*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Reflections on gender complementarity

by
10 May 2013

iStock

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 women".

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 self-evident truths.

MARTIN JEWITT
12 Abbott Road, Folkestone
Kent CT20 1NG

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear alongside your letter.

The Church Times Podcast

Interviews and news analysis from the Church Times team. Listen to this week’s episode online

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)