It's just my generation...
“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.” —Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
In 1988 Pope John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter titled Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women). It identified the complementary roles of men and women in line with the true philosophy of feminism. In doing so it demonstrated the ultimate concept of “giving of oneself.” With the furor over “gender identity” raging, it is time to revisit this document.
When I was growing up, it was the norm for a man to give a lady a seat on the bus or subway, to open doors for women, let them go first in line and so forth. It was not a perfect world (there have always been the abusers and the misogynistic and always will be), but for the most part men afforded women a deferential courtesy simply because they were women.
Fast forward 50 years to the present day. Now a senior citizen, I found myself stepping ahead of two younger women as we all approached the entrance to a shoe store. My ingrained instinct was to open the door for them. I reached for the handle, looked at them and smiled. The first woman scowled and said, “I can open the door myself.”
I realize that most ladies would have accepted my gesture with goodwill, as it was intended — not as a declaration of her weakness, but as a simple gesture of courteous respect. This woman, however — not knowing me at all, or considering my generational background — exuded a certain loathing toward me. It was a bit unnerving. Anyway, I let the door go and the woman opened the door, held it open for her friend, and they both entered. So be it.
A few seconds later a man and woman with a child approached the very same entrance. They were either a married or unmarried couple in their middle to late 20s. He was a few steps ahead of them. He opened the door and walked in. He never looked back and let the door go. His companion grabbed the door as it began to close and led her child in. I watched as she and her child caught up to him.
It appeared that for them, all this was perfectly normal. They proceeded to walk together completely in sync about how they had interacted with each other entering the store. The behavior was obviously taken for granted. I viewed it as rude.
Those few moments in time were a reflection to me of how the crusade for complete equality has taken a seriously convoluted turn. Here (in my opinion) are the irrefutable facts in the order as I see them: 1) man and woman are both human beings; 2) man and woman are unique unto their own sex; 3) man and woman complement each other; 4) man and woman can form a bond with each other which allows them to be able to unite together as one couple; this natural, complementary bond completes the human equation; 5) the answer to the human equation is New Life.
Therefore it follows that: man and woman need each other; man and woman need to respect each other for their uniqueness which allows them to complete each other; and finally, man and woman would cease to exist without each other. This concept is generally mocked in a secular world.
In an age of social rudeness, I wonder it if might not be good for everyone to read Mulieris Dignitatem, just for the reminder that once upon a time, quaint-seeming social customs and courtesies were reflections of objective truths our society is now struggling with. Women deserve the dignity and respect that comes with being what God has created them to be. And men need to stand up for them. Imagine the possibilities.
For a taste of the wisdom of Mulieris Dignitatem, see this:
“Parenthood – even though it belongs to both man and woman – is realized much more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who ‘pays’ directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul. It is therefore necessary that the man be fully aware that in their shared program of parenthood he owes a special debt to the woman.”
[Editor’s Note: Take the Poll — Are Men Allowed to Hold the Door?]