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May 30, 2008

When Men- and Women-Only IS Okay

Last month I posted a blog about my irritation over a fundraising auction item for "gentlemen" to golf at an all-male golf club. I appreciated all the wonderful, thoughtful responses (even the one saying that said God didn't create men and women "equal." Did men get more of the image of God? Yes, we're different - praise the Lord - but how can we not be equal?) But I digress?.

Over this past month, I've spent time digesting these comments, praying about the issue, and thinking through some possible reasons why an all-male golf club bothers me and yet I'm great with a doctor who only sees women patients delivering my babies. The title of my post asked, "Is Men- and Women-Only Ever Okay?" Of course, it was an over-the-top question, and I absolutely think men- and women-only are often okay - with some stipulations. So I came up with some "guidelines" or rationales for when gender-only events work and when they ought to happen. Feel free to let me know where I'm off-base or what I've missed, but here are four benefits of gender-exclusive events that make them "okay":

1.Privacy. We're talking bathrooms, locker room, changing rooms, this sort of thing. Though some universities and the like have tried the unisex thing here, I don't go for that. Come on; that's just gross.

2.Safety. When I was in college, I took an all-women's self-defense class. The professor didn't allow men because she wanted women to feel safe - particularly those who took the class because of a previous attack, but also for those who wouldn't feel as comfortable mock-fending off an attacker in a class full of men. And I tell you, I appreciated this when we had to pin each other down and learn to roll out of it and run. (But I'll also tell you that we were encouraged to practice this with our trusted big guy friends, which I did. This freaks them out - on many levels.)

3.Opportunity. Whether it's to play, learn, or voice something, sometimes being among our own gender provides opportunities for growth that mixed-gender experiences just don't offer, particularly for the younger set. At least, this is the argument I hear. And it can extend beyond that - to something like this blog. It's an opportunity for women in leadership to come together, share ideas, and connect in ways that otherwise didn't exist. Women in leadership - and in many things - have different experiences than men in leadership.

4. Community. Whether it's young mothers getting together to share stories and seek support or random women getting together to laugh, study the Bible, or, for instance, discuss leadership matters, same-gender fellowship bonds us. Women can understand women in ways that men just can't. Vice versa, I'm sure. And not to get into that whole When Harry Met Sally "Can men and women really ever be just friends" conversation that dominated the cafeteria my senior year of high school, but let's face it, same-sex friendships tend to be the least, let's say, complicated. For the most part, we need fewer boundaries, and I think that leads to increased community.

Of course looking over the list it looks like I just made a case for why the golf club that set this all off should or can exclude women. I mean, isn't the literal "old boys" club simply offering privacy, safety (though from what I'm not sure?), opportunity, and community? Yes, you can argue that. But I think there's something else is going on. Maybe it's just because I know that the club in question not too long ago excluded African-Americans, Jews, and Hispanics (and may still, actually). Maybe that's what makes me suspect hate, fear, and stereotypes are behind the decision to bar women - just as they were the driving force to keep out others.

Maybe it's because even though my MOPS group may be for Mothers of Preschoolers, no guard stands at the door of our fellowship hall barring fathers from walking in - or from speaking to us - as they do at the club. Maybe it's because at places like Gifted For Leadership, we welcome and encourage male voices here, even as we serve women leaders.

But it's not to say that men are the only guilty party here. Especially as women gather to bond and unite and discuss, it's easy to fall into a mindset that "others" don't understand or have nothing to contribute. Plenty of women's groups have employed the same fear, hate, and stereotypes that have kept so many sidelined throughout history. We all need to remember that God created men and women to tend that garden and bear his image - together.

Anyway, those are my further thoughts. Yours?.?

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I think having mens and ladies things are a great idea. Then they can be blokes and we can be chicks without feeling inhibited. Sometimes us ladies to tend to take over and the men sit back. So for them to have their own group is great. There are times when we also need to do things together to give us all a balance in life. So lets support one another and encourage each other to be the best man or woman that God intends for us to be!

Get over it. If the mem want some time together, let them have it. they ar not talkers, they are physical. Let them bond playing golf. You can play golf, too, but let them have their own time. They don't get enough time together, anyway. I do lots with my sisters and church women, and coworkers, and sometimes men show up, but not usually. Hubbies! God love them.

Interesting article. There are times when a womens-only or mens-only group is great. I've gone to many womens groups at my church and have enjoyed them, but to be honest, sometimes they can be a bit shallow. My church offers many Bible studies made up of both men and women, and I've found them to be much richer than single sex studies. There's a really good dynamic when you mix women and men together because we have so much we can learn from each other.

I'm coming in a little late here, but just want to make an observation. I went back and read your previous blog and was surprised at the depth of your feelings and anger.

To look at the surface question here, I think you have answered it already. There are times when community of same-gender is very appropriate. I doubt if women would appreciate or want men sharing their prize of "a day at a spa".

I heard a Christian psychologist once explain that often when you react with deep anger to a situation, the anger is like an iceberg. The anger is what is evident above the water line; however, the rest of the huge iceberg hidden below the surface often goes deep into our roots and the hurts of childhood.

I know this is true in my own life. I react with anger whenever my opinion is not valued. I come from a family where a woman was not valued, or considered worth educating. The hurt is deep and the anger is a symptom. I've forgiven and God is working in my life, but it is a symptom that raises its ugly head at times. When I feel this deep anger rising, I need to examine the true source.

'just something to think about.

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