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Kirsten Dunst: She’s Simply Stating the Obvious

Neurological research has demonstrated what any two-year-old could tell you: Men and women are not identical in either nature or function.

Equal? Yes. Identical? No.

Actress Kirsten Dunst made headline news last week for her comments concerning traditional gender roles.

“I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued,” she told Harper’s Bazaar UK. “We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking – it’s a valuable thing my mum created.”

The interview is published in the magazine’s May issue. As May is also the month most of the world celebrates Mother’s Day, these sweet comments about the choices her own mother made seem altogether fitting and appropriate.

But Dunst didn’t leave it at that. “Sometimes,” she continued, “you need your knight in shining armour. I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s why relationships work.”

That’s the part that really got feminists’ dander up. The most militant of this movement want us to believe that men and women are not only equal, but are also identical — or, at least, they would be if society didn’t keep imposing gender-based expectations upon them.

Anyone who dares suggest that sex-based differences do exist (and to our benefit, even) is ridiculed.

Despite all the so-called progress that has been made toward masking such differences, women have lost far more than they’ve gained in the sexual revolution. In attempting to style ourselves as men, we’ve squandered the power we have as women.

The more women behave like men, the less inclined men are to stick around (or to exhibit the more virtuous of masculine qualities when they do). Instead of being cherished and protected, girls are being used then dumped, in the wake of which they grow lonely, depressed, bitter, and/or angry.

Dunst may not realize it, but her comments underscore some important scientific findings. Cutting edge research has demonstrated that — lo and behold — men and women actually are different. They are different in the way their bodies are built (a fact that seems obvious to any two-year-old, but eludes elitist academicians), in the way their brains process information, and in the way they respond to stress, to name just a few.

Furthermore, relationships do work better, last longer, and provide greater satisfaction when traditional gender roles are embraced. The studies that support such notions are numerous, rigorous, and well-documented. You can read more about them in the following excellent books, all of which I highly recommend.

Four (More) Must-Read Books for Women Who Think:

TAKING SEX DIFFERENCES SERIOUSLYIf you’d like a better appreciation of just how different men and women really are, TAKING SEX DIFFERENCES SERIOUSLY provides a great starting place.

To be totally honest, I didn’t care much for Chapter 3 (in the section aptly named “Men Don’t Get Headaches”). It’s not that I questioned the validity of what is there written; it’s just that I felt a little uncomfortable with so graphic a glimpse at the way (many) men think. The rest of the book, however, is riveting, and the chapters on Fatherless Families, the Sexual Revolution, Day Care, and Title IX Sports are particularly enlightening.

EXCERPT: “There is a certain unworldly quality to the suggestions that a just world would be one in which men and women do all things equally. This understanding would require that parents who are trying to tease out their children’s natural abilities should instead do their part to help achieve a society in which a higher percentage of people do things they are not interested in and not very good at…. In the real world, any society will and should want to encourage people to do worthwhile things that they enjoy and do well. This means that natural inclinations will have policy and normative relevance, although they will not always be conclusive.”


Adam and Eve after the PillMary Eberstadt’s ADAM AND EVE AFTER THE PILL is a tightly written treatise which examines many of the devastating if not unanticipated consequences of the sexual revolution, including the erosion of the nuclear family, the rise in production and consumption of pornography, the disturbing social trends on college campuses across the continent, and society’s shifting ideologies concerning both food and sex.

As bleak as the subject matter may sound, Eberstadt ends every chapter on a hopeful note by presenting evidence, however scant it may be, that the tide is slowly beginning to turn.

EXCERPT: “In the postrevolutionary world, sex is easier had than ever before; but the opposite appears true for romance. This is perhaps the central enigma that modern men and women are up against: romantic want in a time of sexual plenty. Perhaps some of the modern misery of which so many women today so authentically speak is springing not from a sexual desert, but from a sexual flood — a torrent of poisonous imagery, beginning now for many in childhood, that has engulfed women and men, only to beach them eventually somewhere alone and apart, far from the reach of one another.”


The Female BrainLouann Brizendine tackles the topic of THE FEMALE BRAIN with a no-stone-unturned thoroughness one would rightly expect from a medical doctor such as herself. Almost a third of the book’s 279 pages are devoted to endnotes and reference citations. She tackles the topics of love, trust, sex, hormones, mothering, depression, and aging, all from a neurological standpoint that is both scientifically accurate and simultaneously easy to read and understand.

EXCERPT: Most women find biological comfort in one another’s company, and language is the glue that connects one female to another. No surprise, then, that some verbal areas of the brain are larger in women than in men and that women, on average, talk and listen a lot more than men. The numbers vary, but on average girls speak two to three times more words per day than boys. We know that young girls speak earlier and by the age of twenty months have double or triple the number of words in their vocabularies than do boys. Boys eventually catch up in their vocabulary but not in speed. Girls speak faster on average — 250 words per minute versus 125 for typical males…. Even among our primate cousins, there’s a big difference in the vocal communication of males and females. Female rhesus monkeys, for instance, learn to vocalize much earlier than do males and use every one of the seventeen vocal tones of their species all day long, every day, to communicate with one another. Male rhesus monkeys, by contrast, learn only three to six tones, and once they’re adults, they’ll go for days or even weeks without vocalizing at all. Sound familiar?”


The Male BrainDr. Brizendine’s THE MALE BRAIN is a fast and enjoyable read. This book is significantly shorter than its counterpart, THE FEMALE BRAIN — despite the use of a larger font and wider line spacing, it is only 132 pages (excluding appendices and footnotes) as opposed to 187. However, given the fact that a man’s brain apparently remains fixated on one consuming thought from puberty to the golden years and beyond, perhaps the book’s brevity should come as no surprise. Still, Brizendine draws upon numerous scientific studies to paint a fascinating picture of how a boy’s brain develops and changes, beginning in utero and continuing through every stage of his life. She includes chapters on The Boy Brain, The Teen Brain, The Mating Brain, The Daddy Brain, and the Mature Male Brain, with several others interspersed between. It would be a helpful read to anybody who must deal with boys or men on a regular basis.

EXCERPT: “By age five, according to researchers in Germany, boys are using different brain areas than girls to visually rotate an object in their mind’s eyes. The boys mentally rotated the pictures of the objects by using both sides of their brain’s spatial-movement area in the parietal lobe. Girls used only one side to do the task. While that in itself is revealing, what I found most intriguing is that this spatial-movement area in the male brain is locked in the ‘on’ position. That means it’s always working in the background on autopilot. But in the female brain, this parietal area is ‘off,’ waiting in standby mode, and not turned on until it’s needed.

“Curious to find out how this applies practically in the classroom setting, researchers studied students in a grade-school math class to see how girls and boys solved conceptual math problems and how long it took them. The boys solved the problems faster than the girls. But what was most surprising to the researchers was that most of the boys, when asked to explain how they got the answer, gave an explanation without using any words. Instead, they squirmed, twisted, turned, and gestured with their hands and arms to explain how they got the answer. The boys’ body movements WERE their explanations. Words, in this instance, were a hindrance.

“What also got my attention about this study was what the researchers did next with the girls. In the following six weeks of the experiment, they taught the girls to explain their answers with the same muscle movements the boys had made without using words. At the end of the six weeks, once the girls stopped talking and started twisting and turning, they solved the problems as quickly as the boys. The male and female brains have access to the same circuits but, without intervention, use them differently.”


If you think these titles look interesting, you’d probably enjoy the ones recommended in this post, as well: 5 Must-Read Books for Women Who Think

Girl Power: Don’t Waste It

Don't waste your girl power | a guide for using your feminine fortitude to its full advantageWe hear a lot about female empowerment these days…but how should we define it? What does an empowered woman really look like?

Is she wealthy? Is she world-famous?

Does she radiate prestige? Does she command the respect of her peers? Does she carry political clout?

Is she her own woman? Completely autonomous? Answers to no one?

Is girl power something she wears like a badge? Or wields like a weapon?

Would we even recognize an empowered woman if we met her on the street?

Maybe. Maybe not.

In the past half-century, women have spent so much time focused on fighting for equality and closing the perceived gender gap that much of the very real power unique to our sex has been lost: relinquished, squandered, forgotten, or ignored.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Girls are smart. We have brains. We can think.

And when we notice — as of late so many have — that the proverbial baby has been tossed out with the bathwater, we have sense enough to retrieve it. We can learn from past mistakes — both the mistakes we’ve made individually, as well as the mistakes made by the generations ahead of us — and change course as needed.

The battle for sexual equality has morphed into a full-blown attack on common sense and decency. Regardless what popular pundits of feminism may argue, being equal in worth and value is not the same as being identical in nature and function.

There are (by design) some very real, very wonderful differences between men and women. True power comes not by denying such differences exist, but by embracing those differences with gratitude and grace.

  1. An empowered woman INSPIRES those around her.

    It is no secret that girls typically outperform boys on verbal tests. Women are communicators at heart. We are relational to the core. We are good with words.

    But words can be used to help or to hurt. To encourage or to tear down.

    An empowered woman understands this fact and chooses her words carefully. She is not catty, caustic, or overly critical, nor does she curse like a sailor. That’s merely rudeness masquerading as power.

    A hurricane makes a great show of brute force, but look at the destruction, devastation, and despair that follow in its wake. Gentle spring rains may never make headline news, but they pack a potency we’d do well to emulate — the power to refresh and rejuvenate, to nurture and nourish, to bring life and growth and beauty.

    Words of Encouragement

    It takes sustained strength and directed determination to build up rather than destroy. To teach by example. To encourage. To bring out the best in others. To inspire those around us.

    This is real power. It is a power each one of us possesses. A power that women, with our communicative tend-and-befriend natures, are especially well-suited to employ — if only we’ll purpose to do so.

    “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

  2. An empowered woman INVIGORATES the opposite sex.

    As the mother of eight boys (and a casual observer of their many friends), I cannot help but notice the effect feminine company has on a group of guys. When fellas know that girls are watching, they will run faster, play harder, and push themselves further than they’d ever do without such an audience.

    Beach Volleyball

    That’s because they are hard-wired to want to woo a woman and win her attention and affection.

    When a girl first starts to sense the sway she holds over guys, it can make her feel a little heady. At that moment, she faces a choice: What will she do with this newfound power?

    Some will choose to misuse and abuse it. When that happens, everybody suffers.

    One of the most devastating effects of the sexual revolution is that it has duped girls into believing they can use their sexual power indiscriminately, without diluting its effectiveness or damaging themselves (and others) in the process.

    That is a lie.

    It is a lie that has cheated many women out of the things they most desire in life: good health, lasting love, a stable marriage, a happy home, and bright, beautiful, well-adjusted children.

    An empowered woman doesn’t squander her sexuality. She understands what is at stake. She respects her power — and she respects herself – enough to use it wisely. She guards it. She protects it. She cherishes it.

    She says no to sex before marriage and yes to sex within marriage. When the circumstances are right, she channels all that vivacious energy into one man — her husband. And in doing so, she not only blesses her spouse, but she benefits herself, her family, and society as a whole in myriad and magnificent ways.

    “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
    ― Jane Goodall

  3. An empowered woman INCUBATES new life.

    Bearing children is certainly not the only thing a woman can do, but only a woman can do it. Only a woman can conceive, carry, and give birth to the next generation. This is a power that has been completely denied to men.

    Granted, men are necessary for conception to occur, but it is within the womb of a mother that new life begins, that each tiny human is knitted together. As women, we are given the privilege of participating in this miracle of creation.

    Pregnant woman

    There are many who have fought long and hard to give pregnant women the power to choose death, but the far greater power lies in our ability to choose life.

    An empowered woman values life. She recognizes life for the gift it is, a gift that she willingly passes on to her children, even at great personal sacrifice.

    If you are reading this article now, it is because your mother chose LIFE for you. And if you are pregnant now — even if the circumstances surrounding your pregnancy are less than perfect — you in turn can choose LIFE for your little one.

    This is what my husband’s mother did for him, although her situation at the time was far from ideal. Carrying him to term was not an easy choice (nor was placing him for adoption as soon as he was born), but it was the best and bravest choice she could make, and one for which our entire family is eternally grateful.

    “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live…” – Deuteronomy 30:19

  4. An empowered woman IMPACTS future generations.

    Of course, giving birth is just the beginning. As one philosopher observed, “The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before.”

    Motherhood has a way of modifying how a woman thinks, of altering what she values. Things that may once have seemed extremely important will often lose significance once a baby enters the picture — not because the things themselves have changed, but because she has.

    Investing in the future

    An empowered woman is okay with this change. In fact, she embraces it. She recognizes what an incredible but fleeting opportunity a mother has to pour into the lives of her children, to love and hold and spend time with them, to train and teach them.

    True power is not to be found in the boardroom, but in the classroom. Not in the White House, but in your house and mine. When we invest in the lives of our children, we are investing in the future — a future that will be upon us much sooner than we expect, for in the blink of an eye, all our little ones will be grown and gone.

    “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”
    — William Ross Wallace

  5. An empowered woman IMPARTS practical wisdom.

    There are many voices in the world today that want to tell us how we should live. What we should do. How we should think.

    When deciding which voice to listen to, it’s always a good idea to first look at the fruit. You shouldn’t plant apple trees if you don’t want to grow apples. And you shouldn’t take advice from bitter, angry, miserable people if you don’t want to be bitter, angry, and miserable yourself.

    an empowered woman imparts wisdom... passes down knowledge

    The Bible paints a compelling portrait of an empowered woman in Proverbs 31: She is smart. She is strong. She’s hard-working and industrious. She is capable, confident, and cool headed.

    Beyond all that, we are told that “she opens her mouth in skillful and godly wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness, giving counsel and instruction.” (Proverbs 30:26)

    An empowered woman has a wealth of wisdom and experience to share with others. The counsel she offers is sound, not some half-baked theory or failed rhetoric. It is tested and proven, tried and true. She teaches through example. She lives out her faith day by day, month by month, year by year.

    I’m thankful for the many wonderful mentors God has provided for me over the years – friends who were further down life’s road than I, who took seriously God’s charge for the older women to teach the younger to love their husbands, love their children, and be keepers at home. (Titus 2:3-5) As I transition into the role of an older woman myself now, I hope to clasp, carry, and pass on that baton as smoothly as they have done.

    “It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.”
    — Walter Lippmann

The power to inspire others, to invigorate the opposite sex, to incubate new life, to impact the future, and to impart practical wisdom — this is Girl Power in a nutshell. But “with great power comes great responsibility.” How will you use yours?

5 Must-Read Books for Women Who Think

5-must-read-books-for-women-who-thinkOne of my readers recently criticized me for promoting what she considers oppressive and archaic beliefs regarding marriage and motherhood.

“Read something – anything
– on feminism,”
she pleaded. “Learn to respect yourself, then you can respect others.”

Of course, this is a cleaned-up version of what she actually wrote. Her original comment was so riddled with expletives and venomous slurs that it made me wonder what, exactly, her notion of “respecting others” entailed.

But that is beside the point.

As it happens, I had already read half a dozen books on feminism, but her suggestion sent me searching Amazon for new titles of interest. That’s where I found the book I just finished reading: The Flipside of Feminism, by Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly.

This book — like the other four listed alongside it — is too good not to share. The authors examine feminism in light of common sense and expose it for the failed social experiment it is.

No intellectually honest person can look at the aftermath of the sexual revolution — rampant venereal disease and abortion, escalating rates of single motherhood and the abject poverty that it fosters, and coin-toss marriage survival rates — and not recognize that something is amiss.

That something is our godless worldview, of which feminism is a major component.

In my mind, buying into feminism is a lot like smoking cigarettes. While I understand why someone who has smoked two packs a day for the past 50 years might have a hard time kicking the habit, I am dumbfounded that anyone not already addicted to nicotine would ever take their first drag in this day and age, knowing what we now know about tobacco’s causal link to lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and a host of other devastating illnesses.

In the same way, I find it incredulous that anybody who has witnessed firsthand the destruction and despair that follow in the wake of feminism would continue to cling to such a bankrupt ideology.

Yet cling they do, and with dogged persistence.

If these women could leave off chanting their antiquated rhetoric long enough, they would hear the cries and whimpers of the modern class of victims their manifesto has created — victims that include their own children, everyone on the planet with a Y-chromosome, and ultimately the feminists themselves.

To be sure, some espouse feminist ideals because they patently believe in them, but I suspect much of our society cooperates solely for the sake of remaining politically correct. They can see as well as the next person the mess this radical movement has made of things, yet they keep their thoughts to themselves and watch on in silence.

But perhaps that is about to change.

The whispers are beginning to circulate, and the crowd is starting to stir. The status quo has been boldly challenged by books such as these — books that say what we already know in our hearts to be true: “Feminism is a bust. The emperor has no clothes.”

For a fresh look at feminism, don’t miss these five favorites:

flipside-of-feminismTHE FLIPSIDE OF FEMINISM:
What Conservative Women Know — and Men Can’t Say

by Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly

Excerpt: “Most important, we must begin by telling… the truth about what feminism has done. After all, no society can thrive — or survive — when half its members believe they’re oppressed and the other half are told there’s no reason for them to exist…. It’s time to end the war between the sexes. Men are not the enemy…. Americans aren’t used to hearing [but deserve to know] that women are the fortunate sex, or that ‘hooking up’ is wrong (and foolish), or that happy lifetime marriages are attainable, or that staying home to care for one’s children is a noble and worthwhile endeavor, or that men in America are the real second-class citizens.”


what-our-mothers-didnWHAT OUR MOTHERS DIDN’T TELL US:
Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman

By Danielle Crittenden

Excerpt: “It may be true that 30 years ago shockingly discriminatory attitudes towards women in the workplace prevailed, and we are all thankful to be rid of them. But in their place have risen some shockingly discriminatory attitudes towards women who wish to have children without neglecting them (as exemplified by Hillary Clinton’s remark, ‘I suppose I could’ve stayed home and baked cookies’). And it is these attitudes that have made it difficult for a woman today to occupy either sphere of work or home completely happily, without feeling guilty and exhausted in one or insecure and underappreciated in the other.”


return-to-modestyA RETURN TO MODESTY:
Discovering the Lost Virtue

by Wendy Shalit

Excerpt: “Modesty acknowledged [a woman's] special vulnerability, and protected it. It made women equal to men as women. Encouraged to act immodestly, a woman exposes her vulnerability and she then becomes, in fact, the weaker sex. A woman can argue that she is exactly the same as a man, she may deny having any special vulnerability, and act accordingly, but I cannot help noticing that she usually ends up exhibiting her feminine nature anyway, only this time in victimhood, not in strength.”

Note: Shalit’s follow-up book, Girls Gone Mild, is also a very enlightening read.


case-for-marriageTHE CASE FOR MARRIAGE:
Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially

by Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher

Excerpt: “[A]t the heart of the unacknowledged war on marriage is the attampt to demote marriage from a unique public commitment — supported by law, society, and custom — to a private relationship, terminable at will, which is nobody else’s business. This demolition is done in the name of choice, but as we shall see… reimagining marriage as a purely private relation doesn’t expand anyones’s choices. For what it ultimately takes away from individuals is marriage itself, the choice to enter that uniquely powerful and life-enhancing bond that is larger and more durable than the immediate, shifting feelings of two individuals.”


prudePRUDE:
How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too!)

by Carol Platt Liebau

Excerpt: “When a girl’s attention is directed primarily to her appearance, there’s less time for her to pursue other interests and develop other skills that can serve as sources of self-esteem. When she’s learned to garner male attention simply by displaying her body, it’s less likely that she’ll develop the other common qualities that are conducive to strong relationships and lasting happiness; indeed, a lifetime of focusing primarily on her own appearance in body — and automatically expecting men to do so as well — can make it difficult to form deep, lasting bonds with any man.”


So there they are: Five of my favorite books on feminism. (You’ll find four more of them here.) What are your favorite books for thinking through these issues? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below.


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Confessions of a “Weaker Vessel”

Well, I took a longer break from blogging than I intended, but my recent move was more labor intensive than I expected (primarily because I rejected my husband’s generous offers to hire movers to help us). I survived two major garage sales, countless trips to Goodwill, and what seemed like endless weeks of sorting, packing, and transferring what was left to our new house while cleaning, repairing, and repainting the old.

My family humored my desire to move everything ourselves, which allowed me to finish one room before starting the next. This method worked beautifully until our closing date was pushed up by two weeks and I found myself scrambling to empty all our closets and cupboards in time. Hence, the haphazard piles of boxes and overloaded laundry baskets stuffed into our garage, demanding my immediate, albeit divided, attention.

My goals-driven spouse has, for the most part, shown enormous patience with me throughout this entire process. Yet his expectations of me remain high: “Can you tighten all the doorknobs once you finish painting trim? Stay off the computer until we close. I want a box a day for Goodwill until the garage is empty.”

I’ve consequently found myself reflecting on 1 Peter 3:7 a lot lately: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker vessel….”

What does that mean, exactly — weaker vessel?

The past few months have certainly highlighted the fact that I am not as physically strong as my husband. While I carried my share of the smaller items, he and my older sons did all the heavy lifting. I merely cheered them on and told them where to put things. It required every ounce of their combined strength to carry massive desks, bookcases, and appliances up our winding staircase, and to plant our piano in its new resting place, as well.

But surely that phrase in 1 Peter refers to more than brute force.

My son David broke his leg earlier this year. He has since had to learn to “live in an understanding way”  with that injured limb, for the bone has been slow to heal and the muscle atrophied inside the cast. Yet David is not content to let it remain weak and useless for the rest of his life. So he works with it, attempting to rebuild that muscle and to slowly ease it back into service. He is careful not to require too much too soon, but he knows he must push with care and consistency if he hopes for the leg to ever be all it was meant to be.

Still, that analogy falls short, too, for I do not believe the verse means to imply that women are in some way broken or injured.

I once heard a speaker explain this passage by comparing his wife to a beautiful porcelain teacup. He said the verse calls husbands to treat their wives in the same way they might handle a fragile piece of china, gently and with honor. 

Yet the few pieces of fine china I own — wedding gifts from yesteryear — seldom get handled at all. Except for an occasional anniversary dinner, they stay safely tucked away in a china cabinet and forgotten. Does that mean my husband should put me on a high shelf and do his best to never upset or use or stress or break me? As appealing as such velvet-glove treatment may sound at times, is that really the life I want?

Unequivocally not. Although I’m normally pretty level-headed, I’ll admit there are times when my emotions get the best of me. For instance, I’ve never dealt particularly well with change, and the bigger the change, the more emotional I become.

At times like that, I am grateful that my no-nonsense husband holds me to a higher standard. He refuses to accept PMS or stress or bad days as an excuse for impatience and selfishness and sin. Instead, he encourages me to press forward, to pursue the high calling of Christ, to allow God to use life’s trials to conform me to His image. And that’s a good thing, because otherwise those volatile emotions might paralyze our entire family.

But I think the term “weaker vessel” references more than a fragile emotional state. Perhaps instead of getting hung up on the first word of that phrase, it would help to look at the second.

A vessel is a container, something used to hold or carry something else. There is a reason behind this word choice, and I believe it gives insight into the meaning of the verse, for what is it that a woman holds or transports? Does she not carry life itself? New life as it is being knit together in her womb, and sustenance with which to sustain and nourish that life after delivery? Isn’t “vessel” a fitting word for all that? It is our role as the bearer and nurturer of offspring that makes us most vulnerable and in need of special consideration.

This verse was never meant as a slam against our gender. It does not mean females are helpless, incapable, or inferior. Rather, the verse is a reminder to our husbands to be mindful of our need for consideration and protection.

That protection can take on different forms. Being considerate of fluctuating hormones is not the same thing as capitulating to them. Guarding your wife against overload does not mean giving her no responsibilities at all. I am grateful that my husband provides a strong shoulder for me to cry on when I need it. But I’m equally glad when he says, “Okay, Jennifer. That’s enough with the tears. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get back to work.”