I saw it begin at Yale in 1980…

It was in the campus air. Women’s Studies had begun as a field, laying a groundwork for Queer Theory in the 1990s. The people in the know would introduce it slowly, of course, to make sure it wasn’t completely abhorrent. It was the program to tear down the gender binary.

 

I noticed it in the women’s styles. Long hair was out. Wearing short hair as a girl was a statement. The style was not just easier to brush, but an attempt to cut off any sign that women differed from men.

 

There are several reasons for the destruction of gender, but this was one. The two camps of academic second wave feminism (1970s–1980s) were battling about whether to empower women by showing them to be capable of supposed masculine traits or to seek equality by valuing femininity and what women do, working to reconstruct society’s values to value what women are. Neither side won exactly, but the resulting synthesis was a program to obliterate any sense of difference between the genders.

 

Some women resisted the program. Feminist author-to-be Naomi Wolfe  was different, of course. Her incipient tendency to be a gadfly was evident even then, in her long, full, flowing, brunette mane, which she refused to cut. She was annoying people even then.

 

Later-to-be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had just left the law school seven years before, with her hair intact. But she learned there, as we were all learning, that baking cookies was sub-par—if you are a woman, that is. That a calling of making a home for a family was for losers. In the process, we were being taught to disdain our mothers for the stability they made in their homes for us, the stability from which we went on to our great achievements.

 

They were right about there not being a difference in scalp hair. Men and women’s hair both grow long unless it is cut. As the apostle Paul recognized so long ago (1Co 11:14-15), “the nature of things” in Roman culture gave women of that time glory in their hair, as in American culture of the previous decades. So whose hair is long or short is not a matter of gender.

 

And yet it was.

 

Because gender is about relationship, ultimately with the other gender. Shearing that cultural artifact was about defying a practice that expressed a complement to men. It didn’t matter whose hair was short, but it did matter that there was some cultural way of expressing difference. And that was the point. Difference was to be erased.

 

But gender is all about making a difference. That is why Paul instructs the Corinthians to use the cultural practice to express truth about gender in marriage (v16).  Erasing all distinction between women and men distances them from one another. And then follows the big mistake of believing that women’s problems can be solved without men, without reference to men, in spite of men.

 

 

 

But that will never happen. And that is why this blog exists. To call us in a better direction. For when you lose gender in relationship, you lose gender.

Welcome to the Affirming Gender blog, Post #1!

 

8 Comments

  1. Shihching Wagner

    Gender in relationship…interesting. What about singleness? There is no mandate for marriage according to the apostle Paul. Please speak more about being fully woman but not a wife.

  2. Chee Yap

    Hi Sam,
    Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you
    and Mary Kay and family. Very glad to hear of
    your blog about gender. Your first blog about Yale in the beginning
    of the 1980s is poignant (I left Yale in 1979); the point is that
    it takes a generation for these gender-bending projects to leave
    their “safe space” in universities to come
    home to roost in the rest of society. I do believe that as Christians,
    we have to engage the culture, as your blog will do.

    Lately, I have been thinking about the
    various “Enlightenment projects” that keeps hitting the West
    in successive waves, in the last 200 years. Each of these
    “new humanity without God” projects come and die, but another
    rises to takes its place like hydra’s head. One of the books
    (not specifically Christian) which revealed to me some of the earliest
    projects is F.A.Hayek’s “The Counter Revolution of Science” — it
    made a strong case that Marxism and Hegelians traced their
    roots to the various projects flowering in the wake of the French Revolution.
    Some of these projects including the Newton Cult, humanist cult
    of Saint-Simon, positivism, progressive history, etc. I am familiar
    with the logical positivists, but not know their roots. I suspect
    you can probably trace a line from the current gender projects directly
    to some of these earlier Enlightenment projects.

    I recently read the book of Job in my devotion,
    but I am always thankful for your lesson
    about Job who offered sacrifices for his sons and daughters.

    In His Fellowship,
    –Chee

    1. Chee, Great to hear from you!
      I agree with your fascinating analysis of the influence of projects coming out of university. (Thankfully, Thomas Kuhn nailed the coffin shut on logical positivism, in my opinion). Because the academy is one of the four great engines of culture, we can usually look there to see where the culture will go, as you well know.
      And glad to hear Job 1 is still alive in you. Yes, let’s keep making sacrifice from afar for our children.

  3. Brandon Edling

    I find it interesting that the long-haired male rock stars are absent from this article.

    The thing is, there is so much more going on in people’s lives. Why make the gender identity issue central? Find the root to the brokenness for these folks (it’s not their gender), that their true identity is in Christ. We all have our struggles & healing in any case is about Jesus.

    Do not worry about what you will wear or eat… let’s spend the little time K energy we have on building others up in the name of Christ, as opposed to tearing down & criticizing petty things such as a hairstyle.

    1. Ramona

      Hi, Brandon:

      Here’s an experiment: Google “black women’s hair” or “women’s reactions to the side effects of chemotherapy.” Look at current pictures of young women who’ve shaved half the side of their heads. Talk about hair with teenagers; observe and listen to young boys and girls. Talk honest, fearless men about women’s hair.

      For nearly half the world’s population, hairstyle is far from petty.

      The pettification of hairstyle has helped open the door to today’s gender … stuff. The titans of style know exactly what they’re doing.

    2. Ramona

      Also, there’s short hair and there’s short hair.

      There are pixie cuts, which can make women look lovely, and there are cuts designed to make women look like men.

      In either case, hairstyle is never a petty issue.

      (OK, I will step away from the car and hop off the soapbox.)

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