What is Gender?

Adam & EveI have read a number of posts recently on the topic of the Gender. Some on the gender of God (here and here) and even more on the theological issue of gender surrounding the complementarian vs. egalitarian debate (one blog I surveyed had nearly 25 entries on this topic alone!). Now, I’m not really interested in arguing whether the Bible actually does speak of God in masculine terms- It certainly does. Furthermore, I’m not interested in arguing whether the Bible means what it says or whether there is a gender-biased writing of scripture that is in need of correction, my beliefs about the Bible limit that kind of a conclusion. What I am interested in is the notion of gender itself. What is it?

The word ‘sex’, when used to refer to a person’s gender, is a biological notion- male or female anatomy. The word ‘gender’ seems to function in an analogous, but not exactly similar way, which is why it can be hard to associate particular characteristics, especially non-biological ones (like anger, joy, tenderness, kindness, or perhaps the way one dresses, etc.), with either men or women alone. That is to say, it would be hard to make a statement like: ‘it is the case that all women and no men have such-and-such personality traits’. Defining things in this way can be extremely difficult.

So, then, while one society may try to anchor gender down by associating it with its understanding of masculinity or femininity, it isn’t the case the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ take the same form from society to society. So, in the end, that doesn’t help either.

As a result of this description difficulty, the easiest anchor for ‘gender’ seems to be a physical one. So, maybe a certain gender is simply synonymous with a certain physical description. But, here is where the theoretical rubber meets the road, what if we can soon operate to completely change, inside and out, a man’s body to a woman’s? Does this change the man’s gender from ‘male’ to ‘female’? The physicalist, at pains to even have to answer such a trivial question, it would seem, would answer ‘yes’. But, what about Christians or, for that matter, even those philosophers who believe in universals? Is there some sort of ‘manhood’ being instantiated by men and ‘womanhood’ exemplified by women that isn’t solely dictated by one’s physical description? Or, maybe more simply, does God view individuals as male and female regardless of physical procedures?

So, Christians? Platos? What do you think?


16 Responses to “What is Gender?”

  1. 1 Barry Creamer July 8, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    I think this is very nicely put, Joel. My first response is the appeal to C.S. Lewis’ argument that masculinity and femininity are personal attributes not limited to physical distinctions. But then, while at UTA, I encountered the social and humanistic perspective that both sex and gender are cultural concerns only–neither essential to being. Obviously those views are shaped by existentialism. And those views are advocated by appealing to hermaphroditism and trans-gender medicine. My opinion is what you imply yours is by what you are not willing to sacrifice regarding scriptural authority.
    By the way: I enjoy keeping up with you through your site. Sorry to be so slow to get to some of your posts!

  2. 2 Travis Cox July 10, 2008 at 6:30 am


    you’re correct to draw attention to the fact that gender is not determined by culturally defined masculinity or femininity. I seem to remember a television spot produced by National Geographic where they were following a nomadic African tribe. This tribal custom was for the men to dress, in western terms, feminine complete with makeup and hairpieces. Ironically, in their culture, masculinity was defined in terms that we in our western world would traditionally designate for females.

    I think that gender must be defined in two ways. These following characteristics in my view define gender necessarily in the order listed.

    I. Biological: God creates man in the Genesis with biological distinctions known as man and woman. The faculties of this man and women, as God created them both have biological features that are designed for the purpose of filling the earth and perpetuating the cultural mandate as co-heirs or vice regents.

    II. Responsibility: This is extremely pertinent to the argument in that it seems to indicate that God distinguishes gender by responsibility to fulfill the cultural mandate as designated by their biological make up.

    In short I would say gender is defined by the responsibility to submit
    biologically to the will of God in being fruitful and multiply coupled
    with subduing the earth.

    So to answer the question concerning ‘sex’ manipulation I would appeal
    to responsibility. Although the text specifically states biology as
    the first event, one would have to manipulate the text in order to disprove responsibility being the primary divine prerogative in creating biological diversity. Ones choice to interrupt their own physical attributes does not excuse them from the cultural mandate but rather increases our ability to see the fracture created by rebellion.

  3. 3 hewillhaveyou July 13, 2008 at 2:17 am

    What you call GOD is neither man nor woman, regardless of what the bible tells you. For the bible was written by men in a patriarchic time. GOD is above gender, above humans, above all spirits.
    In nature, the traits of man and woman are not always fixed.
    A female lion hunts and kills while many oceanic male creatures carries the eggs of the next generation.

  4. 4 joelpatrick July 14, 2008 at 12:37 pm


    Thanks for the comment. I think that, if we are to have kids, we have a responsibility to produce them according the way God has ordained (As of yet, I don’t think there is another way), but I’m not sure that I believe that the command to be fruitful and multiply still applies to us. I think that our new mandate is to be fruitful and multiply disciples. I say more about this here in the comments of another post.

  5. 5 msg20299 January 28, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Incredible points. Sound msg20299 questions. Maintain the good effort.

    This kind of text 8139 is worth everyone’s attention.
    Where will I read more?

  6. 6 strony www February 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Touche. Sound strony www discussions. Sustain the
    amazing effort.

    This info strony www is invaluable. Where might I get more information?

  7. 7 laserowe zamykanie naczynek radom March 25, 2014 at 3:12 am

    Hi, laserowe zamykanie naczynek radom I just wanted
    to mention, I liked this post laserowe zamykanie naczynek radom.
    This had been helpful laserowe zamykanie naczynek radom.
    Keep going submitting!

  8. 8 p1725 March 27, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    Hello, p1725 I would like to tell you, I liked this article simlock Nokia.
    This became practical 143047. Continue publishing!

  9. 9 transport medyczny Lublin April 11, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Touche. Great transport medyczny Lublin justifications. Continue the
    good spirit.

    This particular text transport medyczny Lublin is priceless.
    Where can one garner more information?

  10. 10 depilacja laserowa Radom April 21, 2014 at 1:08 am

    Touche. Outstanding depilacja laserowa Radom justifications.
    Continue the great spirit.

    This particular information depilacja laserowa Radom is priceless.
    When can one find out more?

  11. 11 odżywki April 22, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Touche. Great odżywki discussions. Sustain the great effort.

    This information odżywki is invaluable. How will I get more

  12. 12 webpage April 22, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Great delivery. Great webpage questions. Continue the good work.

    This kind of post webpage is priceless. When might I discover more?

  13. 13 transport medyczny Toruń April 23, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Touche. Great transport medyczny Toruń points. Keep
    up the amazing effort.

    This valuable info transport medyczny Toruń is invaluable.
    How can one garner more information?

  14. 14 odżywki April 27, 2014 at 4:47 am

    Touche. Outstanding odżywki points. Maintain the good spirit.

    This amazing text odżywki is worth everyone’s attention.
    How do I get more information?

  15. 15 strony www April 27, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Hi, strony www I just want to tell you, I enjoyed this post strony www.
    It had been funny strony www. Carry on publishing!

  16. 16 simlock Iphone May 7, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Great delivery. Solid simlock Iphone questions. Continue the amazing

    This particular text simlock Iphone is worth everyone’s attention.
    When can one garner more information?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: