Why I Still Read Comboxes
September 22, 2015
There are plenty of trolls on the internet. But one thing I have always loved about blogging is being sharpened by thoughtful readers who leave comments.
I did not expect my post about John Piper’s answer to the question to the single woman who wishes to be a police officer to get as much attention as it has. And it’s been a bit frustrating to see how some have misinterpreted my response, both in the combox and in some blog posts. I am hoping to have time to work on a post that gets to the heart of what Denny Burke has challenged about creation and headship. But as I skimmed through the combox on David Talcott’s First Things post* he was praising, I found a comment that confirmed yet again why this is such an important issue and also brought some common sense sanity back into the discussion.
I disagree with the idea that, if gender doesn't somehow define every single aspect of every single thing you do, we are opening the door to gender being something people choose. In fact, I tend to think the opposite is true, and that we see in the transgender movement what happens when gender and sexuality becomes our entire identity, rather than a part of our larger identity as humans made in the image of God.
I'm a woman who teaches college students. Does the fact that I am a woman affect my teaching? I'm sure it does. I don't stop being a woman when I step into the classroom. But, is it somehow my job to make sure that certain male-female hierarchies are maintained while I teach or to be sure to teach self-consciously as a woman to students who I view self-consciously as male and female? I don't think so. Should I quit my job so that I'm not in a position of authority over the young men in my classes? Should I be careful to have a tone of submissiveness when I give feedback to my male students, lest I bruise their egos? Should I relate to my male students in a fundamentally different way, when we're chatting before class or I'm responding to an e-mail, than I do with my female students? Do I need to frame every interaction we have in terms of our genders?
I don't think so. In fact, I think doing so would make a lot of life pretty much impossible. Does being a female matter for a teacher, or a police officer, or a doctor, or a nurse, or any other role a woman might have? Yes. I do think that much of the time we will naturally perform our jobs in a way that is inflected by our genders. But, that doesn't mean that we are somehow fully defined by those genders, or that we somehow have to play out certain proscribed gender roles in every interaction we have. I strive to relate to all of my students in a warm, professional, and respectful way, and that holds true whether they are male or female. Piper's position, if taken to its logical conclusion, would mean that every time I talk to a male student, I need to be very, very careful to keep the male-female hierarchy in mind and to relate to him specifically as a woman to a man (rather than a teacher to a student, or one person to another)--if it's appropriate for me to teach an adult male student at all--and I think that's patently absurd, and it's that patent absurdity that Aimee Byrd and Carl Truman were responding to.
Comboxes remind me that there are regular people like me out there, lay-theologians, who are affected by the teachings that come down from the top men. While there is much good to glean, we need to pay attention and interact with both the good and the troubling positions being taught. So, thanks Lori, for taking the time to leave that comment. Some of us are still reading the combox.