Some Thoughts on Masculinity and Femininity

When we get beyond the many obvious physical differences between the sexes, and consider what is different about them internally, we know instinctively that there is something called “femininity” in women and “masculinity” in men. We may be tempted to think of these as two traits that explain the fundamental differences in male and female personalities. We may express these differences by saying, for example, “men are more rational and women are more emotional” or “Man is strength, and woman is beauty”. There is some truth in both of these maxims; but the whole truth is more complicated.

Neither are masculinity and femininity single traits, or even patterns of behavior. They involve perceptions, attitudes, inclinations, emotions, reactions that are partly products of their physical differences, and partly qualities that fit them for their respective callings. Rather, it is the whole personality type that differs between the sexes. A boy naturally develops a male personality type because he was born a male; and because he admires his father, and wants to be like him. This begins when he starts copying his father’s actions and words. He is not just playing when he uses a toy workbench and tools that his father gave him; he is becoming a man. The same is true of the female.

Because so much of the upbringing of children depends upon the behavior that they observe every day in the home; it is essential that both parents accept and act out the sex roles that God has assigned to each. It is also important that girls spend most of their time with their mothers and other women, in the home, learning the duties of a wife, mother and homemaker.  Boys should ideally (as they do in agricultural communities) spend most of their time with their fathers and other men, learning how men act and think and interact with each other, and also being trained to do the work their fathers do.

There must be different emphases in the training of boys and girls. For this reason (and others) schools should be segregated by sex. Girls must learn serenity, modesty, unselfishness and humility. These qualities are indispensable in a woman. They are the various facets of inner beauty. Boys must learn to be responsible, honest, courageous and diligent. These together form an inner strength. Children with these qualities (which can be developed early on) grow up to be persons of worth, capable of fulfilling their God given roles. They will also be attractive mates to the opposite sex, irrespective of their outward appearances.

But the differences between the sexes are not the only things that must be taken into account in the rearing of children. The Bible does not usually differentiate when it teaches the Christian virtues and way of life; because men and women are more alike than they are different.

If there is a single word that is descriptive of masculinity, it is this: men are workers. They are goal-oriented; and they are frustrated if they cannot see progress in their work. They are willing to work hard and make sacrifices if they can only achieve their goals. They tend to be easily bored with repetitive tasks that give them no sense of accomplishment.

Women, on the other hand, are nurturers. They care about needs, rather than goals. The endless round of unexciting tasks involved in being a homemaker, especially the care of young children, may wear her out; but they do not drive her crazy, as they would a man. She nurtures a vegetable garden, or a flower bed, or a tree just as truly as she does a child or an animal. A man would rather till and fence a garden plot, which gives him a sense of achievement; and then leave the daily care (other than the heavy work) to her.  This is not selfishness on his part, or a weak slavishness on hers: it is just the way we were made to be; complementary members of a family.  Each is made according to a master plan, by which he or she provides the strengths that the other lacks, so that each finds completeness in the other.

This is not to say that men are incapable of nurture, or that women never work with a goal in mind; only that there are these opposite tendencies which develop their personalities – naturally and predictably – in different directions.

The man who is conspicuously masculine and the woman who manifests a natural femininity will not only be appealing to others of both sexes; but they will be well able to fulfill their biblical, traditional sex roles, and find fulfillment in them.

Howard Douglas King

March 5, 2019