Women Fighting, and Men Doing Little About it

Women Fighting, and Men Doing Little About it November 12, 2009

lailaaliI have been shocked of late to find two videos showing women enacting brutality against one another. Femininity is a contested sphere nowadays, both literally and figuratively.

First, I came across a video of a recent fight between women in a mall food court. A massive crowd watches the awful scene before two men–including basketball coaches Tim Floyd and Henry Bibby–gingerly break it up. Second, I watched in horror as college women’s soccer players battered one another, with one young woman outright attacking her opponents (the footage is gruesome, I warn you).

In previous days, you might have seen Laila Ali (in picture from BoxNews) battering another woman into submission. There is a common thread, I think, between both informal and formal female brutality. As femininity suffers in our professedly “gender-neutral” society, women adopt the habits of men, including their propensity for violence and aggression. The two fights listed above show examples of women acting in shocking and traditionally masculine ways. In neither instances is this development positive.

In a way that most people, and that includes many Christians, don’t think about, contact-oriented sports teach and encourage women to engage in typically masculine behavior. As researchers, following the scent of common sense, have found, women’s bodies cannot sustain the same level of contact as those of men (see Michael Sokolove’s Warrior Girls for much more on this point).

The Western tradition shows that people have for centuries recognized the body differences and role distinctions between men and women. Women have rarely fought on battlefields, for example. Now, our modern instincts teach us to be biased against that point (simply because it’s the overwhelmingly historic position), but it stands nonetheless.

Thanks to Title IX and other factors, women today regularly engage in contact sports–basketball, soccer, football, wrestling, and more. These endeavors encourage women to be less feminine and more masculine, a mindset that is bleeding over into the broader culture. As women attack one another, groveling on the ground, punching one another in the face, men do nothing. Or, maybe after a while, they wade into the conflict, hesitatingly breaking it up, fearful of being branded “macho”.

We’re in a bad situation today. Men are weak, hesitant, unsure of themselves, depressed, dragging through life, dropping out of school, abdicating their authority, letting their children run wild, barely raising their voice above a whisper. Meanwhile, women run themselves ragged, get into fights, struggle to both provide for the family and run the home, and grow frustrated with the shadow men they everywhere encounter.

Christian men, we need to wake up. We need to show the world what manhood looks like. We need to reclaim ourselves. We need to lift our voices, get off the couch, take a strong and stern lead in the discipline of our children, work ourselves hard to provide for our families, teach our girls to treasure their God-given femininity, teach our boys what it means to be robustly masculine, serve in the church, and generally live for the Lord. We need to be those who deploy our manhood for the good of women.

Femininity is a gentle, fragile thing. It is a precious thing. It must be guarded and preserved. It is inherent to a woman. You can’t put a girl into all of the same activities as a boy and expect that she’ll still possess her full femininity. If you do so, you will compromise aspects of her God-given womanhood.

Women do not need to weak or willowy. But neither should they be vicious and manly. We are teaching our daughters the wrong lessons today. One that we must consider is sports and general decorum. For the glory of God, girls should look and act differently than boys. For the glory of God, parents should teach girls to treasure and preserve their womanhood.

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  • Bishop

    Good article, although it seems that you may be advocating that it is inappropriate for women to play sports at all. Is that your position? Or do you think it is possible for a girl to compete in contact sports while maintaining their femininity?

    That being said, here is a link to a news story about one of the girl’s state championship soccer matches in Rhode Island on 11/8/2009.


    I’m not sure which is worse, the fight or the coach seemingly justifying her players’ actions.

  • Jennifer DuBois

    I very much hold to a complementarian view of genders and am enjoying immensely the task of seeking out how that means I am to live. I was, however, quite put off by this post. I think you may not draw as clear of a line as perhaps you should between what is and what should be. I little think that the definition of femininity portrayed in Proverbs 31 or so many of the godly women in the Bible are “fragile”–gentle, yes, but definitely not fragile. Also, I think the sentence that says “But neither should they vicious and manly” is fairly telling as well. I don’t think men should be vicious either. While I agree overall that there is a growing blur between the traditionally-recognized and biblically-ordained genders, there are several statements in this that seem to represent a very superficial understanding of those differences, and I doubt that your understanding is as superficial as it appears here. I mean this not as mere criticism but as a challenge to be perhaps more careful with your words.

  • E.G.

    Thanks, Jennifer. Those two comments (fragile women… implication that men should be vicious) caught me by surprise too.

    In the former case (fragility) there is no Biblical backing for that, nor is there backing in life.

    In the latter, I am hoping that it is just a poor choice of wording by the author.

  • Nathan

    On Christian conservative blogs like the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Challies, Desiring God, Mark Driscoll’s blog, here, etc., I notice the touted gender traits come from the writer’s own experience with his own traits and what the writer assumes from his own American Christian culture what manhood and womanhood looks like. Please realize that I am talking about gender traits and not gender roles. Also, I am not necessarily referring to the interaction of males to females.

    Men and women have and express both male and female traits because male and female created He them. To you, I am somehow wrong because I am not a man like you are a man -or- someone isn’t a proper woman because she isn’t the way that you think women should be. God had every chance to outline gender traits the way that is enforced in churches today, but He has left your rules unsaid. It seems to me that the rules for manhood and womanhood are your own extension of the Bible references you use.

    You say that God created two separate and distinct genders, each with their own set of character traits. But what we see in life sometimes, are people that are neither of these two distinct genders. For some reason, as God fearfully and wonderfully knit these people together, He saw fit to do something different than the way that you structure the world. Why?

  • Ron

    This is one of the poorest blog posts I have ever read. And that’s sayin’ something.

  • owenstrachan

    Hi all. Appreciate the stimulating and vigorous feedback.

    Just to clarify, I don’t say that women are fragile, but rather that femininity is. The two are quite different, and if not reading closely, could be conflated. I would say that manhood is also fragile. By this I mean that gender roles are easily confused, quickly lost, hard to embody. It is easy to stray from the Scripture’s portrait of either manhood or womanhood.

    I also don’t think that men should be vicious. I said, as you can see above, that women should not be “vicious and manly”. This could mean that I’m linking the two; it also could mean that they are separate attributes. This is what I meant; it’s a reasonable construction.

    In addition, I take pains to point out that I’m not talking about all sports, but high-contact sports. Read the article over again, and see if that’s so.

    E. G., women being the “weaker vessel” would seem to suggest a difference between the genders, though I did not say that women are fragile, but “femininity”. It’s really important to pick up these distinctions, however subtle they may be.

    Nathan, you raise an interesting subject. Let me push you a bit, however. Do we only speak about gender on matters that the Scripture explicitly covers? I would say no (perhaps you would say yes). We are required to take scriptural principles and apply them wisely to life. To not do so would be folly. It would mean that we would give, and give, and give some more to the culture, only speaking up on this or any other matter where we had explicit textual warrant. We avoid this major error in all kinds of ways by seeking to apply the Scripture to our eras, whether on questions of technology, sexuality, the modern academy, sports, or countless other subjects.

    On this same point, it is without doubt that women and children in ancient Israel did not normally go to war. We must ask, then, whether this reality teaches us something deeper, something permanent, about gender. I would say that it does. In that case, then the Scripture does speak to this matter, if it requires us to think hard and well in our efforts to apply it.

    On another note, the presence of trans-gendered people in our world does not legitimize trans-gender as a status. There are homosexuals in our world, but this does not legitimize homosexuality, to give just one example.

    In closing, women can play sports and maintain their femininity. Women can play high-contact sports and maintain their femininity. But it is my assertion that doing the latter can often make it very difficult for this to happen. I would challenge all folks who read this post (and others like it) and initially dislike it to read Sokolove’s book (cited above with a link). Even those most indoctrinated by so-called gender neutrality will find it hard to resist the conclusion that there are essential physical differences between the sexes that cannot be ignored, not least because of the glory of God at stake and the physical wellbeing of women. The silent reality here is that many folks who argue strongly against my position do not often know that women suffer frightening levels of serious injury in high-contact sports, data that must not go unstudied.

    So even if you disagree ardently with me, even if you hate this post, read that book. Be a free-thinker.

    Thanks to all who responded thoughtfully and with argumentation, whether you and I agree or disagree.

  • Nathan

    Thanks for the reply.

    I have just a few quick points to make:

    1. You take a scriptural principle of ancient women not going to war to mean something hard and fast about traits that males and females should have and if they don’t they are denying some kind of Biblical/creational mandate. I’m wondering what you do with the explicit mandate of greeting fellow believers with an holy kiss. Do you obey this command? Does it rub your cultural manliness the wrong way? It can’t grate on your Biblical manliness because God wouldn’t command you to do something against that, would He?

    It is my experience that people tend to pick and choose what they consider mandates versus cultural expressions not intended for every era based on their own comfort zone.

    2. I was referring to neither homosexual nor transgendered people when I said that God has created people that don’t fit into your neat definitions. These people are inter-sexed. They have extra chromosomes. They are physically neither only male nor only female. How do these people fit into “male and female created He them?” I’m not necessarily referring to physical interactions, but more the gender traits you say a person should have based on their sex. Should they strive to be a Proverbs 31 woman, or a stalwart leading man? What kind of clothes should they wear? Should they grow their hair long for their glory, or cut it because it’s shameful to have long hair?

    3. You referred to essential physical differences between men and women. I agree that most people of a certain sex will have a certain characteristic that most of the people of the other sex do not. But there is overlap. Some men do not display, because they were NOT GIVEN, the manly traits that you say men should have. There are femmy guys out there who are femmy because that’s the way God made them. You’re not going to be able to butch them up. Their hormone exposure is different than yours and you should just deal with it. (And yes, hormone levels do affect how one presents oneself and interacts with the world — just look at people who take hormones.) I am not saying that these differences allow for homosex because God has explicitly forbidden that…

    Sorry, but I don’t have time to read the book you suggested although it would be neat to read and discuss it with you…

  • I completely agree with this article. I have broken up fights between women, and I can tell you it’s a very unpleasant thing. Women destroy themselves when they fight.
    I also agree with you that femininity is a fragile thing. I would even go so far as to say that women are fragile, too. Not all women are fragile in the same ways, but there is still a quality of fragility around the whole female persona that needs to be respected. If women are not fragile, then why do I see so many broken women?

  • Stephen

    The post includes an apparent contradiction: “Femininity…is inherent to a woman. You can’t put a girl into all of the same activities as a boy and expect that she’ll still possess her full femininity. If you do so, you will compromise aspects of her God-given womanhood.” So is femininity nature or nurture?

    I was disturbed by the implicit agreement with the hard-left dogma that gender is a social construct that can be dismantled given for the proper conditions.