Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Argentina Protests Violence Against Women, Pope Francis Pushes Gender Complementarity: Need for New Catholic Witness re: Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Violence vs. Women and Children

In a comment here yesterday, Rachel pointed to the importance of the huge campaign now underway in Argentina to protest violence against women. As she pointed out, this campign is especially important since violence threatens not only women but men and children as well — and "as a social problem, can lead to exposure of patterns of domination as criminal acts."

A number of days ago, Rachel shared with me by email some articles about this anti-violence campaign in Argentina. As both New York Times and USA Today reported recently, in 3 June there was a massive demonstration in cities across Argentina to protest violence against women, which has been in the forefront of people's awareness due to several recent atrocious incidents revealing the extent to which the nation has a serious problem in this area.

Demonstrators have organized a hashtag campaign at Twitter (#NiUnaMenos) to raise awareness of the problem and publicize efforts to combat it. As Kamillia Larichi reports for USA Today, 

Violence against women has been a major problem in Argentina. Nationwide, there was a femicide — the killing of women because of their gender — every 35 hours from 2007 to 2012, according to La Casa del Encuentro in Buenos Aires. In 2014, there were 277 murders of women in Argentina, the group estimated.

In the New York Times two days ago, Uki Goñi points to the casually taken-for-granted culture of machismo in Argentina, and asks whether the misogynistic violence in the country is perhaps rooted, at least in part, in the casual way in which people take for granted that men making catcalls to women or treating women as sex objects are simply boys behaving as boys will behave. 

Goñi writes,

"The cause is our country’s macho culture," said Fabiana Tuñez, executive director of Casa del Encuentro, a women’s shelter. 
Women’s rights advocates like her see a continuum between the deadly violence and supposedly harmless everyday sexism. It’s true that Argentine men feel entitled to deliver a public "piropo" — literally, a compliment; in practice, any lewd comment or wolf whistle — to any woman of their choosing. What may once have been a tradition of poetic gallantry has degenerated into crude catcalling and aggressive propositioning. Such routine street harassment is widely regarded as socially acceptable, a masculine right even.

And, of course, I point you to these resources because we've been discussing here of late other ways in which the boys-will-be-boys approach to issues of sexual violence by men against women seems frequently to place the onus on women for correcting aggressive, harmful behavior that does not emanate from women themselves — but from boys being boys. 

Nor is this by any means solely an Argentinian issue. As Libby Watson notes for Media matters, a poll conducted recently by Washington Post and the Kaiser Foundation finds one in five women on U.S. college campus reporting that they've been sexually assaulted on their campuses in the last five years.

And as Robin Levinson King reported yesterday for the Toronto Star, General Tom Lawson, chief of Canada's defense staff, has ruffled feathers by stating that sexual assaults (of women by men) in the Canadian military happen because men are "biologically wired in a certain way." A viewpoint that is not, after all, really too distant from Pope Francis's repeated suggestion — he made it again this past Sunday following Rome's gay pride parade — that men have their biologically based roles over here, and women have their biologically based roles over there, and children need to grow up in households in which they see both biologically based roles on display . . . .

Though there are now Catholic theologians who want to propose that Pope Francis is actually trying to mitigate the crude biologism of the gender complementarity theories of his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI — these theologians argue that he's softening and extending the boundaries of that crude binary biologism — I personally see little mitigation in what Francis persistently says about the place of men and women in the world. In fact, I hear overwhelmingly strong echoes of the very macho culture of Argentina in which the pope was raised in everything he says about male-female complementarity.

And I'm convinced that the Catholic church needs to offer a different kind of language and witness to the world today regarding issues of gender, of sexual violence against women and children, of sexual orientation, and, above all, of the still-unacknowledged and still-uncritiqued (in most Catholic circles, that is) entitlement of heterosexual males. So much that is unjust and misery-makng in the world in which we lives stems from that unacknowledged, uncritiqued entitlement, with its religious props and its pseudo-scientific posturing.

It's time for change, for the good of the whole world. 

No comments: