C.S. Lewis on Gender

In C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra, toward the end of the book, the main character Ransom sees the two Oyarsa (angels) of Mars and Venus, and notices that one is masculine and one is feminine. Lewis then writes:

“What Ransom saw at that moment was the real meaning of gender. Everyone must sometimes have wondered why in nearly all tongues certain inanimate objects are masculine and others feminine. What is masculine about a mountain or feminine about certain trees? Ransom has cured me of believing that this is a purely morphological phenomenon, depending on the form of the word. Still less is gender an imaginative extension of sex. Our ancestors did not make mountains masculine because they projected male characteristics into them. The real process is the reverse. Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the organic adaptation to organic life of a fundamental polarity which divides all created beings. Female sex is simply one of the things that have feminine gender; there are many others, and Masculine and Feminine meet us on planes of reality where male and female would be simply meaningless. Masculine is not attenuated male, nor feminine attenuated female. On the contrary, the male and female of organic creatures are rather faint and blurred reflections of masculine and feminine. Their reproductive functions, their differences in strength and size, partly exhibit, but partly also confuse and misrepresent, the real polarity.”

 

9 Comments

  1. Interesting and true, Gav.

    In Lewis’ essay ‘Membership’ he gets at the same ideas, saying our modern notions of equality are not progress but a result of the fall (like clothes–a result of the fall, and necessary in the meantime, but not the ideal).

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  2. […] for it from my ministry heroes. More than anything, C. S. Lewis books like Perelandra have shaped my thinking about gender. (For anyone curious, I’ve summed up why I’m complementarian […]

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  3. […] for it from my ministry heroes. More than anything, C. S. Lewis books like Perelandra have shaped my thinking about gender. (For anyone curious, I’ve summed up why I’m complementarian […]

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  4. […] for it from my ministry heroes. More than anything, C. S. Lewis books like Perelandra have shaped my thinking about gender. (For anyone curious, I’ve summed up why I’m complementarian […]

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  5. […] for it from my ministry heroes. More than anything, C. S. Lewis books like Perelandra have shaped my thinking about gender. (For anyone curious, I’ve summed up why I’m […]

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  6. […] for it from my ministry heroes. More than anything, C. S. Lewis books like Perelandra have shaped my thinking about gender. (For anyone curious, I’ve summed up why I’m complementarian […]

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  7. […] for it from my ministry heroes. More than anything, C. S. Lewis books like Perelandra have shaped my thinking about gender. (For anyone curious, I’ve summed up why I’m […]

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  8. Dear Gavin,
    Thank you so much for this post. I am starting a gender reading project with some friends this summer — a mix of novels, feminist & masculine philosophy, and autobiography — but before beginning, I’ve picked up Lewis’ space trilogy. I was so happy when I came to this passage, what I imagine will be sort of an anchor as I delve into the actual reading project. But now after reading your blog, especially question #3, I wonder if my friends and I should add a book or bunch of articles about divine complementarity to our gender studies list. Might you have any recommendations? Thank you!

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  9. […] Trinity to puncture egalitarian assumptions, C.S. Lewis’ novels are without rival. There is the scene towards the end of Perelandra, for instance, where the main character Ransom sees the two Oyarsa (angels) of Mars and Venus, and […]

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