The “woman” is the representative and the archetype of the whole human race: she represents the humanity which belongs to all human beings, both men and women. Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignigatem, 4.
As #MeToo campaigns rage and countless men are outed for the sexual harassment, abuse and assault of women, it may be time to look to a woman—THE WOMAN—for the answer on how to heal this mess.
On one hand, there’s nothing new under the sun, for as Catholic philosopher and author Gertrud von le Fort pointed out, “the story of the fall repeats itself continuously.” (le Fort, 14). And so we see the story of the fall playing itself out in Hollywood and Washington, in boardrooms and newsrooms—the unending drama of the human creature asserting itself in disastrous ways, trying to play god. Over and over, we fall prey the lie that if we exert dominion in this world, we can find redemption for ourselves and offer it to others: I will make you a star, a power player, an overnight sensation.
I, as a young woman in my first post-college job, was made such inglorious promises by more than one man. Working in a Louisiana gubernatorial election, where the most oft-asked question from the candidate each day was what color underwear I was wearing, I was subjected to a number of #MeToo comments and actions by men, most of which left me seething with shame and resentment, even as some of them lured me into their trap with the promise of career advancement. It didn’t take long for me to angrily conclude that men were “chauvinistic pigs” and that the only way to win the war of the sexes was to beat men at their own game.
Thankfully, not long after the campaign ended, I experienced a profound conversion to Christ in an evangelical Christian church. A few years later, I gratefully made my way back to the Catholic Church and into a life of sincere Marian devotion. More accurately, I would say Our Lady grabbed hold of me and rescued me from my wounded self. Three decades later, I am utterly convinced that it was Mary’s influence that healed the gaping wounds in my femininity, including those wounds that came as a direct result of male domination and abuse. I share the story at length in my book, “Mary’s Way,” where I write:
For so long I believed that my survival as a female meant living in a defensive posture against real or imagined male domination—including God’s. Mary’s influence untied that convoluted knot in me, prompting a paradigm shift. I came to see that to be a woman, a mother, and a bride—in a word, feminine—is to embrace the “masculinity” of God, a spiritual reality that turns this world’s idea of the masculine on its head with its chief mark of self-donating, self-sacrificing love…Mary is the iconic representative of vulnerable trust in God; she is a sign par excellence of self-yielding to the source we call Father, the one who alone can give life.
Self-yielding to God’s self-donating, self-sacrificing love. That is the antidote for the sexual disorders of this world—a remedy to which Mary lends the key human ingredient in response to God’s graced initiative with six short words: Let it be done unto me.
In that open-handed posture of receptivity to grace, Mary teaches all of us—both men and women—what it truly means to be human and wherein real power lies: in assenting to the divine life and being filled with the fullness of God, not in asserting ourselves against others.
Surrender to God is the only absolute power that the creature possesses. (Gertrude von le Fort, The Eternal Woman, 18).
This article was previously published at Aleteia.