What is woman?

My latest column in the Christian Courier.

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What is woman?

This is a question we are not supposed to ask. And is certainly one I am not supposed to answer. But in these few paragraphs I will sin boldly, as old Luther apparently suggested Melanchthon should do on one occasion. As I answer, I will write from my own admittedly particular point of view, hoping that the reasons for my writing become apparent.

Woman is what each of my daughters is becoming – what they are and become through swimming competitively, playing the piano, throwing a football, completing math tests, or reading novels. They seem to do these things more confidently and competently by the day. Each is unique in temperament, in self-awareness, and in their approach to friendship, among other things. But they are both discovering  grace and growing in grace.

These two are also each becoming woman in the particularity of their bodies – gaining coordination and strength to test against the world, whether in playful jest or with compelled determination. As embodied, each is also becoming aware of the remarkable capacity to carry life and deliver life into the world, through and for relationship. How will they respond to this gift and gift-giving capacity is at least a question that is posed to them. And they must discern their answer against the backdrop of a culture that says, astonishingly, the body is irrelevant to (their) being/becoming women. Continue reading

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Love, Caress, Difference (for valentine’s day?)

In my book Becoming Two in Love I have created brief, first-person “moments” that give expression to the account and ethics of sexual difference otherwise described somewhat abstractly. An ethics of sexual difference is one that affirms the fundamental mystery that the sexuate other is/represents. It is an ethics that entails a refusal of relations of appropriation and possession and identification between man and woman.

Here is one of those first-person “moments” that explores the caress as respecting difference and love between man and woman, also in the context of faith.

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IMG_9308We are by no means strangers. Years of a shared life form a thick and complex backdrop to our everyday conversations and encounters. Between us, the invitation to a caress is a summons to a privileged and private intimacy. And even if this invitation and encounter is marked by a degree of ambiguity or uncertainty, nevertheless a shared history of trust and care mean that the caress may be given, and received, in freedom. Risk remains, certainly—but who could or would mitigate every risk. Continue reading

the caress, respecting difference

From the 6th chapter of my book Becoming Two in Love: Kierkegaard, Irigaray, and the ethics of sexual difference, a reflection on the caress as this may embody an ethical intersubjectivity between man and woman. Expressed in somewhat poetic form:

We are by no means strangers. Years of a shared life form a thick and complex backdrop to our everyday conversations and encounters. Between us, the invitation to a caress is a summons to a privileged and private intimacy. And even if this invitation and encounter is marked by a degree of ambiguity or uncertainty, nevertheless a shared history of trust and care mean that the caress may be given, and received, in freedom. Risk remains, certainly—but who could or would mitigate every risk.

This one caressed—open palms moving in arcs of intimacy—she is alive before me, a mystery pressed and pressing against my very being. Is it possible that this caress, this tenderness of touch, might be less about me and less about my desires than it is about her? Is it possible that this touching upon might be less a grasping after her and more a simple affirmation that she is beyond me—that she is becoming fully alive as the woman she is? I have known her these many years, but might this touching upon be a reminder that she is and will be more than I can know? Continue reading

Setting her free for self-love…

book cover clippingIn the sixth chapter of my book, Becoming Two in Love, there are three first-person narrative/poetic pieces in which I attempt to give more personal voice to the argument I am making. Here is the piece on self-love in the relationship between man and woman in (their undefinable) difference.

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To be alive in the world is, invariably, to find myself at a loss—to find myself displaced and exiled. And very often I have searched for a rescuer, for someone to palliate my experience of homelessness and exile. Too often, I have required her/woman to provide that sense of home and security and belonging.

I have put her in service of my self-love. I have defined her in terms of my need—someone to comfort, and caress, and provide, and nurture. But defining her in this way, putting her in service of my self-love in this way, has cut her off from her own becoming as woman and human. Who is she? I do not know. She is there, for me. Continue reading