I didn't realize at the time that they spoke a very solid, theological truth to me; after all, what an unlikely source! As I came to learn, though, they served to prove that God designed men and women very differently from each other, and to recognize those differences is not demeaning; rather, it glorifies God and sanctifies us all with the dignity God intended us to have.
I'm glad you asked!
One winter night we went out on the town and had a few brewskis and a few shots. I was a new addition to the management of our department (with them), and apparently that night at the bar was my "initiation" of sorts. We had worked together for a couple years, but my promotion was recent, and with my promotion, they finally had the freedom to tell me what they really thought.
That night I enjoyed their friendly, if challenging company, and was happy to be "one of the boys" which was a role I was used to filling. In my college years, the reality was that most of my friends were guys. I could relate to them easily, and they liked me because I liked things such as weapons and learning hand-to-hand combat. And if someone got into my face, I was not real willing to back down.
Also, I could drink Tequila straight from the bottle and swear not just a sailor, but a pirate right under the table. I'm no longer proud of that gift, nor am I capable of it anymore, but at the time it endeared me to my male counterparts. At least to a professional degree.
(Aside: That's the irony of working with men in some fields...what is unprofessional in some crowds is professional in another).
Anyway, that evening as we waited for our next round of shots, we discussed women in Law Enforcement (a very personal topic for me), and we discussed women in the military. I was all for sending women into combat; I was a strong advocate of women in any and every role and made no bones about it. My male colleagues disagreed. One of them because, as was my impression, had been raised by a chauvenist pig and so became one, and the other arrived at his opinion from the point of view from his indoctrination as a Marine, Special Forces.
In either case, my instinct was to completely disregard their old-fashioned archaic oppressive opinions as worthless drivel.
The first thing I thought of when I learned about the Theology of the Body was the conversation I had with my male friends that night. Pope John Paul II, had he been present with us, would have been nodding along with them while they told me about the facts regarding men and women.
Those guys explained very candidly that men have a natural instinct to protect women.
They agreed that women can indeed defend themselves, can do many or most of the same jobs men do, but women have to work harder to do it. (This was a lesson that came home to me about five years later when I trained for and was hired by the Fire Dept.) Their acquiescence to the idea that women had abilities, however, differed from their argument, for ultimately, they weren't talking about doing...they were talking about the foundation of BEING!
Carefully, trying to help me understand, these guys, these friends and co-workers of mine tried to explain that (in a combat, law enforcement, firefighting situation) even though men realize women don't want any help if they are struggling with a task, men will still want to help them. Thus, in a combat situation, men will instinctively put themselves, and even other men at risk in order to help a woman, even if she is a soldier fighting alongside them. They will do it for the good of their unit, for the good of their country, for the good of the woman...possibly to the detriment of all.
I refused to see his logic and tried to argue that we women don't WANT protection, and we don't NEED protection. I was missing the point...he was attempting to explain to me that it wasn't about what women wanted...it was about how men are designed and that no matter how much they tried, they could not suppress their internal instinct to protect the women around them.
This argument went on for hours. Literally. It went on all night. I had lost it from the beginning but refused to let it go. My friends finally gave up, realizing that I simply was not going to see reality, and really wasn't even trying. I was too busy holding onto an ideology that saw human biology as "unjust".
The only problem was this: I HAD begun to see it their way, but I simply would not admit it or give up my feminist perspective. It was easier to hold on with all my might to what I wanted to believe, that which would serve my own personal ideology, than it was to look to the expertise of these men who had real-life experience to back up what they were saying.
One of them spoke from experience in combat, but was prohibited from giving examples as his examples were classified. The other spoke from a heart he didn't want anyone to know he had. Both, in practice, were really a couple a jerks, but both, also, were real men who understood the fundamental differences between the sexes; differences I was afraid to acknowledge for fear it would make me less than I tried to be.
In the end, I learned the lesson the hard way, and only through understanding it have I come to embrace the Truth. I don't regret my foray into Law Enforcement or Firefighting, and I still support women's presence there, for women do bring a particular charism to the Job. However, I do advocate that women who take that route understand who they are, their limitations, and the limitations of the men with whom they work.
Men and women are NOT the same, but are designed to be complimentary to one another, for the good primarily of the family, secondarily to society.
I realize this post may be a catalyst to a greater discussion, and I welcome it so I will stop my position here. Are there readers with differing positions? Are there those who speak from experience who agree or disagree? Are there those who seek clarification, or any who would like to add another facet in the interest of discussion?
The combox is open. I am truly interested in what my readers have to offer on this topic.
As a reminder, I do not allow anonymous comments. Make up a handle to identify yourself. Thank you.