Atheist warning. This is a socio-theological post.
Next, reacquaint yourself with the principle of hylomorphism.
One of the main contentions of this blog is that rise of modernism is
a consequence of certain "structural" weaknesses that were present in traditional society and culture.
Any conservative attempt to combat modernism therefore requires an understanding of the underlying pathologies
which both gave birth to it and sustain it. I critique the
Church quite a
bit, not because of any malice, but because its ideas were the dominant
cultural force which shaped the mindset of modern Western man and many
modernist heresies are themselves mutations or adaptations of Christian
I've mentioned before, one of the areas of structural weakness
concerned issues with regard to sexuality. The Catholic Church, at least
in theory, has always endorsed a hylomorphic concept of man but in its
war against the excesses of the flesh, the Church pushed
back too hard and created a "carnal lite" version of man. This notion
of man, comprised of a "good" spirit which led him to heaven and
corrupting flesh which was dragging him to hell. And although the Church
was officially committed to the hylomorphic vision, practically, in its
day to day operations it practiced a Cartesian duality with regard to
the man's nature. It's
this Cartesian framework which sets up both the division of not only
the flesh, but with a little imagination, of both gender and biological
If identity and reason find their locus in the
spirit, and the flesh is considered not only as something transient and
temporary but hostile to spiritual perfection, it's easy to see how,
when it comes to conceptions of the human person, the body is percieved
to be both inferior to the spirit and hostile to it. Spiritual identity
and corporeal body are thus put in opposition and though the Church did
not subscribe to the dualist doctrine the take home message as
understood by the faithful was Cartesian. It didn't help that the
Church in in its traditions, pushed the idealisation of the ascetic and
the mortification of the flesh. Modernism's conception of the human
person is therefore an adaptation of mainstream Christian practice which saw rationality and corporeality as two separate entities.
Christianity's conceptions of masculinity and femininity tended to be
framed along virtue centric lines and less along biological properties.
To be manly, men had to possess virtues A, B, C......and so on. Women
likewise had to posses virtues X, Y, Z....e.t.c. But the thing about
virtues is that they are chosen behaviour: habits of deliberate choice which are not constrained by biology. When
you frame gender along these lines you imply that gender is a matter of
proper will and not biological nature. It's not much of a stretch to
see how feminism gets its ideas of gender being both a choice and
To illustrate what I mean, consider the following two women. Which of these is more feminine?
I've chosen Megan Fox for no particular reason except that she is very
attractive but otherwise morally average. Mother Teresa, on the other
hand, is a moral giant but quite frankly is less attractive that Ms
Fox. How do we evaluate femininity in these two women?
There are strong strains in mainstream Christian thought which would assert that Mother Teresa is the more feminine of the two.
According to this approach, true femininity just as easily found in the
obese-hirsute-fishmonger's wife as is in the Victoria's Secret model
provided they live a Christian life. Likewise, traditional conceptions of masculinity tended to see masculinity as a series of character virtues. The problem with this approach is that it views femininity/masculinity as a collection of chosen moral qualities irrespective
of the biological vehicle in which they are found. Thus, the Church's
own position on the subject, while opposed to radical feminism,
provides unintentional support for its opponents by reinforcing in practice an underlying meta-philosophy that biology and gender are distinct. Feminist gender theory is a
corruption of Christian Cartesian dualism.
other hand, Joe average, would clearly call Megan Fox the more
feminine. Because, for the average man, femininity is a metric of
female perfection, not of moral quality and Ms Fox more closely
approximates the ideal female form than Mother Theresa does. It strange
to contemplate that the lecher honours hylomorphism in his sin more than
the Church does in its practice, but the Devil is found where you least
expect him and he's hardest to see when cloaked in apparent virtue.
The contemporary Christian problem, in its battle against gender/sex incongruity is how to fuse the two.
The traditional cultural heritage, with its practical de-facto dualism,
help since it effectively shares the same understanding of the human
person as feminism does. Pushing one helps the other. Modern appeals
of gender "authenticity" to biological sex are unconvincing. What
exactly does "authentic" to self mean? Who defines it? The argument of
every trans-sexual arguing for sex change surgery is that their bodies
are not authentic to their nature's. The Christian response is that a
trans-sexual's conception of their authenticity is not really authentic.
It's a circular logic.
The workaround for this problem starts with a re-commitment, both in theory and practice to the doctrine of hylomorphism. Secondly, there needs to be a recognition that biological sex is the hylomorphic incarnation of gender. Thus gender is not a choice but a per-determined state of being. Thirdly, there needs to be an understanding that there may be "privations of form"
with regard to gender incarnation and thus people may be born male or
female and that they may be born with less than their fair share of
masculinity or femininity. Fourthly, the operation of Caritas on
the form of gender is to perfect it. Gender commitment is a virtue.
Thus, anything which privates gender in any way, shape or form needs to
be seen as an evil. Finally, the Church needs to recognise that moral virtue and gender identity are two separate things it needs to stop conflating the two.
Just as a white man does not become more white by the practice of
Charity neither does he become more manly by doing so. Virtue and gender
are not synonymous.
Saturday, March 08, 2014
Posted by The Social Pathologist at 9:29 pm 10 comments:
Labels: Feminism, Gender, Hylomorphism, Sex, Theology of the Body
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