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Posts Tagged ‘Gender’

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)“Pope Francis Korea Haemi Castle 19 (cropped)” by Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped).jpg#/media/File:Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped).jpg

Every month, the Pope comes out with two specific prayer intentions: Universal and Missionary.  I have identified these in the past, but this time I decided they deserved a brief bit of commentary.

Scientists

InvestigadoresUR” by Urcomunicacion – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:InvestigadoresUR.JPG#/media/File:InvestigadoresUR.JPG

Universal Intention: 

That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Let’s be clear: Science is good.  It has been, and still is, an invaluable tool for humanity and has made a tremendous difference in so many ways.
The problem, from the Church’s (and, I hope, from any reasonable person’s) perspective, is not science, but scientism.  Scientism is the misguided belief that science can answer virtually everything, rendering religion invalid.  It reduces all knowledge to what is quantifiable, empirically discoverable, and verifiable by means of the scientific method.
In its most extreme form, scientism reduces the human person at the individual level to mere biology, and at the collective level to numbers or to marks on a “grid.”  With this view of humanity in place, matters of importance are not decided by the question, “Should we do it?”  Rather, they are decided by the question, “Can we do it?  Do we have the capability?”
And if carrying out our capabilities for what we consider the greater good means shutting down a particular biological configuration (the individual) or clearing out a few marks on a grid (groups), then so be it.  As the saying goes, “If you want to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs.”
Let us always make sure that scientific endeavors serve the genuine good of humanity, rather than subjugating the human person to the advancement of science.
I would like to mention, in passing, a fascinating and eye-opening book on this subject for those who are interested in exploring the notion of scientism further: “Technology as Symptom and Dream,” by Robert D. Romanyshyn.
Dorothy_Day_1934“Dorothy Day 1934” by New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection – New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dorothy_Day_1934.jpg#/media/File:Dorothy_Day_1934.jpg
 Missionary Intention:
Contribution of Women:  That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.
It may surprise many people to learn that the Catholic Church has a very robust and inspiring theology of womanhood.  In fact, the Church is at one and the same time more feminist and more “masculinist” than most of Western culture, which tends to regard gender as a mere biological accident (here again is the scientistic view of the human person).
Genesis 1:27 tells us that God made humankind in His image, and in the same sentence tells us this: “[M]ale and female he created them.”  Man and woman image God together; neither gender fully does so by itself.  Therefore, men and woman share equal dignity and offer unique gifts to the world, humanity, and the Church.
For more information on this, see my Mother’s Day and Father’s Day posts from 2013.
Images from Wikipedia
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Among the many instances in which we find, in popular media, a beautiful female either falling in love with or giving her affection to a comparatively unattractive and/or awkward male are the following:

Theory of EverythingWe have the graceful and lovely Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) and the nerdy, awkward Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything.”

Bill HaverchuckVicki ApplebyGoing back about 15-16 years to the short-lived but subsequently quite popular television series “Freaks and Geeks,” we find cute cheerleader Vicki Appleby (JoAnne Garcia Swisher) in the closet with lanky geek Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr) after a game of spin-the-bottle.  At first she is perfectly beastly toward him, but she gradually warms up to him and, before their time is up, gives him a kiss.

Beauty and the BeastAnd then of course there is the archetypal “Beauty and the Beast.”  Need I say more?

We tend to see and hear about situations like these, in which a man not blessed with physical attractiveness or grace is nonetheless blessed with the affection of a beautiful woman, and think to ourselves: “Wow — good for him.”

But let’s reverse the situation a minute.  Imagine a strapping, musclebound, suave, and extremely handsome young man lovingly courting a woman who is grossly overweight, wears glasses, has a retainer, and has nothing of what anyone would consider conventional attractiveness. We see something like that and we think: “Wow — good for him.”

See where I’m going with this?  When a woman looks beyond mere appearances and finds the goodness inside, we think very little in her favor.  We expect it of her.  But when a man does so, we seem to think he is “going the extra mile,” and to be heartily congratulated for it.

Albrecht_Dürer_-_Adam_and_Eve_(Prado)_2“Albrecht Dürer – Adam and Eve (Prado) 2” by Albrecht Dürer – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Albrecht_D%C3%BCrer_-_Adam_and_Eve_(Prado)_2.jpg#/media/File:Albrecht_D%C3%BCrer_-_Adam_and_Eve_(Prado)_2.jpg

Granted, part of this may be due to a certain intuition about the nature of man and woman.  We read in Genesis 2 that Adam was created before Eve, surveyed all of creation in its manifold richness (rocks, trees, sea, animals, etc.), and could not find a companion suitable for himself; God then makes Eve, the first woman.

Don’t panic. Whether or not this is literally how events transpired is irrelevant.  What the Sacred Text gives us is a psychology of man and woman.  Through the person of Adam, we see that man’s initial purview includes merely things.  Granted, some of these are living things; but even these are not en-souled persons like himself.  The arrival of the woman completes his purview.

On the other hand, through Eve we see that woman’s purview from the very beginning includes persons.  This is perhaps fitting, since she is meant to bear life within herself for nine months.  It may be, therefore, that a certain nurturing spirit, awareness of beauty within, and gift of oneself in kindness comes more naturally to women than to men.

So it is quite possible that a similar insight explains why media portrayals of beautiful-woman-falls-for-not-so-beautiful-man are more frequent than the opposite.  Still, while it is true that our intuitions influence art and media, the reverse is also true.

Let me be clear: Recognizing that beauty is not only skin deep is good. To recognize a woman’s ability to see this is likewise good. But as a man, I am concerned that we do not hold ourselves to the same standard.  Discernment in romantic matters is no easy thing, and no one of either sex should have to bear this burden alone.

Image of Adam and Eve from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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