With abortion rates on the rise, the legalization of gay marriage and gender transformation viewed as heroic, arguing about gender roles and sexuality is common in our culture today. And while it can be seen as taboo within the conservative Christian community, such conversations are taking place in at least one classroom on the campus of The Master’s College.
For the fourth time, The Master’s College is offering the course Feminist Theory and Gender Theory, taught by Professor Jo Suzuki, who has been teaching at the college since 1998. He had been teaching the course every other year but brought it back early for the 2015 fall semester.
“It’s such a hot topic and you know, with the Caitlin Jenner issue. I expanded it to not only feminism but gender theory… [asking] what exactly is gender?” Suzuki said.
Suzuki was determined to bring topics to The Master’s College that have never been discussed in the classroom, exposing students to “not-so-typical” conservative topics in preparation for conversations taking place beyond evangelical circles. Christians refrain from exposing themselves to “divergent ideas,” says Suzuki.
It is Suzuki’s goal for students to understand what and why people have a firm stance on their belief on gender roles, and to able to formulate a biblical response to each theory.
His first approach is helping students understand the topic.
“It all depends on how you define feminism. There are feminisms, plural,” Suzuki said.
Feminism Criticism and Gender Theory explores the two radical theories: biological determinism and social constructionism. Biological determinism theorizes that all human behavior being determined by genes, that it is innate. Social constructionism theory suggests that human behavior is determined by society.
Suzuki states that although the Bible is clear on male and female differences beginning all the way in Genesis, it doesn’t determine what distinct behaviors society believes only one gender should have. There are certain characteristics society has established for each gender, Suzuki points out. For instance, girls are encouraged to like pink, while boys are encouraged to wear blue, blue. Dancing on that line created by society is a risk many are willing to take, very few being conservative Christians.
Sarah Hutchinson, a student in Suzuki’s class believes the course is one every student should take.
“It’s beneficial to have this class offered here at TMC,” Hutchinson says. “It forces students to expand their thinking on social issues that are becoming the norm and how Christians can build a biblical perspective.”
Having attended public school all her life, Hutchinson was exposed to much of modern society’s most celebrated unbiblical ideology: homosexuality, transgenderism, radical feminism and pro-choice advocacy.
“I was a little surprise that The Master’s College offered this course,” she said. “… Christian schools often don’t showcase societal movements happening in America that seem radical.”
Taking a leap from that world into this took a lot of getting used to for Hutchinson. Seldom did she hear conversations about modern politics erupt, let alone controversial conversations. Hutchinson knows there are benefits to discussing and acknowledging societal movements, believing that steering clear from doing so only makes it harder to enter life after graduation.
No matter what is declared true by the Bible, or what is deemed true by contemporary society, the roles of men and women will always be compromised by culture. Offering this course at TMC educates students on both femininity and masculinity, understanding what exactly the views out there are, and how to evaluate them from a biblical perspective.
By Deenie Hutchinson