The Ancient Conspiracy of Sexism

Here is part of what I wrote in response to a Facebook friend, a pastor, who was promoting blatant sexism – in this context concerning women serving as combat troops, but he has similar views about women in church leadership:

it is all part of  it is all part of an ancient conspiracy, arguably going all the way back to Eden, to deny to half the human race their status as equally made in the image of God.

Over the top? Maybe. Discuss!

23 thoughts on “The Ancient Conspiracy of Sexism

  1. Just to be quite clear, what I objected to was a news item about women taking a front-line combat role in the US military being \”welcomed by civil liberty campaigners and female military personnel alike.\”

    My point was not that \’women can\’t fight\’, but that, rather than this being a \’civil liberties issue\’, it should be (and has been) governed by practicalities – especially the practicality that in the final, physical, analysis, women (as a whole) are not as well-equipped for infantry-style combat as men.

    Keeping them out of the front line has not been the result of \’sexism\’, but a concern for the effectiveness of infantry units.

    That concern I regard as appropriate. The army is not there, first and foremost, to be an equal-opportunities employer, but, if necessary, to kill or be killed.

  2. Good concern, Mr. Richardson. And apart from banning women, some men are not up to the task either.

    More importantly, however, it is a man’s lot in life to lay down his life for his family, and his country. That is scriptural and that is noble. And that is what the headship principle requires. He gets to die first. That is his responsibility. Hers’ is to submit and obey.

  3. John, thank you for admitting to being the person I was talking about (I didn’t name you as it was from a private Facebook conversation), and for clarifying what it was you were saying. I agree with you that the issue “should be … governed by practicalities”. Indeed many women are not suitable for combat – and, as Robert points out, many men are also not suitable. The real issue is whether a person who is suitable for combat, both physically and in the many non-physical skills which are more important in modern fighting, should be banned from combat, discriminated against as some would say, simply because of the form of their sexual organs. Now if having women in the front line really compromises the effectiveness of military units, then I would agree that they should be kept out. But army leaders seem to have decided that this is not a problem, and surely they know the issues of effectiveness better than you do.

    Robert, I really don’t get how you go from 1 Corinthians 11:3, in a passage about Christian worship, to a general “headship principle” that only men but not women should serve in a secular army. Your principle simply does not apply outside the church – and it is very unclear what it means inside the church. Also, nowhere in the Bible are women told to obey men, even their husbands, and the command to submit is a mutual one. I think your cultural presuppositions are showing.

  4. Granted, it does not apply to secular army. But nor would your conspiracy theory. I am confused. I was under the impression you wanted a biblical perspective on this issue.

    Surely, you are aware of the headship principle from Ephesians 5.

    Eph 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…

    From verse 25, if I am to love my wife as Christ loved the church, and He loved the church by dying for her, then my conclusion is that I am expected to sacrifice for my wife, even to the point of death.

  5. Robert, thank you for reminding me of another verse where headship is mentioned, and from which some try to derive a “headship principle”. But this verse is about marriage, which is a quite separate issue from military service. I take your point that men are expected to sacrifice themselves for their families, although not to the exclusion of women doing the same, but would hesitate to broaden that principle to self-sacrifice for a nation-state.

    I mentioned Eden and God in my original comment as I was writing to a Christian pastor. To another audience I would have written instead “all the way back to the origins of humankind”, and appealed to human rights rather than the image of God. This is because my argument is not a biblical one but one based on observation, so a historical and scientific one: that as far back as we can observe in history, in the great majority of cultures, men have oppressed women.

  6. Men have always sought to protect women and family. If women went to war, who would look after the little ones? Sure, not all women had families, but you don’t build a way of life on a few exceptions. And besides, in hands-on combat, women are more likely to be defeated. No potential husband would want to lose their future bride in voluntary warfare. And that’s why men don’t send women to war, unless they want to be politically correct. (And some women want to be politically correct too.) The conspiracy theory is an imagined one.

  7. Robert, what you write made sense in a hunter-gatherer society, and to some extent in a medieval one – although I wonder if any potential wife would want to lose her bridegroom in voluntary warfare. But it is a hopelessly outdated and inappropriate argument in a world with modern technology in the home and on the battlefield.

  8. Hang on a minute, so this is about technology now? Didn’t you want to take us “all the way back to the origins of humankind”? I was answering your conspiracy theory.

  9. Robert, I wrote “arguably going all the way back to Eden”. If you want to argue that the conspiracy is more recent, only going back to the advent of technology in warfare, be my guest. But by doing so you would be implicitly agreeing that there is a long-standing conspiracy.

  10. And, Robert, if you did put forward such an argument, I might add that the technological issue goes back millennia. The ancient Greeks were well aware that Persian fast moving lightly armed soldiers could be a match for their own heavy infantry. So were the ancient Hebrews, as witnessed by the story of David and Goliath. Of course neither David nor the Greeks’ Persian opponents were women, but they could have been.

  11. Mr. Kirk, you are quite right, it could have been a woman who lodged a stone into Goliath’s forehead. And with God’s help, I’m sure she wouldn’t miss, as David didn’t. Now I’m imagining a female sniper, muscles bulging with an attitude to match. But she better not become a casualty. A man who tries to attend to her wounds and notices that her breasts have been disfigured will squirm. His effectiveness will be compromised. When a man attends to a man’s wounds on the battlefield, he just gets on with the job. Ok, so we’ll make some exceptions, evaluated on a case by case basis. Better keep the pretty ones at home, they wouldn’t want to be taken hostage and potentially treated like a piece of meat by men who won’t refrain from sexual temptation. She’d be wishing to have stayed at home. And her father/husband will not be able to sleep at night.

  12. Robert, I admire the creativity of your arguments. But this one won’t hold water, in modern warfare, as a high proportion of casualties are civilians, and so more likely women than men. Anyway, since men allegedly have problems treating injured women but women have long been expected to treat injured men, and since men cannot be trusted not to mistreat women but not vice versa, these are failings of men, not women, and so the argument would favor keeping men off the battlefield and leaving combat to women only.

  13. Nice one Peter (your comment at 11.48 in case another gets in before mine).

    More seriously I also cannot believe any parent would want their children to be without their mother/father depending. Neither would I want my 4 grandchildren to be deprived of either of their respective parents.

    And I freely admit I would not be up to the task, either against male or female opposition, not even when I was of consciptional age. The key for front line service to me can only be ability to handle the job.

    And in the church no man or woman has a right to hold a position of leadership. God’s calling is all that matters. Back to Ian Pauls’s booklet in the Grove series

  14. I think I’ve conjured up a more valid argument, possibly more to your liking, since you are a theoretical (?) physicist. And this is a theoretical argument.

    Women are far more precious than men, for the propagation of the human species. Even if only a few men remained in society, they can potentially be husbands to many women for the preservation of the human race. However, if many women were to die, we would have to wait for another generation before can see population growth. Sending women to war is risky business.

    But I guess you would say we need population decline. Ok, you win, send the women.

  15. ‘But I guess you would say we need population decline. Ok, you win, send the women.’

    Or – an even better option for people seeking to be obedient to Jesus – don’t send anyone!

  16. Robert, well done for finding another argument which might have been valid in ancient times but is not valid today.

    Tim, I agree with you that that would be much preferable.

  17. LOL! Well, this reminds me what an effective weapon a handbag can be, as Margaret Thatcher well knew. Of course in England we have a long proud history of women leading their country in war, going back at least to Elizabeth I.

  18. Well there are some interesting viewpoints presented.
    Obviously the age of Chivalry(syn.noble-hearted,kingship:antonym=debased, degenerate, degraded), has gone by the wayside. If those who wish to go back to Adam…. It is written in Genesis 2: 21-23, that woman was taken out of man (bone of his bone & flesh of his flesh), now we can get into all the theroetical babble of he came out of man’s side, ect ect., my point being that that woman cam out of man formed by God. In Genesis 2: 7-8 God clearly states that God formed man oout of the dust of the earth then Breathed the Spirit of Life into Man (first) .
    Thus, being the precedance of man going before the woman to set forth in the land (Genesis 2: 9-20) to proclaim and establish rule over the land…. ie. territory. or dominion over the land in which they were to occupy, this prior to the woman. Therefore in battle ie. war, or contentions.
    However, in the “culture” of the day, the sense or egregious action of entiltilement has gotten out of balance to the point of selfishness, arrogance, and blunt stupidity of women going to battle were the ultimate in harm and disrespect, & degredation is inevitible to the women who are captured. Men are born with an God given sense of protecting the woman as a woman has been given the sense of protecting her young and home. When these are taken to extremes to the point when in the name of “equal rights” that woman are put into a position on the front lines We have become out of balance.
    Those may contend with Deborah (Hebrew: Dvora) from the book of Judges being a warrior in the front lines, she was a warior, but she lead those into battle and would have been given the same protection any leader woman or man, in battle so she would not be harmed. That is just a military fact of protecting your leader.
    I have the utmost respect for women in leadership roles that direct and guide because they see things that men don’t and help keep us in balance. So if you want to get on your soap box about women in leadership, step carefully or you may find the box on you. Paul has named many woman as leaders in the church, “Junias” is called an Apostle by the Apostle Paul.held in High esteem. Anna the prophet, search the scripture yourself and let God reveal it to you.
    With that said, Women are to serve with men in leadership positions, but NOT into battle. God has set the precedance. Many women went to help with the troops all the way through history, but Not in the frontlines. Enough said, Grace and Peace to you.

  19. Thank you, Billy. I take your point about captured women being abused, especially by the likely enemies of the USA in the near future. But I’m not convinced that there is any asymmetry from birth in men’s and women’s protective instincts, as opposed to what is picked up from the surrounding culture. If there is an asymmetry, I’m sure the armed services will be well able to detect it and assign men and women to suitable positions on that basis. I don’t see a blanket ban on women in certain positions as an efficient way to use resources.

    Anyway, I wasn’t really making a point about women in combat, but more about women in leadership, on which I think we agree.

  20. Hi, Peter. Just to give you a heads up: the US military does engage in sexism. http://usmilitary.about.com/od/army/a/afpt.htm
    If a 27-31 woman runs 2 miles in 15:48, she gets a 100 on that element of her fitness exam; a man her age at that speed gets only a 73. The situp element of the test has equal scoring; the women’s 100 in pushups (50) is likewise the men’s 72.

    For the younger age groups, the disparity is even higher: the 17-21 women get a 100 for doing 42 pushups, whereas a young man doing the same just barely passes with a 60.

    The very standards in the military presuppose that women shouldn’t be given combat roles; otherwise, they’d hold them to the same fitness standards as males.

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