Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Feminine or masculine genius

Necessary emphasis should be placed on the "genius of women," not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfil their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty not merely physical, but above all spiritual — which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women. —John Paul II Letter to Women 29 June 1995

There was a recent editorial in Our Sunday Visitor wondering about whether "masculine genius" was a thing. I read it and wondered briefly if the real masculine genius is convincing (at least some) women that they are fundamentally created by God to be servants, to do the work of seeing and accommodating the emotional and material needs of others before anything else. That the default assignment of emotional labor to women is not cultural, but ontological, and therefore unavoidable. Men might be able to do these things, but it is women's "deepest vocation." Women are thus created to enable men to do...what precisely? What are men's deepest vocations, if not service?

I remain convinced that service is fundamentally what we are called to do as Christians, not by virtue of gender, but by common vocation. We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, accompany the sick and those in prison. We are called to kneel at each other's feet and wash away the dust of the day.  Should men not see each person as they are, acknowledge the human dignity of each person they encounter? Should men not be able to perceive the strengths and limitations of others? Ought they not be oriented toward service? To serve is not a particular genius, but a universal call realized in particular ways by particular people.

My particular genius is quantum mechanics, work which has aided in the development of drugs for cancer, hypertension and AIDS. It is not to keep the family calendar, or arrange flowers for the altar. The first is a skill that can be mastered by any competent adult, the second perhaps requires a sense of color and proportion and of the sacred, which a quick gander through the works of "the great masters" suggests is not limited to women. 

No comments:

Post a Comment