Our Opinion: The artifice in treating women like sacred objects

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So, let's see if we got this right. In the way back, when America was great, "a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor." But, according to White House chief of Staff John Kelly, "That's obviously not the case anymore."

So sayeth the retired Marine general a week ago, reflecting on how the world was "When I was a kid growing up" in the 1950s.

Kelly's comments, in case you live in a cave and missed the kerfluffle, were in response to a back-and-forth between his boss and Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, who called out the president for his insensitive comments to a woman whose Army husband — Sgt. La David Johnson — died in a firefight in Africa.

During his exposition, in which he attempted to explain away his boss's sociopathic behaviors, Kelly appeared to allude to current events in Hollywood, observed Kate Germano for the Washington Post. "Kelly appeared to imply that, in his day, these problems didn't exist because men protected women from harm," wrote Germano, who retired from the Marine Corps as a lieutenant colonel after serving 20 years on active duty.

Plenty of men and women might now be asking themselves what exactly was so wrong about Kelly stating "women are sacred" and with men protecting women.

Germano gets right to the point: "His view that women should be held 'sacred' implies they need protection because they are weak, an idea that contributes to negative stereotypes about women and their less-than-equal status ..."

Eric Zorn, writing for the Chicago Tribune, also got right to the point, when he noted "Women were honored back then when they stayed in their lane — mostly at home, raising children and performing domestic chores, sometimes on the job in such stereotypically female professions as nursing, stenography or teaching." Back in the supposed day when America was great, women "couldn't get credit cards on their own, compete in marathons or, in some states, serve on juries," wrote Zorn. "Their horizons along with their agency were drastically limited."

Hey, but at least they were sacred, right?

The illogic with treating women as if they were or are somehow sacred can be revealed by just considering the synonyms for sacred — sacrosanct, hallowed, respected, inviolable, inviolate, unimpeachable, invulnerable, untouchable and inalienable. Maybe, the logic seems to run, if women would just stay home, keeping buns in their ovens, both figuratively and literally, they would be easier for men to worship because they wouldn't fall victim to the realities of a world that exposes our imperfections for all to see.

And what happens when, inevitably, due to the fact that humans are imperfect and fallible, an item of worship falls from its altar? Why then, you can treat it any way you want to, because it's no longer sacred. You can degrade it, devalue it, take advantage of it, smack it around a bit or even kill it; anyone who falls from grace is now fair game to the wolves in our society.

To the point, the sole function of declaring something sacred is to lay claim to it; but it's secondary function is to serve the patriarchal paradigm that someone, male or female, has a roll to play only based upon gender. It also serves to reinforce male domination over women. When we characterize gender roles as sacrosanct, we cram people into boxes that limit their potential and debase the intrinsic qualities that make their imperfections the perfect expression of our humanity. When we refuse to recognize our inherent fallibilities we also refuse to recognize the dignity that is specific to our own individuality.

It is our eccentricities, our talents and skills, and yes, our faults, that make us distinctive. Each of us, man and woman, deserves to forge our own construct of identity that shouldn't be limited by terms such as sacred or honor. And this notion that men must be chivalrous or act in a gentlemanly manner also serves to debase men in our society. Asking them to treat women like sacred objects is nothing more than an artificial gender construct that was established to service a hypermasculine environment, and those who can't protect what is "rightfully" theirs are not really men in that paradigm.

And maybe, just maybe, women don't want to be treated like sacred objects or with great honor. Maybe they just want to be treated like human beings with their own individual faults and merits.

If you really want to make America great, forget about making it great again. Make it great for all Americans to reach their potential, regardless of gender stereotypes and the distinction between protectors and those who need protection. Create an America where everybody can flourish because the world is wide open to the choice of who they want to be and who they love and how they behave.


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