Is There a Difference?
There’s some confusion about what it means to be a human versus what it means to be a woman. Are those the same reality or different realities? How do they overlap? I like to think of it a like a Venn diagram.
Think of a circle that encompasses being a woman and a circle that encompasses being a man. There are some similarities there, so some parts of the circles are going to overlap and then some parts won't overlap. What title would you put on that whole diagram? You would call it humanity because humanity encompasses both those who were created male and those who were created female.
Womanhood isn’t a role that we play and then we go back to being who we really are.
Both All Human
What we don’t have is a third circle that says this is what humanity is and so humanity is something different than being a woman. No, everything about being a woman—whether it’s the distinctive part or the part similar to being a man—is all human. All of it. Everything about being a man—the distinctive part and the part similar to being a woman—it’s all human.
So, what we can’t do as women is transcend being a woman in order to be a human. You might hear someone say, I just want someone to stop treating me like a woman and treat me like a person. I think what they mean by that is something really valid: I want you to see me as something fuller than what you’re seeing me as. They’re probably being demeaned in some way and they’re saying, Could you see all of me?
But where that type of language gets us in trouble is that it implies that there’s a different category than woman, implying that if we can just get into the human category then we’ll have value.
But the Bible says that we are made male and female, and being a woman is completely valuable. Every part of it is human and valuable—not just the part that’s overlapping with being a man and not just the part that’s distinct from being a man. All of it.
One piece of unhelpful language that the church has sometimes adopted is to say that being a woman is a “role” that we have, but it depends on what we mean by “role.” I usually think of a role as sort of a hat we wear at different times. So I might go do one thing—maybe I’m a teacher—and that’s a role that I have, then I’ll come over here and be who I am all the time: Abigail. But that’s not a helpful way to think about womanhood. Womanhood isn’t a role that we play and then we go back to being who we really are. Being a woman is who we are all the time in every cell of our body—not just the cells of our body that are distinctive to women.
We don’t just have female body parts and then gender-neutral body parts. Every cell has the XX chromosome. Every part of us is a woman and that’s good. If we can see that as good, then we won’t talk about being a woman in a demeaning way that makes us feel we need to rise above it. We’ll be able to see that there are beautiful things about that reality that overlap with men and that are distinct from men—and see all it as a good gift.
- The Common Calling of All Women (Abigail Dodds)
- Why Should We Disciple Younger Women? (Abigail Dodds)