It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, due to a crazy schedule, but I’m back, and I don’t foresee another hiatus any time soon. 🙂 Although I haven’t had time to post, I haven’t stopped musing on authentic femininity in light of the Catholic faith! I’ve discovered something interesting in these past few months, though. The deeper I delve into pondering, sharing, and living the feminine genius, the more I come to appreciate the “masculine genius” and to understand how it is under attack in our society. I think this points to a beautiful truth. Contrary to what society tells us, appreciating the differences between men and women does not lead us to undervalue one or the other. Rather, as we come to understand one gender, we learn to see how men and women are meant to complement each other with their own unique strengths. The fact that men and women are complementary means that each has something the other does not. The more I embrace my own calling to spiritual motherhood, sensitivity, generosity, and receptivity, the more I see the way these gifts are meant to be used alongside the gifts that men possess. Just as it is “the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman” (Pope St. John Paul II), part of my vocation as a woman is to uphold the dignity of every man by respecting his God-given “masculine genius.”
Unfortunately, modern men and women are failing miserably in the “upholding dignity” department. Few people seem to know how to uphold their own dignity, let alone that of others. And, while the under gap has lessened in terms of wages, work opportunities, etc., the “gap” in respect to understanding between men and women seems to have hit an all-time low. Case in point: the culture of sexual harassment/assaultand the #MeToo movement. The revelations about the behavior of so many rich and powerful men has been sickening, while not entirely surprising, given our culture’s encouragement of objectification and casual sex. While I was encouraged to see people finally taking a stand against these assaults on the dignity of women, I found it ironic, to say the least, that the same people who avidly support pornography, the hookup culture, etc., were suddenly crying out against the way these men were objectifying women. Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s great that more people are speaking out against sexual harassment, and in many ways I was pleased by the #MeToo response. Also, what I’m saying does not by any means apply to everyone who has supported #MeToo; I am generalizing here. But I think that the fact that the movement as a whole has failed to reject many of the underlying causes of these attacks on women’s dignity has led it down the wrong path.
Instead of holding up good men as an example to be imitated, many people have started blaming men for the very fact of being a man. Type “toxic masculinity” into your search engine, and you’ll get a sense of how this has become a cultural phenomenon. Some have even suggested that men are incapable of having sex without being violent. Aside from the blatant falsehood of such a position, I am not sure how anyone thinks this attitude will fix anything. In today’s world, men are in a difficult place. They feel like they have to constantly apologize for being men, lest they be blamed for the sins of their brothers. Men are wired to desire to defend and care for the women in their lives. This isn’t patriarchal, it is Christ-like. But if a man dares to so much as open a door for a woman, he receives an icy stare. Not only can men not live out their masculine genius; most of them don’t even know there is one.
I’d like to argue that the solution to the sexual harassment crisis isn’t tearing men down, but building them back up. Men today need an example of authentic masculinity, one that models their vocation to defend the dignity of every woman. If we want to prevent the young men of today from turning into Harvey Weinstein, or at least teach them to defend women from such men, we need to give them a viable model of masculinity. Frankly, telling men to stop being men is just not helpful. So here is my suggestion for a role-model: St. Joseph. As the foster-father of Jesus and the husband of Mary, he is the greatest of the male saints. He loved Mary and defended her dignity, respecting her call to virginity despite the fact that he was her lawful husband. He was never demeaning or domineering; rather, he made it his life’s work to keep her safe and to cherish her. What a wonderful example of true manhood! Rather than berating men for being who they are, let’s hold up St. Joseph as an example of what men can be: true protectors of women’s dignity.