Friday, September 20, 2013

Feminine Machismo

The things one learns!  That is something Cardinal Timothy Dolan referred to when describing the new Pope's attitudes towards women and the church:

Turning to the issue of the role of women within the Catholic church, Dolan summarized the pope's sentiments. "He warned against the feminine machismo."

"The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions," Pope Francis told the magazine, explaining that in his view, "the church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. ... We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman."
Yes, I know that Pope Francis might be a refreshing change from the previous Old Boys' Club in the Catholic Church, and it's fun to hear about something like "the feminine genius!"

But what is "the woman and her role?"  Dolan says a bit more in the attached video, implying that "feminine machismo" happens when women try to be like men.  That's not a good thing!  Because then everyone has machismo, I guess.

Still, the way I read this is that "the woman and her role" matter, in a sense different from "the man and his role."  There's no "theology of the man" in the church, either, because "man" is the default setting, so all theology is about him.  You only realize this when you read enough to come across some shocking statement (also in the Bible or the Koran) where women are set apart and given stricter rules for existing.

And that's why "the woman and her role" is probably shorthand for essentialism, the idea that all women are the same with each other, and that there can be a general theology of the proper place of anyone with the xx-chromosome.  And that place might not be a powerful one, given that machismo warning.

Pope Francis could be a good guy, for a pope.  I'm reserving judgement until I see him walk his talk.  The fact remains, nevertheless, that the Catholic Church explicitly excludes women from priesthood and from almost all truly powerful positions.  The fact remains that it is celibate men (or apparently celibate men) who determine the church's views on the sexual lives of women, what is allowed and what is not.  The fact remains that those views are not good for poor women.