A story about handedness.
There are a lot of metaphors out there for trying to explain the biblical relationship between men and women. One parable that could be used is that of handedness.
A person (usually) has a left hand and a right hand, and here the complementarians among us might start getting excited because although both are hands, one is dominant over the other, and that would seem to be a good example of natural complements. Let us extend this, though.
Most people are right-handed. Indeed, the structures in place in society favor right-handedness. Most tools and implements and even buildings and procedures are crafted for the right-handed.
Left-handedness is also a thing. It has historically been considered an evil and unnatural thing, to the extent that left-handed individuals were sometimes considered witches or satanic. The word “sinister” means “left”. Left-handed children were often punished and forced to write with their right hand.
Now think of your right hand as the man and your left as the woman. (Although the argument could be made for the opposite, I’m not addressing that here). Patriarchy and its sister, complementarianism, would consider man to be the dominant right hand and woman to be the weaker left hand. Any situation where the left is dominant over the right is considered evil. All of the cultural and social structures are designed with right hand dominance as the assumption. Most people don’t even think about right hand dominance at all because it is considered such a given. Necessarily, the right hand is favored and considered more valuable than the left.
Me, I’m ambidextrous. Maybe that’s why I look at things differently. When I was in second grade, I broke both bones in my right arm and had to learn to do everything with my non-dominant left. Consequently, I do things differently now. My left hand plays a much bigger role even though my right arm healed just fine.
You may take that story both literally and figuratively. It is true in the literal sense. But second grade is also when I started getting bullied both verbally and physically by several of the boys in my class. (This lasted through high school). I guess that you could say that the experience broke my trust in the strength of men being used benevolently.
My arm healed, and my wounds from being bullied also eventually healed, but I was left with the realization that the left hand, when given the opportunity, can do everything that the right hand can do. It only seemed weaker because of lack of practice, lack of training, and disuse. So too are women.
And why wouldn’t one want ambidexterity in the Church? It is very useful having both a clever left hand and a clever right. They weren’t originally interchangeable, but that was only because I cultivated one and not the other. Why not cultivate both? We were raised to ascribe one kind of role to the right, and lesser, menial, support roles to the left, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can train ourselves to use both fully and effectively. It will require going against the grain, bumping up against ingrained practices and patterns of thinking, but it can be done.
As members of the same body, no one part has the right to exalt itself over any other part. Let us not over exaggerate distinctions that are cultural rather than inborn. Let us have the courage and cleverness to go against the grain and cultivate ambidexterity in the Church to the glory of God.
A story about handedness.