One icy winter morning I drove to work burning with irritation toward my husband. As I hung up my coat, I fervently enumerated the details of his latest blunder to a captivated audience of my female coworkers. Someone quipped, "Testosterone!" as cheers of affirmation flooded the room. I strode to my office vindicated and understood.
That afternoon, laughter spilled from the lunchroom as my friends mischievously brainstormed self-improvement classes for men such as "Laundry 101Sorting Silks and Socks," "Hunting 302The Art of Finding Things," and "Navigation TechniquesA Short Course in Asking Directions." As I joined them, a cartoon of a woman on her knees praying, "Thank you, Lord, for my two X chromosomes," also made the rounds. I laughed so hard I cried.
Gender differences are fertile ground for humor, and few of us would deny that a healthy dose of humor can ease exasperation. When your husband stands in the light of a gaping refrigerator yelling because he can't find the mustard that's in front of his nose, it helps to be able to laugh. But our jokes deviate from tasteful wit into male bashing when they capitalize on failures and exploit weaknesses, pitting the genders against each other.
Although husbands are primary targets, all men are vulnerable. Fathers, supervisors, pastors, brothers, uncles, and the driver beside you on the highway, are all fair game. And the setting is wherever women gather: the workplace, the salon, the little league bench, and yes, dare I admit it, even the church.
Several years ago, at a Christian women's retreat I attended, a discussion about the differences between men and women deteriorated into scathing stories about the inadequacies of men. Over bowls of popcorn and mugs of chocolate, we recklessly devalued most men we knew until a visitor commented, "Wow! I was afraid you'd all be into that submission thing! Am I glad to know you're open-minded. You know, I often wonder if God is a woman. It makes sense if you really think about it. Men are such imbeciles."
My heart stung with conviction. Although I knew men didn't appreciate being the targets of critical humor, I assumed male bashing between women was harmless. But the Lord began to show me how it hurts both myself and others. Here's how.
Male bashing distorts our view of men. I didn't realize how much I'd bought into negative stereotypes about men until one day, early in my marriage, when my husband, George, returned home in the midst of my annual holiday cookie baking. I thought to myself, Watch, just like a man, he won't help a bit, but he'll be happy to eat the goods. Much to my surprise, he eagerly joined in, recalling fond memories of making sandtarts with his grandmother. Since then, he's become our family's chief Christmas cookie baker.