C. S. Lewis On Gender -- By: Ann Loades

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 24:1 (Winter 2010)
Article: C. S. Lewis On Gender
Author: Ann Loades

C. S. Lewis On Gender

Ann Loades

Ann Loades is Honorary Professorial Fellow of St. Chad’s College and Professor Emerita in Divinity at the University of Durham, UK, where she was the first woman to be given a chair personal to herself. She is also A Honorary Professor in the School of Divinity, University of St. Andrews, Scotland. In 2008, she was honored by a festschrift, Exchanges of Grace, edited by Natalie K. Watson and Stephen Burns.


Cautious though one must be in thinking that one can entirely understand someone in terms of their circumstances, C. S. Lewis (CSL) virtually invites us to pay attention to his by the publication of his Surprised by Joy (1955). This text, which we can now read as a classic of “textual male intimacy” in religion,1 is one of those resources particularly important when we try to grasp what CSL meant and could not mean by “masculinity,” as will become clear in the last part of this article. In addition, we need to attend to a whole range of his publications when we attempt to assess his understanding of “femininity” and its relation to “masculinity.” One can hardly be understood without the other: “Gender” is not simply a matter of problematizing what it may be to be female/ feminine. In addition, quite apart from what CSL reveals about himself in his publications, it is helpful to juxtapose with his self-presentation perspectives on his context in a way not possible in his own times, alert though he himself was to political, social, and economic change.

The tail end of the nineteenth century, at the very end of which CSL was born, saw some thoughtful reassessments of the effects of industrialization, and on women in particular. For instance, Henry Scott Holland, one of the most perceptive Church of England clerics of his time, insisted that the strain of the situation was such that “[w]e have got to secure for women an entirely new value and significance.” The point was that, while “he,” “his,” and “him” were humanly inclusive in criminal law, they were not so in civil law, though there had been marked improvements in legislation concerned with married women especially. The particular issue that concerned Scott Holland was that of votes for the women whose lives, like those of men, had been so dramatically changed by industrialization.2 Women simply had to be in a position where they could voice their concerns themselves. Sometimes these would coincide with those of men, but sometimes not. The UK was years behind, for example, New York States Married Women’s Property Act of 1848, bringing in a comparable act in 1885, which secured to women property and earnings ...

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