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I'm not Leaning In

In our culture’s rush to self-actualization, the damaging kind of social engineering has become rampant. A tiny percentage of the same gender wish to marry so some unhesitatingly decide that the institution needs to be fundamentally changed and deem everyone opposing this “Neanderthals” despite the fact that no previous society has ever seen the need to do such a thing. Comfort and convenience are more important to some than nurturing a new life so over a million unborn babies are aborted each year. And for some reason, there are those who passionately want to see men and women treated identically, so there is a concerted effort to convince us that if we don’t do this we’re not treating them equally.

The current manifestation of this subtle but misguided effort is the innocuous public service messages about “Lean In” for equality by NBA and WNBA players. It’s about showing “the world that you support women at work and at home.” Well, who’s not for that? As I said, they’re innocent (on the surface). But while the tip of the iceberg might be harmless, it's the part below the surface that bears watching.

The Lean In Together campaign is a spin-off of the best-selling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, co-authored by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Sandberg opens the book by cogently making the case for better treatment of women around the globe (anyone not in favor of that?). She then posits that, A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and men ran half our homes.

It’s worth pressing pause and thinking about this statement because this is where this equality approach is deeply flawed. Sandberg is suggesting that the means and measurement of equality are not just being equal, but being identical. In other words, half of the women are heading companies while the other half are running homes. And the men? Same thing. We have equality by having everything and everyone identical.

Now suppose she suggested, “A truly equal basketball world would be one where half the women play in the NBA and half the men play in the WNBA?” We’d know that would be a bad idea because God made men taller, stronger, and faster. They can’t be identical for the simple reason that they're not—social pretense doesn’t change biological fact. As a result, most of the women basketball players would end up on the bench rather than in the game. Trying to make all basketball players identical in order to be “equal” would be a huge misreading of how to achieve equality. The people running the Olympics recognize this and that’s the reason that's the reason there have always been different events for men and women throughout the history of the games. They've got the right idea--there's equality in competition and awards while at the same time they recognize and appreciate gender differences.

Thinking that somehow making everyone identical is going to solve all our equality problems creates more problems than it solves. What if over half of the women decided they wanted to run the home rather than run a company? Would that be wrong? Should we force them to go run a company instead? 

Men and women are equal (they’re both made in the image of God--Genesis 5:1-2), but it should be clear to everyone they’re not identical. God made them differently to do different things. Our culture has been taught to loathe the phrase “gender roles” but seriously—when was the last time you saw a pregnant man or a nursing father? And what has happened to cause us as a society to make something as glorious and beautiful as motherhood a second class status that “holds women back” or makes them feel the need to almost apologize if they devote themselves to that to the exclusion of a career? If we really want to work on equality, let’s start there. After all, where would any of us be without mothers?

Another aspect of this push for “equality,” has been the demand to place women on the front lines of battle. As you might imagine, the physical demands for this are rigorous and intense. Women are dropping of infantry training at a much greater rate than men because they are suffering disproportionate rates of injuries—especially hip and leg fractures. Their bodies are simply not designed to carry the heavy backpacks and equipment the job demands (just as men's bodies are not designed for the rigors and intensity of childbirth). No one is doing anyone any favors by trying to socially engineer the armed forces in this manner. And the larger corollary is true: no one is doing parents and children any favors when they send out messages that suggest that we should ignore the God-given differences between men and women and try to force them to be identical. 

While the website associated with the commercials (LeanIn.org) has a lot of positive things to say, is also has a few that are ridiculous. Under tips for men we’re told we need to teach our sons “to value intelligence and thoughtfulness over toughness.” This is where you can see the "everyone has to be identical" bias bleeding through and the way it works out in most cases is that the guys are supposed to become more like the girls. Are boys too rough and tough (i.e., too masculine)? Then let's try to engineer that out of them so they won't want to do stuff like roughhouse, playing football, and strong bodies. I'm sorry, I’m pleased that our son is thoughtful and intelligent, but I’m also glad he’s not a wimp. We're also told that we shouldn't tell them to "be a man" or "man-up." Isn’t telling someone to be a man is just exhorting them to live up to what God made them to be? 

God made men to be men and women to be women. This is a wonderful thing and this is what we should be telling our sons and daughters. The French have a phrase for it—Vive la difference. But now we’re being told that not being identical means inequality and because everyone is afraid of being labeled a “hater” or “insensitive,” they pretend that this Emperor is actually wearing clothes. Men were not made to be women and women were not made to be men. They are complementary, not competitive!

I’m all for men and women being treated equally, but that is not the same thing as treating them identically—by a long shot. We’re not all biologically equipped to be or do the same thing and it’s misguided to think that we are. The current fixation that we can’t have equality without being identical is distorted and harmful.

I will continue to promote equality, but not at the expense of celebrating the God-given difference between men and women.

I'm not Leaning In!

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