A female college student acquaintance was taking a class in which the students were asked to come up with 10 words or phrases with which they identified themselves. The student’s first word was “female.” She was upbraided for saying this and the professor was in wonder that anybody would choose their sex as an aspect of who they are that filters the way they relate to the world. (I wonder if the same dressing down would have occurred if the student had referred to a different lifestyle choice?)
In point of fact in the Christian world – and in particular the Catholic Christian world this would have definitely been in the top ten if not the top two (child of God vying for first place) proper descriptions. We are not souls occupying a body – we are very much our bodies (and we say every week that we believe in the resurrection of our bodies.) Our sex is far more than other aspects of who we are. “Bald” or “stoop-shouldered” or “athletic” do not carry the same weight in having an effect in how we see the world as does being male or female. This foundational mark of who we are is also the lens through which we see the world and relate to others and God. It is not something to be ignored but something to be cherished, understood, appropriately used, and celebrated. To say that it is inconsequential is damaging to the dignity we have as human beings and to the ability to feel at home in our bodies.
There are those who would solve much of the world’s problems by doing what is possible to rid ourselves of the differences between men and women. This seems logical. In history there has been an inequality between the sexes and erasing that which makes us different does seem like a logical fix. But it is not. Erasing our identity is not a move toward health but a different sickness. Rather, a full respect of who we are as embodied beings, accepting it, honoring it, and realizing (as it says in the rite of blessing at marriage) that we are partners equal in the inheritance of heaven, and correcting any inequalities there may be between the sexes is the path to a better world. We can only do this by recognizing the true worth of our bodies and their unique gifts rather than ignoring the fact that differences exists.