A “Christian Feminist” Shares Thoughts on the Transgender Bathroom Issue

Posted on October 12, 2016 in Marriage, Public Policy, Sexuality, Theology by

melanie-springer-mockThe concerns over bathroom privacy are reaching far and wide. Christians need to be prepared to respond.

I recently read an article by Melanie Springer Mock, a professor of English at George Fox University. Mock is lamenting, from a Christian perspective, the effort to protect the privacy of women and children in public restrooms. Her lament comes from her own personal experience of being asked to leave women’s restrooms and locker rooms for not looking like a female. Mock says that her very short, curly hair and boyish body made her appear more masculine than feminine and, therefore, caused others to mistake her for a boy. She writes:

“For at least a decade, I was routinely mistaken for a boy and regularly banished from bathrooms. P.E. teachers and coaches assumed I was sneaking in to women’s locker rooms, or—even more inexplicably—trying to orchestrate an athletic advantage by playing on girls’ athletic teams. As a first-year student at a Christian university, I was sometimes kicked out of women’s dorms, including my own, because people assumed I was transgressing ‘floor hour’ rules. I could catalog a hundred times and more when I was humiliated by people who interrogated my gender-ambiguous appearance, to my face or behind my back, but almost always within hearing distance: Is that a girl? Is that a boy? It’s so hard to tell.”

After setting the stage by recounting a number of grievous experiences from her childhood and formidable years, Mock declares:

“I understand that people have principled reasons for disallowing transgender men and women into public restrooms corresponding with their gender identity. They want to protect their children from predators and are afraid that men, especially, will somehow use these rules to gain access to girls. I share the desire to protect children from assault…Nonetheless, I believe that bathroom bans are not the answer.”

Huh? Seeking to keep bathrooms and locker rooms segregated by biological gender is not the answer to protecting the privacy of women and children?

Mock’s reasoning is that those with evil intentions will still find a way to abuse children so we need to focus on the other ways predators find their victims. This thinking, for me, is appalling, at best. Mock is declaring that protecting the privacy of women and children in public bathrooms and locker rooms will not prevent predators from abusing kids so we need to ignore the threat. Rather than take away one avenue for predators to harm children, we should ignore it and focus on other avenues.

It’s hard to take this argument seriously. I can’t wrap my mind around someone that says we should ignore one way predators will exploit and abuse women and children and focus on others. It would be like me suggesting we should ignore drug dealers selling heroine and focus on dealers selling cocaine. You would think I’ve taken leave of my senses for such a suggestion. You would insist that heroine is dangerous and needs to be stopped. You would support measures to arrest and prosecute people selling and using heroine. And you would be right for such a position because it is in the best interest of other people. In the same way, ignoring predators that would exploit bathroom bills for their own evil and perverted purposes is dangerous. It will be embolden predators.

Mock’s writing strikes me as a calloused dismissal of a very real danger. Despite the fact that she has boys she is concerned about she seemingly dismisses the issue. Would she feel differently if she had a girl?

Mock does suggest a more robust inspection of spaces where predators find victims – such as homes, cars, and churches, is needed. Though she doesn’t detail what this means or what this might look like, I can agree with her here. It is a well-known reality that most cases of sexual abuse happen in a familiar place with a familiar person, not in a public bathroom with a stranger. So we certainly need to do better at protecting women and kids in the most familiar places. But that does not eliminate our need to protect people in public spaces. It’s a both/and situation. Not an either/or situation.

Mock’s perspective is unique, that is for sure. I can’t imagine what it was like for her growing up, experiencing the embarrassment of being confused for a boy. That would certainly be a difficult upbringing. But her experience does not equate with a sound policy position. Refusing to acknowledge the threat of allowing any person into any bathroom they want is reckless. Acknowledging that a threat exists in such a position and then refusing to do something about it is wrong.

Mock claims to be writing from a Christian perspective. Reading through the short bio at the end of the article and the subsequent book review of ne of her books makes me wonder what kind of Christian she is. Mock wrote a book called “If Eve Only Knew: Freeing Yourself from Biblical Womanhood.” Now, the book might be a good read. But either the title is terribly misleading or the book is terrible.

As a Christian I can’t imagine wanting to free any other Christians from something that is biblical. Whether we are talking about a biblical worldview, a biblical sexual ethic, biblical morals, or a biblical family with biblical gender roles. If something is inherently biblical why would I want to be free from it, or free others from it?

A very in-depth review of this book makes it clear that Mock’s idea of womanhood is more akin to modern feminism and, indeed she is referred to as a “Christian feminist.” The review of Mock’s book says that it exists to “deconstruct evangelical popular culture’s messages that girls and women, as descendants of Eve, are sinful, weak, deceitful, and inferior.” Aside from the biblical reality that all descendants of Adam and Eve are sinful, I know of no predominant evangelical teaching that says women are “weak, deceitful, and inferior.”

The book, according to this review, “begins by deconstructing the interpretation of Genesis that blames Eve and all women, Eve’s daughters, for all the evil in the world from the very beginning.” As a lifelong studier of the Bible with several Bible degrees, I can say that I am not familiar with any such interpretation of the book of Genesis. What I know to be truth regarding the fall of man is that Adam and Eve were equally to blame for what happened in the Garden of Eden. Eve was deceived by the serpent and disobeyed God’s instruction and Adam failed as a leader of his family and disobeyed God. They are both to blame. So why try to present a picture of Eden and the Fall that simply does not exist in the evangelical world?

It seems Mock and her co-writer is trying to be theologians and follow a feminist theology that presents Eve as “wise” despite her sin. The book review says:

“With a careful exegesis of the biblical narrative, Kendra and Melanie present a brilliant reframing of Eve as a wise woman, the serpent as an agent of transformation, and the garden as a symbol of innocence that must be left behind to experience the complex fullness of life.”

How can we say Eve was “wise” to disobey God’s Word? It seems Mock’s commitment to feminism takes precedence over her exegesis of Scripture. She is more committed to presenting Eve in a positive light than she is in properly understanding the lessons of the Bible and the theology essential to evangelical Christianity.

Evangelical Christianity has a very clear understanding of Eve and The Fall of man. Both Adam and Eve were to blame for their own sin in the garden. They each in individual ways disobeyed God and contributed to The Fall. In some ways, Adam is more to blame because as the head of his house, the God appointed leader, he failed in his duties to lead and protect his wife. Eve is to blame because despite knowing God’s instructions (which she repeated to the serpent), she chose to disobey God and do what she wanted. This proper view present both Adam and Eve in the truest of terms.

Furthermore, evangelical Christianity sees men and women as equal in worth, dignity, and respect before God. The leadership over women appointed to men by God applies to the husband-wife relationship. In this aspect of life men have been called to love and lead their wives as Christ did the church. Not in a dictatorial style with a harsh word and iron fist, but in a complementarian style that recognizes the worth and dignity of the woman. (Click here or here for a brief summary of complementarianism)

Mock wants women to free themselves from biblical womanhood in order to be all that God wants them to be. This runs counter to both evangelical theology and biblical teaching. It’s a contradiction to instruct women to free themselves from biblical womanhood in order to be all that God wants them to be. The God of the Bible has given a blueprint for womanhood and manhood in the Bible; breaking from His clear instruction will not lead to a fuller life.

What Ms. Mock and many others don’t understand is that being a wife and mother is the highest calling for a woman. This isn’t a discriminatory or misogynistic statement; it’s a biblical one. Just as being a husband and father is the highest calling for a man is also a biblical statement. Anything outside of being a wife and mother or a husband and father is secondary in priority and in defining who we are.

Mock’s treatment of the transgender bathroom issue leaves much to be desired. I agree with her that we need a more robust conversation on child abuse and the ways, places, and people involved in that abuse. Perhaps mock will comment on the ways groups like Planned Parenthood aid child abuse and sex-trafficking, I would be interested in her thoughts. However, I will continue to oppose the idea that it is either safe or morally appropriate for men and women to share a single bathroom or locker room in public.

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