Gender Stereotypes?


Okay so… I am an agnostic, not a Catholic, but I know that the Catholic Church tends to agree with traditional masculine and feminine roles.

My question is, are these not just stereotypes? Of everyone I know, I would say about half the men and half the women are traditional men/women, but the other half are not. It is strange for me to see threads where people say statements like ‘men value respect most, women value love most’ when I know people the opposite to their gender ‘norm.’

Is it right to make people conform to a gender role that isn’t their natural personality? Will it make them unhappy?

I know personally, I could not be happy ‘submitting’ to my future husband within a marriage, and I know men who would not be happy being submitted to and who actually seem to enjoy being bossed around!



Welcome to CAF! :wave:

I think it’s not entirely accurate to say that the Catholic Church “tends to agree with traditional masculine and feminine roles.” There is some truth to such a statement, but it’s not as though the Church holds up “Leave it to Beaver” as the ideal and thus frowns on women being anything but a stay-at-home mom. We need to be careful about being too simplistic about the Church’s view on such things.

Rather than looking at it as “Here is a defined gender role and the Church mandates that we fall in line”, I think a more accurate view of the Church’s teaching is that the Church wants to encourage us to “be who we are” in all our masculinity or femininity.

Now, this does not mean that all men are exactly the same and all women are exactly the same and men and women have no common interests (thus, men like sports so therefore women cannot like sports; or women like High School Musical, therefore men cannot like High School Musical). But there are differences between men and women.

In regards to these differences, we can speak in generalities, but that doesn’t exclude the possibility of exceptions. Generally, men are physically stronger than women, but that doesn’t mean that this particular man is definitely physically stronger than this particular woman.

I would recommend looking at Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body for a good look at how the Church views men and women and their relationship with each other.


Thankyou :slight_smile:


There is a long thread on the submission portion, unlike some Protestant teachings you might hear on the weekly Televangelist program the Catholic Church’s view is much more robust and truly in tune with what Christ was getting at in the New Testament.

The commandment is for wives to submit to their husbands but for husbands to be willing to sacrifice everything for their wives. The context being as Christ loved the Church for whom he was humiliated, flogged, beaten and crucified. The act of sacrifice is also an act of both submission and power.

Nietzsche railed on Christianity due to his misunderstanding of the concept of power in submission. Your ideas on gender roles truly relates more to the secular understanding of them than a Theological one (abet I would agree that your “average” Christian tends to hold those same societal roles as they haven’t given it much research themselves).

So the bottom line is this there is power to control one’s actions, it’s what makes us human right? The use of that power isn’t always for dominance, sometimes the best action is one of sacrifice or submission. The choice of a wife choosing to submit, is no different than a husband choosing to sacrifice for his wife. BOTH must submit in some ways for a Sacramental marriage to every work. It’s not just a 50/50 thing, it’s 100/100, both partners must be willing to at times play a dominate role. Because if a husband is sacrificing himself for his wife, she (from a secular viewpoint) would be in a more dominate position. However this is where the 100/100 is so important, if both are giving their all to each other, and choosing to do so, is either truly “submitting” (in a secular sense) to the other? I would argue they are not because of love.

I believe when we truly look at the text we have answers today that shine through the years of Patriarchal understandings to promote equality. Equality though doesn’t have to mean men and women always do the exact same things, there are genetic differences, but for the most part, there is a lot of interplay which is what I think you are getting at in your post.

My wife submits to me as I sacrifice for her but neither of us would probably use those terms in day to day conversation. We try to act as 1 to run the house hold. If I were female and some guy expected me to do everything asked in some domineering way… I would agree with your statement. My point though is that is not a good understanding of Christian marriage.

Think of it this way, the previous poster mentions Theology of the Body. I won’t get into too much detail here but one of the things, and why the Church teaches again contraception, is that the union of a man and a woman and the resulting child that could come from that is akin’, ever so slightly, to the love between the Father and the Son that produces the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is 3 persons, all God, all equal. Yet Christ submitted to the will of the Father, even though He was indeed part of that will in understood it.

Hope that is more helpful than confusing!


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What a blessing that someone who does not worship in the Catholic church, comes here and asks such an open and honest question in such a warm way! Thank you so much! I am sad to say I have seen people who do not share our faith come to this website and are unfortunately very critical…thank you for your thoughtfully phrased question!

When you say that you would not want to “submit” to your husband, I beleive someone else said it well. I would not want to submit to my husband either! However that is if the word “submit” is used in the way the rest of the world uses it!

As a matter of faith “submit” is much deeper. It has deep spiritual meaning to submit to my husband, it does not mean that I wait on him hand and foot or let him boss me around. Catholic Sacramental Marriage is a relationship of profound sacrifice and love. My husband and I are supposed to submit to and sacrifice for one another all the time. Admittedly we don’t but when we both really try our marriage thrives beyond anything you can imagine. I hope this helps a little. Take care and have a good evening!


You also might want to check out Alice Von Hildebrand’s “The Privilege of Being a Woman.” It’s one of my favorites and it’s really insightful.


Thanks for your answer :slight_smile: I studied a lot of RS and Ethics in college, and I think it made me hunger for more - I dont feel fulfilled without discussing ethics sometimes, though I am as yet undecided from the religious viewpoint. It does make a lot more sense to consider the marriage as both people submitting - I think the problem with a lot of modern romances (and indeed marriages) is that people enter into them selfishly, thinking that their lust or idolisation is actually love and will take care of everything, when love is I think, about half feeling and half commitment and the willingness to work on any problems. Religious marriages often consider this more.


The context of that Scripture passage is important to look at, too. “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22) is immediately preceded by the verse “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

Verse 21 serves as sort of the thesis statement for the whole passage (Ephesians 5:21-33). All that follows must be understood in reference to the mutual subordination of verse 21. Marriage is mutual total self-giving – with the husband giving himself totally to his wife and the wife giving herself totally to her husband. That’s what the passage is really all about.


Um, I actually totally agree with the original poster that they are just stereotypes, and they generally are not healthy.

If someone is happy submitting to someone else (and I cannot, for the life of me see how they would be, but whatever) than I say to each his own.

I am NOT a “traditional” kind of guy-don’t like many of the things that most regular guys do. I’ve been called lots of mean names for it, but I don’t care. I’d rather be me than submit to what someone thinks is the proper role for a man.


I once heard a talk on Ephesians 5 in which the speaker said that the call for wives to submit to their husbands was basically a call for wives to let their husbands serve them.

I think in a truly healthy relationship, femininity and masculinity can shine forth without fear. A woman who understands her dignity does not feel belittled when a man opens a door for her.


That’s a very enlightening point…thanks for sharing. I would never have thought of that passage that way. *


But if you were submitting to something that was bad for you, the other person would not be also submitting to you, which is the only way in which it works. The situation you propose isn’t within the context of how the Church looks at it.

Here’s an example: My husband is not a handy man, in any way, shape or form. If he tries to fix something in our house, it breaks MORE. This is not a downfalling of his, it’s just the way God made him. It doesn’t make him less masculine, it doesn’t make him less of a husband. But he knows I have no idea either, and he at least understands the processes most of the time. So, even though he’s bad at it, not interested in it, etc., he knows I am even less so, so he usually does all the work of figuring out who could take care of it and calls them and sets it up etc. etc. etc. He’s actually serving me, b/c it’s extra work for him, and he’s not good at it either, but someone has to do it.

It looks like I’m forcing him to “be the man” so I can submit to him, when he’s really serving me out his own choice because he loves me.


Bookgirl, (by the way, I love your screen name!)

I’m not sure if this is the “submission” that the church/and or the orignal poster was talking about.


*The strange thing (for me) is that submitting actually has been the most free-ing thing in our marriage. My husband is a good guy, and would never abuse this ‘husband’ role…and he is most definitely sacrificing…I can honestly see him dying for either me or the kids…submitting to him has come easier as time has gone on. When we were first married, I can honestly admit I had a hard time ‘submitting.’ It wasn’t even something I considered…but, as we both immersed ourselves more and more in the faith…it became rather apparent to me, that submitting was the key to true freedom. Same like surrendering to Christ. (not that surrendering to our husbands is like surrendering to Christ, but just comparing the free-ing feeling as similiar) It’s not restrictive, rather it’s liberating.

Who knew? :p*


No, I think it is. It’s what the Church is talking about anyway – a simple example of it, but the same thing. The OP, on the other hand, was talking about modern society’s idea of submission, and I think she was asking for a clarification between what that idea is, and what the Church’s stance is.

I love my screen name too, thanks :).


Hi, welcome to CAF.
I understand your concern about gender stereotypes. We are each uniquely created, so to say “women are more emotional,” or “men are more logical,” does not really cut it, because it makes the more tender men and the more logical women feel a bit excluded. True femininity and true masculinity go beyond these simplistic definitions–what is masculine and what is feminine has more to do with your God-given vocation, or basically what you were put on this earth to do. I think you ought to also do some research on what St. Edith Stein said about this. She was an atheist, a communist, and was of Jewish extraction. She had a conversion experience, and became a Carmelite nun. Tragically, her life was cut short, as she and her sister were rounded up by the Nazis for extermination. She died in the concentration camp. Anyway, she said that women are here for motherhood–but how each woman lives out this vocation is unique to each woman. You are not called to be Mother Theresa, nor the Super Mom who lives next door to you and seems to have a boundless supply of energy to take each of her 6 kids to their different extracurricular activities. No, you are called to be YOU, the holiest YOU that you can be.
There was a priest at my old parish that gave the best homilies. There was one that sends chills up my back each time I think about it, and it’s been 10 years. He said "when God created you, He spoke a single word. It is a word that He never spoke before, and will never speak again. And you spend your life trying to find the definition of that one word."
Anyway, I’m not exactly living up to gender stereotypes myself. I like to hunt and fish–some folks say I’m diseased in my dedication to those sports. I don’t do it to prove a thing to anyone. I do it because I love it. I like my guns, I like my jeans, I like blues guitar, I like a beer every now and then, I like learning about the Civil War, I don’t like flower print dresses (sorry to anyone who likes them, it’s just not my preference), I don’t like musicals (except for Sweeny Todd), I don’t like soap operas, I hate the Lifetime Channel, and I just absolutely can’t stand Oprah. However, I also like my flowing hippie skirts, I have really long hair, and I absolutely love roses–oh, and I (gasp) cover my head at Divine Liturgy. And this is the way I have always been. Used to cause me quite a bit of angst, but that one homily by that priest completely changed my perspective. I’m a mother, but in the way God wants me to be.
I think the other posters addressed the submission issue quite well. I’m just giving you my take on the stereotype issue. Hope this helps.
Take care, and you are always welcome here.


You may have some difficulty with the vocabulary - “submission” is not a word used daily in conversations these days. Some time ago, it was probably more normal. Yes, it’s there and it does actually mean that the man is the head of the family. On the other hand, there is the, “submit to one another,” before and the passage about the husband dying for his wife after. It puts things into perspective and certainly doesn’t mean it’s all fine when a man starts ordering his family around as if they were house service.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the pope (Leo XIII?) who clarified that submission by the wife doesn’t mean she’s the same as underaged (which was a notion in Roman law and supported by some lawyers later on). Some other pope, or the same one - I again don’t remember the name, unfortunately, said a woman had the right to be a mistress in her house. As I don’t remember the details, you’ve got to do some research if you want to know more, but the content is there.

By the way, authority is first of all service and it’s not given for individual enjoyment. Feminists who get a fixation on being the boss get the wrong idea. Authority within a family is not for the head of a family or a parent to have his way over the “less entitled” one. It’s not there for a man to decide what’s for dinner that he isn’t gonna help make, or to pick the colour of the curtains as he sees fit. :stuck_out_tongue:

For the record, while I don’t think it says anywhere that men need to be macho, that they have to grow muscle and engage in sports, while ideally being able to hunt and combat, I do think that there is a problem with a situation in which the man displays little backbone and looks to the woman for leadership in normal circumstances (not talking about Prince Philip kind of situations :p).


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