Is the essential about being a man or a woman different or is it the same? I am referring to something beyond being a human being. Is the way that a man is human essentially different from the way that a woman is human? Or is there no difference?
This question has come up several times in the last couple of weeks. It came up as Carol and I listened to some DVD talks by Richard Rohr, who seems to talk as if there is an essential difference between men and women but hedges so carefully about the issue - especially when he has younger women in his audience - that I begin to think that gender is cultural with him.
In my direct experience lately, the question has come up as I observe my wife and my daughter together preparing Mary's apartment for the residency journey, and myself, as I deal with too many "management" issues that seem without end, without a sort of "accomplishment" point or coda, when I can rest, that is, where I can reach a place where I am left alone for awhile, feel pretty good about what I accomplished up to that point, look around, and then decide what I want to do next. I identify the former - building, managing, and administering a living place, that is a family economy or village economy or a larger, community economy that will be comfortable and useful over time - with femaleness. I identify getting to a successful finish, then resting, and then moving on to the next, essentially new task (not just another task or an old task that comes up cyclically) with maleness.
Two brothers (I'm not referring to my sons) I knew were very successfully in business together, the one the "outside" person - the salesman, the personality, the one coming bck in with the new ideas, and the other the "inside," managing the processes, the employees, the architecture, so firm and sure. Is it more male to be the outside partner? (But we have two males!)
Does it matter whether gender is essential or cultural? I think it does, because cultural is changable, although sometimes at a great cost. Essential, on the other hand, is not changeable. Spending time challenging the essential is a waste of time, at best, and destructive, at worst.
I am not saying that the essence of being a man is being a husband and father or of being a woman being a wife and mother. But I will say that the the race depends on this being the case often enough and it is because of the essential differences when it is the case, but it is not necessarily always the case and it does not need to be. There is a way of being a doctor, I think, that will at some "essential" level be a male way for men and a female way for women. And that will be a very good thing. It would be wrong, however, to deal with men and woman doctors by denying that the differences one sees belong to the essential. At least so it seems to me.