A sentence you’re about to read may strike you as almost scandalously shocking in the context of a blog on Catholicism, so I offer this preparatory caution and beg your forgiving indulgence since it does bear on the topic I want to address.
I am a person.
That is not (or at least ought not be) the shocking sentence; this is:
I have a penis.
A disturbing statement, I know. Take a moment to recover.
Better? OK, moving on…
Because I am a person with a penis [among other related and normatively concurrent accidental qualities, though this one alone should suffice for the issue at hand], I hold it to be an undeniable material reality that I am male and further that, given my degree of physical maturation, I am a man. I realize that this is a difficult concept for some to grasp of late, so let’s take a moment to review:
I take it to be an undeniable material reality that, “person”+ “penis” [and its common companions] + “physical maturation” = “man.”
Make sure you’ve got that one clear before continuing, because there’s more and it just gets even crazier.
I firmly believe that this biologically determined reality entails a set of physical capacities (at least in potentia), a set of physical limitations, and a host of bodily and developmental experiences that are overwhelmingly common among “men.” In addition, I hold that these capacities, limitations, and experiences are qualitatively distinct from those that shape the lebenswelt common for a person with a vagina (i.e., “woman”) who is of a similar degree of physical maturation, and that the difference between the two instantiated an epistemic gap that is unbridgeable from either side.
Beyond these points, yet informed by them, I have observed that there are socially constructed (and ideologically enforced) cultural, political, and psychological consequences that attend these differences. For the most part, in the value schema of contemporary Western culture (whatever my own feelings about that value schema), these constructions are overwhelmingly advantageous for men and, consequently, disadvantageous or even oppressive for women.
Now, although I maintain that the physical realities and the differences they entail are simply brute facts, I believe nevertheless that the social constructions tied thereto 1) need not be so constructed and, worse, that 2) those social constructions are not only unnecessary but also unnatural, immoral, unjust and have become destructive in their perpetuation. That we have elevated these constructions to the point of not only reification but even celebration is not a sign of “progress;” on the contrary, it is a symptom of disease and decadence.
To cure this social disease, I believe it is incumbent upon all moral persons to work to rectify this systemic injustice by insisting – of oneself, of others, and in the instruction of children – that we recognize in all persons an inherent dignity and worth; that recognizing the dignity of every other demands that we do not treat them as mere objects; and that, however often we may fail in large or small ways, we are never excused from making a diligent effort to eradicate objectification of every sort.
Specifically, in our contemporary context, I believe there is much work to be done in the education of persons-with-penises (at all levels of physical maturation) with regard to the truth that persons-with-vaginas (at all levels of physical maturation) are first of all persons and that, since it is personhood and not penis-possession that confers dignity, they are consequently included in the moral demand against objectification. I am also committed to the idea that there is also a great deal of work to be done among persons-with-vaginas with regard to the same issue (i.e., personhood, not penis-possession, confers dignity), so that they might not continue the recent trend of embracing self-objectification as a kind of ’empowerment.’ Self-objectification is still, surprise, objectification and necessarily a denial of dignity; that one might commit such a violation against oneself doesn’t make it any better.
This collection of positions would seem to [if my sources, and my reading of them, are correct] place me in the category of TERpF*.
The truly unexpected part of this, however, is that this same outlook is directly supported and doctrinally commanded by the Social Teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Radical Feminism and Roman Catholicism: Strange bedfellows indeed!
This is not to say that Roman Catholicism is a Radical Feminist tradition. On the contrary, once we get past the points raised here, interpretations regarding in what, precisely, human flourishing consists are wildly divergent. But let’s not kid ourselves–the social reality in which that next step towards flourishing can be taken (and argued over) is a long [long, long] way off yet. In the meantime, it seems to me that, however counter-intuitively, Radical Feminists would welcome the proliferation of (properly catechized) Catholic men [though I’m ready to stand corrected on this point], if only because such men would be committed to the elimination of pornography, rape, and all forms of violence against women–not because women are weak and in need of male protection but just because these violations of human dignity are intolerable regardless of the accidents of biology.
[On the near-term downside, such men would still probably want to marry a woman… but then they’d also respect every “no” they received, so I think that’s a wash.]
(…and that should explain why I follow some of the blogs I do)
*Trans Exclusionary Radical pro-Feminist. Appending “pro-” to Feminist is related to the fact of my penis which, it’s been argued in a way I found compelling, limits my experience (and thus my understanding) in such a way that I cannot be a Feminist but rather can only be supportive of Feminist interests in my activity among penis-possessors.