The most provocative part of that post was that I claimed that a belief in ontological ineptitude sat at the heart of the hierarchical complementarian position. In describing this I wrote:
Hierarchical complementarianism is founded upon the belief of ontological ineptitude. To say that men and women are "complements" of each other and that men are given the gifts of leadership in this arrangement is to argue that women are ontologically inept when it comes to leadership. That is, women are permanently lacking and incompetent in leadership spheres (ineptitude) because of the kinds of beings they are, namely women (ontology). That is the belief at the heart of hierarchical complementarianism...In hindsight the word "ineptitude" might not have been best, a bit too strong. But ineptitude does mean "lacking in fitness" and "ill-suited to the situation or occasion." And those are the main ideas I had in mind in picking that word.
Regardless, it's not surprising that many evangelicals objected to the argument of my post.
(There were also objections from those working from a Catholic framework, but traditions with celibate priesthoods are not working, in my estimation, with a "complementarian" position. I elaborated upon this today in a companion post: Some Contrasts Regarding Gender Roles in Evangelicalism and Catholicism. Consequently, when I speak about "complementarianism" I'm speaking of the view held by many evangelicals.)
The basic rejoinder I heard from evangelical readers was that gender roles are rooted in a creational account rather than endowment, that the issue is more about roles, vocations and calling than competencies and giftedness. The hierarchical complementarians who objected to ontological ineptitude were quick to state that they knew women to be very capable and competent in a variety of leadership spheres, but that this didn't really have any bearing upon the roles God set out for men and women at Creation.
I've been pondering that response. I actually wrote a whole post addressing this objection from a completely different direction. But thinking some more I've decided to say something more provocative. This:
I don't think those who are raising these sorts of objections actually believe what they are saying.
Well, they might not believe it consciously, but ontological ineptitude is implicit in the hierarchical complementarian position. So those endorsing the view will need to make a reckoning.
We all believe things we don't think we believe until it's pointed out to us. So let me point some things out.
If you really believe that God's assignment of men and women to their various roles/vocations has nothing whatsoever to do with intrinsic competencies then you are basically claiming that the only reason God assigned the genders to their respective roles is genitalia. Because if there are no competency differences--no relevant distinctives between the genders regarding their psychological and physical makeup--then the only reason left to assign the roles to the genders is anatomical differences. If the relative endowments of men and women aren't relevant to the role assignment then all that is left is the genitals.
Basically, the assignment of gender roles was, in this view, arbitrary. Definition of arbitrary: "Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system."
To sharpen this point, if the hierarchical complementarian rejects ontological ineptitude--like many are rushing to assert--then they are endorsing the view that God could have changed the roles given to men and women with no real change in how men and women reflect back the image of God. Phrased another way, what is critical in this view is that someone (anyone) needs to be in the "leader" role while the other person (doesn't really matter which) is in the "submissive" role. What reflects the image of God, in this view, is this relationship--a superior/subordinate relation. And the assignment of this relation--who is superior and who is subordinate--is arbitrary, a cosmic flip of the coin. It just happened to be the guys who were given the job of being the leader/head.
Now as should be clear, no hierarchical complementarian actually believes that to be the case, despite their protestations to the contrary. Hierarchical complementarians don't believe that the role assignment was arbitrary and, thus, potentially reversible with no loss of meaning or symbolism. Hierarchical complementarians believe that the genders are "fitted" or "suited" to their roles. The roles aren't reversible. And this means that more is going on and being reflected in gender roles than the role itself. It's not just a superior/subordinate relation arbitrarily assigned by a flip of the coin. The genders are suited to those roles. It's not arbitrary.
And yet, if hierarchical complementarian endorse this view they face the unpleasantness of my earlier post, that they are, like it or not, endorsing ontological ineptitude. They are endorsing the view that there are ways men are suited for their roles of leadership and, thus, ways that women are ill-suited for those same roles (even though, here and there, there will be exceptions to the general pattern). Ergo: ontological ineptitude.
And yet, some hierarchical complementarians claim they don't believe in ontological ineptitude (see reactions to the prior post, here and online), despite it being implicit in their belief system.
Again, I don't think these hierarchical complementarians actually believe what they are saying. Because if they really believed what they were saying they would be claiming that gender role assignment was arbitrary as well as denying that the genders were created by God to be suited and fitted to their respective roles. I don't think any hierarchical complementarians actually believe that, and if they did it's a very bizarre theological position, bordering on nonsensical. And you can verify that hierarchical complementarians really don't believe what they are saying by asking a diagnostic question: "If God left men and women as they are and simply reversed the headship role nothing would change in how the genders reflect the image of God, correct?"
Across the board hierarchical complementarians would say something very much would be lost if there was a role reversal. Because, despite their protestations to the contrary, there is more to their view than a claim about created roles and vocations. Hierarchical complementarianism, if it is to avoid being nonsense, is also a claim about how the genders are suited to their roles.
Like I said above, hierarchical complementarians might claim they don't believe in ontological ineptitude. But they actually do. And again, by "ineptitude" I mean "lacking in fitness" and "ill-suited to the situation or occasion."
And let me end by saying something conciliatory.
I'm not trying to bash hierarchical complementarians. I'm trying to explain why I, personally, don't believe in it. And one of the reasons I don't believe in hierarchical complementarianism is because I see implications in the position that are untenable for me, on theological, biblical and experiential grounds. It is my considered opinion, partly outlined in the case I make in this post, that hierarchical complementarianism implies things like ontological ineptitude. Which is one of the reasons I reject the view. Others, of course, are entitled to accept the view and all that it may or may not entail.