Men and women: creative new relations
Creativity is the dynamic of the universe. Its natural state is not stability but creative change. Everything is the fruit of either natural or human creation. The Earth is the fruit of a mysterious Creative Energy, full of purpose. One day, a primitive fish “decided”, in a creative act, to leave the water and explore the solid earth. The amphibians came from that creative act, then the reptiles, followed by the dinosaurs and finally the mammals, including us.
If we had not been creative, we never would have reached where we are now. Let’s consider the man-woman relationship, a central point of the present discussion of the Catholic Church. We know that ten thousand years ago, history was marked by patriarchy. Patriarchy has meant a Way of the Cross of suffering for all women. But what has been historically constructed can also be historically deconstructed. This is the hope that underlies the struggles of oppressed women and their allies among men, the hope of a new level of civilization, no longer stigmatized by gender domination.
Men and women are ever more defined now, not by their biological gender or cultural factors, but by the fact of being persons. By person we understand here everyone who senses being the owner of himself or herself, and who exercises the freedom of defining and living his or her own life. The capacity of self production in liberty (autopoiesis) is the supreme dignity of the human being, and should not be denied to anyone.
After the recognition of the person as person, the values of cooperation and democracy as universal values are decisive, in the sense of participation in social life, from which women historically have been excluded.
Its absence helped establish the historic domination and subordination of women. Today, through the cooperation of both men and women, within an ethic of solidarity and mutual caring, is when inclusive and egalitarian relationships will be built.
Cooperation implies mutual trust and respect in an environment where coexistence is founded on love, in proximity, in open dialogue, as Pope Francis has insisted and shows.
Noted Chilean biologist Humberto Maturana rightly points out: the persistence of patriarchy represents an attempt to regress to a pre-human level, which would take us back to the level of the chimpanzees, social but domineering.
This is why the struggle to overcome patriarchy is a struggle to rescue our true humanity. Women, because they are women, receive lower salaries for doing the same work that men do. And women comprise more than half of humanity.
Democracy, participatory and without end, fundamentally means participation, a sense of right and duty and a sense of co-responsibility. Other than a form of organizing the State, democracy is a value to be lived whenever and wherever human beings are found. This democracy is not restricted to humans, but is open to the other living beings of the biotic community, because it recognizes in them rights and dignity. Integral democracy possesses, then, a socio-cosmic characteristic.
The overcoming of the ancestral war of the sexes and of the oppressive and repressive politics against women will succeed in proportion to the degree that real and daily democracy is introduced and practiced. In the name of this banner, the great feminist writer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) could proclaim: “As a woman I do not have a fatherland, as a woman I do not want a fatherland, as a woman my fatherland is the world”.
The struggle against patriarchy supposes a regeneration of man. In this task man surely could not leap forward by himself. Hence the importance of the woman by his side. She can evoke in men the feminine side that is hidden under secular ashes, and can be the co-midwife of a new humanizing relationship.
The first task is to strengthen the ties of mutual interaction and egalitarian cooperation between men and women. Here a pedagogic process is required, along the lines of Paulo Freire: no one liberates any one, but together, men and women liberate themselves in a shared process of creative freedom.
In this new context those values of feminine socialization that are considered ancient and proper, must be recuperated, but now they must be shouted to the ears of men, and together with women, they must try to live them. It is about a humanitarian ideal for both men and women. I will allow myself to rescue some:
– People are more important than things. Each person must be treated humanely and with respect.
– Violence is never an acceptable means of solving problems.
– It is better to help than to exploit people, offering special attention to the poor, the excluded and the children.
– Cooperation, association and sharing are preferable to competition, self-affirmation and conflict.
– In decisions that affect all, each person has the right to say his or her word and to participate in the development of the collective decision.
– To be profoundly convinced that truth is on the side of justice, solidarity and love, and that domination, exploitation and oppression are on the wrong side.
These values, in times past thought of as feminine, were manipulated by the patriarchal mentality to keep women subordinated and docile. Today, as the face of the world and society are changing, those values may save us. That is the reason men and women must be creative in their relationships, because that way they humanize themselves.
Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.