All human beings, male or female or intersex, share one and the same human nature. All men and women are of the same flesh. Furthermore, masculinity and femininity coexist in every human person. There is woman in man and there is man in woman. There is anima in man and there is animus in women. There is feminine genius in man and there is masculine genius in woman. Two brain hemispheres, one brain. Infinite diversity, one species.
In the biophysical dimension, this fundamental unity is manifested as a somatic homogeneity that subsists in diversity at all levels, from XX/XY chromosomes to skin pigment, eye color, and all other human attributes. In the biopsychological dimension, every human being is a unique personal subject but all humans are Homo sapiens, endowed with reason and free will. In the biospiritual dimension, there is a universal need for relationality; while no human being can flourish in isolation, all humans can flourish in interpersonal relations.
The ancient but simplistic gender binary is no longer credible. While human bodies are male or female or intersex, human persons are engendered. Sex and gender cannot be separated but can be distinguished. Sex is biophysical. Gender is biopsychological. Each human person is unique. All men and women are fully consubstantial, mutually complementary, and socially relational. Human persons cannot be reduced to the simplistic male or female binary.
Consubstantiality, Complementarity, and Relationality
An integral anthropology can be visualized in three orthogonal dimensions: consubstantiality, complementarity, and relationality.
All men and women are fully consubstantial. This simply means that all men and women are somatically homogeneous, regardless of DNA differences. Human flesh is human flesh. There is a fundamental ontological unity of human nature that is not canceled by sex, gender, or any other human attribute. This unity is not uniformity, and is not canceled by natural or cultural diversity in the vast majority of human activities.
All men and women are mutually complementary. This means that no human being is self-sufficient. A man cannot be a mother. A woman cannot be a father. This complementarity of man and woman is manifested most clearly when sharing the gift of love and the gift of life, but need not be limited by rigid cultural stereotypes. Men can be receptive. Women can be assertive. Men can gather. Women can hunt.
All men and women are socially relational. This means that human beings are social animals. No human being can grow alone. No human person can flourish in isolation from other people. Being in relation to others is intrinsic to being human. Individual persons can be more or less gregarious, but it is practically impossible for a human person to flourish in a social vacuum. Man needs woman. Woman needs man. People need people.
An integral anthropology also recognizes that people cannot live in an ecological vacuum. Survival in the flesh is contingent on meeting basic metabolic necessities. Humans need a human habitat.
Integral Human Development
Integral human development entails development of each person and of the whole person. In terms of Maslow's pyramid, integral human development is not just about meeting basic needs but also psychological and self-fulfillment needs. But as the patriarchal era passes away, the ecological crisis looms. We better be on the threshold of a renewal of humanity: Homo sapiens must outgrow Homo economicus and become Homo ecologicus.
Since the man-nature relation is a mirror of the man-woman relation, it is hard to imagine that such renewal can come to pass without a post-patriarchal balancing of gender relations. It is time to recognize how gender shapes the world:
"The multifaceted notion of gender pervades every aspect of life and of living. Gender differences form the basis for family life, patterns of socialization, distribution of tasks, spheres of responsibility, and occupational predilections. An understanding of the nature of gender is central to many disciplines—social sciences such as anthropology, sociology, women’s studies, criminology, linguistics, and biology, to name a few. The way gender is articulated shapes the world of individuals, and of the societies they live in."
It follows that human development that is not engendered is endangered. A renewal of gender relations is essential for both social justice and ecological justice. A renewal of man-woman relations is essential for integral human development. It is also essential for attaining an integral ecology, as argued in the companion article. This renewal of gender relations must be based on an integral anthropology that transcends the patriarchal culture of rigid gender stereotypes, such as male headship, and leads to a culture of egalitarian gender relations.
Human Families and the Divine Family
The integral anthropology outlined above is most conducive to integral human development because it engages the concrete totality of the human person, individually and in relation to others. Actually, this integral approach to anthropology and development is fully consistent with the wisdom we have inherited from the Christian tradition. Under the influence of the Greek philosophers, the Judeo-Christian tradition that had always focused on living flesh and daily experience became sidetracked by abstractions and categorizations that gradually came to be taken as absolute truth. Perhaps the most harmful was the Aristotelian conception of woman as a "defective male." Not even St Thomas Aquinas was able to evade the trap of intellectualized misogyny.
Thus Christendom became victimized, like many other cultures, to the point that the patriarchal norms of conduct that emerged in conjunction with the agricultural revolution came to be regarded as the natural order of things. The surplus energy that became available with the industrial revolution has exacerbated the patriarchal paradigm even more, leading to ferocious wars and the social inequities and ecological disruptions that now threaten the very survivability of human civilization. But these cultural trends can and must be reversed, so that nuclear families, extended families, and the entire human family, can become a better image of the Divine Family; for the God of Christians is a family, a communion of divine persons, not a patriarchy.
The following diagram attempts to convey the essence of this integral anthropology by showing the objective/subjective structure of the human person and pointing to Jesus Christ as the model of integral human development:
The colors represent layers in the structure of each and every human person:
Grey = Biblical "Flesh" (body-soul, or spirited body), Beige = Body (somatic flesh), Pink = Female, Blue = Male, Purple = Intersex. The simplistic patriarchal "binary" assumes that body, sex, and gender are simply identical. An integral anthropology recognizes that the human body is normally male or female, but each personal subject is more than just a body. Furthermore, being in gendered relation to others is integral to human personhood. Gender is deeper than body in the structure of the personal subject, with a unique combination of masculine and feminine polarities abiding in each human person. The grey (biblical "flesh," i.e., human nature, body and spirit) subsists under the other colors for all humans. Each personal subject is unique, but all human beings are fully homogeneous in one and the same human nature. All human beings (male, female, intersex, heterosexual, homosexual) are made of the same flesh, no other than the flesh Christians believe God assumed at the incarnation.
Source: Meditations on Man and Woman
The body is a sacrament of the entire person but is not the entire person. From the beginning, the human person, man and woman, was created as an integral "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. All things were made through Christ, so there must be a "feminine genius" in Christ. It is noteworthy that Jesus always identified himself as a human being ("son of man"). He never identified himself as a patriarch. What matters for the redemption, and the sacramental economy, is that the Word became flesh, became a body. All references to the Eucharist in the New Testament point to flesh, body; none points to XY chromosomes. The Eucharist is "the bread of life," not the male of life. It follows that integral human development is about becoming fully human and becoming "eucharist" for others, not about reinforcing artificial gender constructs or any other kind of cultural idols.
The patriarchal culture, ancient as it is (10,000 years or so) was manufactured by human hands and is, therefore, artificial; it is not natural. Many families are already evolving from male headship to joint father-mother headship. This egalitarian complementarity of man and woman in family and society, rooted in their natural consubstantiality and relationality, is bound to gradually propagate to all human communities worldwide. Fostering this cultural evolution may be the best way to foster integral human development and the common good of all nations and the entire community of creation.
It is perplexing that some of the most influential religious institutions in the world are showing a vexing reluctance to let go of the patriarchal anthropology that translates into an exclusively male governance. It is a cultural tragedy that is now becoming a doctrinal travesty, a pastoral disgrace, and a significant obstacle to integral human development.
In brief, human bodies are male or female or intersex, but 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 nefarious 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."
Lamentably, some patriarchal religious institutions are dragging their feet when it comes to restoring a proper balance of masculine and feminine polarities in their own structures and communities. Since such balancing is required for an integral human development, it would be helpful if religious institutions also embrace and internalize an integral anthropology. It is time for all the Christian churches to resolve the conflation of patriarchal gender ideology and the truth revealed in Christ Jesus.
This article is based on the author's Meditations on Man and Woman, Humanity and Nature, specifically the following:
Natural Unity of Man and Woman
Natural Consubstantiality of Man and Woman
Unitive Complementarity of Man and Woman
Integral Complementarity of Man and Woman
Patriarchal Disunity of Man and Woman
Natural Complementarity of Man and Woman
Reconstructing the Original Unity of Man and Woman
Reconstructing the Original Harmony of Humanity and Nature
Here and Now: Laudato Si' and the Year of Mercy
Here and Now: Integral Humanism and Evangelization
An Adequate Anthropology for an Integral Ecology
The Twilight of Patriarchy and the Dawn of an Integral Ecology
Consubstantial Complementarity of Man and Woman
Rediscovering the Natural Consubstantiality of Man and Woman
Resilience of Religious Patriarchalism in the Judeo-Christian Tradition
Internalizing the Consubstantial Complementarity of Man and Woman
Overcoming Patriarchal Gender Ideology for Integral Human Development and an Integral Ecology