Debate on Homosexuality/Gay Marriage: Sexism and it’s impact on the debate.

In the middle of the debate Vocab said something that I hear quite a bit from people who advocate against gay marriage or for more traditional gender roles in general. He said that marriage between a man and woman is needed in society because men are socialized by women, I suppose making them kinder and less violent, and that women get protection from men. I think this is a fair representation of his position but if he feels I  misunderstood his point here he may feel free to correct me.

At the time I said he was unfairly representing the sexes in this argument, but I will actually go a step further here and say that this line of thinking is sexist. Now before Vocab or any other Christians reading this get angry at this assertion, let it be known that I really try to careful in my application of words like sexist, but I do think it applies in this case. To be clear I don’t think the statement was indented to be sexist, but few people actually realize they are being sexist when they do it. I know for a fact that I have said and done things in my own past which I only later realized were sexist. So I don’t mean this statement as a personal attack but as a conclusion based upon thoughtful consideration about how I think men and women should relate.

In between segments the subject of Pastor Steven Anderson came up. This guy is a local preacher who believes our country was wrong to give women the right to vote. Friendly Atheist has written about him before. Vocab, rightly, distanced himself from Anderson’s position the same as I would, but there is a fallacy of extremes that is often employed here where people feel their position does not qualify as sexist, racist, or some other “ist” simply because they disagree with someone with a more extreme position than theirs. If I talk about racists, for instance, most people think of the KKK or skinheads, but most racism is far less overt that this. For that matter, even Anderson probably doesn’t think he is a sexist, though he is probably aware that many people think he is. He would excuse it by saying those people have been influenced by worldly values. So the fact that Vocab would likely reject the designation does not change the fact he advocated for limiting the rights of specific humans (I.E. homosexuals) based upon generalizations about gender. His statement was no better than suggesting a woman shouldn’t be a CEO because they aren’t competitive enough.

But what about all those studies that show men and women are different?  Well the problem is that the evidence actually does not suggest major psychological differences. Take a look at this recent study:

The interesting thing is that I have found when looking at studies like this is that when they take men and women as whole groups they can see a small statistical difference in psychological makeup. However, when they work from the other direction, that is when they take an individual’s psychological profile and try to determine gender by this factor alone the difference seems to disappear. The reason for this can be seen in how the two groups over lap in a bell curve. In two bell curves that overlap closely, like the one on the right, most of two groups fall within the overlap. This means that while there may be notable differences on the fringes of the two an average person in either group will usually be indistinguishable from a person in the other group. So when fundamentalist Christian groups start claiming that science backs up their position on gender differences you should now be able to point out why they are wrong.

Vocab’s position is therefore sexist in the way it portrays men and women in these stark terms while ignoring the aforementioned overlap between the two groups. Men are presented as being without self control until a woman somehow fixes them, I have seen similar arguments employed by people making apologetics for rapists. The notion that men are just barely containing desires to sexually assault should be offensive to men everywhere but it should also not be a surprising that anyone who believes in the concept of original sin would think this way. I also find it equally offensive that women are portrayed as weak and needing protection. I’ve written before on how I view Fundamentalist Christian thinking to be inherently sexist here: No war on women? I beg to differ. So you can read that if you want to hear more of my thoughts on the issue.

It is interesting to me that this argument could be used not just against gay marriage, but to favor forcing people to marry, after all a single man in his 30’s is just rapist waiting to happen according to this argument. How can we get men to behave if there isn’t a woman around to force them? How do women who don’t marry manage to survive? More importantly how does one deal with the reality that violence is much lower in the modern world while marriage, particularly marriage the way Vocab envisions it is less prevalent than most of human history. Further, the modern countries with the most traditional views of marriage are the ones with the worst problems of violence against women. As an argument against gay marriage or even an argument for traditional marriage in general it fairs very very badly.

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