Articles From the September 1994 Unification News
Feminism: Separating the Partially Right from the Partially Wrong
by Frank LaGrotteria-Barrytown, NY
Frank LaGrotteria is a student at UTS-this is based on his thesis: Rosemary Radford Ruether: Commentaries From a Unificationist Perspective..
How does a fellow like me get interested in a subject such as feminism? The answer lies in my past experiences with groups on college campuses such as homosexuals and lesbians. Although I have no particular appreciation or personal orientation towards such groups, I found many such groups quite often up front and in my face during my work at college campuses before coming to the Seminary. I was often disgusted and rather shocked to witness the unethical behavior of these groups and even more amazed to see how well connected and effective they were in pursuing their agendas. They appeared far more organized and effective than we were. Eventually I got the point that I could not dismiss their reality and had to deal with it.
The situations of these groups confronted me very deeply. By and large I could not say that they were malicious people thinking day and night about the worst ways to commit sin. On the contrary, they were conscientious people dealing with the reality which confronted them. Thus, I had to stop and re-examine my one dimensional view of human life. The question which most often came to mind was, How can we deal with these people, are they beyond the scope of Principle, will they simply be left behind when the Kingdom comes, are they human? The Divine Principle works for me but not for them? These and other questions really demand answers. Otherwise our Divine Principle falls short of its comprehensive claim to deeply respond to the human situation.
Thus I had to figure out how to approach them. What I discovered was that I had to first affirm their humanity and then I could begin to address their situation. This was often very difficult because most of the time they seemed to deny my humanity and treat me poorly. I felt that by affirming their humanity I could bring the love of God to them. Through all my own sins and immaturity, God has always affirmed the fact of my existence as a potential child of Heaven. By not interfering with my portion of responsibility, God has left the door wide open for me to realize my full human potential. It is the same in dealing with these folks. We cannot deny the fact that they are human beings like us and that they also can and will eventually come to know God. Because their actions and views are different from ours, it is our parental role to guide them to what we consider a more correct and true way.
It is in this spirit of parental concern that I choose Feminism as the subject of my thesis. In my study I found that many feminist theologians were often ignored or rejected because of their unorthodox approach to theology. It is one thing to disagree with a person's lifestyle and entirely another to deny their humanity in the process. I felt that if I could understand their situation better I could apply the Principle to the serious questions they raise. I also felt, that as a man, it was important for me to understand some of the complaints this group of women holds against men. Finally, my goal as a Unificationist is to be a part of the larger healing process whenever a good opportunity arises.
One of the most fundamental questions which is often raised by feminists is what does it really mean to be a woman? This sounds like it should be easily answered, yet it is a very good question. We often simply accept the cultural norms of human behavior without really examining them carefully. Feminist's looked at history and saw the definition of women as one which seemed only to serve men. Thus they began many new approaches to the issue. There are the traditional approaches such as woman as wife and mother, the liberated view that men and women are not different and thus should perform the same functions (i.e.. work place, home etc.), there is the lesbian view in which an exclusive group of women emerge and engage in physical and spiritual love among themselves. Finally there is the moderate view which essentially suggests a re-examination of history and culture to rescue meaningful female models and hitherto hidden references to women.
Most feminist's tend to agree that the main issue is the question of self identity. In other words, it is essential to determine who or what has the right to define what a woman is or how she should be. They argue that historically the popular culture has been the defining agency with its emphasis on male leadership and role models. Thus they challenge this view on the grounds that women claim the right to be their own subjects and define themselves. The problem with this view is that there is a multitude of perspectives and opinions on what or how a woman should be. Each feminist has their own view. Finally the answer is unclear.
What I found with this approach is that we Unificationist's do the very same thing. We say that human history is fallen history dominated by Satan. We challenge all existing notions of the true and proper role for both men and women. We too reject the cultural definition of man and woman. Our Principle view is couched in our theology which suggests that males are acting more like fallen archangels then men and women act more like fallen Eve's. Whereas the feminist's say that each woman has the right to define their own existence, we say the human beings are defined by God and have certain basic qualities and parameters in which they can live and act. Parameters such as the one wife, one husband system, or the charge to not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thus we are both joined in the quest for new and True definitions of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman.
Our definitions are not based on nationality such as American, European, Japanese or Korean. Rather we might say that certain cultural traits are more heavenly than others, yet no matter how Godly our national traits are they must still pass through the narrow opening of re-creation and restoration. Ultimately, Unificationist's say we should be like True Parents and the True Family and in this way we will keep on the right track.
Thus what I found is that Feminist's and Unificationist's ask similar questions. The point of departure is in the answer, yet even there we are not far off. Feminist's definitely agree that we need new and meaningful models unlike the traditional Christian models of Eve and Mary and that we ought to make great efforts to explore these new possibilities. For the feminist we should introduce them to our True Parents who serve as our role models.
I would like to share with you a few of my conclusions about Feminism. First, exclusion is a dead end. Human history is a fallen history and although it is very easy to read back into history our modern standards; such as faulting the early Christian Fathers for not dealing more fairly with women, we must recognize that ALL human beings are a product of fallen history and as such we have all missed the mark being very far from the original standard.
As mentioned above, our view is that men are not really men until after consummation of the Marriage Blessing. This is not just a theological statement, we really believe that we have inherited a fallen nature from a non-human source. This is serious business. We could even say that the mistreatment of women has been caused by men who were acting like the fallen archangel acted toward Eve; as seducer and rapist. Thus men, in the position of archangels, continued to steal the daughters of God without regard for their rights and dignity. When we exclusively deal with only one group and their pain, we miss the larger issue of the fundamental human condition.
Second, fallen history is not one dimensional, it has taken many forms such as politics, economics, culture, religion, etc. Out of all the various dimensions of history not one is found that can be defended for its integrity and proper treatment of human beings, religion included. Of course that does not mean for one second that we are absolved of our sins or that there is an excuse for fallen behavior or action; only that our sins are understandable and eventually forgivable. Thus feminist's must learn to forgive and work to create a better world. Sadly, however, this does not seem to be the case. Rather we see a further move toward solidarity of the victim with victim without regard for the larger issues.
The first step to save Cain is to understand him. I remember many times in my past experience, especially on MFT, the times when I made the greatest progress were times when I felt I was understood. In other words the absolute standard was set by our captain or commander, but it was only when the IW or someone who showed compassion for my suffering and the limitations that I felt, did I have hope to overcome. There is such a gap between our fallen selves and our True Parents, but when we can understand our past and be understood (even though fallen) it is then that we can begin to move beyond it.
Feminist's bring us the ugly truth; the history of what can only be called the hatred of women. They tell us stories of the Indian practice of Suttee, the foot-binding of Chinese women, the witch burnings in medieval days, and modern rape, incest, and pornography. Actually we may want to close our eyes and ears to these stories; yet they are real and they demand a response. It is incumbent upon us as Unificationist's to prove to this world that our Principle really has the transforming power we claim it does. That means we will have to address these kinds of social problems, cultural problems, religious problems, national problems and so on.
Thirdly, probably the most important realization that I have about feminism is that it has reminded me of the fundamental character of human beings. What I mean by this is that because of the feminist challenge to question of the definition of women; I have had to consider essentials. Are we first men and women or are we first human?
The Divine Principle says we are first humans made in the image and likeness of God with mind and body. Do we really believe it? Do we really understand this fundamental aspect of humanity? If we do then we ourselves will treat all human beings fairly. We could even, dare I say, treat a homosexual or a lesbian as a human being. In affirming their humanity we affirm our own. There is more to this however. What does it mean to be created in the image and likeness? To be human? It means we have been given certain standard equipment. What is that? We have mind. It is subject. It contains emotion, intellect and will. We have body. It is object. It contains cells which all work together to accomplish the directions of the mind. Some of us have other options as well, like certain personal gifts such as the historical fortune we inherit. But we all have the basic standard equipment and we all have responsibility and as such we are in the image of God.
What I am getting at here is that we must realize that the fundamental starting point is the subject object relationship. To be human is to have God's image indelibly etched upon our human person. We reflect him in the fact that we have mind and body; anytime we unite our mind and body, we are like God and God is with us. The Divine Principle calls this the third object to God. God can stand as the subject to this third object inasmuch as it moves in the direction of goodness from level to level; family, tribe, nation, world and cosmos.
So when we consider that our fundamental nature is a reflection of the Divine; as such an objective being, we can arrive at the conclusion that we are essentially objective beings.
Thus humans are relational creatures. We remain fundamentally in relationships of one kind or another. We have relationships within ourselves between our mind and body, and outside ourselves with God other people and the creation. Well, gentlemen, I don't want to spoil the party, but relationship has been considered the forte of women, not men!
Really, what I am getting at here is that we are first objects to God. Why is Father great? He is first and foremost an object to God. He has perfected his ability to respond to God. He is the perfect object to God. We follow him because we see God in him, Why? Because he is totally one with God. What does that mean? Does it mean he is mindless and blindly obedient? We think of Father as the most creative, clever and powerful person. I asked Father a question one time about his ability to be so well organized without using conventional methods. He replied that Heavenly Father made a special computer in his brain. Why? Because the object has to think, the object has to figure out how to do what the subject wants; the object has to be able to respond fully and response cannot be done without preparation.
Use the kitchen as an example. You students are the subjects because you want to eat. We kitchen staff are the objects who receive your direction. What is our response? Do we just slap some food down on the table and say eat! Well that is not really very good is it. What if we read cookbooks and go shopping for the best foods and clean up the dining room and serve a banquet? How about that kind of response? Is that a good response?
You see what I am saying here is that to be a good object, we must work very hard and perfect our ability to respond with all kinds of training. As an ability, learning how to respond takes practice and training. The object needs to know many things so it can develop a more and more perfect response. It is like coming to the Seminary and learning many new ways of relating with religious people and responding to God. Therefore we proceed with a sincere heart and try many different ways. In the process we make mistakes, learn from them and develop.
So are we objects or are we subjects? Actually there aren't any subjects without objects; objects are indispensable! So we are first object and next subjects. Response is the key word. How can we improve our response to God? Maybe we think that Father is a great subject, but he is only a good subject because he has perfected the ability to 100% respond to God. He has a permanent reciprocal base with God. The secret of the Divine Principle is that the object has the same value as the subject! God bequeaths the creation to man because we are his objects, we are His children.
In conclusion the feminist challenge draws us to reflect on the fundamentals of human life and we discover that we are essentially objective beings. Sadly enough history has often marginalized women casting them in the role of object, thinking that the objective role was lowly and of little value. Women have often been considered as second class citizens and treated harshly. From the Principle we can clearly see that the object role is the fundamental role which all human beings must perfect. Between men and women what we see is a model or snap shot in time of the beauty which we are capable of generating when subject and object truly join in harmony and unity. We ought to reflect seriously on that example and apply it to accomplishing our life task of becoming the perfect objects to God our Heavenly Father.
Finally, we should not dismiss the feminist challenge lightly, but deal fairly with them. We should recognize the valid reflections they have and not simply deny them on the basis of their lifestyle. Our Divine Principle has the transforming power of love when we Unificationist's apply it and practice it in the arena of our modern social environment.
A copy of Frank LaGrotteria's thesis may be obtained by writing to him c/o UTS, 10 Dock Rd. Barrytown NY 12507.
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