I was talking with one of my daughters about the last blog I wrote on Masculinity and intentionally raising our boys to become real men. She thought it was an important topic, but asked, “So, are you going to write a blog on how to raise girls to be women?” I hesitated, thinking that I would not have the same insights or experience to write about this in the same way, but I will give it a shot.
During one of my college internships in Boston, I remembered working with a young woman, named Martha, who was not shy about debating any topic or voicing her views, especially about the cultural boundaries society had created for women. This was during the mid-70’s and the feminist movement was in full swing, bringing up some important issues about equality of opportunity and treatment. I did not accept her drinking challenge but we did have some good hearted and interesting conversations. During one of those conversations I looked up at her and smiled as I asked, “You don’t believe men and women are equal at all, do you?” She smiled back at me, knowing I had finally figure it out that she thought that women were not equal to, but superior to men.
While I did not want to agree with her, for reasons that were probably different than hers, I actually did. I do believe we are created different but equal, but when it comes to the wisdom to know what things in life really mattered and what priorities each individual should make, women have tended to have “gotten it” more than men. That wisdom and understanding had been something that was culturally supported, despite women often not being treated with the respect and dignity they deserved in every area of life. Now, there have always been outstanding men and outstanding women, and not so outstanding men and women, but too many “men” have been taught to act like immature, self-interested, uncommitted nineteen year olds for as long as they can. It has often been the unfair responsibility of women to get them to care about the important things in life – marriage, family, faith, and community. Women seemed to have instinctive wisdom in understanding that we find out true selves only in self-gift to others, in loving relationships with God and others, and in committed intimacy. They could see the emptiness of pursuing the things of the world over the things that really counted. They knew deep inside the loss that came with reducing the important dignity of sexual intimacy by stripping it of aspects of its full meaning and purpose.
Since those conversations with Martha, I have watched the culture push women to leave their place of wisdom, where they were unfairly supposed to drag the opposite sex into maturity and keep the world from collapsing under the weight of a society that has turned its back on an infinitely better divine plan. While men have been often portrayed as buffoons or playboys on TV, the pressure has been on women to go after all the great stuff these perpetual nineteen year old men had. The mantra has been to think of yourself first and to go for it all. The key has been to ignore or deny the impact of these enlightened options of career, autonomy, choice, and sex. As I have said, I think there were major women’s issues to be addressed in terms of empowerment, fairness, opportunity and dignity, but there has also been another side to this progress that has come with a cost to the women themselves and society as a whole. To enable this new freedom (to act like a nineteen year old boy), society has had to deny medical science when it comes to recognizing the existence of an actual living human being and the brutality of the procedure to take that life in an abortion. We have had to deny the critical impact on the emotional development of young children as we have put them in day care facilities that cannot provide the bonding and lifetime loving focus of a parent. We have had to deny the impact of increased levels of divorce, stress, anxiety, and depression. We have had to deny the physical and emotional impact of removing the meaning, purpose and sacred nature of sex in a committed relationship as we have lessened its value in practice.
The responsibility for any and all of these things were never meant to be put on the shoulders of women alone. Since they carried, bore and cared for the family, their entire beings have been more naturally in tuned with the real things in life vs their more detached and often oblivious male counterparts. Tring to become like them has not been the best answer for society, or for women themselves. Christ provided the roadmap for an authentic life as a human being. It has always been about love, mercy, compassion, service and self-gift to others in relationships. Everything else is diversion, noise, and folly in comparison. There was a time when more woman understood that call in the depths of their heart, mind and souls. I think they still do, but the toxic culture of today has called many of them away, temporarily I hope. As I mentioned, it is not fair to count on woman to continue to save the world and keep it on a healthy path, but I think we will always need their wisdom and leadership to drag the other half of us along.