"Something Not to Be Grasped": Notes on Equality on the Occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of Mulieris Dignitatem

By McCarthy, Margaret | Ave Maria Law Review, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

"Something Not to Be Grasped": Notes on Equality on the Occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of Mulieris Dignitatem


McCarthy, Margaret, Ave Maria Law Review


INTRODUCTION

As a world riving in the wake of that well-known French call to arms, it is almost unthinkable to question the equality of everyone. Everything has been so efficiently equalized, not the less so with postmodernity, which has only distributed equality around more broadly, more evenly, between cultures, and species no less, through its unmasking and breaking up of all the old universals and their hierarchical "binarisms." The American "all men are created equal" effectively drove the creation of a new nation, so captivating was its content. And if the first century of that nation's existence was marked by a reveling in the lack of class distinction so characteristic of the ancienne regime and then in the long struggle to overcome the racial divide, the second century would add the struggle of including women among those already equal to men.

What is it that is so desirable about equality? It hardly needs saying that no human being likes to be treated as inferior to others. Given the widespread experience of "power struggles," it should come as no surprise that when one catches a glimpse of the fundamental and equally distributed dignity of being human, and when, moreover, one feels something new in the air that recognizes that dignity, the desire to move toward it and away from everything that calls it into question is irrepressible.

When the equality in question is between men and women, certain things come to mind almost universally. On the positive side, equality affirms that "women are fully human and are to be valued as such," (1) and that each person is to be allowed "to come into his or her own" (2) in a movement toward their destiny of "human flourishing." (3) On the negative side, "whatever diminishes or denies the full humanity of women" is opposed, and theologically speaking, any such diminution is judged "not to reflect the divine or an authentic relation to the divine or the authentic nature of things." (4) In short, and in the words of one feminist, equality between man and woman means "a concomitant valuing of each other, a common regard marked by trust, respect, and affection in contrast to competition, domination, or assertions of superiority." (5) Commonplace and uncontestable meanings of "equality" such as these are put forth today without much ado, even if in the past much ado has had to be made, and not over nothing.

I. INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM OF EQUALITY

One cannot, however, talk about "equality" without setting off certain alarms. By ancient definition, equality is the contrary of "the greater and the lesser" and is achieved by a kind of standing in between them--as an intermediary, as it were--equalizing them, taking something from the greater and giving it to the lesser. (6) It can be seen at work, for example, at the level of quantity (more or less/fewer) or at the level of a certain quality (hot or cold), where "equal" would mean that two children have the same number of jelly beans or that two glasses of water are of the same temperature. Equality is no happy bedfellow with differences. Now, as if proof was needed, the unhappy marriage of the two is plain for all to see in today's culture, which in its race toward equality must always play down, on pain of excommunication, obvious differences of the truly "greater and lesser" sort--real inequalities, which undeniably exist between human beings at the level of mental, physical, and moral capacity and achievement. If the denial of obvious differences (of the unequal kind) was not painful enough, what is worse is that when it comes to the kinds of differences that mark and define interpersonal relations between a son or daughter and his or her mother and father, and that between a man and a woman, "equality talk" invariably has a way of short-circuiting important differences, the uniqueness of one with respect to the other, the distinct needs, and the respective responsibilities that are called forth on account of these distinct needs. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Something Not to Be Grasped": Notes on Equality on the Occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of Mulieris Dignitatem
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.