by William E. Mouser

Is There a Difference?

In 1970, in her book Sexual Politics, Kate Millet declared “the sexes are inherently in everything alike.”[1] A few months later, Germain Greer, in The Female Eunuch, agreed: “the ‘normal’ sex roles that we learn to play from infancy are no less natural than the antics of the transvestite.”[2]

Though these ideas were considered revolutionary in 1970, the idea that men and women are essentially identical is now commonly and uncritically accepted by ordinary people, even if they do not embrace it themselves. The glaring differences between the sexes—not only sexually, but also hormonally, neurologically, and psychologically—continue to plague feminist researchers who look unsuccessfully for hard scientific data to validate feminist dogma. No matter—if someone says “men are like this, and women are like that,” someone else will interrupt with a “But, …”

Casual debates about these ideas quickly migrate to examples and counter—examples of whatever trait is supposed to characterize men or women. “My husband is a moody artist and I am a civil engineer,” one woman says. Or, a man will pipe up with “I’m the people person in my family. My wife is a real loner.” Exceptions to observable traits commonly found in one sex but less so in the other – such exceptions are certainly real, and they raise the question whether the commonly observed traits which supposedly characterize each sex are anything more than socially conditioned behavior.

In the following discussion, we see that crosstypes are a natural and expected phenomenon which arises from underlying norms for each sex. The Bible’s model for sexuality is not only compatible with crosstypes, it actually predicts them.

Defining Terms

Three terms in particular are important in the following discussion: archetype, stereotype, and crosstype.

Archetype: An archetype is an original pattern or model for things of the same type. In psychology (particularly the psychology of Carl Jung), the term archetype acquires a very technical sense when it refers to a concept in Jung’s theory of personality. However, the word archetype in the more general sense (which predates Jung’s use of the word) names those persons or things which “set the pace” for all similar things.

For example, from the 1950s through the 1970s, the actor John Wayne, through the crusty cowboy characters he portrayed, was widely recognized as an archetype of American masculinity. As such, the “John Wayne kind of man” cast his shadow on hundreds of subsequent film and television characters. John Wayne influenced portrayals of men in advertising (e.g. the Marlboro Man), and millions of American men found Wayne to be a reference point for analyzing and evaluating their own masculinity and the masculinity of other men.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the “John Wayne kind of man” became a favorite target of feminists in their efforts to attack specific sexual archetypes which they viewed as hostile to women. If feminists could make that kind of masculinity look incredible, comical, or disreputable, they could advance their own political and cultural agenda.

Stereotype: A stereotype “works” like an archetype, because it expresses a pattern or model for something, especially for an idea accepted by a large group. However, a stereotype differs from an archetype, because stereotypes frequently limit other models.

If “the John Wayne kind of man” is only one of several reference points for evaluating modern American masculinity, John Wayne’s cowboy character would serve as an archetype. If, however, “the John Wayne kind of man” were accepted as the only (or almost only) authentic style of masculinity, then it would be a stereotype. Stereotypes are not so much “wrong” as they are “incomplete” or “insufficient” for some purposes. A stereotype is “right” in the same way a cartoon is right—it portrays a subject efficiently, with very few strokes. A stereotype is “wrong” in the same way a cartoon is wrong—it omits most details and nuances in order to simplify its subject. A stick figure is an accurate picture of a man, as far as it goes; but it doesn’t go very far. If we were aliens from Planet Zog and all we knew about a species living on Earth is what can be known from a stick figure, we would be unable to recognize a fat man as a man. Or we might wonder if a man with one arm were still a man.

Crosstype: A crosstype is not a “type” at all, in the sense that an archetype or a stereotype is. Gender archetypes and stereotypes can usually be described with a list of characteristics or traits. If, however, enough of the defining characteristics are missing in a person, or if someone displays an important or obvious trait usually found in the opposite sex, then we have a crosstype.

Physical characteristics give us simple examples of gender crosstypes. A man who is very short and slender, with narrow shoulders, small bones, and a shallow, hairless chest will present us with a crosstype of adult physical masculinity. A 6-foot 4-inch woman, weighing 275 pounds, with broad shoulders and thick, muscular biceps would present us a crosstype of physical femininity. Marry such a man to such a woman and most people will judge the result to be comical. If we consider psychology or personality in gender types, the examples of crosstypes multiply. Men who are extravagantly empathetic in their speech and preoccupied with social relationships diverge from the masculine stereotype of taciturnity and emotional detachment. A woman whose talents are highly analytical and mathematical and who earns a living as an engineer designing commercial aircraft diverges from the feminine stereotype of a domestic lifegiver who focuses on people.

From these very simple examples, we see that crosstypes are common and diverse, and that they have always been so, long before the sexual revolution of the mid-Twentieth Century. So, is it possible to say anything about men or women which sounds like a “definition” or a categorical description?

Consider the statement “Men are more aggressive than women.” If we deny this statement, we are mistaken. But, how do we to account for the timid men or the aggressive women who do not fit this general pattern? Stephen Clark gives us an answer:

… evidence indicates that men are more aggressive than women. However, this is a generalization. The actual results of testing a representative sample of men and women for aggressiveness looks something like an overlapping double bell-shaped curve on a graph (see illustration). The overall distribution of the curves shows men higher on aggression. Some women would be more aggressive than most of the men, but men appear in greater proportions at increasingly higher levels of aggression.[3]

When we understand the idea “men are more aggressive than women” in this way, several things result. First , this meaning predicts crosstypes. Even though men are more aggressive than women, there will be some men who are less aggressive than most women, and there will be some women who are more aggressive than most men. The same thing happens when we consider any other characteristic typical of men or women, whether they are physical traits (height, weight, body strength, longevity) or psychological ones (empathy, detachment, intuition). To say that one sex exhibits the trait more than the other is to say something like Stephen Clark has described above.

To sum up: when we discuss specific crosstypes below, we must keep the following ideas in mind:

  • Male and female name basic sexual categories established by God through His creative acts. Sexuality is not “a position on the dial.” Our gender is not a relative factor on a sliding scale. Actual data from the broad testimony of the world and history validate the reality of sexual distinctions.
  • Sexuality is also a matter of obedience to God’s commands. Some of our created sexuality is “hard-wired” into us because we are created as either male or female. But, our sexuality is not only something to be, it is it is something to do. Failure to obey God’s sexual commands warps the gender norms in individuals and societies alike, but it does not erase the original design of God’s creation or the moral/ethical characteristics of either sex wich He has commanded in the Law.
  • Within the created order, humans display an almost unlimited variation in the complex of their individual personalities, aptitudes, and talents. This arises because of the flexibility of God’s design. What is good in this diversity should never be repressed or ignored. However, that diversity operates within standards arising from God’s design and God’s Law. Christians believe in form and freedom, and they may live with great freedom within the forms of God’s creation and within the boundaries of God’s law.

Specific Kinds of Crosstypes

With this background, let us now examine several instances of crosstype. Below are the more common kinds.

Off-Scale Crosstype

The easiest crosstype to understand is the “off-scale” crosstype. Consider a man 5 feet 5 inches tall. For a man, this is short, though not unusually short. It is on the short end of a range of heights considered normal for men. Many women are taller than this, and many more are the same height or shorter. If, however, a man were only 5 feet tall, he would be a crosstype, as far as masculine height is concerned – a cross-type because women are shorter than men (meaning, of course, that most women are shorter than most men).

Apparent crosstypes

Sometimes, a person will appear to be a crosstype, when he or she is paired with the opposite sex, and each of them sits near the end of the scale for a gender-trait. Consider, again, a 5 foot five inch man married to a 5 foot 10 inch woman. Neither person falls outside the range for “ordinary” height for their sex. But, as a married couple, they present a visible example of crosstype as far as body height is concerned. Obviously, the heights of any specific man-woman pair implies nothing about the truth of the statement “men are taller than women.” Such a statement makes sense only when understood to refer to representative samples of men and women.

This “apparent crosstype” can also arise when people of different cultures are paired with one another. Consider, for example, a stereotypical Italian man who is emotionally expressive. Within ordinary Italian culture, his expressiveness would not draw any special attention with respect to his sex.

However, suppose this same marries a stereotypically taciturn Finnish woman, who is very reserved and who masks her emotions from everyone. The results will make each of them look like a crosstype to many people, who think (correctly) that men are less expressive than women. The Finnish woman within Italian culture, or the Italian man within Finnish culture, would both appear to be a crosstype when evaluated within hte cultural framework that is foreign to either of them. When they are paired in marriage, the differences are exaggerated even more.

If a husband and wife come from different backgrounds within the same culture, they might still be misidentified as an example of crosstype. A farm girl might be more comfortable working with cows and horses than her city-bred husband. This does not make her mannish; nor is her husband a sissy because he knows nothing of animal husbandry. These differences between men and women are some of factors affecting our choices of whom to marry. In this example, there is no crosstype at all, at least not in the area of the spouses’ backgrounds. However, uncritical observers might mistake the mismatch in their backgrounds as an example of crosstype.

It is no accident that people typically marry others with whom they share cultural, denominational, socio-economic, educational, and professional common ground. Marriage is a partnership. A couple that enters marriage with much ground in common will – all other factors considered equal for the moment – be more “efficient” in their partnership than a couple that has little common ground. Some couples create much marital work for themselves by piling up too many mismatches in areas that are not primarily sexual. But, such mismatches are not the same thing as gender crosstypes.

These examples highlight the need to consider context when identifying crosstypes. Tutsi women are taller than pygmy men, but this does not invalidate the gender norm that men are taller than women. In a similar way, many alleged crosstypes are only apparent crosstypes. Careful consideration shows that some factor other than crosstype is at work.

Normalcy Misidentified as Crosstype

In societies where gender archetypes have evolved into stereotypes, a person might be seen as a crosstype when he is nothing of the sort. Fallen human societies tend to turn legitimate sexual archetypes into stereotypes which are always more narrow than God’s actual creation.

For example, if a boy likes to compose music or to cook, he might be considered a sissy in some circles. He would be thought a sissy only because that society’s ideas of masculinity is impoverished. But, according to the Bible, men have the responsibility to lead the worshiping community in song and instrumental music. David was Israel’s foremost composer and poet. His son Solomon composed over a thousand songs and penned some of the most difficult and beautiful poetry in the Old Testament.

Some pockets of American culture are deficient in masculine archetypes which include the arts, possibly because American culture at large is still so powerfully influenced by manhood models which originated in the frontier, where there was little need or opportunity for fine art. Much older cultures (as in Europe, for example) contain archetypes of masculinity which include all variety of artistic expression.

The normal interplay and interdependence of the sexes might suggest a crosstype where there is none. Mary of Bethany possessed an understanding of the Gospel that surpassed all the apostles. A modern evangelical feminist would urge that Mary should have been made an apostle, or even the head apostle, when we compare Mary’s insight with Peter’s slowness to understand.

Jesus did not do this. Instead He defended Mary in a chivalrous manner from the slander of a wicked man (Judas). To honor her, Jesus did not give her a man’s job, He gave her a woman’s reward—recognition in the public domains of the world for her feminine act of worship in the private domain of a home. To see Mary as a leader in a conventional masculine sense because she was “leading” in a conventional feminine way is to see crosstype where it did not exist. She was moving history as women usually do—with their insight and responsiveness.

Compensating Crosstypes

In pressing circumstances, a man or a woman may develop traits which are more at home with the opposite sex. If a man’s wife should die, for example, he might find himself driven to more “mothering” activities toward his children than he might have done otherwise. This does not prove that a man is a good substitute for a mother! But, a man in such circumstances might easily develop some crosstypical traits and talents. A woman whose husband dies, or whose husband is incapacitated through an accident, might find herself shouldering all sorts of financial and leadership responsibilities in her family. The resiliency of the human soul allows for these kinds of things, without violating any of God’s fundamental gender boundaries.

Deliberate Crosstypes

Deliberate crosstype occurs when someone rejects sexual norms and standards and adopts behavior or roles peculiar to the opposite sex. This crosstype is different from the compensating crosstype referred to above. In compensation, a person performs tasks typically done by the opposite sex; however, he will not utterly abandon the special characteristics typical of his own sex.

Compensating crosstype behavior is usually viewed as a “second-best” solution to some need that cannot be met in conventional ways. Deliberate crosstype, on the other hand, happens with no compelling need or by a deliberate choice against convention or nature. For this reason, deliberate crosstypes are often foolish and frequently sinful.

The surgical alteration of a human body in order to transform it into the opposite sex is a glaring example of a foolish and sinful crosstype. Though this behavior gets a lot of publicity, it is relatively rare. Far more common are crosstype choices which are less expensive and less difficult to make—such as homosexual behavior or transvestitism. Both these practices are explicitly prohibited in God’s law (Lev. 18:22; Deut. 22:5).

In the current political climate, the campaign to legitimize homosexual activity is making steady and accelerating headway. However, several other gender defining roles or tasks in our society have already been erased in the name of sexual equality. Most involve the adoption of previously masculine roles and tasks by women—such as military combat roles and professions which deploy strength, stamina, or emotional disengagement (e.g. fire-fighting, police work). Conversely, many women after the 1960s have abandoned the domestic arena in order to compete against men in the workplace.

One of the most tragic and unjust examples of deliberate crosstyping is imposed on children by adults who seek to erase gender distinctions between boys and girls. Parents who seek to blur sexual categories in their children, and school authorities who impose supposedly gender-neutral social values on students, are producing something never before seen in history—successive generations of psychologically emasculated men and masculinized women. The goal is supposed to be equity and justice for all. The result is ever increasing economic inefficiency, social disorder, and costly suffering by men and women alike.

Finally, societal sin can set in motion dynamics which impose crosstypical behavior on whole classes of men and women. Promiscuity, divorce, and men’s abandonment of financial responsibility toward family and women’s abandonment of the home as a key sphere of their influence on society—all these things contribute to a burgeoning population of young men with no fathers. Such men lack modeling and bonding from a mature and healthy masculinity, and so they enter male adulthood stunted or warped.

Feminism, for all its disclaimers, scorns domesticity and pushes girls in the direction of competition with men, seriously hampering their development of relational skills which men need from them to function effectively as men. Now, as at the beginning, it is not good for the man to be alone. He needs the woman as a helper, especially suited to him. By emphasizing competition with men as a key social and economic value, feminism strikes at the heart of God’s design for the sexes.

Crosstypes Validate Sexual Norms

Feminists sometimes complain that any general statement about men and women denies human variability. Quite the contrary is true.

First of all, dozens of diverse characteristics distinguish men from women. Authentic manhood and womanhood display amazing variety and diversity, and yet that diversity does not erase the truth that men and women are distinguishable from one another.

If we consider a species of plant or animal, we will find tremendous variety within it. Dogs, for example, vary dramatically in all manner of physical and temperamental characteristics. But, for all their differences and variety, they remain dogs and are distinguishable from cats or cows. Roses come in myriad sizes, colors, and shapes of blooms; but, they are distinguishable from peonies and pansies.

Men and women, of course, are distinguishable at the level of genetics. And the genetic differentiation within mankind extends to more than genes. Sex affects the morphology, endocrinology, neurology, psychology, and sociology of whole populations of men and women. In all these areas, men and women differ from one another and resemble those of their own sex in patterns which can be observed, described, cataloged, and applied to the analysis of masculinity and femininity of individual persons.

Crosstypes, in fact, cannot even be identified and discussed apart from an over-arching framework of sexual norms. Instead of invalidating sexual categories, crosstypes are a powerful validation of them. What students of human nature have known for centuries is grounded in God’s original creation of mankind as male and female. “Have you not read, that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female?” (Matt. 19:4).

God’s original creation of mankind as male and female set up objective and abiding differences between men and women as far as their gender is concerned. Some of these differences are hard-wired, so to speak. Other differences, even though built-in, are subject to modification, alternation, or perversion by the specific choices which men and women make. Taking all these factors together, the Bible’s model for sexuality is not threatened by the existence of crosstypes. Indeed, it is only by recourse to the Bible’s model for sexuality that we can give an adequate explanation for the crosstypes everyone can see.

1 Kate Millet, Sexual Politics, (Ballantine, 1970), p.31

2 Germain Greer, The Female Eunuch, (Bantam Books, 1970), p.21

3 Stephen B. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ, (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant Books, 1980), p. 375





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