darkness and evil in the past and increasingly golden utopic society now.


I agree fairly completely with the final paragraph: Christians are called to reject selfishness, those who are called to marriage are to be faithful to God and their spouse without exception, and to raise men and women to do the same.

Comments

I really wish livejournal would flag me when I'm about to go over comment length

The article also upset me. It was massively essentializing and Othering, and at one point or another characterized pretty much every important person in my life of Doing Life Wrong in some way.

Your comments, on the other hand, I found caring, thoughtful, and unassuming (you give your perspective without taking an I-know-better attitude, which the article's author often seems to be doing). Thank you for sharing your perspective.

My own thoughts:

- I'm with you on inclusivity towards hermaphrodites - that's something I've been trying to work on for myself over the past couple years.

-
Running, jokes, guns, abandon - they are all learned behaviors.  If there is a point to be made about the essential difference in born nature, it is made exceptionally poorly here.  Also, I really hate the way activities like "helping mothers" and "baking" are clearly regarded as "less masculine."

Exactly how I felt.

- I agree with the biological statement that a boy is a future man, but I'm skeptical about the social leap then taken to the "role of a man." Not all men are destined (or inclined) to be husbands, or fathers, or maybe one but not the other, and I don't see anything intrinsically better or worse to belonging to any of those categories or not.

- I also agree that the male role in reproduction is different from the female (obviously), and therefore the relationship to the children is different. Then again, you could say the same for a child's relationship with a foster mother or stepmother, so I don't think gender is necessarily the best way of thinking about that difference.

- Partially for that reason, I don't see the point of going out of one's way to encourage a boy to pattern his behavior after other males (or vice versa) specifically. Outside issues of sexual activity and our physical sexual characteristics, I can't think of any behavior which is appropriate for a woman but not for a man or vice versa, so I don't see why children shouldn't pattern themselves after whoever or whatever suits them best. (If I ever have children, I'll probably pattern most of my parenting style more closely after my mother than my father - I love my Dad, but the relationship I had and have with my Mom is much closer to what I would like to have with my own kids.)

-
I do not see anything in the Bible that says "men should be the ones to do physically hard things, and women should be the ones who do the nice things that don't matter and don't require muscles."

I'm indifferent to the Bible, but as someone who's spent several months studying housework, I have to laugh any time work that is traditionally characterized as "women's" is referred to as "nice things that don't matter" (and, come to think of it, "and don't require muscles"). Not suggesting that you were making that implication, just adding onto your comment.

- I like what you said about rejecting a monolithic view of leadership, but can you expound a little on why you think "the man should lead" categorically? From my perspective, leadership qualities (as with just about every other quality except for a couple specific biological ones) are about evenly divided among the sexes - and anyway, surely leadership depends more on the specific character of the man and woman in question than on their biological categories.

(I also completely reject the article's implicit argument that marriage between one cisman and oneciswoman is the only legitimate form of romantic and sexual relationship between human beings, or that a necessary goal of all romantic/sexual relationships is to produce children. However, I get the impression that this is one place where our views are wildly divergent, and I'm not here to antagonize.)

To be continued ...
Thanks for commenting. I do find the commenting length to be annoying - I'm sure there's a reason for it, but wish they'd be more up-to-date and let you know how many character you have remaining.

I really wish I had more information and ideas about hemaphrotites - it's such a silent issue, and I think 1) celibacy regardless of desire; 2) picking whatever gender; 3) being gender fluid all have really strong weaknesses (particularly from my own religious perspective).

Re: husbands and fathers - here's where my religious assumptions come into play. I don't expect people outside my demographic to agree or conform to my view of reality, but I do think that in general, humans are created to 1) marry, and 2) increase in number. This is a general statement with many exceptions, but still true in the main, in my view. But I know it's neither universal (even in my demographic) or universally accepted.

Your comments about non-biological mothers are very appropriate. I shall definitely have to think about that, especially since I'm definitely in favor of adoption as something people should do if they feel called to it.

My own religious conceptions (see below) definitely hold that there are differences in the way men and women relate to each other within marriage - but this is definitely something that is a religious conception, and not one I think should necessarily apply outside of that sphere. I'm still struggling quite hard with what is appropriate for men and women, especially as it relates to fathers and mothers - but I do think there's something necessary about both in childrearing (which is not to denigrate the amazing work single parents do, or the hard work many same-sex couples put into raising their children - just that I believe there's an ideal, and then there's what we live with).

Yup - add to that the way our understanding of what happens in the home has massively changed over the last 1000 years (and beyond). Dorothy L. Sayer's "Are Women Human" collection of two essays really helped me out in that regard. "Housework" is a fluid concept, and in general, it irritates me how historically blind so many people on all sides of the gender essentialism debate are.

The "men should lead" thing is distinctly related to the Pauline "the man is the head of the wife" theology of marriage, and definitely not something I expect even all people who accept the Bible to interpret the same way.

I would also like to clarify that while I think many "complementarian" philosophies of leadership stress the leadership over the servanthood of the husband, a true leader, according to Paul and the rest of the Bible, is the least - the last going first, putting the wife and family's desires far above his own. So, still a leader, still the final word in the decision-making process, but to serve others, never himself. Not acceptable in an egalitarian view, certainly, but I do want to stress that it's not "man lead, women follow."

Both the article and I do accept the heteronormative view of marriage - I would definitely be open to discussing this issue (but only if you desire), and I am very grateful at your forthright but non-antagonistic statement of your position.

Now my comment's comments are going over-limit

Always happy for a respectful discussion.

I really wish I had more information and ideas about hemaphrotites

Me too. It's one of the many things I have marked down to learn more about ... one of these days.

I do think that in general, humans are created to 1) marryy, and 2) increase in number

Interesting. I like that you acknowledge this belief as a generality rather than a universal, so you leave room for exceptions. I address the issue of marriage in the next part, but what do you think is our purpose in increasing our numbers. I can think of several scientific and emotional reasons, but I don't think anyone's ever explained to me why it's seen as a moral imperative.

I'm still struggling quite hard with what is appropriate for men and women, especially as it relates to fathers and mothers - but I do think there's something necessary about both in childrearing (which is not to denigrate the amazing work single parents do, or the hard work many same-sex couples put into raising their children - just that I believe there's an ideal, and then there's what we live with).

Yes, I struggle with a lot of these and related issues myself, so to some extent, I can get where you're coming from.

I think I would agree that it's optimal (I find "necessary" a bit too fuzzy in this context) for a child to have a male and female caregivers involved in raising them. I would further argue that it's best to have multiple caregivers raising them more than just the two.

In answer to your question below, I think this partially because raising a child is a tremendously difficult job, and I think ideally, it takes many more than two people to do the job adequately. For one thing, spreading the work around reduces the stress on everybody. For another, the more people involved in the process at the same level, the more points of view they bring - so that a group of six, say, will be able to think up many more possible solutions for any problems that arise.

Third, I recently read an early 20th century ethnography by Margaret Mead of a couple Samoan islands where they have large extended families; and she observed that if a child was having problems at home, it could just go to stay with another branch of the family until things cooled down. I think the ability just to step away from a situation without abandoning it can be enormously beneficial to resolve conflicts, or at least prevent escalation. (Plus, I imagine it cuts down on child abuse.)

Fourth (and this is the part where my political biases may be bleeding in), I think the nuclear structure over-atomizes people, and the extended family structure is better for fostering community.

I don't think the extended family need necessarily be biological (I have several best friends who are also family, and who if I have my way will play as much of a role in helping raise any children I may have as my sisters and parents). I would agree that churches and small groups and the like can help reduce the burden on nuclear couples, but I think (and I realize this is highly controversial) that for best effect you really need several co-partners in child-rearing, as opposed to a strong support system for two primary caregivers.

To be concluded ...
Re: increasing in numbers

I believe humanity's purpose in existence is to glorify God, and naturally, the more of them there are, the more people glorifying God (and I also believe that people can glorify God just by being human, since the amazing complexity and beauty of the human form and mind is an image of God). Now...this can get tricky, since I don't want to imply that God "needs" us to glorify Him (apologies for the gendered pronoun, but I believe that while God has no gender and definitely no sex, He has chosen to refer to Himself primarily in the male pronoun - there are theologians who disagree, but that's my tradition and habit) - and I definitely think that the glory of God will be infinite whether there were zero humans, one human, or quadrillions - but it makes some sense that if you're going to create humans, why not do a lot of them and have them glorify that which deserves the most glory?

There's also a certain amount of mystery (which is the go-to theological word that a lot of people in my tradition like to point to when we don't have completely satisfactory answers, but we believe the Bible's teaching is clear) in that - I mean, why did God create a bunch of folk who deny His existence? That seems a bit odd. So, some of it is the glorifying thing, some of it is in Genesis 1 God commands us to be fruitful and multiply. Obviously not even close to convincing to people who 1) don't believe in God; 2) don't believe the Bible is a special revelation of God's character, but that's my reasoning.

Lastly, there's definitely the truth that man is a social being - in Genesis it also says it is not good for man to be alone. That's not necessarily a mandate for unlimited population growth, since after about a million folks, you're hardly alone - but it does give a general principle why to increase in general.

I agree that "necessary" is fuzzy and problematic - I apologize. Optimal is a much more precise term here.

I find your arguments about childrearing and community very fascinating - I'll definitely have to think and pray about it, since I've not really encountered that idea outside of Heinlein's rather ridiculous poly-family utopias.

That being said, I find your vision quite intelligent, and will definitely be thinking about it!
(apologies for the gendered pronoun, but I believe that while God has no gender and definitely no sex, He has chosen to refer to Himself primarily in the male pronoun - there are theologians who disagree, but that's my tradition and habit)

That's okay. I don't agree with it, but I'm not particularly offended by it either, so for the purposes of this conversation I have no objections.
the amazing complexity and beauty of the human form and mind is an image of God

Y'know, this one's always struck me as most likely a bit of editorializing on behalf of God's stenographers (or their translators) rather than divine inspiration. As complex and sophisticated and beautiful as human beings are, it seems to me that any being capable of creating the universe would have to be exponentially more complex and sophisticated and beautiful.
That doesn't rule out part of our purpose being to celebrate said being, through propagation among other things. Again, you probably won't sell me on the idea, but I think I get the logic to it.

I mean, why did God create a bunch of folk who deny His existence?

Well you, but you could ask the same about a lot of the weird stuff out there. Myself I figure it probably doesn't matter - people who deny God's existence, or get some of the theological details wrong, can still do God's work, and I would assume that's the important thing.
I agree that "necessary" is fuzzy and problematic - I apologize. Optimal is a much more precise term here.

No need to apologize. I didn't find it a problem, I'm just highly pedantic and prefer to be precise.
I find your arguments about childrearing and community very fascinating - I'll definitely have to think and pray about it, since I've not really encountered that idea outside of Heinlein's rather ridiculous poly-family utopias.

Huh, I feel like I've been hearing about the extended family system for years. Certainly in anthroplogy as sort of a background detail. One of my current teachers is originally from Bengal, and he once told us about being surprised when he first came to the UK by the narrow, two-parent family structure here. (I'm pretty sure the history I've read suggests most of Europe and colonial America was like this until around the advent of the Industrial Revolution.)

Response part 1, sub-part 2

I just don't understand where the assumption that, in general "men should lead," comes from, what the reasoning is. Then again, so long as it's not being imposed on me or anyone else, I suppose I don't have to.

I don't mean to imply that "the man should lead" never applies in any circumstances or to any couples at all. However, I think in some cases it's been deployed in ways that can be quite harmful, and likewise the flipside argument that the man should stoically sacrifice of himself for the good of his family. So while I get that it's not a case of "men lead, women follow," I don't think that by itself eliminates all the potential problems, even setting aside an egalitarian view for the sake of discussion. In other words, I'm not meaning to dismiss your viewpoint, just point that I don't find the particular argument you raised reassuring.

I think that even if I could be convinced of the existence of a creator-God, I would still view marriage as an essentially human, not divine, institution. And as such, I think it's rather constricting. The sociological and biological information I've picked up strongly suggests that monogamy is not for everyone, and neither is lifelong commitment - those work for some people, not others. If I'm right on this point, then trying to fit people who just aren't wired for it into that box is apt to cause a swathe of personal and social problems.

On top of that, marriage in any society always seems to come with a ton of social and legal baggage regarding property, division of labor, habitation, and the like which seem to me more to reflect specific cultural mores rather than enduring truths of the human condition and which, again, suit some personalities more than others.

So here's my perspective, with which you're of course welcome to disagree: I think that if there is an almighty creator, then they created humanity with a dizzying array of sexual and romantic proclivities (just as in all other forms of proclivity) each to explore and fulfill in our own unique ways. I would argue for celebrating the diversity of ways God created for us to love one another, rather than characterizing one of them as the only right way.

Re: Response part 1, sub-part 2

Well, if you believe it's part of the created order, you would assume that it comes from a correct interpretation of the Bible. If you do not, then I think people assume the idea came from the selfishness of men and their ability to enforce their will physically. I'm sure that the latter is actually true in many cases, even though I also believe the former.

Oh, I'm sure my arguments aren't at all reassuring - I just wanted to clarify what I do not mean to say, and try and be as precise as possible with what I am arguing/presenting. And like all structures, the complementarian view of marriage (of which there are many subviews, mine is probably a minority position among the complementarians) definitely will have problems, abuses, and outright failures.

Very interesting that you would still think of marriage as human, not divine. Both Genesis (two shall become one flesh) and the letters of Paul (a mystical union the represents Christ and the Church) imply or outright state that there's something divine about it. But again, that's way past a general belief in God and into a specific religious tradition and specific interpretive communities within that tradition.

Sociological, scientific, and historical examinations of marriage are definitely something I want to do more of - since I have a real problem with the concept of "traditional" marriage, since that idea has actually fluctuated incredibly from culture to culture, time to time, and class to class. That's why I tend to use "heteronormative," since it's more precise (despite the fact that I'm appropriating the term and repurposing it to be something I believe, not something I observe and oppose).

I think your perspective on a possible way the world works is a very cheerful one - not one I can accept, given the presuppositions I've laid out here, but I think there are definitely things I will be considering (and have been considering) for much time to come!

Re: Response part 1, sub-part 2

Well, if you believe it's part of the created order, you would assume that it comes from a correct interpretation of the Bible.

Right, but in that case, wouldn't people just do it instinctively without having to be told? Sure, people often do things which go against the created order (as put forward by the Bible), such as hurting each other and worshiping idols and the like, but in those cases there's an explanation for why those things are bad and people shouldn't do them. I'm not seeing that kind of an explanation in this case.
Oh, I'm sure my arguments aren't at all reassuring - I just wanted to clarify what I do not mean to say, and try and be as precise as possible with what I am arguing/presenting.

Okay. It felt a bit to me like you were trying to be reassuring, but I appreciate how difficult it can be to convey nuance over the internet.

Both Genesis (two shall become one flesh) and the letters of Paul (a mystical union the represents Christ and the Church) imply or outright state that there's something divine about it.

Do either of those examples delve into more specifics? Because I don't see anything there which necessarily mandates monogamy, an eternal commitment, the intervention of a religious official to seal the deal, or a bunch of other things which are commonly treated as fundamental to marriage in contemporary discourse. So is there more to it than that, or is our definition of "divine marriage" just wildly different from the everyday definition?
I have a real problem with the concept of "traditional" marriage, since that idea has actually fluctuated incredibly from culture to culture, time to time, and class to class.

Hear, hear. I recently made a note to someday track down a book "Marriage, a History, by Stephanie Coontz," which apparently argues that the institution of "traditional" marriage we know today was only invented around 200 years ago. Not sure what pre-"traditional" marriage supposedly looked like, or what you'd make of the book's arguments, but perhaps you'd find it useful.
I think your perspective on a possible way the world works is a very cheerful one - not one I can accept, given the presuppositions I've laid out here, but I think there are definitely things I will be considering (and have been considering) for much time to come!

I have some familiarity with looking at somebody else's view of the world and going 'yes, that does seem really great, and I like this vision, unfortunately I can't ascribe to it because I just don't believe in this foundational presupposition here,' so I think I have some idea where you're coming from, and fair enough. Of course, that isn't quite how I view the world either, but it's pretty close (I just assume it's a quirk of evolution rather than divine intent). Always happy to share my perspective, though.

Response, part 2

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I think the gap between upbringing, desires, personalities, etc, are generally as large as any between men and women.

Yes, this, absolutely. My male friends and I share a different set of social expectations than my female friends or my sisters (as well as the obvious biological differences) but in my experience, on a day-to-day level those differences have a near-negligible impact compared to all the other factors which inform human interactions.

Personally, I'm very comfortable in all- or mostly-female settings and I think I'd be significantly less comfortable in an all-male setting. That doesn't make me an aberration, it just means that my way of being a well-adjusted cismale is different from the article's author's way.

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I do not see how separation is honor.  Every time I have come across separation of essence arguments about gender, it inevitably leads to implied of outright contempt for one of the sexes.

This one really set me off, too, like when the author says: "Indiscriminate mingling breeds indifference." No, it breed familiarity. It breeds comfortability. It breeds closeness. It breeds mutual understanding. Segregation not only breeds contempt, but also a view of the segregated Other as alien and incomprehensible - which makes any conflicts which arise between the two much harder to resolve (as between a woman and a man who are lovers). Again, I mingle indiscriminately with women (in that if there's anything private I do away from them, I generally do it away from other men, too), and it sure as hell hasn't made me indifferent toward them in any way; neither for any of my friends, female or male.

Though I have my own hang-ups about nudity, intellectually I think the author is on to something when he talks about being naked in the presence of others, but not when he says that it should be segregated. I think it's very healthy to be able to view the naked human body (male, female, and otherwise) as natural and normal and something to be comfortable with. (I think I read somewhere that anthropologically speaking, cultures which are least apt to view the naked female body as shameful, secret, transgressive or taboo tend to be the least sexist and repressive.)

-
Here we get to more of the denigration of women.  Women do not have integrity.  Women do not stand by their words.  Women make excuses.  Women don't know the difference between bravery and recklessness.

To be fair to the author, he does put this passage in terms of a dichotomy between men and boys rather than men and women. What turned me off more here was the implication that "a man" is something other than an adult male. I am a semi-adult male. I am also a flawed human being living in a flawed world. I sometimes make excuses. I may sometimes confuse recklessness with bravery, perhaps I may even compromise my integrity. Does this mean that I am not a man? Then what am I?

- In terms of the mechanics of sex, the author seems to be saying that it would be best if we could just treat it as something magical and mysterious that ought not be talked about, and only recommends doing so in order to counteract the negative messages flying around the social scene. So well said in terms of rejecting dodges such as "when you're ready" (on the other hand, I think telling a child that something s/he is potentially doing with her/his body is "bad and unnatural and will give you a disease" can be recipe for trouble). In terms of sex, I definitely think it's a good idea to give a child a fairly comprehensive understanding of what they're potentially getting into well in advance.

To be concluded ...
I thank you for your comments on men and women socializing. I do think that socializing and friendships with all people (men, women, in between, etc) is essential for being a person who seeks to love their neighbor as themselves. (Obviously, this applies to the US and similar societies, not to cultures where there are strong external structures in place against those socialization patterns.)

To have a close friend who is female to me does not deny their sexual identity - in fact, I do try to be constantly aware of my own sexual desires and inclinations when I'm around one, since whether or not there's mutual attraction, the possibility that I, a straight guy, will interact differently with them because I want to have sex with them on some level is always there in a very different way than if I were interacting with a man, and that does affect the choices I make when interacting. I would not want to force any attentions or make awkward other people because of my own desires.

But that does not mean women should be shunned by straight men (or only sought out by gay men). It does affect things - I think there is a measure of relief for both men and women when they don't feel the conscious, unconscious, social, inborn, whatever desire to perform for a potential mate, leading to the seeking out of same-sex friendships - but I don't think at all that separation in general is a healthy or wise policy.

I'm personally really uncomfortable with my own nudity in general (body issues, vulnerability, etc). I wish I could not react to naked women, but sadly, for me that would distract from pretty much all other ideas. Definitely not women or their bodies' faults - that's completely on me - but it does mean I'm not likely to join a nudist colony any time soon. Also, I want to live where it's cold, so that wouldn't lend itself to nudity. :)

You raise an excellent point that the author is talking about boys vs. men - but I do think there's an implication that these traits are uniquely masculine - which is the very point I utterly reject. I think we all (the author included) would acknowledge that we fall short of these qualities, man or woman - but what I want to know is - why are these qualities associated so much with men? Women need bravery, and strength, and intelligence , and integrity just as much as men.

The mechanics of sex are, of course, bound up in religion and cultural assumptions. I think no matter what you believe about what kind of sex is "right" (or if there even is a "right" kind of sex), treating sex like it's 1) shameful; 2) secret (though I do think it should be private, though that's perhaps more controversial than I know); 3) nonexistent is unhelpful, and leads to ignorance and harm when the biology of humanity forces the knowledge onto us whether we want to or not. Better parents be open with their children about their values and how sex works than leave it to people they disagree with.

Thanks again for the comments - very thoughtful and worth considering!
the possibility that I, a straight guy, will interact differently with them because I want to have sex with them on some level is always there in a very different way than if I were interacting with a man, and that does affect the choices I make when interacting

I find that interesting. I'm also often aware of the women I'm around as sexual beings, and it does have some effect on our interactions - but I get a similar effect with men about as often, which makes me think that it's not to do with attraction and the possibility thereof (or else that at some basic level, the possibility exists to be attracted to just about anyone). Also, one of the conclusions I've come to over the last couple years is that the term "straight" is at best a rough approximation of how orientation works. In my case, at least, it doesn't mean that at some level I may want to have sex with any given woman and not any man at all (hermaphrodites being a question mark). Saying I'm a straight male gives an overall category of the range of people I'm apt to become attracted to (the range itself constitutes a subset of that category), which makes for a useful shortcut, but it still fails to capture a plethora of nuances that makes up my particular sexuality.
When I am conscious about regulating my behavior around women specifically, it's much more to do with awareness of patriarchal power dimensions rather than potential sexual undercurrents.
What you describe is pretty much how I feel about nudity, too. What I was talking about was another case of the ideal on the one hand versus the lived reality on the other.
I do think there's an implication that these traits are uniquely masculine - which is the very point I utterly reject.

Okay. That's not particularly how it came across to me, but it's a perfect valid reading, and you're absolutely right that these are not gender-specific traits at all.
Pretty much agree on the stuff about sex. (Well, still on the fence about private in point 2, but maybe.)
Probably true on the orientation thing - and the issue of power interplay specifically in the way you interact with women - though I'd say that also delves into the entire spectrum of human interactions, including race, age, etc. Life is messy.
I'd say that also delves into the entire spectrum of human interactions, including race, age, etc. Life is messy.

Oh, I completely agree with you, there.

Part 3

- Just sort of laugh at evil internet/television etc.. Not only is there good stuff in there, too, but it's not as if there isn't also plenty of bad (and good) stuff in other cultural media as well. (And what about a non-internet computer where the parents can effectively control the content? Where's the harm in that?)

- I likewise find both the "good old days" and the "benighted past/utopian present" narratives wrongheaded and problematic.

- That final paragraph is nicely poetic, though I'm not entirely onboard with the "forever" bit. Some couples are together for a time and then grow apart, and to me this does not necessarily imply that they've done something wrong (sometimes, but sometimes not) or that what they had together was never really legitimate. People change, relationships change, it just makes sense to me that sometimes the change keeps them together, sometimes it moves them apart.

A couple final points: Somewhere in there, the author says that what a boy needs to bring him up is a mother and a father. I've grown increasingly of the opinion that what a child really needs to bring it up is an extended family (as most cultures have historically brought up their children). I think smaller units are less healthy, though they can do mostly all right (as in my case and that of my sisters).

In my personal lived experience,there are plenty of institutions still standing that affirm the goodness of human nature - not perfectly, but no less so than just about any institutions out there, and probably more than many.

I'm also put off by the author's implication that Christianity (and his own brand of Christianity at that - I get the feeling he'd look askance at a number of alternative form, Quakerism among them) is the only, or only legitimate religious calling, and all other religious perspectives are somehow inferior.

Thanks again for sharing. I find that even in those places where I disagree with you, I admire the way you express your views (more descriptive than prescriptive) and the love you put into the beliefs that you hold.
Also...what about books? It's not like authors have been free of the evil influences the author is so concerned about. See also: Ovid, Apuleias, even Augustine was pretty hot stuff sometimes! This is not to deny the unconscious power visual media has...but it's all part of training the mind, not hiding the mind away.

That's an interesting point about extended family - though my extended family's values and my own family's values are so drastically different that our contact tended to be of the less constructive kind, so I'm glad they weren't a large part of my growing up. I'm also interested in your thesis that smaller units are less healthy - could you elaborate a bit on that?

I think that for people in my demographic, churches, small groups, and the like help to fill the gap you are perhaps describing in an overly insular nuclear family group.

Well, any religion that makes truth claims does tend to claim a place of higher truth than other religions - otherwise, why not be a Unitarian/Universalist/Unitarian Universalist? I do think there is value and truth in all religious traditions, though I would also tend to hold to an absolutist position in terms of the nature of metaphysical and religious reality.

Thank you for responding! I'm grateful that I didn't come off as too prescriptive - I was fairly upset when I wrote this, but I also want to be interesting, not irritating, in the way I articulate my beliefs.
I seem to have answered most of this elsewhere, so here we go with the last bit:
any religion that makes truth claims does tend to claim a place of higher truth than other religions

We-ell, I do understand the compunction to assume one's religious outlook is more correct than everyone else's, and it's not as if I'm immune from taking that perspective much of the time.
On the other hand, my general outlook is that if there is a Big Truth out there (and I mostly think there is), it's too big and too complex for any one person or school of thought to encompass more than a fraction. I sometimes think of it in terms of the story of the blind people and the elephant - each one has got hold of a piece of the truth, but none has got the whole truth, and probably no single one can (see also previous remarks re: nature of God, if any). From that perspective, just about all religious traditions and theological outlooks are probably about equally right and equally wrong - near enough as makes no difference on that scale, anyway.
The reason not to join such-and-such group is that institutionalized religion has never just been about pure theology - they've always also been bound up in political and organizational structures, cultural practices, social mores, and a bunch of other things which has little or nothing to do with the fundamental metaphysics, ethical outlook, or other Big Truth concepts. Which is not to say that issues of ethics and theology don't matter - just that there are a bunch of other factors which affect people's decision about which religious group (if any) to affiliate with. (I suspect that community also plays a bigger role than many people realize: you stick with the religion you grew up in because that's where many of your friends are - or you convert to another because you have a lot of friends and/or a significant other who are already part of that religion.)
I was fairly upset when I wrote this, but I also want to be interesting, not irritating, in the way I articulate my beliefs.

Yeah, I've been there a couple of times myself - I think you did pretty well with it.
I can see your point - though I think there's definitely an impasse when you have one person making the truth claim of one religion, and another making a truth claim about all religions - probably just not a thing you can come to a conclusion that satisfies everyone.

I do agree that a huge factor on choosing/staying with a religion is social - I just don't think that necessarily proves or disproves the truth claims of that religion.
probably just not a thing you can come to a conclusion that satisfies everyone.

Most likely not. Failing that, I just go with what makes most sense to me (like most people, I guess).

I do agree that a huge factor on choosing/staying with a religion is social - I just don't think that necessarily proves or disproves the truth claims of that religion.

Certainly not - I didn't mean to suggest that it did. Just explaining why it makes sense under my view to stick with religions that do make certain truth claims which would seem to contradict the truth claims of some others as opposed to just switching to a religion whose truth claims are more open-ended.