Socio-political commentary hijacked the Golden Globes this year. On Sunday night, we beheld a room full of A-list celebrities dressed head-to-toe in black, a statement of solidarity with the #TimesUp movement. We saw that room shake with ironic laughter as Seth Meyers opened his monologue with, “Good evening, ladies and remaining gentlemen.” We heard an overkill of these cheeky remarks, such as Natalie Portman snarkily introducing “the all-male nominees” for Best Director.
Later in the evening, we watched an elegant and sparkly Oprah Winfrey stand up in front of the entire nation and hold forth for ten minutes about “the power” (a.k.a., men) and the women who can finally take no more of it. “We live in culture broken by brutally powerful men,” Oprah thundered.
“For too long women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.”
She trumpeted the praises of “every woman who chooses to say ‘me too’”, and condescendingly added with lowered voice, “and every man who chooses … to listen”, as if speaking to a naughty child. It was like a veiled threat addressed to all men, letting them know: women are in charge now.
Don’t misunderstand me; I agree that sexual misconduct is absolutely unacceptable and speaking out against it is an important step towards change. There’s also no doubt that oppression of women by men is a historical reality and that women have had to suffer and sacrifice for the status they now enjoy in our culture. Empowering women is a noble cause.
What I find alarming about the #TimesUp movement, however, especially as we saw it manifest at the Golden Globes, is that at times it sounds less like a cultural corrective and more like a battle cry. It effectively pits women against men, if not in intention then at least in tone. It lifts women up, but often at the expense of men, making them out to be sex-crazed scumbags who don’t know how to take a hint. The loudest voices of the #MeToo movement seem to want to make their point by intimidating and shaming men (except, of course, those few who have been tamed and re-educated by women); Meyers’ quip that “it’s been years since a white man was this nervous in Hollywood” is telling.
The solution to male-dominated sexism is not simply to turn the tables on men. Man-hating is not the answer to sexism; it’s just its nasty twin sister.
At this confusing and emotional moment in our culture’s history, the voice of the Church is more needed than ever. Our faith helps us understand our sexual differences and the problems arising from them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the relationship between man and woman has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation. This disorder can manifest itself more or less acutely, and can be more or less overcome according to the circumstances of cultures, eras, and individuals, but it does seem to have a universal character (1606).
In other words, we shouldn’t be so shocked that men and women sometimes still act naughty towards each other, even in a culture that claims to be as progressive and enlightened as ours. Gasp! Ah yes, my friends, this is part of the human condition. Which brings me to the next point from the Catechism:
"According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin … the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations; their mutual attraction, the Creator's own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust (1607)."
A spirit of antagonism and rivalry between men and women, then, is not part of God’s design but rather a consequence of sin. Our differences, designed to draw us together in love, are now all too often occasions of domination, lust, jealousy, and conflict. We watched the results unfold at the Golden Globes: oppression and sexual misconduct by men, met with resentment and patronization by women.
Also—did you catch it?—the Catechism just said that, after our relationship with God, the relationship between the sexes is the first thing affected by the Fall. What does this tell us? It tells us that the way we relate to one another as men and women is a big. stinking. deal. It’s the aspect of human life that looks most like our relationship with God; no wonder it has come under such violent attack. Still, Christ comes to restore what was broken by the Fall, and He desires to bring healing and unity where there is hurt and conflict between men and women. Christ reminds us through the teachings of His Church that man and woman were made "for each other" - not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be "helpmate" to the other, for they are equal as persons and complementary as masculine and feminine (CCC 372).
We observe that men and women are different, and our American brains can hardly resist the urge to ask, but who is, like, better different, you know? But the Church is saying something else: that the differences between men and women are designed for our mutual enrichment. It is good that men are not like women; it is good that women are not like men. But what is very good is when we come together and leverage our differences for God’s greater glory and the common good.
This isn’t easy. It demands sacrifice, humility, and lot of grace. We have to let go of our desire to be better, to be first, to be in control. As Saint Paul exhorted husbands and wives in Ephesus, “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). His words apply not to married couples only, but to all men and women in the family of God.
That is the part of the story that we didn’t hear at the Golden Globes, the part that was drowned out by sarcasm and vitriol. But it is the truth that we, as Catholics, are called to defend. Authentic empowerment of women must be arm-in-arm with authentic empowerment of men. Then perhaps the Golden Globes can give up activism and go back to its day job.
Author: Sarah S., SPO Alum