I know that in the protestant communities (and in the whole American conservative movement, which is heavily influenced by the protestant/evangelical communities) the whole “man up” mantra is promoted a lot to get men to put down the drugs, partying, videogames and sex and become hard working fathers, but honestly I never really hear the female side of the equation, on how women can get some skin in the game, to use our President’s expression.
I still hear the same “man up” mantra in my parish, but also a “woman up” mantra too, promoting chastity, modesty and femininity. But I was wondering if perhaps that is just due to my location. Would you say this small piece applies to your Catholic world?
Do Women sin?
It’s happened to me three times now so I need to ask you about it. All three times were so similar it’s eerie.
In a spiritual formation class we work on how Christians can get victory over sin as a part of their spiritual growth. To start the unit I ask students to list the sins Christians face most today. They list four sins immediately:
Then they pause…they run out of sins. These four got listed quickly each time. In fact I’ve come to call them the “foul four” sins. Then they run out of gas and just sit there thinking.
At the pause I usually ask, “OK, for each sin on our list let’s decide as a class if men or women are more inclined to this sin. In all three classes they have agreed that while women are sometimes tempted in these areas men are more inclined to these four sins.
So I say, “Only women participate now—decide among yourselves what four sins you’d add to the list to that you think women are more inclined toward. Silence. Furrowed brows. Thinking… [long pause]
Really! Each time the women who (along with the men) had quickly offered the “foul four” are at a loss to quickly add “besetting sins” that women seem more inclined toward. And now for the part that got me to write on this subject.
The last two times I did this activity the women unanimously agreed on what they considered the chief besetting sin of women:
*]Lack of self esteem
I’m serious. So were they. The last two times I did this when a women offered “Self esteem” the entire group of women audibly responded, “Yeah—that’s it!”
You see where I’m headed? Lack of self esteem? To the men in the class these co-eds were saying, “While you men struggle with pornography, lust, pride and anger we women struggle with not thinking highly enough of ourselves.” (Several men in the class always visibly roll their eyes.)
To be fair, the women (after considerably time) usually add three other sins: resentment, bitterness, and lack of trust. But even their expanded list appeared to the guys in the class that men struggle with really bad sins while women fight minor sins. This male response was actually summed up the last time I did this. One male student exclaimed, “Gee, if I just struggled with those sins I’d be a saint!” To him “women’s temptations” were misdemeanors while his own besetting sins were obviously capital crimes.
So, it got thinking. Are men more really inclined to sin than women—are they somehow in the grip of original sin more than women? Can this be true? In much of the ancient world women were considered weaker moral creatures with a greater inclination to sin them males—has this been reversed in the modern world?
Or, have we labeled “male sins” crimes while mislabeling the temptations of women as less severe?
Or, are female college students (at least in my college) more unaware of sin than males?
Or what other explanation is there for this repeated phenomenon I’ve seen?
Now, I know that dealing with sin and gender differences is touchy territory—all generalizations have exceptions and are not always true (or they would not be generalizations). But I keep sensing that my students are uncovering something interesting. What is it? What are they discovering about themselves, the church culture or theology?
**What do you think? ** How would you explain this?