Speaker gives talk on gender complementarity as part of Edith Stein lecture series


As part of the annual Edith Stein lecture series, a philosopher and author specializing in the identity of women spoke on integral gender complementarity March 21, explaining its development and its significance in philosophy.

Sister Prudence Allen, RSM, gave an overview of three major gender theories, with a focus on the development of integral gender complementarity. Allen explained that integral gender complementarity views both men and women as unique persons who have the ability to create life. She said that the theory’s two aspects of complementarity and integral unity meet Cardinal John Henry Newman’s criteria for developed truth.

Allen said the theory is the only theory of its kind to have had continued development from its beginning. While Aristotle was the first to propose complementarity, Augustine was the first to propose equal dignity of man and woman, said Allen. The theory was further developed by Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Aquinas, and was first publicly supported in debate by Cristine de Pizan.

Because of de Pizan, dialogue opened up between men and women. This dialogue was strengthened during the counter-Reformation, when abbots and abbesses worked closely together, said Allen.

“After a living idea is developed, you’ll have a lot of conflict,” said Allen, explaining the growing opposition to integral gender complementarity.

Allen said the unisex theory first proposed by Plato is now held by gender ideologists. Allen said that unisex theory holds there are no major differences between man and woman.

Proponents of unisex theory are “arguing from the exception to the rule,” said Allen. “(The theory) ignores the facts and harms the innocent.”

Allen said gender, with its root “gen” found in genesis, means the ability to breed. By definition of the word, there are two genders. Unisex gender ideology is based on a false metaphysical reality and manipulates the facts, said Allen.

But, Allen said, “It’s very important to realize you’re not alone in this fight.”

Allen said she believes proponents of integral gender complementarity “caught (the argument) just in time” to uphold the truth.

Freshman Alice Aufderheide said she enjoyed how Allen presented different viewpoints on gender. She said she liked that Allen gave an overview of “the evolution of gender complementarity.”

Senior Lucas Comeau said that “it was a fascinating take on” gender theory.

“I appreciated her historical perspective on it and (how she) approached it from the Catholic tradition,” said Comeau.