“Gender – a new and dangerous ideology”, proclaims the Church. “It questions human’s nature, manipulates it and deprives a human being of its dignity”. But what exactly is gender ideology, this new enemy so zealously fought against by the Church? It seems that it is nothing else but a new tool invented by the Church to preserve its status quo by pooling the wool over people’s eyes.
There is a crucial and indisputable difference between scholarly studies within humanities and a set of ideological beliefs. Gender studies encompass research on the social context of human sex, with the emphasis on the relation between biological sex and roles fulfilled by men and women in society as well as norms of masculinity and femininity. Since its inception at the end of nineteenth century, gender studies observed changes in these roles and norms, which to a great extent were fuelled by emancipation movements. Owing to them, a range of roles previously reserved for women, being a wife, a mother, a guardian of hearth and home, has undergone a considerable expansion, which allowed a completely different than traditional way of shaping the relation between who a person is when it comes to biological sex and what roles he/she fulfils in a society. Finding a relation between these studies and gender ideology propagated by the Church is extremely difficult to discern. Yet, the Church somehow managed to convince a regiment of people that gender is a destructive force that should be eradicated from our society.
An important question arises: why does the Church need “gender ideology”? The Church has always disseminated its vision of a traditional, patriarchal society, composed of only legal and sacramental marriages. The Church must have noticed the changes that a modern society has undergone. And these changes, which are the subject of gender studies, are not in line with conservative social ideology promoted by Church of which a traditional model of a family, where a woman is supposed to give birth to children and be a housekeeper and a man is a head of the family and a breadwinner, is the most prominent element. Therefore, creating the concept of gender ideology helps the Church settle some problematic issues. Firstly, under the headline of gender ideology, the Church has managed to encompass various social enlightened but uncontroversial ideas, such as emancipation of women, and present them in the context of less socially accepted ideas like civil partnership or emancipation of sexual minorities, especially homosexuals and transsexuals, and their right to adopt children. Secondly, conceptual vagueness of gender ideology allows the Church to defend itself against the accusations of backwardness. Adapting the scholarly notion creates an impression of innovativeness and being able to face new threats coming from modern secularised civilisation. Thirdly, creating a problem and presenting it to people in a way that they start to truly believe that it is indeed a problem can help to divert the attention from other inconvenient for Church issues, such as paedophilia among priests.
Modern society with its flexibility and openness to changes is a threat to an ossified status quo of the Church. Emancipated women no longer obediently follow religious and customary norms, reluctance to the institution of marriage excludes many people from church community, hence, lessens the area of influence, and homosexuals, encouraged by growing social acceptance, do not feel forced to hide their true sexual orientation. What is hidden behind gender ideology is the idea of women’s and sexual minorities’ equality, idea of individual freedom, especially freedom to establish informal partnerships, and tolerance of people who are not heterosexual. All these ideas are dangerous to the Church. No wonder that the Church often connects gender ideology to paedophilia and abortion, and willingly indoctrinates the false ideas of relation between homosexuality and paedophilia, and connects feminist ideas to questions of women’s right to abortion. It not only strengthens the negative message it wants to convey but also evokes fear among those less knowledgeable.
Creating a common enemy in order to unite people is a strategy that served its purpose many times in the past. Nowadays, when the institution of church experiences a massive decline in its community, the Church must have felt pushed towards finding a solution to fix the situation. And as the saying goes, a drowning man will catch at a straw. Apparently, gender ideology is a Church’s straw.