Gender Balance in the Post-Patriarchal Age
Sign of the Times
The need for gender balance in human relations is undoubtedly a sign of the times. The voice of God continues to resound in the events of history, and the current world crisis, full of dangers as it is, encapsulates a new post-patriarchal age of solidarity and sustainability. But this new age is not about unlimited consumerism by some at the expense of others and the ecological integrity of the planet. It is about dismantling patriarchy as a normative paradigm and restoring, to a much greater extent that has hitherto been possible, both the original unity of man and woman and the original unity between humanity and the human habitat.
Integral Human Development
Integral human development includes all dimensions in the life of each person, including the physical, intellectual, psychological, ethical, and spiritual dimensions. In particular, the spiritual development of each and every human person is crucial for sustainable development. It is recognized that spiritual growth is impossible for people living in misery. Basic necessities must be met first. However, the extreme poverty of many is mostly a consequence of the spiritual underdevelopment of people living in abundance, and such underdevelopment is in no small part due to the patriarchal mindset of male hegemony in both society and religion:
"Violence against women is as old as patriarchy."|
— Vandana Shiva
"The Church has been wounded in its structures, for it has deprived itself of the gifts and insights of more than half of its members. It has been grievously hurt in its members of both sexes, for in a society which welcomes and fosters prejudice, not only is the human potential of the subject group restricted, but the superordinate group also becomes warped in the process."
— Mary Daly (1928-2010)
"How do we build a more equitable world? If you want a formula from me, I would say first: ensure there is gender equality."
— Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Definition of Gender Balance
Gender balance is 50/50 male/female presence in a group. So it is a matter of numbers, but it is more than just a matter of numbers. Gender balance is required in both responsibility and authority, in the family and in all human institutions. It must become internalized to the point in which patriarchal individualism and male hegemony are neutralized by a new sense of communion between men and women, and between humanity and nature. It must be a fully inclusive sense of communion that overcomes any exclusivism on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, or any other reason. It must be a communion that seeks the integral development of each and every human person, from conception to natural death. And it must be a communion in which all humans endeavor to take care of each other while also taking care of natural resources. Nothing in this world is perfect, and this new order of things will not be perfect but, far from being utopian, it is in fact inevitable if humanity is to survive in the long term.
Gender Balance in Marriage and the Family
In the post-patriarchal era, marriage is to be seen as a covenant of mutual submission between husband and wife. The patriarchal model of male hegemony will be seen as a forgettable aberration in human history. Marriage is about responsibly sharing the gift of love and the gift of life, not about one-sided domination and control. Fathers are called to be fathers. Mothers are called to be mothers. Both authority and responsibilities are to be fully shared. This will not cancel the natural differences between men and women. It will make husband and wife more accountable to each other. It will allow fathers to continue their personal development to become more nurturing without loss of masculinity, and will allow mothers to continue their personal development to become more assertive without loss of femininity. The family will then become a "domestic school" in which children, boys and girls, learn by osmosis that things are better when authoritarian violence is replaced by just and merciful authority and, at the same time, loving care is not confused with permissive abuse of family resources. It should be possible to advance further in this direction, because this was the natural order of things before male domination became institutionalized (Cf. Genesis 1-3).
Gender Balance in Society and Secular Governance
What children learn in the "domestic school" defines their way of thinking and acting for a lifetime. Gender balance in marriage and the family is then lived out in all dimensions of social relations, including secular governance. However, persisting gender imbalance in social relations and institutions of governance is a serious obstacle to the advent of post-patriarchal families. Nowhere is this more
evident than in the objectification of human bodies (mostly female) for business purposes. There is of course the pay gap between men and women with comparable qualifications. More nefarious symptoms include the persisting double standard on the value of virginity for men and women; the increasing number of "single parents" (mostly mothers) resulting from seeking physical gratification without accepting responsibility; and the millions of unborn children (mostly girls) killed for reasons of expediency or simply to avoid the "inconvenience" of raising a child. It must be recognized that, when there is gender inequality and imbalance in human relations, the entire fabric of society is corrupted. It is well known that "what goes around comes around," and this is also true in gender relations, even though male and female violence may tend to exhibit different modes of expression. The mindset of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" manifests itself in an endless number of ways across the entire gender spectrum. It is no coincidence that, in the Book of Genesis, gender violence is the first and most universal outcome of corrupting the original communion between man and woman.
Gender Balance in Religion and Religious Governance
Likewise, persisting gender imbalance in religious thinking and leadership is a serious obstacle to the advent of post-patriarchal families. From the perspective of cultural evolution, religious patriarchy may now be the biggest obstacle; for gender equality and gender balance are by now well established as irreversible social trends due to practical economic incentives, but the collective unconscious is still deeply biased by religious practices and rites that perpetuate the mindset of male hegemony. In terms of human
fertility, for example, it would be well for some institutions to stop fulminating condemnations about abortion and birth control methods, and start selling the value of virtues such as self-discipline and abstinence. But there is a fear, not entirely unreasonable, that we may throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to reforming religious traditions that have served humanity well since time immemorial. About 80% of the world population is "religious" in the broad sense of believing in God and adhering, at least to some extent, to one of the major world religions. However, it is time to recognize that all these religions were founded after the agricultural revolution (10,000 years or so ago) long after patriarchy had become normative; and they all were, from their inception, contaminated by the phallocentric syndrome as evidenced by the most ancient sacred texts. Experience confirms that given the limitations of gender-biased human language, and official protestations about God transcending gender notwithstanding, "when God is male, the male is god."
A Working Hypothesis for Solidarity and Sustainability
The patriarchal culture of control and domination is the root of all social and ecological violence. It corrupted the original unity of man and woman (Cf. Genesis 3:16) and is now disrupting the harmony between humanity and the human habitat. Just as we are now aware that slavery and racism are moral evils, we must become aware that gender discrimination is a moral evil that must be eradicated if solidarity and sustainability are to be attained. The need to reform patriarchal structures applies to both secular and religious institutions. Overcoming patriarchy is a "sign of the times" to the extent that it fosters authentic gender solidarity and nonviolence for the good of humanity and the glory of God. Given the enormous influence of religious traditions, it is especially critical for religious institutions to extirpate any semblance of male hegemony in matters of doctrine and religious practices.
Research Needed to Clarify and Test the Hypothesis
Much has been done to analyze the patriarchal order of things and the nefarious consequences that have been accumulating during the patriarchal age. Such efforts have been extended to explore the negative effects of patriarchal gender bias and imbalance in family life, society, politics, economics, ecology, social movements, religious communities, etc. However, there is a lack of empirical evidence to show that, ceteris paribus, patriarchal concepts and practices do have a detrimental impact on integral human development.
The United Nations Human Development Reports now include a "Gender Inequality Index" in addition to the "Human Development Index," and it is possible to visually discern a correlation between low values of gender equality and low values of human development as broadly defined in terms of health, education, and living standard. Other indices and data on socio-economic gender parity are currently emerging (e.g., European Union, Israel, Australia).
However, integral human development is more than just increased material well-being which, in any case, cannot continue forever in a finite planet.
Greater precision is needed to elucidate cause-and-effect chains and distinguish the "patriarchy factor" from other factors. At a macroscopic level, the accuracy of data (numerical or narrative) is not as critical as the precision of the sampled variables. Aggregation at the national, regional, and global levels effectively smooths out much of the noise that local data may contain. Precision in the definition of the causal links, however, is critical if credible cause-and-effect links are to be empirically validated. In order to clarify and test the hypothesis that patriarchy is a significant factor (positively or negatively) on sustainable human development, parameters indicative of patriarchal practices and human development need to be more precisely defined, and the full range of human knowledge surveyed to test the hypothesis.
Easier said than done, but this would be a very useful research undertaking in support of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and other initiatives pursuant to human development and ecological sanity. The System Dynamics modeling method is useful to more precisely articulate the causal links (and feedback loops) between quantifiable variables. René Girard's Mimetic Theory of scapegoating mechanisms is a good tool for literary analysis of narrative data. Perhaps some survey instruments can be developed to test receptivity to various threads of the transition to solidarity and sustainability such as, for example:
1. Transition from consumerist growth to a steady-state economy
2. Transition from population growth to demographic stability
3. Energy usage and climate change mitigation/adaptation projects
4. Implementation of financial transaction/speculation taxes
5. Shift from income/property taxes to land/resource value taxes
6. Guaranteed basic personal income (conditional or unconditional)
7. Corporate social responsibility and triple bottom-line accounting
8. Education to foster gender equality/balance in society and religion
9. Transferring resources from weapondry to human development
The above are not listed in any particular order, but each item listed is expected to be an ingredient of the transition. Would these and other similar initiatives become more viable with the advent of gender balance in social and religious institutions? According to the stated hypothesis the answer is most probably "yes" but some supporting data would be helpful. If millions of dollars can be spent in political polls, and in marketing surveys pursuant to selling so many useless artifacts, why not do some surveys about the issues that really matter?
"To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right."|
— Confucius (551–479 BCE)
This essay has touched on some gender-related issues that must be resolved to foster a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. Humans grow inside by helping others without intent of domination. This is best learned early in
childhood, from parents and grandparents. The basic working hypothesis is that gender balance is a crucial ingredient for a non-violent transition to a culture of solidarity and sustainability. In other words, the
hypothesis is that gender balance in marriage and the family is the sure catalyst for such a transition, but the process of cultural adaptation in response to the ecological crisis is being blocked by patriarchal structures in both civil and religious governance. Empirical testing and validation of this hypothesis is needed to motivate finding ways to dismantle patriarchal structures, while retaining the treasures of knowledge and wisdom they undoubtedly contain, as a public policy priority that needs more support than developing "green" technologies and tweaking our current economic system and structures of governance.
Note: The section on "Gender Balance in Society and Secular Governance" was edited 4 November 2013 to clarify the value of both male and female virginity at any age.