February 27, 2011
Before we can talk about masculinity and femininity, we first need to acknowledge that modern philosophy barely acknowledges gender differences exist. One of the prevailing schools of thought is that boys become men because we impose masculine traits on them, and little girls become women rather than men through nurture - that nature has little if anything to do with gender differences. There is even a push to separate the notions of 'sex' and 'gender', in that sex relates to your biology, whereas gender relates to your identity, with the two not always being the same. How we as Catholics understand masculine and feminine has to do with the gifts that God has embedded into our very nature.

Masculine qualities are not found only in men, nor are feminine qualities solely in the province of women. They are, however, more strongly expressed and have a more defining role in their respective sex. We know that not every woman is strongly drawn to children, nor are all men fierce competitors. Nevertheless, maternal feelings are a feminine characteristic, and I would wager every woman has a maternal nudge no matter how tomboyish, independent, or results-oriented she may be. Likewise, a man may be tender-hearted, creative, and sensitive, but he cannot delete that competitive tendency completely. Under the right circumstances, he will be faced with his Y chromosome and have to acknowledge his masculine self.

(One example to illustrate the innate 'maleness' in men from one of those fun decorating shows. This one has the wildly talented designer and her trusty alternative lifestyle sidekick. They were deciding on what shelf to hang in the client's dining room.  Gay designer he may be, but his opinion was, "I don't care; it's a shelf on the wall. Can we eat now?")

Prior to liberation, society understood family to be the cornerstone of civilization, and what we call 'traditional' gender roles were (and still are) fundamental to sustaining the family, and therefore society as well. Because we place value in 'doing' we tend to assume that these quaint notions diminished women, preventing them from fulfillment through education or employment.  Setting aside the monied classes, which had their own peculiar practices and standards, women often worked alongside men on the farm, or in the shop, as a family unit, and the community relied on each family to function well for the benefit of the whole. Formal education was not prized as it is today, as only a few had access to it; people learned what was essential, and most of that was gained through practical experience.

Before industrialization, daily life was incredibly physical, so the work load was shared out with everyone. Boys learned their roles from their fathers, and daughters shadowed their mothers. Each group performed the tasks best suited to their 'skill set' (to borrow a modern phrase) ensuring the work would be completed as efficiently as possible. Whether the work was splitting wood for the cook stove, darning socks, counting change at the cash register, or plowing the fields, each individual contribution was essential to the success - meaning survival - of the family, and therefore the broader society.

The division of labour was not a way to undermine, demean, or diminish either gender. Rather, it was a way of acknowledging and making the most of the particular abilities of each. Men, typically, are stronger and quicker, so to them fell the tasks requiring strength and speed. A man might have spent a day in the field constructing a stone wall, while a woman prepared the meals to sustain him, with produce from her garden and meat from the pigs she raised. Both were essential to maintaining home and family.

Thinking that being the same as men would make them equal to men, feminists sought to 'liberate' women from their feminine burden. But are women really free?  If she were truly liberated, a woman would be able to choose to stay at home if she wanted, without censure... and her husband would be able to adequately provide for his family. That is freedom.  Rather than freedom, many women now have double the burden. No longer labouring with her family, she works apart from them, then returns at the end of the day to care for them and the home.

All of our new social ideologies have not managed to improve the lot of women.  Perhaps the time has come to reexamine the original plan, and accept the wisdom of men being men, while women fill the feminine role.

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What is a woman? What does it mean to be feminine? There is softness and hardness, compassion and ferocity. There is contentment and adventure, freedom and service. We're conundrums, especially to ourselves, but we all, in some way, possess beauty, creativity, intuition and love. We were made for love, and we are loved, cellulite and all. Here we aim to show every woman the richness and beauty of her own femininity and explore current issues relating to women in our world. We also wish to share our own experiences - exploring the joys and challenges of stay-at-home moms and single professionals and everyone in between. Welcome! So glad you're here!

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