Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 72 (4) November 2022

Book Review

The Genesis Of Gender. A Christian Theory
by Abigail Favale.
Ignatius Press

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevasathan

Book CoverOver the years, I have come across many people with same sex attraction and a smaller number with gender dysphoria. To be frank, I have never had difficulties getting on with them. I like to think that I see them as persons, not orientations. I do not hate them. I do not see them as defective humans. Neither does the Catholic Church. Neither does this deeply insightful and charitable work. Our enemy is not the gender dysphoric person. Many of them have enough challenges without Christians adding to their burden. No, our enemy is the secularist movement that is prepared to use them to further its own agenda.

The author has the right background to write this book. She was a post-modern feminist before she converted to Catholicism. She asks some of the most important questions of our age: what does it mean to be male and female? Does it matter?How can a person concerned with the rights of women embrace Catholic teaching?

The feminists rightly point out that women have been exploited down the ages. They ask all the right questions but they do not give the right solutions, says Favale. What is needed is a return to the teachings as found in the Book of Genesis. Little wonder the word is found in the title of this book.

In Genesis, we have a profound reflection on what it means to be male and female. The feminists wrongly believe that it portrays women as subservient to men. Nothing can be further from the truth, says Favale. What we find is sexual complementarity as much as sexual difference. Another important point made is that our bodies and our souls cannot be separated. We are bodily beings. 

Favale is critical of the secularists who hijacked the feminist movement. One such figure is Simone de Beauvoir. Her championing of freedom for women turned out to be freedom from femininity. Feminists like Simone de Beauvoir have never been comfortable with the idea of femininity. For them, women are at their best when acting as male substitutes. 

For the feminist, the woman's ability to bear children becomes a burden or disease from which she should seek liberation. From that, we have a progressive development until we end in Judith Butler's frankly weird beliefs: the idea of maleness and femaleness as being a social construct, a work of fiction. For them, body and personhood are separate entities. The female body can be separated from womanhood. Human beings are thus severed from their bodies. They become disembodied entities. Our bodies are made an irrelevance. 

Favale argues that the contraceptive mentality has led to humans engaging in ever increasing acts of exploitation. Contraception and abortion are not good for women. The gender critical feminists, those who are pro-abortion but opposed to the transgender movement, are heavily compromised. Both the pro-abortionists and the transgender movement seek to create their own realities. For the pro-abortionist, the pregnant woman has to look after just one body, not two. No matter what the science says, the child within is simply a part of her body. In an analogous manner, the transgender movement would claim that what is real is the gender, not the sex. 

By rejecting the teachings of Genesis, we have tried to make ourselves into gods. We want to create our own reality. The original temptation. 

The Church has a deeply compassionate and consistent teaching on what it means to be male and female. This beautiful work is entirely in line with the teaching of the Church on this matter.