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Understandings of gender and gender roles have been contested throughout evangelical history. The scope of this article does not allow for even a cursory overview of the myriad changes in views of gender in evangelical intellectual traditions and the gender roles enacted within the evangelical subculture from the Victorian era into the present period. It can only be acknowledged that these complex changes have taken place and continue to do so.

The perspective that has dominated conservative Protestant thought on gender since the Victorian Era emphasizes that there are natural or innate differences between men and women, and that these gender-specific characteristics were instituted by God at the time of the creation (Bartkowski 2001; DeBerg 1990). Gender essentialism in evangelicalism claims that inherent differences between the sexes exist. These differences have important implications for the particular Godordained roles men and women are to fulfill on earth, as each person according to his or her sex has a certain general nature with certain talents and particular purposes in life. This conservative Protestant gender essentialism has strong historical ties to the separate spheres ideology of the nineteenth century, in which men and women were expected to have different domains of skill and concern: men in the public as family provider, and women in the private as homemaker and caretaker (DeBerg 1990).While individual men and women may function well within the sphere of the other, their Godgiven natures make them especially well-suited for their respective spheres. Essential differences between men and women are reportedly self-evident to many evangelicals as well as other conservative Protestants, supported by "common sense" and everyday experience within and outside of family life (Brasher 1998; Gallagher 2004a).

Conservative Protestant gender essentialism also believes mutual interdependence defines the nature of the relationship between the two sexes. The joining of their two contrary natures allows men and women to become whole through a partnership in which one has what the other needs, because their gender roles are "complementarian" (Gallagher 2003; Gallagher and Smith 1999). Gender essentialism and the complementarian ideas that underlie notions of the traditional evangelical family emphasize the wife as nurturing mother and homemaker, and the husband as the provider, protector, and spiritual leader of the family.

Throughout its history, the central cornerstone of evangelical gender ideology has been "male headship," which places the father/husband at the head of the family and gives him authority over them but only within the boundaries outlined in the Bible. As the male head of the home, the father/husband carries the greatest responsibility for the family because he is expected to be first and foremost the spiritual leader of the household. The traditional understanding of headship also includes primary financial responsibility and final decisionmaking authority (Gallagher 2003). Associated with male headship is the idea of "female submission," which traditionally requires women to submit to the male head of the household. These distinct roles for men and women took the form of "separate spheres" during the early twentieth century, in which women were expected to remain at home maintaining the house and raising their children while men worked in the public sphere to fulfill their primary role as breadwinners (DeBerg 1990). In the mid-twentieth century, similar domestic ideals emerged as the upheaval of World War II gave way to the post-War era and a longing for normalcy, coupled with economic prosperity that allowed women to leave the workplace as husbands returned home (Skolnick 1991). A single male breadwinner and a wife who could stay in the home became the ideal order for the evangelical household (Gallagher 2003, 39).

The egalitarian nature of many evangelical family gender relations today reflects gradual changes since the Victorian era. Conceptions of gender and their enactment have never gone uncontested. Concepts including evangelical feminism, also known as "biblical feminism," have challenged traditional notions of male headship and female submission since mid-century, stemming from women's reform groups that called for biblical equality in the nineteenth century. "Second-wave" biblical feminism of the mid-1970s became an important counterpoint to dominant assertions of innate gender roles through its rejection of a God-ordained, male-dominated hierarchy of creation; this school of thought emphasizes the influences of socialization and cultural processes in the production of gender categories and identities.

Although limited in its influence in mainstream evangelicalism, evangelical feminism emphasizes the need for mutual submission of men and women before God, a position that a minority of evangelicals today espouse (Gallagher 2003). Other influential social changes on evangelical gender views include widespread economic changes that occurred in the mid-1970s, which made a dual-earner household a necessity for many American families, and thus were detrimental to the continuation of the single breadwinner household model. The women's movements of the 1960s and 1970s also contributed to an environment that made assertions of male supremacy or gender hierarchies increasingly unpalatable in mainstream American culture (Bendroth 1993). In negotiating the debates within their own tradition and with the wider culture around them, evangelicals have constructed diverse, unique, and dynamic opinions of and ways of enacting gender today: many evangelicals combine gender essentialist ideologies with egalitarian family relations.

The data collected by Sara Gallagher (2003, 2004a, 2004b) and her collaborative efforts with Christian Smith (1999) suggest that evangelicals still largely adhere to gender essentialism in terms of their professed ideology concerning the nature of the sexes. This majority, however, also incorporates more egalitarian approaches to gender roles in family life, leading to a less strict view of gender difference. Only 2% of evangelicals would be considered strict essentialists, or those who "did not qualify or hedge their belief in gender hierarchy and difference...that difference and hierarchy are God's design" (Gallagher 2003, 73). In terms of evangelicals' embrace of egalitarianism, which emphasizes the "mutual submission" of husband and wife to God in which neither takes a dominant role, only about 5% fall into this category. 87% of evangelicals believe that "marriage is an equal partnership," while 78% support equal partnership and male headship at the same time (Gallagher 2003, 75). More than 90% of evangelicals meld both traditionalism and egalitarianism, while maintaining essentialism or gender hierarchy through a continued emphasis on male headship within family life (Gallagher 2003; Gallagher and Smith 1999).

The continued emphasis within evangelical gender ideology on male headship within this "symbolic traditionalism and practical egalitarianism" is particularly interesting given the evidence from a more detailed analysis of daily family practices. The traditional understanding of headship appears to be profoundly altered within the context of current evangelical attitudes toward women's employment as well as those on decision making, the division of household labor, parenting, and evangelical fatherhood (Gallagher 2003; Gallagher and Smith 1999; Bartkowski 2001, 2007). One woman in Gallagher's study describes the interplay between simultaneous male headship and equal partnership through the responsibilities of shared housework:

I don't think headship and...equal partnership are mutually exclusive. I don't think that if a husband changes a diaper that he loses his headship [laughs]...You know as far as activity is concerned, that doesn't have anything to do with the headship. You've got a family unit that needs to function. Who does it best, who's got the time, who's available, who wants to do it? Let's just get the job done. (Gallagher 2003, 113)

For many, male headship is now maintained through responsibility for loving one's wife and providing guidance and emotional support for both wife and children (Gallagher and Smith 1999, 220; Bartkowski 2001, 2007). Headship is an increasingly psychological and spiritual burden or sacrifice, the success of which is measured through family happiness and is judged or accounted for by God. Two husbands quoted in Gallagher's study (2003) embody two primary models of headship found in today's evangelical families. The first respondent describes headship in language of spiritual leadership:

The only special responsibility I think that the man has in the family is [that] in the Bible it clearly states that he's the spiritual head of the family...My wife could be it, there's many women that are stronger Christians than men, but I do know that it says that I'm responsible to God for this one...It's just that I got to serve the Lord first, then my wife, then my kids, then my job, then my church. That's the order. (Gallagher 2003, 88)

The second husband describes his understanding of headship as servant leadership, connecting the responsibilities of male headship to the sacrifice of Christ for the church (see also Bartkowski 2001, 2007):

Headship is like Christ. Our model for that is Christ. He's a servant. The servant leader, the loving...sacrificial love, that's how I see headship. (Gallagher 2003, 89)

If for whatever reason the husband fails to fulfill this role, his wife can take over. It is still ultimately the responsibility of the male, however, and God will hold him accountable for his family's success and happiness (Gallagher and Smith 1999, 220-221).2 Here again male headship is sustained in the expectation that the man of the house will bear the responsibility of spiritual leadership, accompanied by an egalitarian qualification that if he cannot fulfill this role at a given time, his wife can support him by assuming the leadership role.

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