I wish we could find a way to teach our sons that women aren't lesser or even necessarily weaker. We are stronger in some ways, and undoubtedly weaker in others. But the "lens" here can't be, "compared to a man".Points on which I agree:
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could see being fully human as a spectrum, along which men tend to position here and women there, but in which - as we mature and grow - the area of overlap grows too?
I always thought that was the entire purpose of marriage: for men and women to teach each other how to be better rounded, more flexible, wiser?
1) We should find a way to teach boys to think of women that doesn't convey that women are "lesser." That's very important, especially if we want boys to consider the woman's interests as something for which they should (at least occasionally) set their own interests aside.
2) There are senses of the words "stronger" and "weaker" in which it can be said that women are stronger than men.
3) The lens shouldn't be "compared to a man," but rather we should teach them to understand that there is an independent and valid perspective they should respect.
4) Part of the purpose of marriage is the unity of husband and wife, which is the only way to experience the fullness of human nature. That's one of St. Thomas Aquinas' three "ends" of marriage.
5) As men age, the natural decline in testosterone reduces one of the major factors that result in very different experiences of the world between men and women. Thus, it makes sense to speak of older men as being better able to understand women's perspective.
Points on which I don't agree:
1) "Being fully human as a spectrum" is only a wonderful thing to teach if it's true, and there are problems with the model. It seems like a lot of people think that way today, which is why you read journalists writing without irony about a man "transitioning to a woman" as if he were transitioning from one job to another. That can't be right, though: at the end of the process, what you will have is not a woman but a surgically altered male who is taking artificial hormones his body won't ever produce on its own. Whether this is in any sense a woman is a topic we've discussed at length, but it seems to me that the only available answers are that there is never a woman or there was always a woman. The idea of transitioning along a spectrum doesn't seem defensible.
2) The lens in a sense has to be "compared to a man" insofar as we are talking about how to raise sons. The very thing we need them to understand is that there's a contrast between the world they live in and the world a woman lives in -- and that requires talking about how their experience compares to hers. That's a problem, given that we agree in the goal in (3) above, but it's a problem we need to grapple with.
3) I think Aquinas is right that the understanding of human nature across the sex divide is not the "entire purpose" of marriage, but rather part of the purpose of marriage. I'm not sure this is a serious difference -- Cass may have been using "entire purpose" for emphasis, rather than being committed to the position literally.
4) As women age, they also endure significant changes in their hormone structures that alter their perspectives in all new ways that men don't experience and need to learn to understand by communication and intimacy. We don't grow closer by nature, in other words; one difference diminishes, a new one appears.
5) Even granting agreement on point (4), we can't rely on marriage to solve this problem because it will generally occur after the period in which misunderstandings are most dangerous. It may be the eventual and complete solution, but we still need an interim approach.
So, all that said --
What should you teach your sons about women?