Pope Francis, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump (and Me)
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The battle for equality, and Groping Women
Pope Francis, often lauded by liberals and progressives world wide because he is not as much of a fascist as past Popes, recently said that women are unfit to be priests. Much less bishops, archbishops, cardinals, or, God-the-Male forbid, Popes. [See Pope Francis Says Ban on Female Priests Likely to Endure, New York Times, Nov. 1, 2016]
Meanwhile, Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has asserted that it is okay to force oneself on women, at least if you are a celebrity.
For those who did not live through the era when these men were young, their behavior may be hard to understand. While there are still circles where women are treated as second-class citizens, those circles have been narrowing in the U.S. and most other countries. It is on the defensive, but the groping culture of Bill and Donald still thrives in some circles. I condemn their behavior, but I think if we want to minimize this behavior in the future, we need to understand what created these creeps.
First, years of birth, and ages at this time, for these guys, and for me:
Note that Francis is almost a decade older than Bill and Donald. In addition, he grew up in Argentina, a generally more conservative (and far more Roman Catholic) society than the United States. I am almost a decade younger than Bill and Donald, so while I did live through the 1960s, a crucial time in this story, I saw them mostly through a child's eyes, including through TV.
What we all have in common is maleness, and presumably a heterosexual orientation, except perhaps Francis. In maleness we have a billion or so years of evolution telling us it is important to mate with females and pass our genes down, mixed with theirs, to our children. One thing Francis and I have in common, besides being raised Catholic: no children. Francis probably through conviction, me through the magic of birth contol and abortion.
In the 1960s we had the Vietnam War, new civil rights laws, drugs, and women's liberation. We also had the sexual revolution. Now of course Americans had sex before 1960. Some eras, like the Roaring 20s, were more open about it than others. But the sexual revolution of the 1960s was a different order of things, and it was intertwined with women's rights.
By the 1960s there were pretty good cures for the common sexually-transmitted diseases. There was also a variety of birth control, including The Pill, which the FDA approved in 1960.
So women could sleep with men without getting sick or pregnant, mostly. And men could sleep with women without worrying about being forced into a marriage. Divorce rates had already been going up, and liberalized divorce laws made separating after a childless marriage particularly easy. Unmarried couples "Living together," which had been unacceptable for "decent" people, had become relatively common by 1970. Many married couples began staying together even if they had other sexual partners. They considered themselves sexually liberated.
Fashion, with its miniskirts and bikinis, did not hurt the sexual revolution either.
One might call it a corrupt bargain. Women began to be able to get better paying jobs that had once almost exclusively male domains. They could support themselves and be choosier about permanent partners. Men got to change partners more often, and sex was not a commitment to marriage. It was a sexy era, when sex seemed to have little or no downside.
That came to an end, or a severe roadblock, around 1980, when suddenly there was a sexually transmitted disease that could not be cured, AIDS.
But by then guys like Bill and Donald were set in their ways. They were both 34 in 1980. They had no particular problem with women having careers, but they did not want the party to stop. Donald was rich, Bill was powerful, and even before the 1960s rich powerful men could get what they wanted in the way of sex. They saw nothing wrong with that. And even before the 60s, groping women was a bad habit of many men, some of them neither rich nor powerful.
One nice thing about the sexual revolution was a dramatic decline in the prevalence of hypocrisy. Under puritan regimes sex went underground. In the late 60s and through the 70s it was out in the open, at least for the young and not-so-religious.
The case of Pope Francis is a bit different, and to my mind, considerably worse. I doubt Bill Clinton or Donald Trump would care if the Pope were a woman. And Pope Francis is probably okay with female political leaders (though his predecessors generally were not). But Francis holds to the innate spiritual inferiority of women theory. God was a man, and he chose to have a son, not a daughter, and so fuck you girls, Jesus had something essential to the Catholic Church, a penis. A God Penis. And a beard. You can give birth to a little boy who can grow up to be Priest or Pope, but you are forever barred from those offices.
Fortunately in the U.S. you can just cross the street and join a denomination that allows for a female clergy. Apparently the only demographic trend keeping the Church from near total collapse in the U.S. is the immigration of Catholics from backwards nations.
I was taught by parents and Church that sex is a bad thing, suitable only for procreation purposes. It is a strange idea. I was taught a lot of strange things: that Jesus rose from the dead, that killing Vietnamese peasants is a good thing, that blacks are inferior, that the Pope and the U.S. government are always right, to name a few. It was explicitly taught in my family that women are inferior to men. However, they were to be treated politely: no sex before marriage.
Fortunately there was TV. As straight-laced as late 1960s TV shows may seem to young people today, they provided an alternative world view to me and millions of young people like me. So did riots and marches by black people. So did women's liberation. So did some of the books in my local library. So did the Viet Cong, draft dodgers, and scientists.
I tried to change, but change can be hard. It is easy to say to yourself that women should have equal rights. It is harder to treat all women with respect. Same for non-white people (I am white). I have even had trouble with class at times.
One problem with power is that it denies you honest feedback. I have not had much power over others in my life, so it was relatively easy for me to lose the playboy mentality of the 1970s. But for Bill and Donald, the experience has been different. Some women throw themselves at rich, powerful men, and that can lead men to believe they are "the greatest," groper and that all women desire them.
Hopefully Donald is still capable of learning from the feedback he is finally getting. Hopefully Bill learned something from nearly being impeached because he let his penis do his thinking for him.
Francis, most likely, will never learn. Not that the man is incapable of learning, as his position on global warming shows. But he is inside a culture based on some mighty big lies: that Jesus was God, and that Jesus wanted the bishop of Rome to be a dictator over people. And that God has a penis, so no woman should have spiritual authority over men.
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