Thursday, September 13, 2012
We don't need men... we don't need women...
Women do not need men. Funny, because it was men who did not need women that seemed to cause the flower of feminism in the first place. Men had families because they were expected of them but work, career, and, eventually, play were the dominant goals of misogynist males. Women have learned from their flawed counterparts and have become just as independent as the men were before them. Women do not need men so men do not need to be men. They can remain boys -- with their toys, with their interests, with their self-centered focus upon happiness and pleasure. Many of them have learned that mom can still take care of them and will take care of them long after their dads had left home and gone on their own. Women do not need men and men (at least some of them) seem perfectly content not to be men at all.
I say this not to condemn women or men. I say this because it frames the trouble we have with marriage. We are not really sure what to do with it. So many have decided that marriage is not worth it or not necessary for their goals and happiness. They are perfectly content to live together in short term unions without the messy complications of legal marriage. They are perfectly content to fulfill their social and sexual needs in other ways besides marriage. One author has suggested that the hook up culture works fine now for women (and men are happy to comply). In The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin recently defended the hookup culture as essential to female success and equality. Given the pressure of a high-powered career, she claims, “an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.” In order to carve out time for work, women need the same option men have long enjoyed: “the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career.”
Of course, we know better. But it is into this culture we send forth our young men and women and it is the press of these viewpoints that wears at the noble character of marriage. How we fight this battle depends upon many things but I think that one tack we can take is to directly address the issue of whether or not men need women and women need men. In our increasingly isolated culture, need is often seen as weakness and technology substitutes for personal relationship. The article has hit upon one important issue: A life that has no room for serious romantic partners can’t have much space for deep friendships either. It is not merely our romantic relationships that are suffering. We are having finding it harder and harder to make, nurture, and sustain deep friendships as well. In a sense, as this author has put it, we have invented a new monasticism which, like the old, finds marriage unnecessary or at least irrelevent, but which is unwilling to forego sexual pleasure.
The modern life has reserved the intensity of our commitments for job/career and pleasure. Whether these jobs or careers are the traditional sacrificial vocations of public service (teachers, for example) or the traditional domain of business, we seem to delight in what we have given up in order to achieve our career goals. In many cases we have made personal pleasure and career success synonyms. Since it is difficult to sustain any kind of relationship while intensity is reserved for job and self, these become the things we give up for our higher priorities. The hook up culture gives us the illusion of relationships while providing sexual release absent any love, commitment, or consequence. We have essentially created a new culture -- secular monasticism. How long or how well this survives is ultimately dependent upon the satisfaction of those who practice it. In the mean time, we in the Church can be prepared to bind up those who come to us broken and bleeding -- the self-sufficient who found that needing no one simply leaves you empty and alone.