It’s my last semester in college and it’s been pretty hectic as I near graduation. Anyway, seeing as how I haven’t written in a while, I wanted to share an experience that happened to me recently in college. It’s actually more like a testimony and my purpose in sharing it is to glorify God and also that it may bless your life. Like I said, this is my last semester and I must say it has been my toughest one yet. Papers, exams, group projects, community service hours (you get the point). The workload has been high. But despite the high demands, there is also another reason why it’s been a tough semester for me. And this is what I want to share with you today.
It’s no doubt that we live in a society that each day is more “anti-God. “Unfortunately, God is being eradicated from society and one place in particular where we see this happening is in our education system. This semester I signed up for a class called “Communication and Gender”. I figured it’d be an interesting course to take in order to learn about the differences in communication between men and women. Little did I know, this was not exactly what I was going to be taught. Firstly, I was being taught that there is no such thing as a gender binary. Apparently, there are more than two genders. Plus, gender is not something biological, but rather a social construct. Meaning that it is society that creates gender by establishing gender roles. I was being told that there is nothing natural about being a man or being a woman. My teacher is a transgender woman, so I knew exactly where she was coming from. The main purpose of the class was for the students to develop a “critical gender lens”. According to my professor, we cannot simply lump people in one of two categories: man or woman. Oh boy, this was going to be an interesting class! I had stepped into a spiritual battlefield.
The class was assigned a Signs of Gender Project. In short, the project was to work with a group of students and find a local artifact/sign that did not reflect a critical gender lens. We then had to redesign the artifact/sign to make it more reflective of critical theories of gender. The second part of the project was to publically present the redesigned artifact to the university community and advocate for change. Each group would be out on the campus lawn gathering students and professors to sign the petition to change the artifact/sign. Plus, if we persuaded the purveyor of the artifact to replace the original artifact/sign with our revised one, we would receive extra credit.
I knew in my heart this was wrong and that if I advocated for change, not only would I be betraying God, but I’d be defending something that goes against His Word. I was experiencing an internal struggle because to be honest, I was scared. For a moment, I felt alone. I was the only Christian in that class and I knew the Holy Spirit was convicting me to be the light in the darkness. However, there’s always opposition anytime you are determined to stand up for Christ. Questions regarding what I should do pervaded my mind. I knew I would be jeopardizing my grade in that class if I didn’t do the project and being sooo close to graduation, I needed to pass that class if I wanted to graduate! I went home that day and did the only thing one can do in a situation like this, I prayed. I needed God by my side. I needed His strength and courage and most importantly His grace before going to talk to my professor. But God has a way of speaking the right thing at the right moment and it was through this Scripture that He told me what I needed to hear.
“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” – 1 Peter 3:13-17
I met with my assigned group the following week to discuss the project. One of my group members already had a sign in mind. It was the men’s and women’s bathroom signs at a local gas station that she wanted to change. Everyone agreed, except me.
So I emailed my professor that week and we set up an appointment to discuss the project. I explained to her that I was a Christian and that I could not do the project. I told her I was not going to advocate for something that went against God’s Word. I asked if there was anything else I could do in place of the project. Thank God, she gave me the option of writing a paper. However, in my paper, I had to present my argument as to why I had decided not to do the project, specifically relating to the bathroom signs. I was only allowed to use one religious source and the rest of my sources had to be non-religious. So I agreed, but honestly, I had no idea how I was going to write this paper. I mean, the basis of my whole argument was founded on the Bible, so I was unsure how to incorporate other sources. Either way, I was very happy to know that I was not participating in the project and that I would standing up for God and making a difference. I wasn’t defending a belief, I was defending the Truth.
**Note**: Below is the essay I wrote for the class
Gender: Socially Constructed or Divinely Created?
One of the first questions people usually ask when parents announce the birth of a child is: “Is it a boy or a girl?” As learned in class, gender affects all aspects of our everyday life. Gender creates a pivotal role in forming our identity and this fundamentally shapes our life experiences as well as how we interact with others. According to our textbook “Gender in Communication”, gender is defined as “the behaviors and appearances society dictates a body of a particular sex should perform” (DeFrancisco 3). In other words, this definition states that gender is society’s assumptions of how we ought to look and behave according to our sex. The purpose of this paper is to explain why I decided to opt out of redesigning the bathroom signs for the Signs of Gender Project. Because I am certain that gender was originally created by God, I felt that if I advocated for changing the bathroom signs, I would really be advocating against the biblical principles by which I live by.
During the 1980s in London, there was the predominant view that boys and girls were born the same cognitively (Nixon). With time, this idea was brought into question as scientists began doing research regarding this topic. Nowadays, the majority of psychologists agree that some of the differences displayed by male and female brains are innate. Scientists now debate how much biology contributes to sex differences in cognition. Diane Halpern, a professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College in California has been analyzing the cognitive gender differences for 25 years. She stated “We socialize our boys and girls differently, but the contribution of biology is not zero” (Nixon). One of these differences she discovered is that males tend to be better at numerous spatial skills, while females tend to possess more verbal fluency. However, Halpern clarifies that these differences in skills does not mean that men and women have different levels of intelligence. “There is not a smarter sex”, states Halpern (Nixon). However, she also states that there are a few differences that vary among men and women. The amount of difference has to do with context. For example, it has been over-reported that boys tend to be better at math, while girls frequently exceed in reading and writing (WebMD). These skills vary depending on the context. Additionally, recent findings from the University of Pennsylvania confirmed that “While not every woman is intuitive or every man handy with tools, neurological scans of young males and females suggest that, on average, their brains really do develop differently” (Ryan). These findings demonstrate that men’s brains are better equipped to comprehend what people perceive and how they react to it, whereas females are able to connect the parts of their brains that control analysis and intuition (Ryan). The way the brain functions determines how men and women behave and interact the way that they do. These gender-related differences can be traced back to a biological origin.
The idea of gender as a social construct, is a byproduct of the struggle for gender equality. The main discourse regarding gender binary eradicates any perspectives on their natural roles, and the very reference of mental and emotional differences between men and women, becomes a taboo. If we define gender in a way that is rooted in a particular cultural moment we get a distorted view of gender. For instance, to assume that being a man means you are athletic or that being a woman means you love pink and flowers is a narrow view. These definitions of gender are based on a particular cultural moment and not on a biblical foundation. It is what human beings have decided gender to be, not God. The nature of God is in no way culturally conditioned. Before there was society, before there was culture and norms, there was God’s Word.
We can trace gender all the way back to when the universe was created. Currently, society believes gender and sex to be two separate entities, but the Bible makes no such distinction. Gender is something that was established by God from the moment He created human beings. The Bible states in Genesis “Then the Lord God made woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (New International Version, Gen. 2. 22). It is interesting the words that are utilized in this verse. Nowadays, the terms male and female are used to refer to sex whereas man and woman are used for gender. However, the verse states man and woman, making no distinction between sex and gender and establishing a gender binary that indicates that sex is your gender. In the natural order of creation, man was created first before woman. And then from man, woman came into being. This does not indicate a feminine inferiority or lack of quality, only the layer of sequence in God’s divine plan. The Bible states that a “woman is the glory of the man” (New International Version, 1 Cor. 11. 7). To be referred to as “the glory” is the ultimate of compliments. This description as the man’s glory was never meant to demean her role or feminine contribution. On the contrary, it was meant to uplift by giving value and honor. What is glory? Glory signifies magnificence, splendor, and beauty. It’s honor won by notable achievements. Women may not hold the place of first created but they hold a place of honor as the crowning finale!
This leads me to the signs project we were assigned in class. My group chose to critically analyze the men and women bathroom signs displayed at a local gas station. The women’s bathroom sign stated “The seat will always be down” and the men’s sign stated “leaving the seat up is allowed.” I am aware that my group was not questioning the gender binary or the idea of having separate bathrooms for men and women. They were focusing on the specific wording of the signs that referred to the toilet seat being left up or down. However, if I participated in this assignment, I would still be indirectly contributing to an idea that is not rooted in God’s word. Men are allowed to leave the toilet seat up because their physical anatomy requires them to urinate differently than women. It is simply more convenient for them. As for women, they will always find the seat down because their natural way of urinating requires them to sit down so they don’t need the toilet seat up. We can even see these differences in behaviors with certain animals due to their biological differences. Female dogs, for example, tend to squat when they urinate and male dogs lift their leg. Accordingly, because I’m sure that men and women were created physically and mentally different, I think that the bathroom sign wording resembles an accurate depiction of these differences. Honestly, I do not see anything wrong with them. If I were to change the wording, I would be working to blend the gender differences that God created us with in the first place. Men and women are not interchangeable which is why God makes a clear distinction between them.
Given these points, this is why I decided to opt out of this project. We cause problems when we try to alter what God has established in His divine order. One of the characteristics of the Bible is that it does not change. Although society and its views may change, the word of God stays the same. Society will continue to come up with new norms and paradigms. What is considered normal today, won’t be considered normal tomorrow. As a Christian, I understand, follow, and demonstrate God’s divine order of creation. It is an absolute principle for all time!
So long story short, I turned in my paper. I still remember the words my professor said when she returned my graded paper. “Very good Evelyn, it was a well written paper,” she said. I reached out as she handed me the paper and my eyes could not believe what I was seeing. There at the top was my grade. I had gotten a 92! All the glory goes to my God! They were His words! It was His writing. He had been by my side all along and had my back! I understood that the purpose of why I went through this was for God to be glorified. Which is why I couldn’t keep this to myself, I have to share what He did. Even though some of you may not experience the exact same time, there will come a time when you’ll need to stand up for God, whether it be school, or work, or wherever. But remember, you are NEVER alone. God fights for YOU and we are victorious because He is victorious. Our God never loses a battle. As true Christians, we cannot compromise the Truth. JESUS is the Truth! “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) God’s Word is not something you simply trade off for something else. I was forced to step out of my comfort zone and push through my fears, doubts, and even what people thought of me, including my professor. Maybe it would have been “easier” to do the project and not have to worry about putting myself in a tight situation, but at what cost? Selling out my Savior? Denying Jesus? No! I wanted to prove to God that I truly loved Him. And it was only through Him that I was able to do it all. This was my test of my faith and I am glad it happened because God made me bolder and stronger through it all. And as I near graduation, I realize that I am gaining so much more than a mere diploma or a title. I won a battle through Jesus. His name was not tarnished, it was glorified! The 92 I got on my paper was because His Truth was proclaimed and ALL the glory is His because He is the only one worthy of it all.
So if you’re reading this, remember that we are called to be courageous and stand up for God, no matter the cost, no matter the consequences. Most importantly, God’s Word will never pass away. His truth does not have an expiration date. The world speaks its mind, we speak God’s Word. Society’s ideas and norms will change, but God’s Word remains FOREVER!!
With lots of love, your sister in Christ,
Evelyn Alcaraz ❤