Toward a World Without Gender Centrism

I recently found my new favorite blog, Sociological Images. It’s a group of sociology professors and students who use images to prove their point. I don’t love all the posts but some, with one picture, will make you completely shift your view on something you most likely thought was fundamental. For instance this post, “…The History of Pink and Blue.”

The idea for this article comes from a post on that blog titled, “Stick Figures and Stick Figures Who Parent.” It shows how stick figures on signs are almost always by default male. The point is clearly made when a woman figure is pictured with a child. Several other posts on this site go on to look into the issue of the idea of androcentrism (focusing on maleness as the default viewpoint.)

To compensate for androcentrism we often promote the opposite, gynocentrism. I contend that in most situations point of view shouldn’t focus on that of men or women but on a combined humanity. We do this in many areas of society including the church. Specific subcultures often have more of a tendency to segregate into androcentrism and gynocentrism.

The world of sport clearly does this. Men participating against men and women against women is very different than andro- or gyno-centrism and is not what I’m discussing. Defining categories of sports against a male default causes the problem. For instance, we have the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), or Major League Soccer (MLS) and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

The women’s league is defined against the men’s thus promoting androcentrism. To fully switch to gynocentrism, the NBA would be the league in which women play and the MNBA would be the league for men.  But, that isn’t the answer either.  The answer is switching to a non-gender centric view where both leagues are defined appropriately, so the MNBA and the WNBA with “NBA” as the non-gender default.

In the name of gender equality, we sense the issue and try to fix it by giving women their own “things.” Thus, instead of promoting a non-gender specific outlook, we switch to promoting androcentrism for men and gynocentrism for women.  For instance, instead of promoting t-shirts with team logos and colors to women through creating smaller sizes and a cut that fits a woman’s body better, we create pink apparel having nothing to do with the team’s logo or colors. We also create magazines and websites for women by women in the name of promoting women. (Thus implying the original is for men and by men.)

The actual non-gender way to deal with this is letting women participate in currently androcentric platforms on equal footing. If a woman isn’t good enough to write or report on ESPN, don’t let her.  Creating something like  espnW goes a long way to promote gynocentrism but not a neutral gender outlook for sport. On their “About EspnW” page they say their mission is to, “…serve women as fans and athletes. espnW.com provides an engaging environment that offers total access to female athletes and the sports they play, takes fans inside the biggest events, and shares a unique point of view on the sports stories that matter most to women.”  I looked but couldn’t find an “About Us” page listing a mission statement on ESPN.com.

This happens in Christian culture, especially as it relates to what would be defined as “serious” or theological issues. For instance, ChristianityToday.com has a blog titled, “Her.Meneutics,” which in their lengthy explanation under “Who We Are” states that, “Her.meneutics is devoted to what evangelical women think.” This popular blog has many writers and much promotion behind it. If you look for a men’s section on ChristianityToday.com you can find a men’s section letting you subscribe to a magazine devotional for men. To their credit, Her.Meneutics isn’t featured prominently on their homepage and nothing male specific is promoted either.

Ministry to men specifically and women specifically is great and needed, but when “thinking” in general moves into andro- or gyno-centrism, issues occur. I used to work for a Christian organization and they were looking into discussing views regarding the role of women in church on their website. The goal was to have different people write articles on their different views. We had a committee to decide how this should work.

I thought we should have mainly men, and a few women, write the articles because men hold more standing in most people’s minds as far as theological debates go. (Name me any widely respected household female theologian? Male?) Another woman on the committee, much my elder and someone I respect a great deal, was appalled by my idea and stated that since it was a women’s issue, all the writers should be women. It would help give them a voice. I felt uneasy about this discussion, and never realized why until recently. She promoted a gynocentrism for women, and hoped men would catch on.  She thought that women think for women and men think for men.

If all the leading experts on the issue were male, having them be the ones to write on the topic would not androcentrism. That’s just getting experts to write on a topic. Yes, we can throw in a women’s viewpoint to help get that perspective and build a career for said woman.  But,  if we want to fix this issue, we need to admit that it happens, and we need to encourage women to get the same education and training as men.

I often see in the church today an increasing number of studies, books and lectures written by women for women.  This worries me as promoting a gynocentrism toward women and an androcentrism toward men.  Men realize women have “their studies” and start thinking that books, lectures, studies and so on by men are for men.  We both need to have interaction with the opposite sex and focus on a neutral default in areas that are clearly neutral.

I’d love to hear from all of you on ways that you’ve seen this issue occur.

(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)

Photo by Morning theft

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