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Seeking Help

I’ve heard that men won’t ask for directions. I don’t know if this is true or merely a stereotype of the male gender. On the one hand, asking for help in general is often seen as an indicator of weakness so might be avoided in a society that holds men to a higher “toughness” standard than women. Yet, so many statements about supposed gendered behavior have not been supported by research (i.e., contrary to popular opinion, men actually talk more than women).

So I asked the men in my Gender Studies course whether they stop to get directions when lost or if they avoid it.  As it turns out some do, some don’t, and I’m still not sure.

So to broaden the focus, I asked about help-seeking in general. I posed the following to the young men in my class:

If I were to see you walking across the street, and see that you were about to be hit by a semi-truck, would you be okay with my rushing forward to save your life?

The three men in the class pondered as the rest of us sat in silence. Seconds passed…the clock ticked away…until one brave student said, “Yes, Dr. Howell, I would be okay with that. You could save my life.” A collective sigh came from the class as I thanked him for his willingness to allow himself help from me, a woman.

I turned to one of the other young men in the class. “What about it? Would you let me save your life?” The silence continued while he struggled for a response. Then as the class broke out in laughter, he consented – with one stipulation: “You could save my life, but then we could never talk about it.”

I have to admit, I was surprised. We could never talk about it? Really? Not that I would want him to constantly shower me with gratitude, but to never talk about it? To me, that sounded odd.

So, I turned to another male class member; one who tended to be the philosopher of our group. “Would you let a woman save you?” I asked. He leaned back, stroked his chin and said “Well, yes, but only if I then married her.”

Now I was really stumped. I had gone from “Yes you could save me” to “Yes, but we can never talk about it” to “Only if I then married her”?!

I had to ask. “Why would that matter?”

“Because then it would be like her saving me was destiny or fate, to bring us together. So it would be okay. If a woman just saved me without a deeper meaning, it wouldn’t be okay.”


Our brief class discussion triggered several questions for me. Do men feel uncomfortable accepting women’s help in the church when it comes in the form of leadership because it’s harder to ignore (i.e., never talk about again). Does being ministered to by women without their being some overriding destiny or fate attached make it less acceptable to men?

Now I know we can’t make too much out of three males answering one question, but it does provide a possibility that deserves attention. I’m wondering what others think and would enjoy reading your comments.

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  1. Jeff Miller
    Comment #96527 posted August 1, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Fascinating post, Susan. Some male complementarian theologians have argued that the death of a female Messiah would not have worked; that is, it wouldn’t have had the power to save. Therefore God made Jesus male (as opposed to leaving it to chance) and did so (here’s the clincher) out of theological necessity. Your post brought this theory to mind because of the possible connection: If many men aren’t comfortable being saved from a truck by a woman, how much more uncomfortable to ponder a female Messiah! For the record, I affirm Jesus’ maleness and I don’t wish it had been otherwise. My concern is the doctrine that Jesus HAD to be male, for such a belief chips away at ontological equality.

    Sorry if this derails the intention of your post.

    • Comment #96529 posted August 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      You may be interested in asking Cheryl Schatz her view of why Jesus had to be male. It is about needing a replacement Adam, not a replacement Eve, as Adam sinned deliberately and sin entered the world, believes Cheryl, through him. But by her explanation, it distinguishes between Adam and Eve, but not between other men and women since – we all inherited sin from Adam.

      Cheryl blogs at http://strivetoenter.com/wim/

      • Comment #96540 posted August 2, 2012 at 6:35 pm

        One quickie: A sin sacrifice according to Torah had to be a ‘spotless’ male lamb…has nothing to do with picking Adam over Eve. Remember “Behold the lamb that takes away the sin of the world” John and “The lamb slain since the foundation of the world” Revelation. The sin was of both of our “parents”.
        Both were culpable.

        • Comment #96547 posted August 3, 2012 at 11:13 am

          Lisa, God chose the lamb to be a picture of Jesus, looking forward to him. So, even though I am not sure of Cheryl’s answer (which has nothing to do with picking Adam over Eve, BTW), male lambs, it seems to me, were not the reason why Jesus had to be male. Male lambs were a consequence of God already knowing the gender Jesus had to be, not a cause.

  2. Sandy
    Comment #96528 posted August 1, 2012 at 11:44 am

    I think this has a lot to do with perception. In reality, if one of these men got hit by a bus, a woman would almost assuredly have something to do with saving them. She may be the doctor, nurse or paramedic on call that day, the one who invented the medicine he’ll be prescribed, the one who disinfects the room he’ll stay in and the ER where he is treated, the administrator who oversees the whole thing or the teacher who taught one of these people how to do their job. I doubt any of the men would have a problem with any of those because they don’t fit the stereotype of ‘saving’. As long as you don’t do the physical rescue, they probably wouldn’t mind a woman saving them at all, and, in some cases, would expect it. Really, are they saying they would rather *die* than have a woman save them? Yikes.

    • Heidi
      Comment #96543 posted August 3, 2012 at 9:17 am

      I was thinking something similar, I was a lifeguard for many years, and it would never occur to me that a man may be upset if I were to help or “save” him. I’m guessing he would just be happy to be alive! In all my training as a lifeguard and in first aid, no one ever said anything about this, I was never instructed to take a fragile male ego into consideration before helping or saving someone – I wonder if it’s only an “issue” (or is even thought of) in Christian circles?

      • Red
        Comment #96546 posted August 3, 2012 at 11:13 am

        Also, it may be that in the heat of the moment, these men would be okay with it…..versus sitting safely in a classroom thinking about it from a hypothetical perspective.

      • Michelle
        Comment #96550 posted August 3, 2012 at 11:56 am

        Heidi–I’ve never been a lifeguard, but I’m with you on this. Is there a way for readers of The Scroll to know whether these young men were (or even likely were) from religious or non-religious homes?

        • Susan L.
          Comment #96551 posted August 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm

          It occurs to me that in the examples above, the women are acting in their professional capacity: doctor, lifeguard, etc. Are men more comfortable being saved by a woman with the “covering” of a professional mantle? is the threat posed by Ms Howell intensified because the saver is “just” a woman?

    • Comment #96575 posted August 9, 2012 at 10:03 am

      Sandy & Heidi — excellent points! Michelle, two I know were from a Christian home (the one who first said, yes, and the one who said yes, but we could never talk about it). The other one I don’t know. But I do think Red is correct in that it’s different in an emergency situation than an abstract question in a classroom.

  3. Comment #96530 posted August 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Speaking of men asking for directions, don’t it also relate to John Piper saying women have to be careful how they give men directions?

    • Estelle
      Comment #96534 posted August 1, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      If I had to give directions to the men in my life according to Piper’s recommendation, they would want me to cut the waffle and just give the necessary info clearly and concisely.

  4. Comment #96531 posted August 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I’m wondering how old the young men were, and if the answer would be different with different age groups.

    • Comment #96537 posted August 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      In answer to Laurie, these guys were traditional college-age students, so around 20.

  5. Comment #96532 posted August 1, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Before even getting to the answers, I’m struck by the fact that these three men each had to think about their response.

    Seems like a no-brainer to me. OF COURSE you can push me out of the way of the truck! What is to be gained by simply letting a person be killed if one can do something to save them?

    • Susan L.
      Comment #96552 posted August 3, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      I wondered the same thing, Mark, but maybe even more to the point, what’s the point in GETTING killed if someone – anyone – can do something about it!

      • Michelle
        Comment #96553 posted August 3, 2012 at 1:59 pm

        Yes to both of you! The weird thing is that both of these guys, if they are actually complementarian/soft patriarchal and not out-and-out patriarchal, will insist that they believe women are equal in being (whatever that means, exactly)–that they don’t believe women are lesser than men! The ability for reasoning/critical thinking (outside of a defined area, at least) that must fly out the window with these beliefs is starting to gnaw at me.

        They’re young: I hope they think their way out of these things.

  6. Comment #96533 posted August 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Anyone want to save me from dying is welcome to do so!

    I just wanted to clarify in case anyone was wondering, you do not need to wonder anymore!

  7. Comment #96535 posted August 1, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Whenever I read or hear someone saying women need to be careful how they ‘instruct’ a man, it is either because they shouldn’t be seen to be taking authority or not to damage the man’s delicate ego! How demeaning to men to suggest they have such inflated egos that they can’t take instructions from a women.

    Sure, some men are like that (maybe many ?), but I’m sure it wasn’t in God’s original plan for males. If we play along with that, it just perpetuates the situation.

    • Michelle
      Comment #96549 posted August 3, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Thank you! Yes, I recall a sermon that a friend told me about at our former church in which the pastor used the fragile male ego as *evidence* that men are supposed to be in charge. They’re hurt if they’re not given responsibility for the family, so that right there is evidence that God meant for them to be the more responsible party.

      Um, no. I’ve always thought it was taking a good quality (a healthy pride in family/responsibility) to a sinful point.

  8. Comment #96536 posted August 2, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I’m curious to know what each of these young men would think about having another man save them. Are we to assume they would be okay with it?

  9. Debbie
    Comment #96538 posted August 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    So, this is very interesting. Why does it matter who saves you as long as you are saved? Why can’t you talk about it? It seems very discriminating to me. My question is this? Who would you want to push you out of the way of the truck? Does it need to be someone of the same gender, skin color, beliefs etc? Just wondering?

  10. Comment #96539 posted August 2, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    I suspect that it gives us a clue that our young men are already being indoctrinated with ideas of superiority however small they may be. We must reach our young people earlier. We should respect our men (young and old) for the physical strengths they posses and give them respect and appreciation for using those strengths for the benefit of others.

    And here is the Christian attribute being missed: all our strengths, skills, knowledge and abilities are given by God for us to work with Him in helping others. None of it is supposed to be used for personal honor and hoarded for personal benefit only. Thus, anyone saving anyone else is using their moment of opportunity wisely and should be welcomed and appreciated for it.

    • Comment #96541 posted August 2, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      Yes..earlier, meaning right from the time they can understand. Perceptions of girls and boys begins in the home and then kindergarten right through school years. Books, DVDs, TV and other media all contribute to these damaging perceptions. The old saying of ‘give us a child until they are 5 and we have them for life’ applies in lots of areas including those of gender awareness.

      Hopefully if they hear another possiblity it can give them pause for thought and opportunity to examine things with an adult mind.

      Good to know, Susan, that you have the privilege of helping to turn the tide.

      • Amanda B.
        Comment #96559 posted August 6, 2012 at 4:59 am

        Some friends of mine–mature, godly, egalitarian, biblically-grounded people–have 3-year old twin girls. A couple of days ago, one of those girls tearfully told her siblings that she needed a boyfriend.

        Something tells me that mom and dad didn’t give her that idea.

        It’s a bit frightening how fast these little ones absorb cultural messages about expectations for their gender. It really does drive home the importance of emphasizing biblical truth to them, repeatedly, lovingly, straight from the beginning.

        • Michelle
          Comment #96561 posted August 6, 2012 at 11:55 am

          A 3-year-old said that? That’s is horrific. And so sad. Yet so-called complementarians claim to be counterculture. I’ve yet to find the overarching culture they are counting to…maybe somewhere in Europe?

          • Michelle
            Comment #96578 posted August 9, 2012 at 10:54 am

            Oy, I mean the culture they are *counter* to, not counting to. Sorry…

  11. Colleen V.
    Comment #96544 posted August 3, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I’m stunned that these young men had to think about it. Really???? Susan, did you ask why they were so hesitant to be rescued by a woman? I am having serious difficulty believing that anyone would rather die or be seriously injured than to be saved by a woman! (I’m not doubting you, Susan; I’m doubting their intelligence!)
    On the other hand, is there any reason for those young men to doubt your ability to save them on any other basis besides gender? For example, are you physically handicapped in any way? I’m just trying to figure this out, including believing them incapable of abstract thinking.

    • Comment #96576 posted August 9, 2012 at 10:11 am

      Colleen, No reason I can think of for them to doubt my ability. I took it that they would maybe be embarrassed that a woman saved them and that they wouldn’t have seen the truck coming, maybe? I don’t know. I think the disconnectedness of being able to sit in the safety of a classroom, able to think rather than react immediately, allowed the prejudice to surface. Actually, I believe they all would prefer to be saved but they acknowledged that there was a nagging discomfort in it.

  12. Colleen V.
    Comment #96545 posted August 3, 2012 at 10:14 am

    As for the asking-for-direction discussion, I used to answer the phone in a college public relations office. The best compliment I ever had was from a retired Naval aviator (navigator). I gave him the directions using both directions (turn west, etc) and by landmark (look for the gas station). I got done and heard only silence. I was worried I had spoken too fast or had given too much information. He finally said, “You give great directions!”
    So, there are men (even “macho” Naval officers) who can ask for and accept directions from a woman!

    • Comment #96577 posted August 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

      I love this Colleen, because there is research evidence that men prefer directional instructions (north, west, etc) and women prefer landmarks! So I guess you covered it all!

  13. Red
    Comment #96548 posted August 3, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I’m a woman who doesn’t ask for directions! :D (Mostly because I always feel like I”m annoying the busy gas station clerk who has better things to do than direct hapless drivers)

    I’m also a little flabbergasted. I really can’t imagine most of the comp guys I know being uncomfortable with a woman saving them if it meant the difference between staying alive or dying for no reason at a young age. Maybe my perceptions are wrong? I will have to ask around and see what people say, then get back to you.

  14. Comment #96554 posted August 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    As I’m reading through these comments I can’t help but put in the word ‘save’ in respect to the gospel and being ‘saved’ from the consequences of sin and alienation from God. Would the young men (in this scenario) feel unable to respond to the Good News if it were being delivered (or offered in private) by a woman? Or, would they want to play that down if it were a woman that had influenced them in some way to embrace the ‘saving faith’ of the Gospel? Perhaps that is at the back of why some men don’t wan’t women to be preachers!

    • Laurie
      Comment #96562 posted August 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      Insightful, Trevor. And also sad. It is high time that believers understand that we are spiritual people, a priesthood of believers, lively stones, the spiritual lights of the world, and the salt of the earth. None of which has anything to do with the shape of our flesh.

  15. Red
    Comment #96560 posted August 6, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I think there is a perception that if a woman is “specially trained” (i.e. as a firefighter, EMT, Navy SEAL etc.) then that makes her somehow above the “average” woman and thus it’s okay to be saved by her–it doesn’t say anything about his masculinity because she is an exceptional case (and perhaps the assumption is that if he and her were BOTH trained in this exceptional way, he would physically surpass her). But if an “average” woman saves a man, that puts that man on the same level with “average” women and says something about his masculinity. Just a thought.

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