Perhaps it is obvious that humankind should consist of men and women, two genders, not just one. After all, “it takes two to tango” doesn’t it?
But, on the other hand, why would one kind of human being not have been enough? Problems between the two genders have occurred throughout history, often with disastrous results, and the issue of gender inequality persists today. Wouldn’t life be easier if we were all the same, if we were all equal?
Of course, when we look at all the other living beings, they are pretty much all in pairs. There are male and female birds, animals, fish, even insects. And when we look at plants it turns out that although most plants are the same, their flowers have male and female parts, and some even have separate male and female flowers. Now, we know that reproduction in almost all living species does require the meeting of male and female, so that makes it unsurprising that human beings also come in male and female versions. But still, does it have to be that way for us?
In non-living things, there is actually only one kind of atom in each element. Would that be possible for human beings?
When I was in high school, I was fascinated by chemistry. I loved learning about how the different elements could combine to make molecules or ionic compounds. It turns out that the atoms in each element contain both positive and negative particles, and this allows the atoms to interact and combine together in various ways. An especially interesting point is that all atoms are actually made up of the same particles – in the simplest terms, protons and neutrons in the central nucleus, and electrons in orbits around the center. And each proton, neutron, or electron is essentially the same as all other protons, neutrons, and electrons. This means that these particles from different atoms are actually interchangeable.
A simple example: When electricity flows through a wire, it doesn’t travel by having a bunch of electrons run along the wire, from one end to the other. No, all the electrons just move from atom to atom. In a sense, electrons go in one end, but different ones come out the other. In the same way, when an ocean wave comes on shore it is not the same water molecules that travel all the way from out in the deep water to the beach. The energy of the wave is transferred by the movement of the water molecules until it reaches the shore. Having interchangeable particles, atoms, and molecules is quite convenient!
Back to human beings. Why are we not like the elements which have both positive and negative particles, parallel to male and female in living creatures, within each atom? Would it not work, and be more convenient, to have just one kind of human being with both male and female parts? Before answering that, let’s take a look at the biblical account of creation.
In the creation story in Genesis, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), we find this verse about the creation of human beings:
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
Another account goes as follows:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Genesis 2:18).
Adam named all the created living beings, but he rejected all of them as his partner.
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man (Genesis 2:22-23).
While there is somewhat of a difference in the process of creation of man and woman here, it is clear that in both accounts it was considered important that human beings be not just male but male and female. The second account suggests this is because man should not be alone, a not entirely complimentary explanation! The first, however, gives a deeper reason: God created human beings to resemble Him, to be in His image, male and female. This suggests that God is not actually male, but rather male and female; God is our Heavenly Parent not just our Heavenly Father! (For my reflection on this, see my earlier article “Is God’s Love Paternal or Parental?”)
So, now I have two reasons why humankind consists of both men and women.
The first is that we are not interchangeable! Clearly, no two human beings are exactly alike (except in the case of identical twins whose level of similarity as they grew up varies according to their life experiences and choices). If a human being was a single, composite creature with both male and female attributes, it would theoretically be able to reproduce. However, where would be the variety? Would it not just result in clones, replicas of the first human being? That would be no fun!
As Ye-Jin Moon noted in her article in Journal of Unification Studies “The Need to Recover Gender Balance, to Understand God as both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother”:
[T]he eternal purpose of creation is not the cloning of identical entities … This means that at the dual, division level, there must be commonality but also difference between the two sides. Since both originate from the one and the only Heavenly Parent, there has to be commonality between them. At the same time there must be difference as well, being that the eternal purpose of creation is not to clone identical creations.
So, if we have men and women, obviously not identical, not interchangeable, they can procreate producing a child who is the combination of the two parents, not a clone of either. And this continues endlessly as each new child finds a partner with whom to produce more children, different and unique combinations of their parents. How amazing!
In the same article, Ye-Jin Moon continues the discussion of why humankind consists of both men and women:
Heavenly Parent ended His/Her 95 percent creative portion of the sixth stage of creative process with not just one human person but with a man and a woman, each having in common their human value as the sum total of the entire creation, and each different in being of the opposite sex. In this they took after Heavenly Parent, who is the dual gendered but co-equal Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.
This brings us to the second reason, which is to resemble God most fully, as both male and female. Why did God say that it was not good for man to be alone? Is it because Adam didn’t know how to cook? Well, maybe he didn’t! But more essentially, human beings were created to love, to be the best partners in love that God could imagine, resembling our creator, our Heavenly Parent, as closely as possible. And that is why we need two types of human being: Men and women are made for each other, to love each other in an eternal embrace where we never tire of the other who is the same (a human being) but totally different from us (like Mars and Venus).
True love between a man and a woman is never boring, for us or for God. And the outcome, children, allows us to develop that parental heart God has towards us. And so, through our experiences of the conjugal and parental realms of heart we resemble God most fully. That is possible because humankind consists of both men and women.