The Wheatley Institution

Equal Partners: The Salience of Roles in Marriage and Family

Helen Alvaré
November 14, 2013

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I am so much infinitely shorter than you are. Thank you so much for giving up some of your evening time for a lecture. I know it’s kind of a rough time of the day. I’ll try and keep it interesting enough so you stay awake until the Q&A when you wake yourself up again and stand up and ask questions. I can’t thank Richard enough and Emily and the Wheatley Center and I’m honored that the President of the University is here and honored that Lynn Wardle is here. I have worked with Lynn over the years and he is one of the greats, just such a champion, such a contributor. He keeps the ideas flowing in the midst of a very difficult environment for family law professors here. I also have the privilege of working for Cole Durham. I said working for him didn’t I? When Cole says we need you in, and then names three cities, one does have that feeling when you are working not just with Cole but for Cole.

I owe a lot to this university and I am very grateful to be here. I realized that it was almost three years ago that I was supposed to come here and got caught in a snow storm. I would like to think that God had some other interesting plans, in addition to the fact that that snow storm was indeed a snow-mageddon in D.C., took down the biggest tree in my back yard took off, which was on our bedroom so it took down the roof, the siding, the windows, the gutters, etc. just enough of everything to have to have it reconstructed the night I came home from that, it was eight hours to get home from an airport nine miles from my house because we got stuck in the snow so many times and the man who has been driving me round trip to airports for 21 years, asked me to wait with this couple who was very elderly and was coming back from a trip while he came to get us both at the airport. We were all stranded and could not get out and then we traveled eight hours together in a car to get back, and they were Christian-fearful, secular-atheists in a very outspoken manner and I remember thinking, is this what God had in mind by stranding me here in this car for eight hours and not being able to get to blessed Utah? I don’t know I hope I left a favorable impression on that couple, I think I did, at least she knows that not all Catholics hate modern art which she thinks is sort of some kind of god and so I was sort of in her good book. So that was my last time here.

I am here today to give a title that has things in it to please and things in it to displease the world at large. In the world we live in today, the phrase equal partners will probably satisfy a lot of people, particularly people who like the word partners, not spouses, and people who don’t like the words marriage and family. Then they would really be upset with the next part of the talk which uses the words “roles in marriage and family,” all three of those words are really getting a run for their money right now. In the work I do in the United Nations in particular, you would never see the words marriage and family in documents about women, children, and families; it is as if they do not exist. You’ll notice that the word “roles” really does play a central role in this title. What can I offer you tonight that is going to bridge the two parts of this title “Equal Partners, and the Salience of Roles”? What can I offer you considering, especially nowadays, the dangers when you enter this topic of reductionism, subjectivism, stereotype, the dangers of slighting historical periods or regions of the globe, all of which are inherent in any attempt to actually speak about women’s or men’s natures or roles. Not to mention the explicit rejection, post Simone de Beauvoir among others of the very notion that there is such a thing as the essence or nature or role of a woman. No, everything is socially constructed and anything that you would say about a woman in particular, she said, is just a conclusion that flows from patriarchal control of all society and of every relevant academic discipline.

It is true, we have to acknowledge, that many role assignments to men and women ended up inuring to the detriment of women. You’ll see when we look at them together. Now on their face, many of these role assignments are not just objectively placing women in the lesser position, but society accounted these roles as lesser. Why? Maybe because women were doing them, and it was a male led society in many, many cases throughout history. Maybe because men had led the way shaping the mindsets in which traits were evaluated, or maybe because the human race is prone to agreeing to value power and material possession or commercial or political or economic life and very tangible accomplishments in those arenas over accomplishments in personal or familial arenas. In any event, what I decided to begin this talk with is relying on this marvelous, Prudence Allen who’s done the concept of women in philosophy from the beginning of philosophy to the present. She takes the notions about women and men through history to today, and I was just visiting her in Denver last week and her third volume is coming out, her final volume bringing concepts of women up to the current time is due out next year. I got some of the chapters in advance, and if you look at this material about concepts of women and men throughout history, you’ll see that again, while not objectively on their face would women’s traits be ranked less, they often have been. So women would be body. Male: mind. Women: body. Men: rational faculties. Women: matter. Male: spirit. and then let me keep going without the headlines each time. Domestic or private sphere/public sphere; practical/intellectual; intuitive for women, rational for men; concrete/abstract; detail oriented/big picture; local/national; linear thinking/complex thinking; follower/leader; passive/active; dependent/independent; receiver/giver; invisible influencer/visible influencer; gentle/rough; weak/strong; non-violent/violent; calming/provoking. And here is an interesting set: virtue-vice or vice-virtue. It really depends on the era, those switch a lot. Tempted/tempter; tempter/tempted. Those switch through history. Back to women and men: innocent/worldly; relational/individualistic; communitarian/individualistic; collaborative/hierarchical; scattered/focused. So those are some of the leading dichotomies, if you will, through history.

Now, it is by no means sure that the assignment of those dichotomies will not shift or even reverse or that their rankings, which usually were that the male trait was in some sense objectively superior, but we don’t know that these rankings will remain stable in the future. Societies, economies, practices change, and what are now called female traits, traits particularly like collaboration or relationality, are actually getting their due, they’re being seen as valuable in and of themselves and to the society, in part through the work of some of the feminists of the late 20th century. Still, I’ll argue in this presentation that while it remains fraught to speak of dichotomies, roles, differences in natures, it remains rational, and even helpful to do so, but in a new framework. This framework that I’m going to be describing, a way to speak of these that I think provides a foundation also for speaking equally of roles and equal partnerships between men and women, is a framework that I have derived from the theology that I follow in Catholic teaching, it is called the anthropology of women, or the anthropology of the dignity of women, or the anthropology of sexual difference. A lot of it has echoes or analogies or common references to the family proclamation of the Latter-day Saints and I will point them out from time to time. I’m going to turn first to the question of why we can still even speak of the salience of roles of men and women and then I’m going to talk about how in particular a Catholic anthropology of roles or male and female puts them in a new framework that allows us to speak of equal partnerships in the same way that the family proclamation would speak of them in many points.

The modern iteration of the sexual revolution has been unfolding for at least 50 years, although I know historians would easily take that back to the 1920’s and have a lot of good reasons for doing so. But what we’re very familiar with is in the past 50 years. During these 50 years, women, frankly whose “yes” to the dissociation of sex from babies and marriage has been the outstanding feature of this revolution. Women have voted with their feet in a way that still allows us to have a presentation titled as this one is. So yes, women have voted with their feet in ways involving assuming roles, which in some cases overlap quite neatly with those populated previously almost exclusively by men in the functions they’ve assumed in particular, but they have also voted with their feet in many cases to choose X but not Y in a way that indicates that the phrase the salience of roles is neither offensive nor inaccurate. There is evidence, in other words, of persisting differences in the lives that women and men choose even though virtually every choice is now open to women. Women still prefer some jobs over others, as do men. Women still profess a higher interest in getting married than men do, and earlier too. Women express preferences for fewer sexual partners in their lifetime. They express more regret and actually experience more depression over sexual encounters that occur outside the context of commitment. Women want children more often than do men, and they are more often the ones that initiate that conversation. It is women who dominate lone parent households by a whopping 85% to 15% female to male. That figure worldwide is over 90%.—an indication that you can’t just peak of cultural conditioning when you have a 9 to 1 ratio. Women also more often express a preference for flexible or part time work schedules in order to spend more time with their children and with elderly family members for whom they care. There’s also the fact, in terms of my theme here which is the appropriateness of talking about the salience or roles, the fact that the most famous scientific, and I use that in scare quotes, gambit for the proposition that there are no important differences between men and women have really been exposed as failures or lies or worse. Sister Prudence Allen also covers this matter, again in the book chapters that are not out yet, but she does an awesome job on it and so I owe a lot to her for my coverage of this material. She details that the research upon which the most strident claims of the 20th century were made for the claim that there’s no difference between men and women, these strident claims have some common problems.

{Prudence Allen] identifies the most common problems as the following: They are often based upon research that wasn’t just using flawed methods, but really outright fraudulent methods, they used research that harmed the innocent and the consequences of their research also harmed the innocent, they tried to argue from animal behaviors to human behaviors, and they also tried to argue from the exception to the rule. I’m going to go through a tiny bit of that with you. It is a criminally brief summary of Michel Foucault, Dr. John Money, and Alfred Kinsey. Just to raise up these themes, these are the people to whom we woe the modern assumption that there really aren’t any important differences between men and women. I mean the feminist literature picked it up but these were the theorists that launched the giant books that became the New York Times best-sellers, landed them on the cover of Time magazine that really put this in formation into the culture. So, regarding Dr. John Money for example, you may recall he was the leading claimant for the notion that sexual identity is completely socially constructed and any child could be successfully reared if done so from birth as a male or a female. He claimed to prove this with his most famous experiment, if you recall the Reimer twins, one of whose penis was accidentally severed during a circumcision at his birth. That boy was chosen by his parents after consultation with Dr. Money to be reared as a girl. He underwent some surgery including hormone injections. He was also introduced to excruciatingly and pornographically explicit instructions about how to behave like a girl sexually from an early age. He was told nothing of his male origins until he was a seriously depressed, confused, suicidal teenager. At that time when he was finally revealed his identity, he chose instantly to live as a male, took the name David, later killed himself, and his twin brother died of an overdose of the medicine he was taking for his schizophrenia. Dr. Money continued to claim consistently that that experiment was a success and proved his point. Prudence Allen points out that Dr. Money’s work was also characterized by comparing humans to animals, exposing children to pornography, promoting pedophilia as natural, apparently with regards to incest and pedophilia research that he was goaded onto, in particular by Margaret Mead. He also claimed that research involving hermaphrodites and animals was equally applicable to sexually normal men or women and he made other clear abuses of the scientific method and of human beings.

French philosopher Michel Foucault argued for the dissociation of the body and the soul and the mind and the replacement of male and female sexual identity with sexual experience and sexual pleasure. He eventually acknowledged the influence on his research of his attraction and his living the sado-masochistic lifestyle of the San Francisco bathhouses of the 1970s and eventually knowingly participated in AIDS and wrote a bit about how he was seeking his own death through sex, but claimed that this experience was illuminating for his ability to pronounce on normal, every person’s male and female sexual identity which he claimed did not exist. Dr. Alfred Kinsey in the famous Kinsey report in the process of coming to his conclusions and recommendations for pan-sexuality, employed testing involving adults sexually arousing children ages 0-8, pressuring research subjects to admit that they had engaged in sexual behaviors, homosexual and heterosexual, when they had not. Dr. Paul McHugh who some of you may know whose head of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins for decades, the researcher who eventually put a stop to Dr. Money’s transgender surgery there, after a systematic study of gender identity, and those who had had a change, and there are many who had had gender identity changes in that clinic, concluded “sexual identity is mostly built into our constitution by the genes we inherit and the embryo genesis we undergo in the womb.” That evidence is not critiqued on the basis of its scientific validity and the processes used or the persons involved. Even knowing today what we know about these claimed scientific findings of no essential differences, we have to acknowledge that there still is a great resistance to acknowledging differences between men and women, and we have to sympathize somewhat with those who are afraid to acknowledge those difference. It is true that various cultures, or governments, or even religions have relied on these differences as reasons to treat women with less than equal dignity, but we cannot let these fears of what might happen with these dichotomies be the last word. We had to concern ourselves first with what is true, not only because it is important to acknowledge what is true about the human person, but also because refusing to acknowledge differences between the two sexes has played an important role in instigating real social harm. I’ll just give a couple of examples and I had to shorten this part of my reflections, I wrote a lot more, but I had to cut them back for time, but people who claim that there is no difference between male and female have argued for the latter part of the 20th century for instance that it makes no difference in married life if the man and the women switch roles or if they have an agreement between them to observe a rigid fifty-fifty division of everything that people do in a marriage, every kind of child care, every kind of housekeeping, every kind of chore. And yet we find in very recent research in necessina that couples who live this way actually have the highest risk of divorce and people in particular who live with a marital philosophy of measurement, confounding their own inclination toward their own vocations in marriage, as opposed to a marital culture of abundance or giving, I have gifts to give, you have gifts to give, that actually the people who switch roles or keep accounts have the least successful marriages, not the most successful.

By refusing to acknowledge differences between men and women, we have a refusal by definition to consider even the possibility of complementarity. We insist that everything that a male and female do in the context of the family is an overlap of what the other does that somehow, either or both sexes is absolutely redundant and there is nothing that either could receive from the other. This has also lead, in a variety of academic disciplines, sociology, psychology, etc., anthropology, to a real lack of studying of the phenomenon of complementarity. It turns out that one and one make more than two outside of simply the function of procreation, that there are other things which couples do together that actually are more than the sum of their parts, in addition to just having the children in the first place. There are things that children benefit from even if a second person, one male and another male, try to do exactly the same thing cannot do. We cannot even put our finger on it yet because we haven’t even had a sufficient interest in studying it. This is a great failure that flows from the insistence that because there are no differences between men and women, by definition there is no such thing as complementary. If you don’t value differences between men and women, that naturally leads to not valuing children. If any two people can be in a relationship and that is equally valuable to a male and a female relationship, then children are nothing really special. Then the fact that children, their existence in society itself, flows from the differences between the man and the women is of no moment. Then finally, of course, a difficulty that has emerged from the insistence there is no difference between male and women is sexual dysphoria—inviting people to live as if any sexual practice whether transient heterosexual or a homosexual practice, any of these aside from the pleasure they may take from it, is irrelevant to their mental or spiritual health. It is irrelevant. Sex is not related to the person. The fact that you were born a man or a woman is irrelevant to the meaning of your life or to your vocation and so whatever you do sexually has no meaning. It is just a physical thing that you do, but since children aren’t important and the relationship between men and women is not important, then sex is just an individual expression of myself carried into the world. It is not anything to do with the relationship, let alone making new life, and this too flows from this insistence that there is no difference between men and women, that we are infinitely sexually malleable and our body has no relation to our mind or to our soul. This is the argument that led naturally to same sex marriage. In other words, the fear of what might happen, that some people might take these dichotomies if we acknowledge them, and rank them cannot be the last word, cannot hold us back from thinking about the fact that there are differences between men and women. It is a fact in the world, you do not have to be theologically inclined to acknowledge it and to wonder what this is about, what this is this for, what it is good for, but this leaves the question of what to do with the bad stuff, the use of these dichotomies to demean women.

What I would like to share with you how in particular John Paul II but also Pope Benedict approached this question. The most definitive place that he did it was probably a reflection on women called Mulieris Dignitatem which means on the dignity of women that was put out in 1988 by John Paul II. So I am going to talk to you a little bit now about what Mulieris Dignitatem did with regard to women. Mulieris Dignitatem did refuse to accept these historically received dichotomies on their face with their greater and lesser ranking and in that sense it had something in common with the secular feminisms of the time. One might think that its refusal to just accept these on their face would endear Mulieris Dignitatem to a wide swath of feminists, but then we would all be naïve. Anything coming from the lips of the Catholic Church would not likely be endeared to a wide swath of feminists, some, but not a wide crew. For by the time Mulieris Dignitatem appeared, while later 20th century feminisms had taken a variety of approaches to smashing these old dichotomies, the majority of its leading forms expressed hostility or at best indifference toward any reflection on women which would link women with care for the human person as a special gift or calling. Consequently, no matter that Mulieris Dignitatem insisted on women’s dignity or their radical equality with men, or affirmed a feminine genius, that was its money line, the feminine genius, its conclusions involving God’s entrusting the human person to women in a particular way, simply were not embraced by the feminist establishment either in privileged countries or in international institutions like the UN with such outsized influence in developing countries.

So let me tell you a few things about how Mulieris Dignitatem did not do what the secular feminists did, but did something new all the same and got rid of the unsavory parts of the old rankings of dichotomies. The Mulieris Dignitatem and of course John Paul II’s Theology of the Body Series, innovated the understanding of the meaning of being created in the image and likeness of God. This is something our religions share. Your family proclamation is clear that all human beings are in the image and likeness of God, right away a basis for a kind of equality that is hard for anything else in the world to match. People can talk in the world about why they think men and women are equal, but it is really unbeatable when you say we are equal because we were each equally created in the image and likeness of God. Previously however, when the image and likeness of God was spoken of in theological and even in sort of secular circles what does it mean, it was human being’s free will and our capacity for rational reflection that were the nearly universally and solely celebrated aspects of our image in God. This state of affairs on its face has a way of advantaging men given that the field of opportunity of men to publicly exercise these faculties, their free will, to make something happen in public, and their rational faculties, was vastly greater than the field open to women by law and by cultural practice but Mulieris Dignitatem and the theology of the body highlighted something new: It said human beings image God importantly in a new way that is ever as important as free will and rationality, it is that we were made in and for relationships in the sense that men and women together image God, not one to the exclusion or without the other. In Genesis therefore, we find the observation that before the creation of the woman, the man’s solitude was not good, which is kind of shocking. God makes something and looks at it and says, “Naw, it’s not good,” that’s really a mind-blowing peace of scripture there. In both the Old and New Testaments, God is described with both paternal and maternal traits.

Theologian Margaret McCarthy studied under Angelo Scolla, a brilliant theologian in Italy, has a wonderful analysis of the relational aspect of Imago Dei. She analogizes this relationship between men and women to that between Jesus and His Father. About which it is said, and tell me if you have not also been stumped by this passage of scripture, Jesus “did not deem equality with the Father something to be grasped at.” How? That’s a stunning piece of scripture, I always thought, what could that mean? Just as how could it be that women are equal to men without grasping? Margaret McCarthy interprets this to mean that the question of grasping to and women’s equality must also be answered like Jesus with His Father in a relational concept, the Father is a Father by virtue of having a son and the Son a son by virtue of having a father. Applying this analysis to men and women, each is the only one fit to be of mutual help to each other in ontological and other senses. Each is the only one who can make the other apparent with, as Genesis says, the help of the Lord. Each needs the other to understand more about the very identity and image of God. So, once this human imaging of a Trinitarian God as relational is brought to the fore, then not only are men and women essential partners, essential, you can’t do without either of them in imaging God, but the woman’s capacity to bare new life and her special gift of attention, which Benedict used to call her capacity for the other, can be identified and valorized the old dichotomy’s instinct to rank traits is just transcended in favor of seeing them always in light of one another. In the matter of interacting mutual gifts which is very much my understanding of the way the family proclamation talks about the gifts of the husband and wife as in equal partnership, but definitely different. Not less than one another, but each in light of the other, interacting mutual gifts.

Closely related to the first aspect of Mulieris Dignitatem is a second. While Mulieris Dignitatem eschews rankings of gifts or traits, it easily affirms the differences between the sexes. This transcends the inclination of history of rank and of secular feminisms to avoid acknowledging differences because of the belief that they can only lead to rankings. Mulieris Dignitatem accomplished this by framing all differences as gifts received in order to be given. You’re given a gift, why? In order to give it. There is a theologian, Brian Johnson, you probably don’t know him, I think he is a Diocesan priest. He was at Catholic U when I was there, now he is back in Australia. I am not sure if he even ever published the paper, I got it in advance, but he talked about a new framework for understanding Catholic morality, in light of this anthropology, was all behavior has to be judged in terms of whether it capacitates the other to be a gift. Another way of saying it, are you acting in accord with who the other actually is? To love is to capacitate who they were meant to be by God. It is a wonderful paper, and I cannot find it in print, I just have a little typed version. Third, Mulieris Dignitatem boldly asserts that love is the meaning of life and women are first, or prior, in the order of love: the first to be entrusted with new life. I have to say, when I read this, it was just a little bit before my daughter was born and I was annoyed because I thought to myself, is this letting my husband off the hook, where are we going with this? I am first, but I am being put up first to be alone with this? No. This is not where he was going at all it turns out. It bases its conclusions not only on the fact of women’s fertility, but also women’s demonstrated gift for acknowledging the other. The recognition of women’s gift for loving other people means, John Paul II claims, and here is where it gets interesting, that she teaches the man his fatherhood. Teaches, not to lord it over him, but to enable him to give the gifts men give to their wives and to their children and to the world. Emily, this recalls the conversation we were having about baptism this morning. It is impossible to gainsay that given the women’s experience of pregnancy and child birth, and this thing that comes out of you on your way home from the hospital with the child and you look at it and all of the sudden you have this thought that if anyone gets near them, you are going to kill them, and you think, “I wonder where that came from?” it is the first time in your life that you thought that if someone extended a finger near this child, then you thought, how you have never had that thought before. Your husband is coming to understand. You hand him the child, it is this back and forth, but there is no doubt that your understanding of pregnancy and giving birth and motherhood is a different thing and I know this is still a neuralgic part of Mulieris Dignitatem, but again remember what I said. It teaches not to lord it over him, but enable him to learn the gifts men give to their wives and to children in the world. I will interpose here for a moment that I am really hopeful at some point that the Holy See will put out a document, they have done one on the collaboration of men and women, but I would like to see a new one on that also, but one on the genius of men because I need them to explain how it is that husbands gift their wives with things like how to get by on a faculty of 31 men and 4 women, or how to have a sense of humor about certain things that you never thought you could laugh at. What is that? What do we call that? We know what we call the women’s gift for coming into a room and making sure that everybody is ok and that everybody has someone to talk to. I remember my daughter having a party when she was about eight, and she invited girls she didn’t like and I said “why?” and she said, “Because everybody needs a group of three to talk to and there are some girls who do not have that third party and that is their third friend.” I remember thinking, “Wow, this is clearly something that is coming from the female aspect of this child.” This feature of Mulieris Dignitatem, it is claimed that women are gifted with a capacity for the person, but its simultaneous insistence that love is the meaning of every human life upends the entire historical inclination to account feminine traits as lesser both because they are feminine and because such a ranking assumes that worldly goods and power are the measure of success rather than the capacity to love well. If that is the measure of success, then this discussion of who the woman is and what her primary gift is, has a whole new aspect.

Fourth, Mulieris Dignitatem redeems the body while not exalting it as higher than the spirit or soul. Previously, because the body’s mortality and its other limitations and feelings were noted, women’s association with bringing forth new life and caring for persons was counted against them. “Oh, you are the one who is interested in taking care of the body which is a passing phenomenon.” From these premises flow what we still see today: Women’s bodies treated as things, as property. Thus, prostitution, thus pornography, thus trafficking, thus demands that sex is the price of a romantic relationship or cohabitation happen. Mulieris Dignitatem brings the body into the economy of salvation, teaching that it images a God in relationship that it points toward the goal and the good of the male-female union. It points toward the social context of every human life that bodies are obviously built not to be alone. They are built for relationship. It points toward God in pro-creative activity. So, Mulieris Dignitatem does not agree or disagree with the old characterization of women’s association with the body, but it reinterprets the meaning of all human bodies. Therefore, both women’s and men’s experience of them is reinterpreted: It says they are indications that you are made for the other. First, for your spouse and your children, and then for everybody.

Fifth and finally about Mulieris Dignitatem, it identifies men’s tendency to dominate women as men’s original sin in relation to women verses what many had believed that my church taught that male domination was the natural law or natural order. John Paul II has even asserted that because the world valorizes domination as a promising trait, as a sign of success, of a winning personality, that men’s original sin is actually harder to overcome than women’s because they get rewarded for it. He identifies, by the way, in case you are curious, women’s original sin as possessiveness of those given to them and the willingness to try or being willing to establish a relationship with a man on a basis less than equality and mutual gift. Mulieris Dignitatem’s mediations on original sin have the effect of a tunnel dug underneath the entire edifice composed of the historical rankings of claimed differences between men and women. They indicate that such a building should never have been built in the first place and suggest an alternative blueprint for a good building: Acknowledge sexual differences, yes, but for the purpose of mutual gift giving between and women and between each of them and their neighbors in the world. This is both in thanksgiving for the first gift giver who is Christ and in reverence to Him mutually. It likewise acknowledges that male-female relations are extremely fraught with original sin. It is a first place of operation.

I am going to make six points in conclusion as a reflection on what I see here in light of the signs of the times. I hope I have established that some very powerful images of women’s roles or traits have persisted in history, some to the present day. I have stated that these were received quite differently by John Paul II in particular and by various feminist thinkers operating outside of a Christian framework. I would also say the Family Proclamation receives the question of differences, differently and interprets them in light of the common good, in light of it being possible to speak of the good of a unit not just the individual and different contributions to that unit as meaningful and necessary. I would now like to conclude with thoughts about where we might go from here, particularly on the matter of women’s roles in light of the signs of the times because I think women are the most fraught about their futures. Now, I agree, men are also fraught about where they are going to go in an economy with declining jobs which seem suited precisely to their past expertise or in an economy where you have less men graduating both from college and grad school on a national level. But I think because it was women who bought the separation of sex from marriage and babies and really brought us the sexual revolution that it was their buy-in to that stupid idea that brought us in many senses to the place we are today. How might we make our way out of this situation?

First, I think the word “roles” may be irreversibly tainted in the modern world. I do, I just think it is a tainted word. I think it might be more useful to speak of women’s and men’s gifts, or capacities, or contributions, of fields of action, not only in relation to those as individual possessions, but also in relation to our God-given vocations and what we can bring to everybody who we are vocationally called to serve with those gifts. Second, I think any reflection about the future of women needs to be framed almost in every case in the context of the gifts that men and women bring to one another. There is a burgeoning literature on women alone but the world is obviously changing for men, revealing difficulties for them not only in the labor market, but also really in the marriage market, not among people who are educated, but among lesser educated men without a degree, without income, without proper stable jobs, [they] are simply not being chosen in marriage. They are going through a series of transient relationships and cohabitation, but non-marriage. One would not wish to see a movement in reaction to men’s situation that made the same mistake as several feminists, that is, failing to think of men and women as necessary collaborators vs. combatants. In the same vein, society has paid some, but far too little, expert attention to the question of the complementarity of men and women everywhere. We are together in every arena. We have talked some, although not enough, and there is certainly not enough data on what it is that we bring complementarily in the family. What does it mean that there are women and men on my law faculty? What does it mean that women and men are doing every kind of job together? What gift are we missing by what it is that they are doing together? Third, I hold that the secular feminist response to women’s historical inequality—deny, deny, deny all differences, say everybody is the same, deny complementarity, more and more deny that marriage has anything to do with happiness or freedom of women, or that children have anything to do with this. I think this secular feminist response is hurting poor, vulnerable, and minority populations and children the most and I think the religions like ours, which have deep grasps of the family have a lot of work to do, not only among our own, but also out in society to overcome this. The message that it is good to reject stable relationships with men, reject marriage, to normalize non-marital childbearing, all of these which are staples of a secular feminist response to the past, are among the leading causes of poverty, sexually transmitted infections, even, interestingly if you have seen the data, a shorter lifespan for poor women, violence against women, child suffering, and inter-generational mobility. No policy regarding poverty can hope to succeed without attending to this. This has become clear over the last several decades of natural experiment. This is all the more galling because of course, people who do have money and who have gone to college or grad school refuse to preach what they themselves practice. They marry before they have children, they stay married and make sure their children get to school; they refuse to propose this for the poorest for whom they still announce that the only rule is “there are no rules.” That sexual expressionism rules the day, that you need to do what you really think is necessary to form your own identity and your own understanding of the universe. I don’t know if anybody here remembers, it was one of the most famous editorials ever printed in the Wall Street Journal. They said they never got more letters in response than they did to this one. It was an editorial called “No Guidelines.” It was after the Oklahoma City bombing and there was also a killing at an abortion clinic near that time. What it said was, ok all you elite Americans who tell those who are poor or who don’t have good advice from their families about how to negotiate their sexual lives or their educational lives, and when you tell them that the only rule is “there are no rules,” and then they follow your lead and they do not have the margins of money or family or educational or cultural institutions to tell them otherwise and remind them that it is an interesting thing to study at school but it is no way to live your life, don’t be surprised when they bomb buildings and shoot abortionists. That is what you are going to get when you tell people “the only rule is there is no rules.” The response to that was so amazing. One woman said she crumbled up the editorial, she put it in her mouth, and vomited it up and then mailed it back to them. I think we have hit a nerve there. It is the case that for themselves, in the words of Charles Murray in his book Coming Apart, “elites live sound family lives for the most part but refuse to preach what they themselves practice, and preach instead a message, a cheap gospel, that everything is fine if you choose it because I do not want to condemn you and you end up with familial chaos that also ends up being an inescapable correlate of poverty, violence, etc.”

Fourth, women have to be particularly active participants in the movement for religious freedom around the world. You may have noticed that the movement to crush religious freedom in some parts of the world is being waged precisely in the name of vindicating women’s rights. You see this at the United Nations, you see it in the regional bodies, Latin America, Africa, you certainly see it at the European Court of Human Rights, we are seeing it here in the United States with the HHS contraceptive mandate, that if you really care about women, if you care about women’s human rights, you have to silence religion. You see the same argument is being made in the same sex marriage debate. If you care about human rights, you have to silence religion. But the argument about particularly religions paying for contraception or abortifacients or sterilization, and in a blink it will be religions paying for abortion, is waged in the name of women’s rights. Women have got to be particularly vocal about the right of religious freedom because they are speaking for us when they are crushing it. There is another delicate matter here. In less privileged nations, women have to participate in the complex task of both promoting religious freedom, while simultaneously opposing tendencies which come from some religious voices to obscure or deny their God given dignity or to claim that they are second rate. In these latter situations there is important work to be done in assisting some authorities in these countries to understand that they can embrace authentically pro-women reforms without swallowing all of this horrid women’s platform that comes from the west that says abortion and contraception and avoiding marriage and childbearing are the keys to women’s freedom. They are afraid to accept the good parts of a women’s rights agenda because they think this necessarily comes along with it. This is delicate work, but it has to be done while promoting religious freedom.

Fifth, we have had a more or less natural experiment over the last several decades allowing us to observe what happens when a substantial number of women actually can choose how they would like to spend their whole lives. Preliminary results are in—women actually still want to marry and have marital children. Women are happy to exercise their talents outside the home as well. When they are mothers, however, the majority of women (shocking to the pundits here) prefer to work part-time or on and off in cycles responsive to their children’s needs, although, there are always women who wish to work full time as well as those who simply have to. Our government has asked women and children and families, however, to make the greatest sacrifices if they wish to have children, rather than enabling women and men and families to put their families first. Governments have emphasized as their “family policy” women’s freedom not to have children. That is the policy: Contraception and abortion. We do not really have a family policy in our law at all. The answer is there is no federal law on the unitary family. It is all about wiping the slate clean of the obligation of having children, then saying, “ok, do as you want. We are not going to help you as a family, we are actually not going to help you as an individual woman either, we just wanted to make sure you didn’t have to have kids and then we assumed that you would bootstrap it like the males.” The response to that of course is that we have to mention that this is what they have done. They have had no family policy and bought, I can’t believe how many women’s votes they have bought on the cheap, and governmental and self-described women’s groups really need to be called into account for this. The opportunity cost of their priorities are not only family fragility, but also the dearth of policies which actually value the caretaking work of full-time or part-time mothers at home and which actually take care of the family as a unit or of women as caretakers.

Sixth and finally, women seem very much in a position to be excellent communicators of what I am talking about here, all these messages that I am putting forward. They do not have to adopt male ways of doing things. It is interesting, Pope Francis says, “When I speak about a new theology of women, I am not talking about machismo.” John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae, ‘I am not talking simply about adopting patterns of domination.” I am talking about a new way for women to reject their old approach to smashing the dichotomies and rankings that characterized parts of the oppression, a new way for women to take this up. Women need seriously to communicate that the old way has to be held to account, it has not only immiserated women, but particularly poor and vulnerable women. Women are in a privileged position to say that progress and freedom and dignity are achieved when persons and institutions operate according to the rule of losing one’s self in the service of God and one another. Women are brilliantly placed to communicate not just the power of this gospel, but the power of this truth that everybody knows by the time the die: Human beings are not made to live as individuals; they are made for the law of love, which is a cycle of entrustment and fidelity. Only in living that will they actually have a career or a family that was actually an accomplishment. An important caveat here: A lot of theologians have written about an opposing phenomenon, that is, that the struggle for the cause of the human being is waged first via attacks upon the woman. As I said, it was an attack upon women’s natural desire to hold sex, marriage, and childbearing together that gave us really the sexual revolution we have. It was an attack precisely upon that instinct of women. This is the underside of the woman’s role as the one to whom the human being is first entrusted. Around the world today, it is the woman who is urged, often by self-proclaimed women’s groups, to abort her child. It is the woman who is urged to distrust men as a general hermeneutic. It is the woman who initiates divorce proceedings in the United States in 66% of all marriages and in the majority of marriages not marked by violence. It is the woman who is assured that non-marital childbearing is morally neutral and that labor-market accomplishments are far more valuable than anything she could be doing with the family. In short, it is the woman who is targeted to deny the fundamental truth that human life is fundamentally about relationship, not autonomy. This is terribly irony when you consider that it is probably the woman who is entrusted first with the opposite message. This is not an absolution of men. As John Paul II and other have emphasized, men are regularly invisible participants in women’s ends. But it is an identification of areas where women could be exhorted to lead the way out of the crises that we are in with regard to relationships between men and women and with regard to the family and with regard to marriage. Women could lead the way toward prioritizing again the demands of love. Empirical data on this are tantalizing. They indicate that if women understood their power in the marketplace of relationships, you can tell I come from a law and economics faculty can’t you? If they understood their power in this marketplace and they acted in concert, if they knew that they held the power of the seller and acted by making demands not only of men but also of employers when it came time to marry and have a family, of the government with respect to family, they would not only serve their own interests but also the interests of the neediest, including in particular of children and of poor women, and they would vindicate the cause of the human being to a great degree. It is not weakness, it is not just bowing to the demand, to the fiats of religion for women to do this, but cooperation with the internal logic, the natural law, of the law of freedom which we all come to find out at the end of any length of life is coextensive with the law of love. Women have at this moment in time the power in particular to bring this message to the fore and because they have the power, they have the duty to do so. Thank you very much.

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