Are men and women really hardwired from birth to think, act and communicate differently? For generations we have been led to believe this is the case. As women fight for gender parity in wages and the workplace, and feminism worldwide works to root out a culture of violence against women, what of men? Sometimes in the urge to press forward with women’s issues – important though they are – men’s value to society and their needs are ignored. Consequently, male qualities go unappreciated, and the more complete spiritual nature gets overlooked.
Realizing there was a problem in how men and women relate to and appreciate one another, author and marriage counsellor John Gray saw a way to open the discussion to include men. In his 1992 best-selling book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Gray promoted a new twist to the old theory that men and women are by nature different, and therefore act and communicate differently.
Although Gray’s book and the work of numerous other gender experts have been designed to help us better understand girls and boys and men and women, and thus build societies where there is respect, equity and mutual appreciation for all, in many ways they have not. And, the two-planet theory has had unintended consequences in reinforcing the stereotypes that limit both boys and girls and, thus, men and women in later life – e.g., bright girls who don’t become smart scientists and boys who can’t become compassionate caregivers. Walk into a toy store and you can see gender differences color-coded from birth. Watch a TV sitcom and you’ll see those same steroptypical differences jokingly caricatured further.
To me, the problem is that when we think of ourselves purely in human, gender-based terms, we are not seeing the true essence of who we are, and so we cannot create the society we envision.
However, new research is disputing and debunking the theories that undergird these stereotypes. Deborah Cameron’s new book, Challenging Mars and Venus points to data indicating that none of these stereotypes has any basis in fact. Additionally, fresh research in neuroscience has also concluded that there is no actual difference in girls’ or boys’ brains when they are born, thus contradicting the accepted beliefs that have been a cornerstone in much of the two-planet philosophy.
What if we started from a different basis completely – a spiritual perspective that sees not gender, but the unique, spiritual qualities that each individual inherently brings to a family, a business or a community.
This means also taking a second look at how we see the nature of God. The idea of God as both Father and Mother has its roots in biblical teachings; not that the Bible uses both terms in referring to God, but that it describes the nature of the Divine in qualities that could be associated with either gender. For example, strength, protectiveness and power, as well as love, gentleness and compassion all characterize God, yet are clearly a mix of both male and female qualities.
This view allows us to lift the true nature of God and ourselves out of human, body-based gender and to place it in purely spiritual qualities.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote,“Let the male and female of God’s creating appear.” When we think of ourselves as children of this one Divine parent, then naturally we see each of our sisters and brothers as also having all these qualities equally. And, together, we can create societies where love and respect for our unique and diverse spiritual natures outweigh the limits and injustices that result from human theories about gender.
Anna Bowness-Park is a Christian Science practitioner, who writes frequently on the relationship between consciousness and health, and how prayer can play a role. You can follow her blog at http://anna-bownesspark.ca
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, July 9 2016