This supplement is a digest of recent events and significant contributions to fostering gender equality - and human development - in various secular cultures and institutions. It is acknowledged that the distinction between the secular and religious dimensions is an artificial one, often blurred in real life situations. In those cases, if the material is predominantly secular it is included here; else it is included in Supplement 6. The selected items are the editor's choice. Suggestions by readers are welcomed. Reporting on good role models is a high priority. The following sections are included this month:
The promotion of gender equality in society is a slow and painful process, and it is barely beginning to unfold worldwide. But it is a dynamic process, one in which progress begets progress. It is important to stay tuned to relevant news coming from all world regions and all world cultures. The Google News box displayed to the right may be helpful. Readers can enhance their web sites with their own version of this box - which is continuously refreshed as significant events are reported - by going to Google News, clicking on "Add a section," and follow simple instructions under "Create a custom section." This is a free service, but you must register in order to use the customization tool.
If you know about recent developments that should be mentioned in this page, please write to the Editor.
Offers a clear definition of the three types of gender discussed: linguistic, social, and natural
Contains extensive cross-linguistic data as well as anecdotes from the author's own fieldwork
Combines linguistic approaches with anthropology, sociology, and gender studies
This is a book about the multi-faceted notion of gender. Gender differences form the basis for family life, patterns of socialization, distribution of tasks, and spheres of responsibilities. The way gender is articulated shapes the world of individuals, and of the societies they live in. Gender has three faces: Linguistic Gender-the original sense of 'gender'-is a feature of many languages and reflects the division of nouns into grammatical classes or genders (feminine, masculine, neuter, and so on); Natural Gender, or sex, refers to the division of animates into males and females; and Social Gender reflects the social implications and norms of being a man or a woman (or perhaps something else). Women and men may talk and behave differently, depending on conventions within the societies they live in, and their role in language maintenance can also vary. The book focuses on how gender in its many guises is reflected in human languages, how it features in myths and metaphors, and the role it plays in human cognition. Examples are drawn from all over the world, with a special focus on Aikhenvald's extensive fieldwork in Amazonia and New Guinea.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Acknowledgements Abbreviations and conventions List of boxes, figures, schemes, and tables 1. The multifaceted gender 2. Linguistic Gender and its expression 3. Round women and long men: Physical properties in Linguistic Gender 4. What are Linguistic Genders good for? 5. Gender meanings in grammar and lexicon 6. The rise and fall of Linguistic Gender 7. Manly women and womanly men: The effects of gender reversal 8. The images of gender 9. When men and women speak differently 10. The rituals of gender 11. Gender in grammar and society 12. The heart of the matter: Envoi References Index
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald is a Distinguished Professor and Research Leader at the Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Australia. Her books include Classifiers: A Typology of Noun Categorization Devices (2000), Language Contact in Amazonia (2002), Evidentiality (2004), The Manambu Language of East Sepik, Papua New Guinea (2008), Imperatives and Commands (2010), The Languages of the Amazon (2012), and The Art of Grammar (2014), all published by OUP.
This article was originally published in
The New Atlantis, Number 50, Fall 2016 REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
This report presents a careful summary and an up-to-date explanation of research — from the biological, psychological, and social sciences — related to sexual orientation and gender identity. It is offered in the hope that such an exposition can contribute to our capacity as physicians, scientists, and citizens to address health issues faced by LGBT populations within our society.
Some key findings:
Part One: Sexual Orientation
The understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings — the idea that people are “born that way” — is not supported by scientific evidence.
While there is evidence that biological factors such as genes and hormones are associated with sexual behaviors and attractions, there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation. While minor differences in the brain structures and brain activity between homosexual and heterosexual individuals have been identified by researchers, such neurobiological findings do not demonstrate whether these differences are innate or are the result of environmental and psychological factors.
Longitudinal studies of adolescents suggest that sexual orientation may be quite fluid over the life course for some people, with one study estimating that as many as 80% of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults (although the extent to which this figure reflects actual changes in same-sex attractions and not just artifacts of the survey process has been contested by some researchers).
Compared to heterosexuals, non-heterosexuals are about two to three times as likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse.
Part Two: Sexuality, Mental Health Outcomes, and Social Stress
Compared to the general population, non-heterosexual subpopulations are at an elevated risk for a variety of adverse health and mental health outcomes.
Members of the non-heterosexual population are estimated to have about 1.5 times higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders than members of the heterosexual population, as well as roughly double the risk of depression, 1.5 times the risk of substance abuse, and nearly 2.5 times the risk of suicide.
Members of the transgender population are also at higher risk of a variety of mental health problems compared to members of the non-transgender population. Especially alarmingly, the rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgender individuals is estimated at 41%, compared to under 5% in the overall U.S. population.
There is evidence, albeit limited, that social stressors such as discrimination and stigma contribute to the elevated risk of poor mental health outcomes for non-heterosexual and transgender populations. More high-quality longitudinal studies are necessary for the “social stress model” to be a useful tool for understanding public health concerns.
Part Three: Gender Identity
The hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex — that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body” — is not supported by scientific evidence.
According to a recent estimate, about 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as a gender that does not correspond to their biological sex.
Studies comparing the brain structures of transgender and non-transgender individuals have demonstrated weak correlations between brain structure and cross-gender identification. These correlations do not provide any evidence for a neurobiological basis for cross-gender identification.
Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.
Children are a special case when addressing transgender issues. Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.
There is little scientific evidence for the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents, although some children may have improved psychological well-being if they are encouraged and supported in their cross-gender identification. There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.
"Patriarchy is a social system in which the male gender role as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.
"Historically, patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, and economic organization of a range of different cultures. Patriarchy also has a strong influence on modern civilization, although many cultures have moved towards a more egalitarian social system over the past century.
"Patriarchy literally means "rule of fathers" (Greek patriarkhes), "father" or "chief of a race, patriarch". Historically, the term patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modern times, it more generally refers to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men.
"Anthropological and historical evidence indicates that most prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were generally relatively egalitarian, and that patriarchal social structures did not develop until many years after the end of the Pleistocene era, following social and technological innovations such as agriculture and domestication. However, according to Robert M. Strozier, historical research has not yet found a specific "initiating event" of the origin of patriarchy. Some scholars point to about six thousand years ago (4000 BCE), when the concept of fatherhood took root, as the beginning of the spread of patriarchy."
The patriarchal mindset of rivalry and domination is pervasive and induces a culture of "command and control" and transcends family relations and contaminates all human relations as well as the human attitude toward the natural habitat. An excellent exposition of the need for a good dosage of "ecofeminism" to overcome patriarchy is provided by Patrick Curry in Chapter 9 of his book, Ecological Ethics. Following are some excerpts:
"Insofar as patriarchy identifies women with nature and dominates both, they are internally linked, so the struggle to resist or overturn either must address both."
"Ecofeminism is a meeting of two strands. One is feminism itself: the awareness of the pathological effects of dominant patriarchal or (to use a more recent term) masculinist structures, both 'inner' and 'outer' -- particularly, of course, on women but also, ultimately, on their oppressors -- and the attempt to replace them with ones that also value the feminine."
"The other element is a recognition of, and deep concern about, the equally masculinist domination and exploitation of nature through the very same habitual structures of though, feeling and action that devalue and harm women."
Curry goes on to analyze the master mentality, both dualist and hierarchical: "humanity versus nature; male versus female; and reason versus emotion... the domination and exploitation of nature and women proceed by the same logic, the same processes and, by and large, the same people... only ecofeminism brings a critical awareness of the extent and ways in which the subordination of women and ecological destruction are integrally linked."
The chapter unfolds with a review of work by ecofeminist leaders such as Vandana Shiva (India) and Wangari Maathai (Kenya), and proceeds to deconstruct the androcentric (male-centered) mentality while, at the same time, making it crystal clear that ecofeminism is definitely not a matter of demonizing men. In fact, men are victims of patriarchal practices as much as women; in one way or another, domination that goes around comes around. Only an ethics of care, as in a mother holding her child, can break the vicious circle of patriarchal command and control whereby humans abuse the human habitat at their own peril. Indeed, as Lynn White proposed years ago, St. Francis of Assisi should be recognized as the patron saint of ecologists.
New York — The 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women concluded today with UN Member States committing to the gender-responsive implementation of Agenda 2030. A set of agreed conclusions called for enhancing the basis for rapid progress, including stronger laws, policies and institutions, better data and scaled-up financing.
The Commission recognized women’s vital role as agents of development. It acknowledged that progress on the Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of Agenda 2030 will not be possible without gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka welcomed the agreement and the commitment of UN Member States to make the 2030 Agenda, adopted last September, a reality in countries around the world. She said: “Countries gave gender inequality an expiry date: 2030. Now it is time to get to work. These agreed conclusions entrench and start the implementation of a gender-responsive agenda 2030 with which we have the best possibility to leave no one behind.”
Growing global commitment was already in evidence with a record number of more than 80 government ministers from around the world attending the Commission. Around 4,100 non-governmental representatives from more than 540 organizations participated as well, the highest number ever for one of the Commission’s regular annual meetings.
The agreed conclusions urge a comprehensive approach to implementing all 17 Sustainable Development Goals through thorough integration of gender perspectives across all government policies and programmes. Eliminating all forms of gender-based discrimination depends on effective laws and policies and the removal of any statutes still permitting discrimination. Temporary special measures may be required to guarantee that women and girls can obtain justice for human rights violations.
The Commission endorsed significantly increased investment to close resource gaps for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Funds should be mobilized from all sources, domestic and international, ranging from fulfilling official development assistance commitments to combatting illicit financial flows that shortchange public resources for gender equality.
With humanitarian crises and other emergencies disproportionately affecting women and girls, the Commission underlined the imperative of empowering women in leadership and decision-making in all aspects of responding to and recovering from crisis. On the eve of the World Humanitarian Summit, it stressed prioritizing women’s and girls’ needs in humanitarian action and upholding their rights in all emergency situations. Every humanitarian response should take measures to address sexual and gender-based violence.
Members of the Commission united behind ensuring women’s equal participation in leadership at all levels of decision-making in the public and private spheres, encompassing governments, businesses and other institutions, and across all areas of sustainable development. Depending on different circumstances, this may involve establishing temporary special measures, setting and achieving concrete benchmarks and removing barriers to women’s participation.
Given the major contributions to Agenda 2030 of civil society, including women’s and community-based organizations, feminist groups, human rights defenders and girls’ and youth-led organizations, the Commission welcomed open engagement and cooperation with them in gender-responsive implementation. It emphasized fully engaging with men and boys as agents of change and allies in the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls.
To guide systematic progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout the 2030 Agenda, the Commission stressed enhanced national statistical capacity and the systematic design, collection and sharing of high-quality, reliable and timely data disaggregated by sex, age and income. Members also agreed to bolster the role of national mechanisms for women and girls in championing their equality and empowerment.
"As a rights-based organisation, CARE's climate change strategy is geared towards the empowerment of poor and marginalised people. CARE is deeply concerned about constraints that the inequitable distribution of rights, resources and power – as well as repressive cultural rules and norms – place on people's ability to take action on climate change. We believe that a wide range of development goals are achievable only if decision makers at all levels recognise the unique risks faced by poor and marginalised people and their essential roles in planning, implementing and evaluating action on climate change.
"The majority of the world's poorest people today are women and girls. Climate change is making it even more difficult for them to realise their basic rights, and it is exacerbating inequalities since they are more vulnerable to its impacts than men.
"Moreover, many women are denied access to new information about climate change and participation in important decision-making processes despite having unique skills and knowledge – about low risk farming, sustainable water management, family health and community mobilisation, for example – vital to effective adaptation.
"For all these reasons, and because women are central to the food and livelihood security of their families, we place a special emphasis on gender equality and women's empowerment."
For more, including links to other CARE resources, click here.
"Developing renewables to meet the growing demand for energy is a top priority in the 21st century. So is enhancing collaboration among developing countries. By training semi-literate women from rural Sierra Leone in solar-energy techniques, Barefoot College in western India works towards achieving both these goals. Twelve women attended and then returned to villages in Sierra Leone to assemble 1,500 household solar units at a new branch of Barefoot College in Konta Line, where the training will continue, reports a blog for the Guardian. The governments of both countries have played their part; Sierra Leone invested $820,000 in the project, and India provided equipment. The vast majority of households in Sierra Leone go without power. Following its decades-long civil war, electricity is Sierra Leone's "most daunting infrastructural challenge," notes a World Bank report. Lighting extends education and socializing into the evening hours, and the women are planning on manufacturing solar units to spread the new power."
Originally published in
Nepali Times, 28 August 2016 REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
"World of Pregnant Men" by Laxman Bazra Lama
Nepal is going through a dramatic demographic shift. On the one hand, the country’s fertility rate is approaching replacement level — although the momentum of population growth will continue for another generation, it will stabilise thereafter.
This demographic transition of low birth rate and higher life expectancy is accompanied by the biggest population migration in the country’s history. The hill districts are depopulating at staggering rates, losing between 15 to 25 per cent of their inhabitants in the past 10 years as people migrate to cities, plains and abroad for work.
Nearly 20 per cent of Nepal’s population is away at any given time, and considering that the migrants are mostly young men, this could mean that up to half the men in the 20-35 age group are essentially missing from their families, communities and society.
This brings us to the other ongoing societal transformation: the gender shift. Families and communities in rural Nepal are being run by women. With most men gone, rural Nepal has been feminised. The number of female students in high schools and colleges is at an all-time high. Women are moving into jobs traditionally considered the domain of men: driving public transport, and engaged in masonry, carpentry and construction, especially in the earthquake-affected districts. The feminisation of the workforce is subtly empowering women, providing them with cash income and new confidence, bolstering their sense of self-worth.
Gender activists are not particularly fond of Tij — the annual celebration by daughters, wives and sisters — which this year falls on Sunday 4 September. Their criticism is of the practice by women of fasting for the wellbeing and longevity of their husbands. It is absurd, particularly in this day and age, that women should be culturally required not to eat so that their husbands will be well-fed.
However, Tij has always traditionally also been a celebration of sisterhood and solidarity, a one-day rebellion and characterised by deliberate defiance against dominance by men. Could it be that some Nepali women today consider the Tij fast as a hunger strike against patriarchy? Going by the lyrics of the new duets that have been released in the run-up to this year’s festival, there is open ridicule of menfolk as lazy, good-for-nothing spoilt brats.
Add ‘corrupt’. And how aptly that sums up the attributes of most men who have the audacity to rule over us. Let’s just leave aside for the moment the fact that Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has already squandered one-and-a-half months of his nine-month rotational tenure just to form a council of ministers from a coalition of four parties.
The Nepali Congress could not even agree on a list of ministerial appointees until after the Nepal Students’ Union elections as well as the return from New Delhi of Deputy Prime Minister Bimalendra Nidhi. Why the selection of ministers by Nepal’s largest party should be held hostage by the election of 45-year-old ‘students’, and a visit to India by the prime minister’s special envoy, has never been satisfactorily explained to the public.
Nevertheless, of the 31 ministers appointed in his fourth consecutive expansion of the cabinet, only three are women, two of whom are junior state ministers. Clause 42-1 of the new Constitution expressly stipulates that women and other marginalised groups be given proportional representation in all agencies of government. When it sent its list of 13 ministers, the NC could muster only one woman.
In terms of inclusivity, the ratios are not much better for Dalits, Janajatis, or Madhesis either. For example, there are only two Dalit ministers, and three from Janajati groups.
The sad irony is that this is happening under the prime ministership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who used to be the ‘Supreme Commander’ of a guerrilla army of which one-fourth was made up of women warriors, many of whom laid down their lives for equality.
The members of the ruling coalition are the same political parties that took to the streets to protest King Gyanendra’s ‘regression’ in 2006. What a cruel joke that real regression is happening under the rule of these same so-called democratic parties.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kunda Dixit is the publisher of Nepali Times and author of several books including the trilogy on the conflict in Nepal, A People War, Never Again, and People After War.
Originally published in
Yes! Magazine, 13 July 2016 under a Creative Commons License
Photo by Maud Fernhout
Manners and machismo: Traditional Western gender etiquette is clear. Ladies, don’t be loud and unruly. Men, be tough. Dutch university student Maud Fernhout challenged these stereotypes in her photo series “What Real Men Cry Like” and “What Real Women Laugh Like,” in which she asked fellow students from different cultures to do exactly that. When the women saw their own faces crinkled with elation and mouths agape, they were repulsed. “They said, ‘I look so ugly,’” Fernhout recalled. “But when they looked at the other girls, they said, ‘Oh, she’s so pretty!’ and they realized it was okay.” Seeing others break the mold of what a woman’s face should look like changed how they felt about themselves.
Fernhout found that attitudes toward crying men varied by culture: Eastern European students were most resistant, while Italians and Spaniards cried easily. Women’s reactions to how they looked laughing didn’t vary, Fernhout said, perhaps because most of Europe shares the same standards of beauty but not the same standards of masculinity. She hopes that these images will force people to look at their own preconceptions of gendered behaviors.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Maud Fernhout and Jennifer Luxton wrote this article for Gender Justice, the Summer 2016 issue of YES! Magazine. Maud studies Liberal Arts & Sciences at University College Utrecht. For her, photography is a way to express her view of the world, and to help others do the same. Maud’s work can be found on her website.
Women and Biodiversity Feed the World, Not Corporations and GMOs
Originally published in Common Dreams, 20 May 2015, under a Creative Commons License
'Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition
throughout history,' writes Dr. Vandana Shiva, 'but today, food
is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities
controlled by global corporations.' (Photos: Georgina Smith/CIAT)
The two great ecological challenges of our times are biodiversity erosion and climate change. And both are interconnected, in their causes and their solutions.
Industrial agiculture is the biggest contributor to biodiversity erosion as well as to climate change. According to the United Nations, 93% of all plant variety has disappeared over the last 80 years.
Monocultures based on chemical inputs do not merely destroy plant biodiversity, they have destroyed soil biodiversity, which leads to the emergence of pathogens, new diseases, and more chemical use.
Our study of soils in the Bt cotton regions of Vidharba showed a dramatic decline in beneficial soil organisms. In many regions with intensive use of pesticides and GMOs, bees and butterflies are disappearing. There are no pollinators on Bt cotton plants, whereas the population of pollinators in Navdanya’s biodiversity conservation farm in Doon Valley is six times more than in the neighbouring forest. The UNEP has calculated the contribution of pollinators to be $200 billion annually. Industrial agriculture also kills aquatic and marine life by creating dead zones due to fertilizer run off. Pesticides are also killing or damaging aquatic life .
"Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles."
Besides the harm to biodiversity and the climate, industrial agriculture actually undermines food and nutrition security. Firstly, industrial agriculture grows commodities for profits of the agrichemical (now also Biotech) and agribusiness corporations. Only 10 percent of the annual GMO corn and soya crop goes to feed people. The rest goes to animal feed and biofuel. This is clearly not a food system that feeds the world.
Secondly, monocultures undermine nutrition by displacing the biodiversity that provides nourishment and the diversity of nutrients our body needs. Herbicides like Roundup do not just kill the milkweed on which the monarch Butterfly larvae feed, they kill sources of nutrition for humans – the amaranth, the "bathua," and the mixed cropping that produces more "Nutrition per Acre" than industrial monocultures (see Navdanya’s report on Health per Acre).
Having destroyed our sources of nutrition by destroying biodiversity—and creating vitamin A, iron and other deficiencies—the same companies who created the crisis are promising a miracle solution: GMOs. Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles.
Indigenous biodiverse varieties of food grown by women provide far more nutrition than the commodities produced by industrial agriculture. Since 1985 the false miracle of Golden Rice is being offered as a solution to vitamin A deficiency. But Golden rice is still under development. Billions of dollars have been wasted on a hoax.
"Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide."
On 20th of April, the White house gave an award to Syngenta which had tried to pirate India’s rice diversity, and owns most of the 80 patents related to Golden Rice. This is reminiscient of the Emperor who had no clothes. Golden Rice is 350% less efficient in providing vitanim A than the biodiversity alternatives that women grow. GMO ‘iron-rich’ Bananas have 3000% less iron than turmeric and 2000% less iron than amchur (mango powder). Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide through a greater dependence on chemical inputs. Moreover, these corporate-led industrial monocultures are destroying biodiversity, and we are losing access to the food systems that have sustained us throughout time. Biodiverse ecological agriculture in women’s hands is a solution not just to the malnutrition crisis, but also the climate crisis.
Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition throughout history, but today, food is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities controlled by global corporations. Monoculture industrial farming has taken the quality, taste and nutrition out of our food.
In addition to destroying biodiversity, industrial agriculture is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases (GHGs) which are leading to climate change and climate chaos. As I have written in my book, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, 40% of all GHGs—including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and methane—come from industrialised globalized agriculture. And chemical monocultures are also more vulnerable to climate change as we have witnessed in the unseasonal rains at harvest time in 2015.
On the other hand, organic farming reduces emissions, and also makes agriculture more resilient to climate change. Because organic farming is based on returning organic matter to the soil, it is the most effective means to remove excess carbon in the air, where it does not belong, and putting it in the soil, where it belongs. Navdanya’s research has shown that organic farming has increased carbon absorption by 55%. International studies show that with 2 tons of Soil Organic Matter (SOM) per hectare, we can remove 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon back down to pre-industrial levels of 350 ppm.
In addition, organic matter in the soil also increases water-holding capacity of the soil, reducing the impact of floods and droughts. Just 1% increase in Soil Organic Matter can raise the water-holding capacity of soil by 100,000 liters per hectare. And an increase of 5% can raise it to 800,000 liters. This is our insurance against climate change, both when there is drought and too little rain, and when there are floods and excess rain. On the other hand, cement and concrete increases runoff of water, aggravating floods and drought. We witnessed this in the Uttarakhand disaster in 2013 and in the Kashmir disaster in 2014.
At harvest time of spring 2015 India had unseasonal rains which destroyed the crops. More than a 100 farmers committed suicide. The unseasonal rains due to climate instability added to the burden of debt the farmers are already carrying due to rising costs of production and falling prices. Both the crisis of debt leading to climate change and the climate crisis have a common solution – a shift to biodiverse ecological agriculture which is free of high cost chemical inputs and dependence on corporate seeds, hence of debt, and also has climate resilience built into it through biodiversity and organic soils.
4000 years ago our ancient Vedas had guided us, "Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Care for it, and it will grow our food, our fuel, our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it, and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it."
9. Dismantling the Patriarchal Gender Binary in Society
Consubstantial Complementarity of Man and Woman
Luis T. Gutiérrez
26 November 2017
For all men and women of good will to effectively contribute to human development it is indispensable to sanitize human relations, as much as possible, from the inner disposition of rivalry that is generally manifested as domination/submission struggles. The most universal form of rivalry, succinctly summarized in Genesis 3:16, is the "patriarchal gender binary" of male domination and female submission. But the patriarchal culture, ancient as it is, was constructed by human hands and is not natural. The patriarchal era is passing away, as evidenced by families evolving from male headship to joint father-mother headship. This egalitarian complementarity of man and woman in the family is bound to gradually propagate to all human communities worldwide. Fostering this transition, away from patriarchy and toward the tripod foreseen in Galatians 3:28, is crucial for the future of human civilization.
For all men and women of good will to effectively contribute to human development at any level (global, national, local) it is indispensable to sanitize human relations as much as possible from all manner of rivalry, an inner disposition that is triggered by mimetic desire and induces domination/submission struggles. This means going all the way back to the emergence of Homo sapiens; for the Agricultural Revolution, and more recently the Industrial Revolution and the Information Revolution, have but exacerbated symptoms of human misbehavior that are rooted in primitive human culture but are not intrinsic to human nature. The root cause of social and ecological human dysfunction is cultural, and therefore artificial, made by human hands; not natural.
The Book of Genesis provides a mythical account of human origins that sheds light on human nature. Specifically, Genesis 3:16 points to domination/submission as the most universal form of human struggle, one that affects all men and women. All other forms of human misbehavior encapsulate, and make manifest in different ways, this fundamental corruption of human relations. It is significant that rupturing the original communion of man and woman is revealed as the primary and most universal consequence of the fall from original innocence.
At a time when religious intolerance and slave ownership are disappearing (slowly, but surely) from human civilization, gender equality is the new horizon for human development. This step forward, dimly envisioned by successive waves of feminism starting in the late 19th century, and more recently fostered by the 2015 Millennium Development Goals and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, requires a profound cultural transition from the "patriarchal binary" of male domination, and female subordination, to practical recognition, in families and all other human institutions, of the "egalitarian complementarity" of man and woman.
Patriarchal gender ideology is based on the "gender binary" of male/female opposities. It fails to recognize that the only essential difference between man and woman is genital. It segregates men and women in every dimension of human life according to the culture of male domination and female subordination that emerged from original sin (Genesis 3:16).
The patriarchal gender binary is not natural. It is a distortion of natural law and a major obstacle to integral human development. What goes around comes around. The patriarchal binary harms men as much as women. The redemption of humanity, male and female, radically overcomes the patriarchal order of things (Galatians 3:28).
A comprehensive exegesis of biblical texts on man and woman, and their unity in one and the same human nature, was developed by Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body (TOB). It provides a solid basis for solving the most pressing issues of human sexuality, both in families and in the Church as the family of God, including the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The TOB endorses neither radical patriarchy nor radical feminism, and provides a vision of marriage, and gender relations in general, that can be summarized as unity in diversity ("original unity of man and woman"), individuality in community ("communion of persons") and equality in mutuality ("spousal meaning of the body"). The complementarity of man and woman is for reciprocity and mutual enrichment, not mutual exclusion.
It is noteworthy that, in the TOB, the "male or female" descriptor is always used in reference to the human being as a body, while "male and female" is always used in reference to the human being as a person. The human person is a body, but is more than a body (Genesis 2:7). The body is a sacrament of the entire person, but is not the entire person. Furthermore, being a body is more fundamental to the structure of the personal subject than being somatically male or female (TOB 3:2, 8:1, 21:6). In other words, bodiliness and sexuality are not simply identical:
HUMAN BODILINESS & SEXUAL DIFFERENTIATION
"Corporality and sexuality are not completely identified. Although the human body in its normal constitution, bears within it the signs of sex and is by its nature male or female, the fact, however, that man is a "body" belongs to the structure of the personal subject more deeply than the fact that in his somatic constitution he is also male or female. Therefore, the meaning of "original solitude," which can be referred simply to "man," is substantially prior to the meaning of original unity. The latter is based on masculinity and femininity, as if on two different "incarnations," that is, on two ways of "being a body" of the same human being created "in the image of God" (Gn 1:27)."
HUMAN NATURE & SOMATIC HOMOGENEITY
"The woman is made "with the rib" that God-Yahweh had taken from the man. Considering the archaic, metaphorical and figurative way of expressing the thought, we can establish that it is a question here of homogeneity of the whole being of both. This homogeneity concerns above all the body, the somatic structure. It is also confirmed by the man's first words to the woman who has been created: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Gn 2:23).(15) Yet the words quoted refer also to the humanity of the male. They must be read in the context of the affirmations made before the creation of the woman, in which, although the "incarnation" of the man does not yet exist, she is defined as "a helper fit for him" (cf. Gn 2:18 and 2:20). In this way, therefore, the woman is created, in a sense, on the basis of the same humanity."
Source: Original Unity of Man and Woman, Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 7 November 1979. The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan, Pauline Books, 1997, pages 43-44; and EWTN. See also pages 157 (section 8:1) and 160 (section 8:4) in the 2006 edition, translation by Michael Waldstein.
According to this translation, there was a human being in "original solitude" before sexual differentiation. This is the first human being created from the dust (Genesis 2:7) before sexual differentiation provides a "helper" of the other sex (Genesis 2:18-23). This key text is translated a bit differently in the 2006 edition, but includes the original emphasis in italics for a key phrase, and the same key point is made that embodied human nature (in complete body-soul integrity) precedes humans embodied as male or female:
"Bodiliness and sexuality are not simply identical. Although in its normal constitution, the human body carries within itself the signs of sex and is by its nature male or female, the fact that man is a "body" belongs more deeply to the structure of the personal subject than the fact that in his somatic constitution he is also male or female. For this reason, the meaning of "original solitude," which can be referred simply to "man," is substantially prior to the meaning of original unity; the latter is based on masculinity and femininity, which are, as it were, two different "incarnations," that is, two ways in which the same human being, created "in the image of God" (Gen 1:27), "is a body."" The Meaning of Original Unity, Pope John Paul II, 7 November 1979 (Source: Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, Pauline Books, 2006, page 157. See also note 12 in page 158.
Furthermore, the somatic homogeneity of man and woman (TOB 8:4) shows that sexual differentiation, while undoubtedly being a gift, is also a limitation of embodied human nature. A man is bodily a man, and a woman is bodily a woman, but they are both equal in human personhood because they are both "body-persons" (i.e., "body-souls"). The entire TOB is a deconstruction of the patriarchal binary:
Having a body is more personal than being male or female (TOB 8:1)
Man and Woman are fully homogeneous in their "whole being" (TOB 8:4)
Bodiliness, not sex, is the foundation of the primordial sacrament (TOB 19:5)
Imbalance of male domination/female submission must be corrected (TOB 31:2)
The spousal meaning of the body is not limited to patriarchal analogies (TOB 33:3)
The spousal bond of Christ-Head and Church-Body transcends patriarchy (TOB 91:1)
The language of the body, male and female, is the language of the liturgy (TOB 117:5)
From the begining, the human person, man and woman, was created as a "body-soul" reality that subsumes the "body-gender" reality, which in turn subsumes the "biophysical body" reality, which in turn subsumes many other realities such as biological sex, the five senses, the color of the skin, etc. All men and women are made of the same created dust, the same created flesh, animated by the same kind of created soul. All men and women are naturally consubstantial, with unity in diversity in the image of the Trinity. That the second person of the Trinity became incarnate as a male means that God assumed all the limitations of the human condition ("like us in all things but sin") without in any way ceasing to be a divine person.
This diagram, like all models, is a simplification of reality, but attempts to deconstruct the oversimplistic sex/gender binary of the patriarchal culture. Basically, it means that each human being is a body animated by a soul (gray circle). All men and women are fully homogeneous, made of the same dust, of the same substance, of the same flesh; and share one and the same human nature (brown circle). The body of each person is sexually differentiated, and is male *or* female *or* intersex (pink, blue, and purple circles). So, again, the body is a visible sacrament of the entire person, but is not the entire person. The physical body makes visible the invisible metaphysical person, but is not the entire person.
Sex is biophysical. Gender (gradient pink-blue circle) is psychosomatic, a personal synthesis of somatic constitution and cultural conditioning. Sex and gender are constitutive of the human person more deeply that other, more superficial attributes such as skin color, height, and weight; but all men and women are homogeneously constituted of the same flesh in one and the same human nature. The sexual complementarity of man and woman does not limit them to mutually exclusive roles except when they come together to share the gift of love and the gift of life. Modern science (biology, psychology, neurology) has shown ancient cultural stereotypes to be unnatural. In contrast to the patriarchal mindset of male domination and female subordination, a healthy complementarity of man and woman actually requires their joint participation in most human activities and the reconstruction of their interpersonal communion as fully equal partners in the nuclear family, and in the Church as the family of God, including apostolic succession.
Other than genitally, the complementarity of man and woman does not mean mutually exclusive roles. Such mutual exclusion of gender roles is a heritage from radical patriarchy, not divine revelation. All humans are consubstantial in one and the same human nature. Jesus Christ is consubstantial with all humans in his humanity. The Eucharist is the flesh and blood of Christ. Metaphysical "transubstantiation" happens when the priest consecrates the bread and wine, but is really consummated in the flesh when the person who receives the Eucharist becomes "eucharist" in sacrificial service to others.
Cultural anthropology is the comparative study of human societies and cultures and their development. Cultures develop by imitation, learning, and socialization. There are cultural variations that are local or regional, and lead to ethnical cultures. We are dealing here with primitive cultural development that gradually propagated worldwide but is still artificial (made by human hands) and not intrinsic to the natural lkaw.
In the patriarchal culture, the male or female "incarnations" of human persons are understood as practically constituting two different human natures. In theory, both men and women fully share one and the same human nature but, in practice, the biblical curse of male rule and female submission prevails in most cultures worldwide. This is visibly manifested, via body language, in all dimensions of human relations. The "male gaze" and the "female gaze" are symptomatic of this reality, and not only in cinematography but in families and both social and religious institutions.
Surely, men and women are different. But it is a difference in equality, an equality that is not only a matter of equal dignity but a full equality in embodied personhood, both men and women fundamentally being "body-persons." It is an "egalitarian complementarity" in which differences are for reciprocity and mutual enrichment, not arbitrary exclusion. Humanity is "male and female," not "male or female." This has crucial repercussions for social and ecological justice, as evidenced by the feminization of poverty and the feminization of nature, both tightly coupled to the current ecological crisis.
Humanity and the Human Habitat
"Valuing one's own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter
with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the
Creator, and find mutual enrichment." Laudato Si' #155
But how can this happen as long as the feminine genius is excluded from roles of responsibility and authority in social and religious institutions? Reconstructing the natural mutuality of man and woman has enormous implications for integral human development and social-ecological justice. There is by now an overwhelming consensus that "human development, if not engendered, is fatally endangered."
Objective evidence confirms that the patriarchal binary is an oversimplification of reality. From reproductive biology we know that, at the instant of conception, the human body is one androgynous, sexually undifferentiated cell (zygote), and subsequent sexual differentiation happens via inactivation of one X chromosome, resulting in a cell with XX (female) or XY (male) chromosomes. From modern psychology we know that there is woman in man (anima) and man in woman (animus), so female and male polarities are invisible partners in every man and every woman during their entire life. Critical analysis of biblical texts reveals a progression from male dominance in the Old Testament to male-female partnership in the New Testament as the intended divine plan for human relations.
In brief, human bodies are male or female, human persons are engendered. This is a fundamental anthropological reality: "Human development, if not engendered, is endangered" (United Nations, Human Development Report, 1995). A man is a man and a woman is a woman; but there is man in woman, and there is woman in man. All human beings share one and the same human nature, in the flesh. As long as the patriarchal binary prevails, subjective human development remains defective, with pervasive repercussions in human relations as well as human-nature relations. There can be no fully integral human development as long as both the objective and subjective dimensions of the body-person are not taken into account. There can be no fully integral ecology as long as humanity behaves as the dominant male and treats nature as a submissive female. There can be no lasting social justice, and there can be no lasting ecological justice, as long as human behavior is driven by the patriarchal mindset. Gender justice is the most crucial "sign of the times."