How can we get beyond the battle of the sexes?
How is the war between the sexes treating you? Nice, isn’t it? I enjoy knowing men loathe and fear me because I might decide out of the blue to destroy their lives, and I know my husband really relishes his popularity as a white, Catholic, beer-drinking male with teenage sons. Life in 2018 is good. It is so good.
Folks, this is no way to live. Literally, life cannot continue unless male and female meet and cooperate. Figuratively, life is just too horrible when men cannot trust women and women cannot trust men. And yet this is where we stand, apparently by choice.
Before the Kavanaugh confirmation, CatholicVote.org put out an astonishing bit of emotional propaganda overtly telling Americans that our fathers, sons, brothers and husbands were in terrible danger of having their lives shredded just because women feel like shredding men’s lives.
Women have reached a similar boiling point of rage and fear, albeit with far, far more cause. One woman wrote in The Washington Post about giving herself over to “30 minutes of from-the-gut yelling” at her husband of 50 years because he made a small “patronizing comment.” She was “screaming...as if he represented every clueless male on the planet” and “announced that I hate all men and wish all men were dead.” She later felt bad, but still expected her husband, who is 70, to go out and fix manhood, in some way.
Life is just too horrible when men cannot trust women and women cannot trust men.
Why don’t we take a moment to catch our breath on this frantic sprint to dehumanize half the human race? This is not some lame attempt at both siderism. I’m simply asking everyone who’s angry to ask sincerely, “How likely is it that I’ll win this war using the tactics I’m using?”
Because this broad brush approach, which pits one entire sex against another and demands utter capitulation, is no way to live. Not only does it offend against justice, it will not work. Fear, panic and demonization do not lead to greater safety. Picture a security guard with hatred and panic bubbling over in his heart and his finger on the trigger. Now stroll past him in the twilight and the mist on some innocent errand. How safe do you feel?
It gets worse and weirder. Conservatives have long argued it is in men’s nature to be strong, protective providers and that adhering to traditional gender roles will lead to peace and happiness. And liberals have always insisted equality, freedom and consent are sacrosanct and that tolerance and the rejection of prejudice will lead to peace and happiness.
Now here is where we stand in 2018: Conservatives teach that men should assume the role of bitter, frightened prey, always scurrying away from the bogeyman of feminism and false accusations. And liberals advocate for a sort of “tolerance-shmolerance” approach, where we gather our slavering young around the fire to teach them the virtue of pre-judging strangers. That scraping sound you hear? That is William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal turning over in their respective graves to gawk at each other in mutual disbelief.
All of us are responsible for all of us, all the time.
But apparently everyone is so afraid of breaking with their ideological group, they just cannot help themselves. The allure of being miserable and frightened all the time is just too strong.
Maybe the way forward is to stop trying to force people to see things our way. People want to cling to their ideologies? Let’s work with them. Let’s begin to enlist both left and right in service of the vulnerable—using the ideological language they already accept.
You hate conservatives? Fine, hate conservatives. Just focus on being kind and generous to the person in front of you, without wondering what his politics are, and you will be a good and tolerant liberal. You despise liberals? Fine, despise liberals. Just focus on being decent and just to the person in front of you, without wondering what her politics are, and you will be a good and strong conservative. I do not care why you protect the weak, just as long as you protect the weak.
Let conservatives be conservatives, and let them push that “real men protect the weak” thing, just so long as that includes any weak person who is not dressed modestly or behaving soberly or speaking genteelly or voting sensibly. (Though it’s probably worth reminding them that women have a grave duty to protect the weak, too.) And let liberals be liberals, and lean really heavily on “protecting everyone’s opportunity to enjoy liberty and self-expression according to their individual desires” thing. (Though it is probably worth reminding them that in hypersexualized situations, women and children always get the short end of the stick).
Call it whatever you like, whatever you need to call it to make sense to whichever group you are speaking to—but really hammer home the idea that we are responsible for each other. All of us are responsible for all of us, all the time. Do this, and we will build community. Do this, and we will strengthen the family. We will be defending the vulnerable. We will be asserting our individuality. We will be pushing everyone’s favorite buttons, without pushing anyone to abandon their precious identity.
If this sounds familiar, it should. It is just simple charity, which means loving our neighbor as ourselves. If you have to tell yourself you do it because it is the way to be a man or because it is the way to defend choice and consent, then go ahead and tell yourself that. We are allowed to choose the lens through which we see the world, as long as it shows us the need to care for the weak.
It is not the answer to everything. But it is something, and right now, I will settle for anything because the way we are living now is no way to live.