Respect for Women
By Clement S. Jolly, C.Ss.R.
Often, well-meaning people present themselves as solvers of outstanding problems, thinking that they have the answer to burning, destructive issues in society when they themselves are, in fact, part of the problem. This being so, the problems refuse to go away. In fact, they become endemic, more entrenched. Half a century later, their descendants continue where they left off, repeating the same old clichés as if, in the meantime, historical experience had done nothing to produce deeper understanding.
Strange as it may seem, with the increased movements for the liberation of women and the vindication of their rights, there has been a loss of respect for women by men. Formerly, women were seen as "the weaker sex", and there was the tendency to treat them with a certain tenderness, a certain reverence. Now women are presented as competitors for distinctiveness and excellence. They are truly on centre stage. They are now left to take care of themselves.
When I emigrated to the U.S.A., in 1952, I noticed before long that women were not given the kind of courtesy and reverence that was formerly accorded to them. I discussed the matter with my uncle who had lived in the U.S.A. for many years. His response was that since they often presented themselves as rivals to men they were left to look out for themselves.
We live in a society in which behaviour is to a great extent influenced and even determined by those to whom the process of education is entrusted. Many great minds have paid tribute to a person, a parent or an educator or a social reformer, who influenced their lives. Many persons in history have been greatly inspired by tenets promoted by a particular religious denomination or cult. Perhaps society and the Church have not sufficiently promoted and practised the doctrine of the complementarity of man and woman. This is one of the Christian teachings which we have been slow to inculcate. In fact, there has been downright discrimination against women. This has had tremendous repercussions.
Now that women have taken the struggle for their rights into their own hands, they often seem to be rebels challenging the traditional system. Indeed, it has been a very difficult journey. Women have had to labour very hard for a truly inclusive society.
However, women have made a tremendous contribution to society and to the Church. Pope Benedict XVI has stated that women have done more to shape the Catholic Church than men. On his recent visit to the U.S.A., Pope Francis named Dorothy Day along with Abraham Lincoln, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thomas Merton as great Americans. Dorothy Day, a laywoman, has been described as the greatest American Catholic woman of the 20th century.
One thing which has served to blight the image of women, in these modern times is pornography. Social media, which should be a powerful means of education, has become an instrument of perversion and corruption. It has reduced women to little more than sexual objects. This has served to diminish the dignity of women and consequently the respect which is due to them.
In Trinidad and Tobago, much attention has been given to the effect of pornography. In October 2015, there was a panel discussion on 'Pornography, the Enemy of Justice, Peace and Community'. The statement was made that pornography has the ability to destroy intimacy since emotional relationships become more difficult when "the vision of the relationship is caught up in the pornographic images". A strong relationship exists between pornography and sexual violence towards women. Pornography actually deadens the emotions.
Here, in Dominica, the Dominica National Council of Women and the Women's Bureau, promoters of respect for women, have been doing much to counter violence against women. Tougher laws are suggested. However, legislation will have little effect if certain more important matters are not settled. There is too much vulgarity in speech. Women need to display more decency in dress. Pictures of almost naked women are displayed even in public places. The Internet communicates pornographic images. Cell phones are used for pornographic "entertainment". Yet, no one protests. When will our women begin to take seriously the issue of promoting a truly Christian vision of woman and reverence for the human body? When shall we face in all sincerity the harsh, unpleasant realities of our society?
(From our Archives)