are so many confusing gender equality with sameness?
Some individuals think that gender equality has to do
with body parts, tasks, and abilities. Gender equality
is not sameness, and no one is seeking to develop an
argument for sameness between the sexes.
Here is my clear and simple definition of gender
equality. Gender equality means that males and females
on planet earth have equal voice, vote, authority,
decision-making power, opportunity, self-governance, and
protection under the law.
This is intrinsic equality. However, culture and
tradition have sought to remove equality by imposing
gender roles, limiting functions, and restricting
opportunity for females, based on misconceptions about
value and ability. This false teaching created the
nesting place for the development of male supremacy,
slavery, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, bigotry, child
abuse, incest, intimate partner abuse, marital rape,
totalitarianism, communism, patriarchy, and matriarchy,
This is why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
was passed by the United Nations in 1948. It sought to
restore the natural rights of human beings that were
being trampled upon. The first three articles of the
declaration states: “1) We are all born free. We all
have our own thoughts and
We should all be treated in the same way. 2) Don’t
Discriminate. These rights belong to everybody, whatever
our differences. 3) The Right to Life. We all have the
right to life, and to live in freedom and safety.”
Ironically, the last article of the declaration, Article
30 states: “No one can take away your human rights.”
Isn’t this what some religious leaders and churches have
been doing over the centuries—taking away human rights!
THE DIFFERENCES TO CELEBRATE
Yes! Everyone is intrinsically equal in value, and
equality fortifies the beauty and purpose of the
differences between the sexes and other groupings.
There are differences between the sexes—genital,
muscularity, organ size, hormones, just to name a few.
Then within one sex, for example the male sex, there are
differences in height, language, depth of voice, hair
texture, ethnicity, race, skills, abilities, etc. We
are not all the same. Our differences, even those
within the same gender, have literally nothing to do
with gender equality. Let me stress again this point.
Gender equality has nothing to do with sameness, and it
does not infer nor require sameness. It has all to do
with intrinsic human value.
Some who are supporting gender equality but are
passionately against sameness have it all wrong. Why?
Is it because they are seeking to prevent same-sex
relationships? Since the word “same” is a part of the
description of that kind of relationship, there seems to
be a fear of application and a false understanding.
The truth is that sameness has nothing to do with gender
equality. Even within some same-sex relationships,
there is no gender equality. Some of them follow
harmful traditional roles that result in abuse, discord,
and ultimately physical and emotional harm.
equality has nothing to do
function or anatomical differences.
It's all about
the equal value of human beings."
To illustrate how tradition and culture have confused
the topic of gender equality and sameness, I will share
a few points from the book, “The Mismeasure of Woman”
by Carol Tavris. In this book the author reveals “The
Three Myths of the Universal Male” that will help
explain this painful misconception. Here are the
direct quotes: “1) “Men are normal: women, being the
“opposite” are deficient. Masculine is good, feminine is
bad (or anything attributed to male/female traits,
qualities).” 2) Men are normal: women are opposite
from men, but superior to them. Proponents of this view
emphasize aspects of female experience or nature
(childbirth, spirituality, pacifism, compassion,
empathy) as morally superior to men’s experiences and
qualities. In this view, man is still the standard
against which women’s behavior is judged, even if the
judgments are kinder. 3) Men are normal: and women
should be like them. This would appear as an antidote to
the fundamental school of differences. It ignores that
differences do exist between men and women—in life
experiences, resources, power, and physiology—and it
assumes that it is appropriate to generalize from the
male standard to all women.” Carol Tavris explains that
“these three errors have done serious harm to women’s
feelings, sense of worth, and their position in our
society—and to men’s feelings and position in society as
it be that in our country these myths are still
relevant? It is my view that this article is correct.
In our country the confusion of gender equality and
sameness comes of out the view that males are used as
the measuring rod for gender standards or values, thus
obliterating the intrinsic equality and value of the
Here is a main point in my article today. It is my view
that it is wrong to say that males and females are not
equal in all aspects. Why? Because it represents a
misunderstanding of terms. In addition, the
differences in gender type, ability, etc., have nothing
to do with equality. Healthy males and females are not
seeking sameness. They are celebrating the differences
and learning how to integrate, participate, appreciate
and value each other fully. They are standing up for
each other to have equal voice, vote, authority,
decision-making power, opportunity, self-governance, and
protection under the law. That’s equality.
WE DON’T WANT SAMENESS
Here’s another point. Could it also be that the
confusion between the terms “gender equality” and
“sameness” is because there is a fixation on gender
roles? Traditionalists have a list of roles for males
and another for females. I teach that roles in the
home or society should be based on talent and not
gender. I caution you that roles and biological
functions are two different things. Pregnancy and
breast feeding are biological functions based on
anatomical design. From a traditionalist concept, roles
are pre-assigned duties based on cultural expectations
and family traditions that are created out of a
misconception of the abilities of males and females.
Hence, women cook and men clean cars. From the gender
equality context, roles are based on gifts, talents,
skills, abilities, not gender. These are voluntarily
applied. On the other hand, for traditionalists, roles
are imposed, and those who transgress are penalized. In
traditionalist relationships, roles cause much tension
and stress, even if it is not discussed openly. On the
other hand, equalitarian couples are more contented and
happier—they are equal.
For Christians there should be a clear understanding of
gender equality that comes right out of the design.
Note that there is a differentiation between gender
equality and biological differences right in the
scripture passage Genesis 1:26-7: “Then God said, “Let
us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They
will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the
sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,
and the small animals that scurry along the ground. . .
So, God created human beings in his own image. In the
image of God, he created them; male and female he
created them.” Note that in verse 26 it is about
equality, value, authority, voice, and vote. In verse
27 it is about biological differences. Both equality
and gender differences are neatly packaged into a
beautiful, harmonious creature—humankind—male and
For those who believe that masculine or maleness means
bigger, stronger, and better, then how do we interpret
the following facts? Men have larger hearts and lungs
than women. However, women have larger livers,
stomachs, thyroid glands, and kidneys than men. Women
have lower blood pressure and a faster heartbeat than
men. Women have greater endurance than men.
"Gender equality means that males
and females on planet earth have
equal voice, vote, authority,
decision-making power, opportunity,
self-governance, and protection
under the law."
Barrington & Annick Brennen
Men have more brute force than women.
Here is another fact.
Research indicates that “women are thought to have more
resistance to disease due to the fact that their adrenal
glands produce more cortin than men do. The only three
diseases that women die from more often than men are
breast cancer, female reproductive disorders, and benign
tumors pressing against vital organs. Otherwise, every
other disease, including of course cancer and heart
disease, kills men at a higher frequency.” The point
is that there are many differences to celebrate, yet
males and females are equal.
While we fight for gender equality let us not confuse
the points. The fight for gender equality began
centuries ago. Remember females could not be educated
and hold professions.
In The Bahamas, females could
not vote in a general election, own property, have bank
accounts, inherit, etc. Women had to fight to be
recognized as having equal value with equal voice, vote,
opportunity and deserving of equal protection under the
law. Why was that so? For the same reason some people
are fighting against “sameness;” for fear that their own
belief system will come crashing down. Let me repeat,
gender equality is not sameness; neither are gender
equality proponents like myself, agitating for sameness.
In fact, such sameness does not and cannot exist
anywhere in the world. We want the differences and are
Gender equality simply means that
both sexes have equal voice, vote, authority,
decision-making power, self-governance, opportunity, and
protection under the law. We are equal! Let’s
celebrate the differences!
Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, a marriage and
family therapist and board
certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your
questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or
or call 242-327-1980