Alright, so I expect some Christian gentlemen to get on my case about this title. Or I even expect to hear a small outcry from Catholics over this post.(Maybe I’ve giving myself too much credit) With the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade coming up in the next week, many may oppose me on this idea that women don’t need protection. I wanna take a step back from what ‘traditional chivalry’ has been saying for years toward women and also take a step back from the conservative, Protestant heritage that American Catholicism has somewhat adopted and inherited. It has placed women up on this imaginary pedestal that has in a sense kept them out of harm’s way. At the same time it has also fed the everlasting idea that women are unequal in the eyes of men. Sure, we could go back and forth on this issue and deal with the perplexing mentalities of Misogynists or Feminists, but that’s not my point here.
What I want to do here is go in an opposite direction. We have continually proclaimed this idea that women are meant to be ‘protected’, ‘cherished’ and ‘guarded’. Yet, this is an idea that seems to treat women as objects. They are these ‘treasures’ that are meant to be kept under lock and key. Or they are these delicate flowers that have to be protected and kept away from all harm. These are nice metaphors for women, ones that I have used myself at times, but some(well most) of what I’ve heard from masculinity talks, they tend to keep women framed this way. Which in a sense is ironic, since it is often secular culture that seems to demean women to objects….apparently it’s not solely secularism’s sin. Sure, these images/metaphors makes it easier to paint the cliche picture of man being a warrior, protector and all that other crap. This still doesn’t drive at the root of the problem.
The real problem here is the fact that this framing of women as these precious objects in need of protection/guarding sets them at a distance from men. It could even be said that it places women behind man, where the man has his back to the woman. This is the true problem and what I want to really talk about. This ‘distance’ is what hurts both men and women, because it does a disservice to both parties. We can go into the differences of how women like to talk about feelings and have emotions and that men like to do things and discuss events, but these are just generalizations(though for the most part true). Setting aside the obvious psychological differentiations between men and women, there are some key things that need to be pulled out to show that this ‘protecting’ of women should be muted at the very least.
There is a thirst of intimacy that comes from the core of personal relation. We can see this in how the majority music lovers enjoy those piercing, honest lyrics of a certain band. We can see this in how romance movies always strike a cord in a crowd, because they too wish for someone to sit down with them and say, ‘Let me love you.’ We see this in how we are moved by people doing charitable acts for complete strangers. These are all doors to the intimate domain of being a person. While, the culture may seem to ignore this and merely say it is only ‘sentiment’, I’d like to say that’s bullshit. There’s this consistent illusion that American culture builds up for itself, which is essentially a wall. We like to get close, but never close enough. We will say that ‘that’s nice’ or ‘that’s beautiful’, but if we were asked to do it ourselves we’d opt out. Intimacy requires vulnerability and that is often the last thing that people want. I mean, who wants to be vulnerable? It hurts. It can suck. It can be brutal to a heart. Yet, we know of those persons that are so free with their heart and love that they always give of themselves to another, rather than hold back.
Women are predisposed to intimacy this way. Intimacy goes hand in hand with the feminine temperament.(This is a conjecture of mine, but I think we can all agree on this.) And now we return back to what I spoke of in the beginning of this post. The idea that man ‘protects’ a woman, figuratively places the women behind the man and treats her as an object as I have already mentioned. In reality, women are a lot tougher than they appear.(I mean, think of childbirth) Men have been told consistently through the decades that it is better to be physically strong than be in touch with their emotions. It is better to get mad or violent than cry. It is better to ignore feelings rather than embrace them. Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m just polarizing these ideas. I think that there are positive things that come out of men that adhere to chivalry and the like, but there has to be balance. I mean, that is how it is with Life, it’s a balancing act.
The reality is that men avoid intimacy. I’m not saying that men need to become mushy gushy sissies, but they do need to be more self aware by how their heart is pulling them. The inner life of men is something of a mysterious thing, on the fact, that men simply ignore it. They carry on and simply bear with how life runs them ragged and sometimes(extreme example) they find themselves at the bottom of a bottle with no idea how they got there. The need to address the inner workings of an individual as such as this, is incredibly important to developing personal relationships and relationships with people in general. Women have been hurting for a long time, because men have simply carried on. There has to be a willingness of men to bravely confront what their inner life tell them, even if it’s to become intimate and vulnerable.