I write in response to the “Faculty and Staff Statement of Solidarity” published in The University News last week. Putting aside the topic of Matt Walsh’s communications, the Statement sends a questionable message.
Calling it “dangerous” to associate childbirth with womanhood, the Statement seems to embrace gender ideology–assuming a person’s core identity is determined not so much by the person’s biological sex (the way the body is designed with respect to reproductive capacities) but rather (or much more significantly) by a person’s subjective experience of being feminine, masculine, or other. This idea lacks evidence and is counter to the intuition of many (an intuition reflected in our language for centuries) that we ought to value our bodies in their God-given femininity or masculinity (Cf. Pope Francis, Encyclical letter Laudato Si’, 2015, no. 155. See also the document of teaching resources published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.)
Moreover, the Statement makes me wonder whether its signatories would be happy to host even mild-mannered critics of gender ideology. Do they care to welcome people who adhere to the age-old meaning of words like woman and man? And how concerned are they about extending inclusivity and sensitivity toward students who may be uncomfortable aligning their speech with a controversial ideology?
I am with the signatories in affirming the importance of SLU being a safe, inclusive, welcoming environment—a community in which we uphold the dignity of every person and exercise due sensitivity to individuals in light of their varied experiences and convictions. But that standard only has value if it applies equally to all.
Jill Burkemper, PhDAssistant Professor
Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics