Saturday, December 29, 2012

Peggy Drexler on Why Gender Matters in Politics (with Catholic Applications)

Dr. Peggy Drexler on why gender matters in politics, and why it matters that women sit as justices on the Supreme Court:

Perspectives impact rulings. Understanding other lives is not the forte of homogeneous groups. I am not talking about symbolic diversity. I am not talking about role models and success stories. I am talking about bringing a kind of life perspective to our political representation that will not find its way there on its own.

And, of course, what Drexler says here could well be applied to the governing system of the Catholic church. It matters intently that this system is hermetically sealed, via ordination requirements, from anyone except males. The exclusion of anyone other than males from ordination results in the exclusion from the Catholic system of governance of significant perspectives acquired from lived experience.

In particular, it results in the exclusion of the perspectives of women, acquired from the lived experience of women--though that lack of perspective doesn't prevent Catholic leaders from pontificating about what women mean and what women should do, as the pope has been doing in his anti-gay Christmas statements and as Father Piero Corsi has just done in his parish in San Terenzo di Lerici in Italy, with lamentable results.

There's a common thread running between Pope Benedict's insistence that we work out our salvation by being true to our biological gender and to the roles that Benedict imagines to inhere in gender difference, the insistence of conservative Catholic men that women fulfill their destiny by making babies (and that women should be blamed when they don't conceive), and the claim of at least one current parish priest that women who are abused by their husbands deserve the abuse, because they serve cold suppers and are sassy and self-sufficient.

That common thread certainly has a lot to do with misogyny. But this peculiarly Catholic misogyny derives from a hermetically sealed system that in no shape, form, or fashion incorporates the perspectives of women, while it (ludicrously) insists on its right to dictate to women about what is best for their bodies and lives. This kind of systemic ritual abuse (because that's what it is) will continue in Catholicism as long as the perspectives and lived experience of women are excluded from the governing system of the Catholic church--which is to say, until ordination is opened to women, since ordination is the door through which one enters the governing structures of Catholicism.

The graphic is a CNS photo of Pope Benedict addressing the Curia, the highest governing body of the Catholic church, before Christmas 2012.

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