We’ve all heard the trope that men need respect while women need love.
And as we pointed out in a podcast on the problems with unconditional respect, the whole foundation for the “men need respect while women primarily need love” is based on a survey by Shaunti Feldhahn that she published in For Women Only, which Emerson Eggerichs references as support. That survey was highly problematic, but most importantly, they only asked men (when other researchers asked women the same question, women also chose respect).
This week, in our Patreon group, a reader gave another perspective that I felt was so interesting I wanted to share it.
For those of you who may not know, we have a Patreon that supports our research and knowledge dissemination. The money doesn’t go to me or the blog; they’re self-sufficient. They go to fund the things we can’t monetize, including Joanna (my co-author for The Great Sex Rescue) working to get our research in peer-reviewed journals, and Rebecca working on new social media channels that I have no way of monetizing.
When you become a supporter for even $5 a month, you get access to the Facebook group. And we have other perks, like unfiltered podcasts where Rebecca (and sometimes me) say what we really think; and merchandise; and autographed books; and more.
Anyway, in that group, a member wrote this:
I’ve been doing a lot of hard thinking. I’ve come to a conclusion.
It doesn’t even matter if Shaunti Feldhahn’s survey was performed properly, up to standard or not. It doesn’t even matter that she ignored the [survey expert]’s warning that her conclusions were invalid.
Suppose I took a survey. I ask 1,000 employees of Walmart, Target, or some other huge corporation, half black, half white. I ask black employees if they have a need to feel respected by their white co-workers, and ask white employees if they have a need to feel respected by their black co-workers.
Let’s say my results are:
- 80% of white employees need to feel respected by their black co-workers.
- 25% of black employees need to feel respected by their white co-workers.
Have I solved the problem of race relations?
Do I write a book telling black people that of course everyone needs to feel respected but white people really need it more? Do I start a massive industry, going around the country, speaking at corporate events, giving trainings to black and white people so they can learn to get along better at work by making sure black people show respect to white people? Because white people need it more and they haven’t been receiving it?
Of course not. We KNOW this would be utterly ridiculous and HARMFUL.
Many years ago, I taught at an inner city school, 98% black students, vast majority living below the US poverty line.
I think I learned more from them than they learned from me. If I had asked them if they needed the respect of the teaching staff (mostly white), they would’ve said, “hell no.” They were focused on avoiding peer humiliation (it was middle school), friendships, and safety. Does that mean they didn’t need my respect? Deserve my respect? Absolutely not. Even more, I NEEDED TO RESPECT THEM FOR MYSELF. I cannot bear to think what it would have done to me if I had believed that they didn’t need my respect as much as I needed respect from them. It was absolutely essential to the well being of my soul to know that those students NEEDED my respect far more than I needed theirs.
To say that an entire group of people (black teens and pre-teens) didn’t need respect as much as I did, that would have been a cancer inside of me.
And I’m terrified for the people who believe that half the planet doesn’t need respect as much as they do (men who believe the love & respect dichotomy).
Of course, it does matter that Shaunti Feldhahn’s survey was done to high school standards. Of course we should expect more from a professional book, published by a respected publishing company with funds to edit and fact check. Of course we should expect more from Focus on the Family, etc. But why are so many okay with a caste system in the church simply because of a SURVEY? We would never stand for this if the topic wasn’t gender, but race.
Just because the world is one way does not mean that we need to conform to it.
Behind the scenes, Rebecca and I often have this conversation about the problems with the way all too many resources talk about gender relations.
As I’ve said before, I do not think that Shaunti Feldhahn’s research question accurately distilled men’s and women’s respective needs for respect vs. love. I don’t think we should take that survey question as authoritative at all.
But EVEN IF–as Lisa said, EVEN IF–it were true, where does this leave us?
Let’s say we did a survey that found that 80% of men had pedophilic tendencies (of course that’s not true; just using an example). What would our response be? That women and children need to understand that’s just how men are, and adapt to it?
Or would we say, “wow, there’s something seriously off with the way men are being conditioned to think of their sexuality, and we need to do something about that so children are protected.”
The sense I get from a lot of Shaunti Feldhahn’s work, and from works like Every Man’s Battle, is that they feel that because this is the way men are, women need to understand it and adapt to it.
But is this the right approach?
Maybe the right approach would be to start at Christ, and realize that His desire is that we all be transformed into His likeness (Romans 8:29), and that the kingdom of God is about serving, not being served (Matthew 20:25-28). And if a survey finds that a particular group of people–be it a gender, an age group, a geographic group, an ethnic group, whatever–isn’t living up to that, then our response should be, “what can we do to make the kingdom of God more a reality here?”
It isn’t to conform to what fallen people want; it’s to say, “how can we enter into this dynamic and transform it for Christ?”
Now, I’m not saying it’s wrong for men to want respect. But to say that women don’t, and thus men need it more than women, is to set up a very unhealthy dynamic that does not reflect Christ. And it is not only about respect that we see this play out in Christian marriage books. These books (like HIs Needs, Her Needs) as well often give a laundry list of what men want, and what women want, but they don’t talk about the dynamic this creates, or that we should really be focusing on what God wants.
The goal of the Christian life is not to make everyone get what they naturally want; it’s to transform our relationships into kingdom ones.
When we did our research for The Great Sex Rescue, it wasn’t to say, “this is how women are, so everyone needs to adapt to it.” No, instead we started with the biblical truths about sex–that it should be mutual, pleasurable, and intimate–and then we looked at whether this was a reality in a woman’s life, and why not.
In other words, we started with the truth, and then we asked, “how can we get there?”
I feel like many other studies, and many other books, start with, “here’s what men want, so here’s what women should do.” They measure the reality on the ground (though, as I said, I don’t actually think many of these surveys are accurate), and then they want us to conform.
But we’re supposed to conform to Jesus. (Romans 12:1-2)
Personally, I think we should start with what God wants.
And if we do a survey that finds that our natural inclinations, if played out, would take us further away from that, then the question should not be, “how can we make everybody happy?” It should be instead, “How did we stray from what God wants? And how can we get back there?”
What do you think? Does Lisa have a point? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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