POPE FRANCIS WILL NOT ALLOW WOMEN TO “LEAN IN”
What sort of practice is
this, of running out into public,
besetting the streets, and
addressing other women’s husbands?
Could not each have made the
same request to her husband at home?
Are your blandishments more
seducing in public than in private; and
with other women’s husbands
than your own? [***] Our ancestors
thought it not proper that
women should perform any,
even private business,
without a director; but that they should be ever
under the control of
parents, brothers, or husbands.
We, it seems, suffer them,
now, to interfere in the management of state affairs,
and to introduce themselves
into the forum,
into general assemblies, and
into assemblies of election.
Recollect all the
institutions respecting the sex,
by which our forefathers restrained
their undue freedom,
and by which they subjected
them to their husbands;
and yet, even with the help
of these restrictions, you can
scarcely keep them within
bounds. If, then, you suffer them
to throw these off one by
to tear them all asunder,
and, at last,
to be set on an equal
footing with yourselves,
can you imagine that they
will be any longer tolerable by you?
The moment that they have
arrived at an equality with you,
They will have become your
Cato, Senator and Statesman of Rome, protesting women’s advocacy of repeal of rules governing household
extravagance, “the Oppian law,” quoted by historian Titus Livius (“Livy”), 59
B.C.E. to 17 C.E., tr. B.O Foster, c. 1950.
Comes now Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of
Facebook, and minor billionaire in her own right, with her popular screed, “Lean
In.” Ms. Sandberg’s thesis is that at
every age in their development, girls and women should not only reach for the
brass ring, but (sorry to mix a metaphor) also grab and run with every ball in
every race, tacit or explicit, in which they may find themselves running apace.
The critical self-serving argument is that women can, and
therefore, should attempt to combine a career – or at least a vocation –
together with begetting children. There
are implicit and lurking in Ms. Sandberg’s argument notions that would be
scanned. After three million years of
evolution, streamlining the role of women as the primary caretakers of
children, toward the end of the 20th Century, some women came forward
with four words, “biology is not destiny.”
Four words to stand against three million years of proven female
governance of both nature and nurture of children.
They have also, sub
silentio, annulled the dimension of time and the importance of love. Every reputable psychological study has
demonstrated that children, boys and girls, learn to love based upon their
relationships with their mothers.
Fathers greatly enhance and reinforce a child’s learning of love;
however, the emotion and content of the relationship between mother and child
are irreducible and irreplaceable. And
love exists in the dimension of time. Sandberg
and her sisterhood are really saying that women are entitled to bear children
they have not the slightest intention of raising, themselves, because they
simply do not have enough time.
Two social problematic results occur. First, what has happened after three
generations of this social experiment is that as young people mature, they have
nothing to bring to their sequential relationships: when their mutual “quality
time” runs out. There is nothing left to
sustain the relationship, especially in addition because love has been
calculatedly redefined as emotional co=dependency – and who wants to admit to
that? So half the marriages result in
divorce – which is ALWAYS devastating
to children, and far more than half of the promising relationships among
couples sag and give way to emptiness.
Second, children can forgive almost any excessive conduct
perpetrated by their parents. What they
can never forgive is indifference and neglect.
When women who go to business sometimes commiserate with each other over
how guilty they feel not attending to their own biological children, and when
they draw upon every argument to rationalize that inattention – including
calling out all those “bad” fathers who abscond rather than having to deal with
such rapacious women and their intra familiar blame games, the very fact that
they will admit to some feelings of guilt half gives the game away.
Beyond these sociological and psychological realities, women
also face the superstition of thousands of years of civilization – concerning women. The question is whether the “lean in”
philosophy does anything to dispel such superstition. There is, for example, a triad of beliefs
maintained by the Roman Catholic Church that is barely tangential to the heart
of Christian doctrine. It begins with
original sin. Eve’s leverage over Adam,
which enticed him to partake of the forbidden fruit, was apodictically sexual. The Church now describes the modern configuration
of sin; it identifies the sinner, and then it forgives the sin. But the origin of evil, perhaps abetted by
the devil, has for two thousand years been located by the Church as the female
vagina. That is why women can never
become priests in the Roman Catholic Church.
Their anatomies bear evil; hence, any postulate that involves women
forgiving sin – an essential attribute of the priesthood – is both a misnomer
and a contradiction in terms. The Roman
Catholic disapproval of the sexually active vagina is cemented by the dogma of
the Virgin Birth, as reinforced by the Immaculate Conception.
More relevant than ever, the above-quoted speech of
Senator Cato demonstrates a terrific fear of women. It is a fear that has extended to Roman
Catholics, Muslims, and others right down to the twenty-second century. Prominent women love to expatiate cavalierly
upon the terrible job men have been doing as they putatively govern the
world. Could women do any better? Katharine Hepburn, four-time academy award
winning actress, was once asked why she never opted for more than a great
career and an extended love affair with Spencer Tracy, instead of settling down
with a husband and a family. She said,
simply, “You can’t have it all.”
How do women overcome all of this true history and false superstition? It seems to me that accepting the role of
principal caretaker of children would go a long way to cleaning up the wicked
reputation of the vagina. I am not
suggesting that women engage in no careers, but rather, the elevation of
motherhood to the point where women, themselves, acknowledge the impossible
conflict between simultaneous careerism and child rearing.
And then there is the personality cult being constructed
around Hillary Clinton and her chance, perhaps in 2016, to become the first
woman President of the United States. Be
careful. Be very, very careful. When George W. Bush was seeking congressional
approval for the authority to bomb and invade Iraq, he had circulated among the
Members of Congress a written, classified intelligence assessment of the entire
situation. Some few American Members of
Congress dared to suggest that the information provided was fragmentary and
insufficient upon which to base a war.
Years later, every intelligence spokesperson in Great Britain, who
testified before a commission to inquire into Britain’s support of the Iraq
War, stated clearly and without cavil, that Britain should never again commit
itself to war based upon fragmentary intelligence.
During the 2008 race for the Democratic Presidential
nomination, then New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton averred that she had
received that report, but she had not read it.
Instead, she said, she had relied upon information provided by former
members of her husband’s late Administration.
Unwilling to bring down the wrath of the sisterhood, no one in the media
questioned her further: which officials?
With what credentials? Knowledgeable as to what facts and in what time-frames? What questions did she ask? What answers did she receive?
My impression was that she consulted nobody. She read nothing. Her decision to authorize George W. Bush to
preside over a war that killed more than four thousand Americans, resulted in
the deaths of 134,000 innocent Iraqis, and the displacement of two million more
Iraqi’s was based solely upon her ambition to position herself as a hawk so
that she could be a successful candidate for president in futuro.
Hillary knew nothing; she wanted to know nothing. Hillary just (how you say?) leaned in!
Harvard Hollenberg is a writer and an appellate lawyer in New York City.
© Copyright Harvard Hollenberg 2013. All rights reserved.