I am so incredibly grateful we live in a world where both men and women exist.
Seriously though, think about it for a moment. Picture a universe that is completely and utterly man, or completely and utterly woman. Why do we even have two sexes in the first place? Why not three? Why didn’t the creator of the universe just make one. Is there a point to any of it?
I like to think there is, and scientific evidence as well as our own experience provide support for this claim.
Our bodies are incredible and beautiful beings. We cannot treat them as if they are an ugly shell which our soul drives around like a car. Neither can we go to the other extreme and worship our bodies, stopping short of entering into deeper mysteries. Various pagan nature cults and romanticists down through the ages have done this, and we see shadows of it today in the different forms of hedonism and worship of sex. With all that being said, C.S. Lewis once wrote that only things that are most God-like have the danger of becoming idols (1). The body is a beautiful thing, not just externally but internally as well. At the cellular level it is absolutely insane what our bodies do. Our various organ systems are all working together to keep us alive and healthy. With all that being said, there is one such system within us which is rather incomplete. The very nature of our reproductive system points to the fact that our bodies are oriented towards another. Our reproductive system is only complete when it works with someone of the opposite sex.
Now, let’s be clear here. I am NOT saying that without this union we are incomplete beings. In no way are we not a complete person. Just as if we are missing a limb, are personhood is unaffected. We are not less of a person because of it. We do not need or use another to complete our personhood. We are talking strictly about the functions of the body, and the reproductive system is the only biological system that needs another of the opposite sex to complete it. This is the only way to bring new life about.
This great and beautiful mystery points to something that has been known for thousands of years: man and woman are made for each other. Not just in a bodily and sexual way, no, in a spiritual, emotional, and social way as well. And being as it is, that man and woman are made for each other, it necessarily follows that men and women are different.
Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand, as well as Karol Wojtyla, write extensively about this topic. The book Man, Woman, and the Meaning of Love by Dietrich von Hildebrand is quickly becoming one of my favorite philosophical works. In it, he has many great philosophical insights into the nature of who we are, and how we relate to the other sex. He writes:
“What matters in our context is to understand, first, that man and woman differ not merely in biological, and physiological direction, but that the are two different expressions of human nature; and second, that the existence of this duality of human nature possesses a great value. Even if we prescind for the moment from all biological reasons as well as from procreation, we must see how much richer the world is because this difference exists, and that it is in no way desirable to efface as much as possible this difference in the spiritual realm, a trend which is unfortunately very widespread today.” (2).
In no greater way do we see this in our day and age then in some of the radical feminist groups that are out there. Feminism, like most of the “ism’s”, has its good strains and its bad ones. I would even call myself a feminist, but only insofar as I support the dignity and beauty of women. What I have no patience for is feminist movements that try to eradicate the distinction between men and women entirely. It would be a great tragedy to live in a world where we did not have this dynamic.
But what would we be missing? Hildebrand writes that men and women have a special mission towards the other:
“Their mission toward each other consists, in part, of the necessity to adjust to the contrasting nature of the other sex, and in the curtailment of certain inimical tendencies inherent in the nature of each of the sexes when they entirely lack the other’s influence...Particular virtues in both are awakened which otherwise remain undeveloped. The chivalrous attitude awakens in the man a stronger self-control, a more humble attitude, a greater delicacy and purity, a certain melting and enlivening of his nature. With the woman, on the other hand, a widening of her intellect takes place, a broader and more principle-tied foundation for her sense of values, a noble reserve on one hand and a specific warmth and devotion on the other, appears” (3).
I hope this blog post made you think. I know that in our day and age this topic is one that is incredibly controversial and that my political correctness level is nearing zero at this point. So be it. Man and woman are different. I won’t apologize for saying it. Feel free to dig into me in the comments, but keep it classy. I would love to hear your thoughts.
- C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Ch. 4 “Eros”
- Dietrich von Hildebrand, Man, Woman, and the Meaning of Love, pg. 43
- Ibid., pg. 109