From the Revd Martin Jewitt
Sir, - I read the Very Revd Dr Jane Shaw's article on sexual
difference and gender complementarity (Comment, 26 April) with
interest. Clearly, it is true that these concepts have been "imbued
with political ideology from the beginning" and "have always been
specific to context, and always will be".
In those observations, she retreats somewhat from her
overstatements that these are "modern concepts, emerging in
particular political and social circumstances in the West".
There is an arrogance in the tone of this article in its appeal
to "real education" (calling into question the education of those
who disagree) and what "historians of medicine have convincingly
shown" (over-confidence in scientific evidence that may well be
scientifically challenged). This reflects the arrogance that is
pervading the difficult and sensitive debates about sexuality in
process at the moment.
Dr Shaw does concede that there are some senses in which "sexual
difference is true," but the article deals only with the ways in
which this truth has been misused. It has to be true, at least
biologically. Psychologically, the most important time of our lives
for our survival is when our future depends on our mothers'
carrying us in their wombs, and this must surely make an enormous
diffence to how women understand the gift of life.
So, how do we deal with difference in relations between men and
women, both generally and intimately? We either quarrel or we
complement one another.
"Gender complementarity" may be a phrase that "our ancestors
would barely have recognised", but I fail to believe that there is
any human culture in which it has not been a factor in some way.
Yes, it does appear in the Hebrew scriptures, not only in Genesis
2, but also in Genesis 1. When I have preached about it, it has not
been to "blend it with old ideas about the subordination of
I am sure Dr Shaw is right in suggesting that "we need a history
of marriage" in order to understand the abuses throughout history
which have degraded women and corrupted men, and how the truths of
sexual difference and gender complementarity have been misused to
further those abuses; but let us not invent new myths that deny
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