Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Egalitarianism vs. Complementarianism

As a follow-up to my remarks in 2011 about feminism and male domination being two sides of the same coin, I thought the following table might be useful in outlining the differences between the egalitarian vs. complementarian views of gender. Though I hold to a complementarian view, I have tried to be fair in representing the egalitarian position.

Egalitarian Theory of Gender

Complementarian Theory of Gender
Points of Contention:

  • Men and women are equal in all respects other than biology.

  • Individual persons and society in general both have an ethical obligation to treat men and women the same.

Points of Contention:

  • Men and women have been created as the natural compliment of each other.

  • Men have a unique role that only they can fulfil just as women have a unique role that only they can fulfil. Such roles are equal in value and dignity but unequal in function.

Arguments for Egalitarianism:

  • Because men and women are equal in both value and human nature they are also equal in respect to their functions and tasks.

  • Within the Christian and Islamic traditions, a denial of Egalitarianism has historically been accompanied by subordination of women to men.

  • Men and women flourish best when they are treated equally.

  • Though Complimentarianism sounds good in the abstract, in practice it is degrading to women since it puts men in positions of authority over them.

  • Egalitarianism acts as a hedge against male chauvinism, patriarchy and gender hierarchy.

  • Complimentarians typically sidestep the central questions, which is not whether there are beneficial differences between the sexes, but whether such differences warrant the inequitable roles, rights, and opportunities prescribed by advocates of gender hierarchy.

  • Lack of gender equality implies male superiority

Arguments for Complimentarianism:

  • The Bible teaches Complementarianism.

  • It is possible to live consistently with the principles of Complementarianism whereas Egalitarians are compelled to make frequent exceptions to their principles in real life.

  • Egalitarianism is based on a faulty non sequitur[1], assuming that equality of function and task can be derived from equality of human nature and of value. By contrast, Complementarianism completely avoids this error.

  • The claims of Egalitarianism are unscientific since they have been disproved by contemporary neuroscience and cognitive psychology.

  • The role-differentiation assumed by Complementarians is Trinitarian, emphasizing the beauty of mutual interdependence.

  • Men and women flourish best when they function as one another’s compliments.

  • Evidence exists for the fact that the different bodily structures of men and women lead to different lived experiences in the world. Such differentiation makes Egalitarianism impractical.

[1]  “Non sequitur” is Latin for “it does not follow” and is used in formal logic to describe an argument in which the conclusion does not follow from its premises.

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