Sunday, November 9, 2008

What is the nature of woman?

I've had some interesting conversations lately about the nature or essence of a woman.

And now I just have more and more questions about it.

It seems clear that the church wants to distinguish between men and women in order to (1) say that women cannot be ordained and (2) outline particular roles of men and women in society, especially marriage.

I have some issues with this, but my primary issue has to do with the fact that women are considered so different from men. We're not so different. There is much about the human person that is pretty universal.

But I think we also know that there is something that is different between men and women. So, what is it?

This all has to do with theological anthropology--how Christians view the nature of humanity, particularly in relationship with God.

Back to the question: what is it about a woman that makes her a woman?

I think the answer lies in a relational attitude. Unfortunately, this is usually simplified to a mother-child relationship. What about women who never become mothers? My identity as a single Catholic woman is not bound up in my ability to bear children--though I would never deny that that is part of who I am. There is more to me than a womb!

So, my partially formed conclusions so far are that being a woman is uniquely relational, that women are more attuned to human relationships (generally) than men are. This is reflected in motherhood, but also in a tendency to put the needs of others above her own in other circumstances. Does a woman have a greater capacity for unconditional love than a man?

Anyone have any insights? I would love to hear them, either in the comments or by email. This issue is (I believe) fundamental to the church's conception of the human person, and a tad bit neglected (or misrepresented) in theological discussions and church documents.

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