I do not and cannot yet claim expertise or even familiarity with the breadth, depth, and variety of feminist philosophy or literature currently available; my attempt in this post is not to survey the intellectual field or debate a specific position. I simply wish to establish three ground-rules for the discussion.
First, debate concerning gender-roles must be centered on cooperation, on the reconciliation of the battle of the sexes. I do not here imply that awareness of gender-differences are to be eliminated - indeed, although I personally intend just the opposite, I leave the specifics of that question to the debate itself. The goal of any discussion of gender-roles, however, should and must be to help both men and women live happier, more fulfilling lives. In religious terms, gender-role discussion must help individuals become more like the Heavenly Parents of us all.*
Therefore, separatist or supremacist arguments from either gender are here inappropriate. If the battle of the sexes is to become a "raw, red war" (Gordon R. Dickson, The Star Road) then discussion devolves into mere intelligence-gathering. A reader may have just that purpose in mind; if so, they may continue as they wish, but I have nothing to say to that individual.
*(As a point of background information, my conception of deity is a perfected union of a perfected man and a perfected woman; however, I leave open for discussion the definitions of "perfect," "union," "man," and "woman." Indeed, my attempts to refine my own definitions of the same are the reason for this post).
In a similar vein, views of both genders must be respected and evaluated based on their internal merit, not based on the gender of the speaker. Yes, the two genders probably do not understand each other completely. Yes, it may be impossible for me as a man to really understand how a woman feels when she is threatened intellectually/emotionally/physically/sexually/spiritually (though I will in the future provide a critique of this position). However, neither of these arguments contribute to more perfect understanding of gender roles. Statements to the effect of: "That's easy for you to say, as a man" or, "That's easy for you to say, as a woman" are somewhat deceitful tactics used to end debates, not to contribute to them. If we are to take the communication barrier seriously, no one woman or man can express anything to any other man or woman, barring a belief in telepathy. If we accept the imprecision of inter-personal communication, let us also accept the imprecision of inter-gender communication and at least try to understand one another.
Third, the purpose of the discussion is to help each reader live a better life, hopefully with a greater respect for and appreciation of members of both genders, and of the unique and wonderful differences gender yields human existence. We speak for understanding, but if that understanding does not change our pattern of existence, then we have not succeeded in our discussion. In short, contributors to a gender debate should love their audience; the purpose ought to be mutual improvement, not the satisfaction of vengeance, the vindication of pride, or the denigration of others. I anticipate that a good gender-role discussion should be somewhat life-changing - for ALL parties involved. Therefore, a plea: to myself and to us all, let us be humble enough to listen to another point of view.
If all involved (including myself!) can abide these rules, then let us "reason together" (Isaiah 1:18) concerning gender. What is a woman? What is a man? What is a perfect woman? What is a perfect man? And what is a perfect union of the two?