I saw a picture recently on Facebook that included this quote: “When a culture of ladies arises, a culture of gentlemen will follow.” – Jason Evert. While I do believe there is so much truth in this comment, I can’t help but be saddened by it as well. As a mom of three boys, I can’t help but ponder how my boys will fare as men in this culture that does not encourage them to be gentlemen. Could we reverse Jason Evert’s quote? “When a culture of gentlemen arises, a culture of ladies will follow.” Or is chivalry dead because feminists killed it?
It has been disheartening, to say the least, that I have had to talk to my older boys, ages 16 and 12 years old, about a certain movie being released on February 14th. The preview for “Fifty Shades of Grey” was shown at the theatre when they went to see “The Hobbit” a few months ago. As their young minds are still being formed, and they are still coming to understand what it means to have dignity, be treated with dignity and to treat others, especially women, with dignity. The hype around this book and film, sends a message that is contrary to what I am teaching my boys, contrary to the men I hope they will one day become.
My hope then is that if they at least understand what authentic feminism is, their behavior and demeanor around women will inspire lady-like behavior from the women God places in their path. What is authentic feminism?
Pope Saint John Paul II said it best in his letter to women, Mulieris Dignitatem and the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi put it together beautifully in a song titled, “Reasons to Live.”
In order to appreciate authentic feminism we have to appreciate the author of authentic feminism. God, Our Creator, designed man and woman. He created us in his image and likeness. This fact alone, gives each human person a dignity that surpasses all other creatures He ever created. God gave man and woman rational thought and free will. He created us equal, but different. Those difference were not meant to make one superior to the other, they were meant to complement each other, to complete the other.
Being created in His image and likeness also means that we were created to love, to serve, to know Him and make Him known. While we know God as Father, through scripture, and the action of having His son born of a woman, we also know God possesses both male and female characteristics. God can create life on His own, yet when He created human beings in his image, he intentionally creates them so that one needs the other in order to procreate. Man is not complete without woman and vice versa.
Through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, we are left with a distorted reality. We live in a fallen world, and so human dignity, rational thought and free will have been twisted. Throughout history we see how this has affected the way human beings treated each other, and how the dignity of women was not upheld or respected.
There are some benefits to the Feminist Movement that include, the right to vote, the right to choose to work in or outside of the home, the right to equal pay for equal work, employers including family leave and flexible hours to be conducive of working mothers, the right for women to actively stand up for the oppressed or marginalized in society. Since the face of poverty and abuse victims are still predominantly women and their children, being active in defending the rights of women against physical and financial abuse is an important and necessary cause. In this way we see that Catholic social-doctrine and the Feminist movement share many similarities.
However, authentic feminism is opposed to some of the views of secular feminism, especially when it comes to sexuality, reproductive rights and roles within family and society. Here we see how the pendulum has swung way too far in the opposite direction.
The false notion that artificial contraceptives have given women sexual liberation is one of the most mind boggling notions of the feminist belief. A woman’s body is designed to go through a natural cycle in preparation for reproduction. Instead of recognizing the beauty of this cycle and empowering women to learn about their bodies, society encourages women to suppress their God given gift to reproduce despite the fact that she will face many dangerous and unnecessary consequences. Consequences such as cancer, strokes, heart attacks, fertility issues and in some cases death. Listening to Janet Smith’s talk on “Contraception, Why Not?” I learned that the pill was originally created by a man. Why? So he could use woman as an object for pleasure without having to deal with the responsibilities of becoming a father. That doesn’t sound like it’s in line with protecting the rights of women.
If we take a closer look at abortion. Feminists use statements like, “My body, my choice.” Truly this sounds noble enough. However, abortion damages the woman’s body, along with her emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being. Abortion kills female babies in the womb and at times, kills the woman as well. If we truly care about female rights, we would fight to end abortion in order to protect women. Former secular feminist and Director of Planned Parenthood shares her experience with this first hand. I implore you to get to know Abby Johnson.
A woman who embraces her authentic feminism embraces her role in the family and in society. Her role to bring her feminine genius to the workplace, to politics, the courtroom, and to her home. She lives at the service of others, bringing her ingenuity, compassion and nurturing spirit to everyone she meets. She may do this on a large scale by initiating change to improve benefits for the impoverished in her community, she might work to educate those who may not otherwise receive an education. She may choose to use her feminine genius to build up her husband and educate her children at home.
Living at the service of others, does not mean she degrades her own dignity to help someone else. An authentic feminist knows her boundaries and holds true to her convictions. While she recognizes the needs of others, she would not go against her conscience or undermine herself in the name of serving others. This would be contrary to what God designed her to do. Only by treating others with dignity can we transform society, one heart at a time. A woman who embraces her authentic feminism will serve others by building up their dignity and not by engaging in behaviors that are physically damaging, illicit or immoral.