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The ‘Male Mind’

Just following a link from another Christian website and came across the offer of a course for women which is written and taught by a man. Among other objectionable statements was one which says women can (and should) ‘get into and understand’ the male mind!  If I was a guy, I would be offended by that suggestion that men have a particular type of mind and that women need to understand it in order to have a satisfying relationship. Of course, as a woman, I find this whole concept annoying when I read that the reason men ‘stray’ is because their women don’t understand how their minds work about relationships. So many of these courses, books and teachings put the ultimate responsibility on women to know how to pander to the men in their lives. Women who try to fulfil these expectations are constantly disappointed and try even harder at pleasing their partner.

In a close relationship, there is only one man and one woman and it can take a lifetime to get to know each other and appreciate each other fully. This is part of the adventure of marriage and if both honour and respect the other they have a world of discovery ahead.

Would be interested to hear others’ responses to this – maybe you have come across this particular site which I won’t name as I don’t like to introduce such concepts to readers. Of course there is no biblical backing for talking of a ‘male mind’ (or a ‘female one’ ) but teachings like this have a huge following. I wonder why ?

16 Comments

  1. Comment #97829 posted January 18, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    You ask, “Of course there is no biblical backing for talking of a ‘male mind’ (or a ‘female one’ ) but teachings like this have a huge following. I wonder why?”

    Perhaps it is the only explanation they can come up with to explain why their relationships are struggling as they follow the so-called “complementarian” way of interacting within their marriage.

  2. Kathleen Langridge
    Comment #97833 posted January 19, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Sometimes I think that these ideas have a strong following because of their simplicity. Many today are encouraged not to think about what they are taught just accept.Congregations are encouraged to reject the ‘temptation’ to question those in authority over them thus creating a false obedience focused on human leadership. In every teaching situation I have always encouraged those participating to be like the Bereans and search the scriptures for themselves to discern whether they were being taught within the whole counsel of God.
    I wonder if the emphasis on gender differences flows out of the need to control more than the desire to cooperate.

  3. Ali Griffiths
    Comment #97836 posted January 19, 2013 at 4:22 am

    The idea that women and men have particular ‘minds’ is something that I frequently come across but it is a teaching not confined to the complementarian world. The trouble with the evidence for it is that the way we think is hugely conditioned by how we are brought up and the influences we take in. All studies deal with men and women who have gone through this process so it is almost impossible to verify the extent to which the genders differ although complementarians often teach this. But it is common for egalitarians to affirm differences that are deep set and God given eg women are more patient, compassionate and men are more emotionally stable etc etc (you know the sort of stuff!).

    I think that it is likely that women are different to men in some ways but I don’t know how you go about proving it beyond doubt because of the reasons I give above. Nevertheless, every time that a particular claim is made for either gender all I can think about are the men and women who defy their categorisation and appear to cross the definitions. On one discussion about this I came across a commentator who said that for him, the only difference that gender made was that it dictated the way he related to the person before him and the way he related to them was the result of his conditioning. I think that is an interesting observation and I find it to be true.

    I am often invited to egalitarian women only conferences, networking groups and offered books aimed at women leaders. This is a worrying trend: friends who are involved in such gender exclusive activities are hard pushed to justify their involvement, resorting to arguing that women need ‘safe’ places in which to share, be themselves etc. As this excludes men who are ‘safe’ and ‘supportive’ it perpetuates the myth that some women believe that men cannot be trusted. In my view this is damaging in every respect. I am also baffled as to how I, as an egalitarian, can even begin to commend such exclusive activities and mindset. As women we have fought long and hard to be where we are now and to be included in the male ‘club’ so why would we now want to exclude anyone on the basis of their gender?

    There will always be the need for some damaged individuals to have supportive gender exclusive groups but they should not be encouraged as the norm for the rest of us. If someone needs to be in a gender exclusive group for a time then they also need to know that there is a normal environment awaiting them following their recovery and growth (if that is possible: for some people this recovery may not happen in their lifetime such is the damage they live with) but it is up to the rest of us to provide such an environment. The more division between us then the more important that we sacrifice our own desires for a comfortable space to bridge the misunderstandings and divisions between the genders, the result of historical patriarchy rather than innate differences. Even if there are some gender differences that are the result of design rather than environment it is no reason to separate ourselves off from each other and every reason to exert ourselves to understand the person before us and to go beyond their gender.

    • Don Johnson
      Comment #97841 posted January 19, 2013 at 7:46 am

      Everything seems to be so politicized in these post-modern times, as each side finds its own truth to proclaim. What I have read is that the making of a baby is like baking a cake, only much more complex, but that there are some general differences in a male brain and a female brain, which I could believe (if true) would translate into differences in a male mind and a female mind. The main difference is that when testosterone hits the developing fetus in a male, 2 things happen, the gonads descend to prepare to form male genitals and there is a massive die off of cells that connect the 2 halves of the brain. This cell death should not be seen as a bad thing, cell death is also the way our fingers and toes are formed from a more blobby mass of cells. Another difference is that adult males tend to be larger than adult females, and this means that the male brain is also larger than a female brain, since most things in a male are larger than in a female.

      So there do appear to be physical differences between the “typical” male brain and the “typical” female brain, which I can believe could translate into differences between the male mind and the female mind. Of course, going back to the “baking a cake” analogy, there are a lot of things that can affect the developmental process so that an individual is not typical.

      Viva la difference’ is what I say, assuming there is a difference. This just means to me that is it MORE important to get perspectives from everyone, a male brain/mind might have things it can do better in some areas and a female brain/mind might have things it can do better in other areas, so the conclusion is that teamwork is best of all.

      • Ali Griffiths
        Comment #97854 posted January 19, 2013 at 4:20 pm

        Nicely put Don – whatever the conclusion it makes no sense to exclude women on the basis of being different to men – in fact if they are so different from men then it is even more important that they are able to lead the church alongside men. Viva la difference indeed!

    • Sue
      Comment #97842 posted January 19, 2013 at 9:30 am

      Agreed, Ali. well-said.

  4. Comment #97845 posted January 19, 2013 at 11:28 am

    The only legitimate differences between a male and a female human brain are the ways they process information. The male brain does not have a good connection between the two hemispheres, which the female brain has excellent connections. This produces some good results for both brains. The man’s is not disturbed by a lot of information coming in from all over. The females is blessed by information of all types feeding into what she is doing. Both work wonderfully and produce slightly different results. This is where two heads are better than one. :)

    • Ali Griffiths
      Comment #97855 posted January 19, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      And there are a lot of women and men who have either learnt how to process information in alternate ways or appear to do it naturally. There are exceptions to every rule.

  5. Deborah
    Comment #97846 posted January 19, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I do think there are subtle differences in the female/male brain. These differences are God made. And that’s why God said the two shall become one. What one has in strengths compliments what the other has as weaknesses. This should be exciting to us!! God gave us a partner that will mystify, humble, and glorify us for the rest of lives. Like Liz, it just baffles me all the articles out there in the secular world that seem to promote that women should not only “understand” but also BECOME more like the male. Ouch. Another thing that astonishes me is that men agree with this. What? Do these men really want to be married to another “male brain”? I don’t think so. It’s time for men to speak out against this “turning women into little men” and women to speak out against trying to “turn men into little women”. We need to rejoice in the differences that God created in us. EQUAL but different!!!

  6. Comment #97856 posted January 19, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    At one time we had opposition from an extremely hierarchical young man who said that he wouldn’t feel like a man if he couldn’t lead his family (among other things) Strange thing was that he took part in an experiment at the university and was found to have a ‘female’ brain! This guy did exhibit many characteristics which are often attributed to women.

    Maybe we are far more complex than even the ‘experts’ can discover and should live and work together as new creatures in Christ, realising that we are all capable of living sinfully or by the power of the risen Christ.

  7. Ellen Holt
    Comment #97882 posted January 20, 2013 at 11:17 am

    This is another example of human teaching in a church setting. It is an issue of control for men. The teaching should focus on the mind of Christ and that we should be obedient to Christ not to faulty teaching by men that exalt themselves.

  8. Red
    Comment #97912 posted January 21, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    When I started this article, the whole concept of a male-taught class for women about men sounded like the setup to some comedy movie :) And then I was like “Oh….you’re serious.” XD

    The quest to understand the male mind, accommodate your life to it, or imitate it, is all wrapped up in that belief that male is the default and female is the “other.”

    For example, women are told that they are more emotional than men. This usually brings with it a whole host of implications, first and foremost that women should try to control themselves better and not overwhelm the man, or expect him to be able to keep up with and process her emotions. Well, why not just tell the men that they are less emotional than women, and that they should therefore work to develop their emotional side until their emotional intuition matches that of their wives? Because men are seen as the default and the ones who “can’t” change.

    I struggle with these questions often. On the one hand, I chafe at the suggestion that I should be more like a man and less like a woman. Hey! What’s wrong with being a woman?? :) On the other hand, I DO notice ways in which men are socially conditioned to behave in ways that are more beneficial, and in those instances, I do feel inclined to become what our culture would consider “manly.” For instance, men are sometimes more comfortable behaving in a straightforward and businesslike manner with their boss, whereas women might fall back on the socially-conditioned necessity to smile and be the “little girl” or “little sister” figure who is treated well because she’s the adored pet. I don’t believe that’s a gender difference that should be respected; rather, I believe it’s a way of relating to others that’s been programmed differently to different people, and one way is surely more appropriate in certain situations than others. (Likewise, a male nurse at the hospital who smiles, talks to and nurtures nervous patients is not making some statement about “feminine” qualities being better–he’s just adopting the interpersonal skills most needed at that specific moment.)

  9. Liz Trevor
    Comment #97916 posted January 22, 2013 at 4:34 am

    As I’m reading through each of these excellent comments what immediately comes to mind is that Scripture which says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had:” (Philippians 2:5 TNIV) Then of course you have a complete description of how Jesus demonstrated that attitude in the verses that follow (6-11) and our encouragement to embrace right relationships and attitudes in verses 12-16. Notably there is nothing here about male or female minds only how we, as Christians, should behave and emulate Christ in our attitudes to life. It is disappointing, to say the least, when, in the guise of Christian instruction and helpfulness, women are encouraged to understand the culturally conditioned male mind.

    Admitted, as Don has offered, there may well be differences in brain size and function between men and women, but Scripture is having none of it. We are all encouraged, as Christians, to have the mind of Christ. Such instruction for wives, as needing to understand the male mind, only has relevance when we adopt the attitude that, as christians, men and women have differing roles and functions. A wife’s function, it is believed, is to so understand how men’s minds work that she can prevent her husband from thinking and acting unfaithfully.

    As has been said, this puts the responsibility of a husband’s fidelity squarely on the shoulders of a wife. How often have we heard, within the church where a husband has been involved in illicit sexual activity, that if his wife had understood him and fully met his sexual needs he would not have strayed? What a terrible burden this is to bear for a wife. She not only has to deal with having been rejected and violated by her husband but is expected to shoulder the blame for his indiscretions as well! God is not pleased.

    Such teaching is thoroughly unbiblical and should be rejected as such. Men should rather be encouraged to take full responsibility for their own culturally conditioned weakness to objectify women and instead adopt the mind of Christ. As the Apostle Paul says in verse 12b of Philippians 2, “… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (TNIV) Our walk with God, in a sexually saturated culture, is to be worked out by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit moment by moment. We are individually accountable. No one else is to blame.

    What we can do, as husbands and wives, is to understand one another and the kinds of temptations we are each likely to face and to ‘encourage one another to love and good works.’ Our responsibility is not to know the minds of men and women collectively but to know one another so intimately that we can assist one another to be the very best that we can be for God. As it says in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works within you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.” (TNIV) Surely this sort of teaching would be far more healthy and helpful for both men and women to embrace.

    • Susan Larson
      Comment #97983 posted January 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      I’d like to tie Red’s observation of the belief that male is the default and female is the “other,” and Trevor’s reference to the troubling trend of putting “the responsibility of a husband’s fidelity squarely on the shoulders of a wife.

      Some say that our culture is growing increasingly narcissistic. What that can mean for patriarchy is that the “other” Female is treated as just an extension of the default Male center. So of course women become objectified. (But is it only within patriarchy that this happens?)

      Consider sexual sin in general but pornography specifically, a problem that is reaching epidemic levels among Christians.

      On the one hand, women are treated as objects for male sexual gratification (far more with pornography than with affairs where the couple can have an emotional relationship). On the other hand, the wives are treated as the object/cause where, as Trevor noted, if they just understood their husbands and fully met his sexual needs he would never have strayed to begin with. Or they are the object/impetus for male sanctification for if they now will just forgive, understand, and fully meet his needs, he will never stray again.

      And what are we to make of accounts of believing men who choose marriage in the first place as a way of “fixing” their sexual problem?

      While I don’t know that a respectable church would condone the latter, the earlier examples almost seem at risk of becoming church doctrine, at least in more complementarian churches. That ought to be impossible in any paradigm in which women are seen as fully franchised along with men in the eyes of God. But are egalitarians immune from this problem? And why the exponential increase in this particular sin within the Evangelical church?

      • Liz Liz
        Comment #97989 posted January 25, 2013 at 8:05 pm

        Excellent observations Susan and several points to consider which I hope others will comment about.

        Just taking the point of believers getting married to ‘fix’ their sexual problems. This is another area which is hardly ever mentioned if at all and yet in our counselling experience, it was often suggested that marriage would be the great solver of so many things. Either suggested by a guy who justified his moods and disrespectful attitudes (read sinful) towards his girlfriend or ministers and youth leaders who suggested that when married, the young men would ‘settle down’, Sounds all very animalistic to me!

  10. Don Johnson
    Comment #97924 posted January 22, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Yes, the whole comp paradigm is fatally flawed in that it carries assumptions of being responsible for another adult, which means it is ultimately crazy-making as it violates basic boundaries, as one thinks one is responsible for some adult who is not yourself.

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