About Me

My photo
I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. My translation of Hildegard's Book of Divine Works is available from Catholic University of America Press here. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Friday, September 22, 2006

De Honore Hominis

Scene: Corcoran Commons (FKA Lower Dining Hall), Friday evening around 6:30 p.m.:
Guy 1: Hey man! Jen said she's bringing four female friends over tonight!
Guy 2: From her floor?
Guy 1: No, they're from out of town.
Guy 2: Awesome! Fresh meat!
"Fresh meat"? This is why feminists should be mad. Most people would peg me as being a little on the conservative side to identify with feminists, but when a man refers to a woman (or to women in general) as meat, my blood boils. One could describe me as a feminist, but in this sense, I'd prefer to be called a humanist (though not of the secular bent). My blood boils just as much when women refer to men as "meat", or as anything, for that matter, that objectifies them and reduces them from their full dignity as men - or I should say, human beings.

It is a dangerous characteristic of our so-called "enlightened" society that we yet fail to recognize that every human being (and that includes the unborn) is as much a human being as any other, and ought to be accorded therefore all rights, privileges, and honors pertaining thereto, for each one is, like you and like me, made in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of the human person, and it is vital that we come to respect that dignity in every one of our neighbors as in ourselves.

I cast my eyes about, and they fall upon the television and an episode of "Desperate Housewives"; they fall upon a magazine rack and the latest issue of "Cosmopolitan"; they fall upon my email inbox and ads to see the latest teen hottie strip for me: why? Why do television executives need to show me that women must sleep around and get mixed up in strange murder mysteries in order to be happy? Why do magazine executives need to tell me all about 101 things that will turn a man on? Why does website after website force a girl barely out of high school to degrade herself to the lowest levels to earn a few dollars? And why, above all, do we respond to the television, magazine, and website executives with a throaty "Yes! I want to sexually objectify women!"

Though American culture suffers under this particular brand of dishonoring its fellow man, yet, the problem is not fundamentally one of placing the woman's flesh above her humanity. In the East, especially in the oppressive, extremist Islamic regimes, a woman's humanity is annihilated beneath a dark veil, not only of fabric but of denial of rights. A woman is not a human to the extremist Muslim man: she is an object, a piece of property to be bought, sold, and used as he sees fit. And honor? Her only honor is such that if it is violated, she is liable to be killed for it.

This question passes even the gender divide and enters into the womb. Western culture has seen fit to rob the child in its womb of its humanity: the child who is at that moment most defenceless and most dependent on others has yet its only defence stolen away - its worth as a human being.

We, and by that I mean every human being on this face of this good earth, must find it within ourselves to see our own worth in others: otherwise, I fear that we are doomed. For what reason have I to love, cherish, and protect my neighbor, and by that I again mean every human being on the face of this good earth, except that I first recognize that he is worth loving?

No comments: