Is Your Brain Your Destiny?
In most societies throughout history, it has been assumed that males and females are practically two different species, one being born to lead and control, and the other to follow and support. Rationale for the idea in the past was largely anecdotal and more a matter of social norms than biological reality. Males being larger was presumed to indicate higher intelligence as well. More recently, with the technology to scan and analyze the brain, it has been believed that hormonal characteristics influenced brain development (which they do to some extent), but wrongly concluded that this must determine certain personality traits and abilities.
Newer studies, however, have concluded that there really isn’t any such thing as a brain that is truly ‘male’ or ‘female’. According to an article at New Scientist*, preliminary research indicates that what was once considered typical of either sex is more a matter of the extremes of a bell curve; that is, most brains are a mixture of traits considered ‘male’ or ‘female’. A maximum of 8 percent of people had brains considered at one extreme or the other.
The article also states what I have personally found to be true in many online conversations: "There are always more differences within genders" than between them. Most people seem to have about an even chance, at best, of guessing another person’s gender by the way they write. Most presume, for example, that writing which is logical, technical, forceful, or erudite must be male, and that writihg which is emotional, superficial, meek, or simple must be female. But this is not the case at all, and the study the article cites would seem to support this conclusion.
We see this erroneous binary in most of society through history, and it still persists today. Specific to Christianity, it goes even deeper in presuming that God made females inferior in being, having divine limitations beyond those of males, due to nothing but the flesh. Though the Christian community has largely abandoned an identical presumption regarding skin color or ethnic heritage, it continues to cling to an equally groundless presumption about gender.
We might speculate as to the motivation for this clinging as being fear of a slippery slope to "gender chaos", where everybody is a potential cross-dresser and pervert. But treating all people as equal human beings is nothing to fear, as it does not lead to such chaos. To be a Christian is to be humble and meek, to lift up others rather than keep them "in their place". Jesus came to do away with all "lording over" regardless of how benevolently it may be practiced, replacing it with service and support of one to another without distinction.
It has been wrongfully presumed that aggression and rule are necessary traits of males, and that subservience and passiveness are necessary traits of females, such that anyone who deviates from these presumptions is deemed rebellious or shameful. But the Bible never portrays "lording over" as anything that is either good or evil depending on the body type of the one practicing it. The same is true for preaching the gospel and teaching scripture: truth does not become error depending on whose lips speak it. Any spiritual authority is solely in the Holy Spirit and the scriptures, never the vessel through which teachings are spoken.
Aggression, physical size, or ego are no excuses to make someone a leader or authority. In fact, according to what Jesus and the apostles taught, such characteristics disqualify a person from leadership in the Christian home or community. The Christian leader is humble, supportive, helpful, and dedicated to the welfare of others, even at his or her own expense. Leadership is a character trait that knows nothing of biological constraints or inherited entitlement. The 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians should be the first test of any seeking to lead.
The overwhelming tradition of almost all societies in history has been to grant full adult privileges only to males. But even in such a society, Jesus taught that those with privileges must lay them aside and humble themselves (Phil. 2:5-11; see also Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, where Jesus washed his disciple’s feet). To follow Jesus is to live as he did, to take his example of giving up entitlement and turning the hierarchies of the world upside down. We must all learn to truly follow Jesus.
* Disclaimer: I do not endorse any idea of gender as something a person can choose or "self identify", as some statements in the article imply. Gender is simply a biological reality determined by one’s chromosomes.