By William Mouser:

In a book foundational to modern American feminism — Sexual Politics [Ballantine, 1970] — Kate Millet declared “the sexes are inherently in everything alike.”[ibid. p. 31] Though revolutionary in 1970, almost fifty years later this idea is uncritically accepted by ordinary people, even if they do not subconsciously embrace it themselves. 

Nevertheless, the same ordinary people constantly behold contradictions to the fundamental premise of feminism - that the sexes are essentially identical, except for bits of “plumbing.”

For Christians to contend against the feminist premise, three concepts are critical: archetype, stereotype, and crosstype. Let us examine each of these ideas in turn.

An archetype is an original pattern or model for things of the same type. In psychology (particularly the psychology of Carl Jung), the term archetype acquired a technical sense in Jung’s theory of personality. But, in a more general sense which predates Jung’s use of the word, archetype is a term for persons or things which “set the pace” for all similar things.

For example, from the 1950s through the 1970s, the actor John Wayne was widely recognized as an archetype of American masculinity. The “John Wayne kind of man” cast his shadow on hundreds of film and television characters. Similarly the Marlboro Man became a reference point for men to evaluate their own masculinity and the masculinity of other men.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the John Wayne kind of man became a favorite target for feminists in their effort to attack sexual archetypes which they deemed hostile to women. If feminists could make that kind of masculinity look incredible, comical, or disreputable, they could advance a wide acceptance of the feminist premise.

A stereotype works like an archetype, because it expresses a pattern or model for something. However, a stereotype differs from an archetype, because stereotypes frequently limit other models. If the John Wayne kind of man is the only reference point for American masculinity, John Wayne’s cowboy character would be a stereotype. Stereotypes are not wrong; instead they are incomplete or insufficient. 

A stereotype is correct in the same way a stick figure is correct — it portrays a subject efficiently, with very few strokes. A stereotype is wrong in the same way a stick figure is wrong — it omits most nuance in order to simplify its subject. A stick figure is an accurate picture of a man, as far as it goes; but it doesn’t go very far. 

A crosstype is not a type at all, in the sense that an archetype or a stereotype is. Sexual archetypes and stereotypes can be described with a list of characteristics or traits. If, however, someone displays a trait, or several traits, usually found in the opposite sex, then we have a crosstype.

Physical characteristics provide us many examples of sexual crosstypes. A short, slender man with narrow shoulders, small bones, and a shallow, hairless chest is a crosstype of adult bodily masculinity. A woman 76 inches tall, weighing 275 pounds, with broad shoulders and thick, muscular biceps would present us a crosstype of bodily femininity. Marry such a man to such a woman and most people will find them to be comical. 

If we look instead at psychology or personality traits as they form male or female archetypes or stereotypes, the examples of crosstypes multiply. Men who are extravagantly empathetic in their speech and are preoccupied with social relationships diverge from the masculine stereotype of taciturnity and emotional or social detachment. 

A woman whose talents are highly analytical and mathematical and who earns a living as an oil-field contractor diverges from the feminine stereotype of a lifegiver who focuses upon people. In fact, domesticity is routinely attacked as an outmoded and subhuman mode of life for women.

From these simple examples, we see that crosstypes are common and diverse, and that they have always been so, long before the sexual revolution of the mid Twentieth Century. So, is it possible to say anything about men or women which sounds like a “definition” or a categorical description? 

Consider the statement “Men are more aggressive than women.” If we deny this statement, we are foolish. But, how to speak about the timid men or aggressive women who do not fit the general pattern? Stephen Clark gives us an answer:

The actual results of testing a representative sample of men and women for aggressiveness looks something like an overlapping double bell-shaped curve on a graph... The overall distribution of the curves shows men higher on aggression. Some women would be more aggressive than most of the men, but men appear in greater proportions at increasingly higher levels of aggression. [Man and Woman in Christ, (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant Books, 1980), p. 375]

When we understand the idea “men are more aggressive than women” in this way, several things result. First, this meaning predicts crosstypes. Even though men are more aggressive than women, there are always some men who are less aggressive than most women, and some women who are more aggressive than most men. 

The same thing happens when we consider any other characteristic typical of men or women, whether they are physical traits (height, weight, body strength, longevity) or psychological ones (empathy, detachment, intuition, etc.). To say that one sex exhibits the trait more than the other is to say something like Stephen Clark has described above.

To sum up: when we allege characteristics that are typical of one sex over against the other, we must keep the following ideas in mind:

1. Male and Female name elementary sexual categories established by God through His creative acts. Sexuality is not a “position on the dial.” Our sex is not a relative factor on a sliding scale. Actual data from the broad testimony of the world and history validate the reality of many distinctions between the sexes per se.

2. Sexuality is also a matter of obedience to God’s commands. Some of our created sexuality is hard-wired into us because we are created as either male or female. But, our sexuality is not only something to be, it is it is something to do. Failure to obey God’s sexual commands warps the sexual norms in people and societies alike, but it does not erase God’s original design or the moral characteristics of either sex which He commanded in the Law.

3. Within God’s creation, humans display an almost unlimited variation in their individual personalities, aptitudes, and talents. 

This good diversity should never be repressed or ignored. However, that diversity operates within boundaries arising from God’s design and God’s Law. Christians believe in form and freedom, and they may live with great freedom within the forms of God’s creation and within the boundaries of God’s law.

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.