Male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Understood, criticized, exploited, read and re-read: this is the marvellous hymn to the difference whose mystery no one has truly succeeded in revealing. What does being women and being men mean? Some people have recently contested it and yet the difference between the sexes is a reality aware of the past and wide open to the future. It is so real, yet so indefinable.
Antonio Ordóñez, the Spanish bullfighter, told Oriana Fallaci who interviewed him in 1963: “There are certain differences I don’t understand. Bulls are all bulls and men are all men. I mean that the only difference between the two of us, who are not bulls, is that you are a woman and I am a man”. It is true that down the centuries the difference has meant abuse, violence and hierarchy, but it is certainly not by denying it that we eliminate misogyny and all its devious declinations. The difference – we are sure of it – has yet to be investigated. Reducing it to what society has theorized over the centuries is both wrong and misleading. On 5 October 1941, on a page of her diary written in Prague under the Nazi occupation, a little Jewish girl noted: “meanwhile at home Daddy is cooking. This may sound a little odd but almost all Jewish men do that. What else would they do all day long? Basically three years have already passed since they lost their jobs. The progress that those three years of practice have made it possible to achieve is incredible. Before that Daddy didn’t even know how to make himself a cup of tea, but now he’s even making the dessert by himself, preparing dinner from start to finish. He and Eva’s Daddy compete to finish their tasks first and they check on each other to see who makes the parquet shiniest, whose stove or plates are the brightest”. If the difference between women and men, as Helga Weiss explained to us, does not lie in the comparison between oikos and agora, where is it? Precisely in the attempt to reveal something more about the connotations of these two references to equals we at Women Church World have chosen to reflect on men, giving them the floor. From Pope to journalist, from cardinal to prior: let them speak for themselves, with their own voices and through their own actions. Because – as in every walk of life and in every historical context – encounter and exchange is meaningful only if the person makes at least some effort to put him- or herself in the other person’s shoes. (g.g.)
St. Peter’s Square
Aug. 20, 2019
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