In the late 1960s, the feminist movement burst onto the cultural scene in America, and in it's wake has left an American culture that is thirsting for true femininity and the ever elusive answers concerning the interaction between men and women.
The world defines feminism as equality. Men and women should be treated the same, and men and women should be allowed to do whatever they want.
What does a Catholic have to say on this issue?
I believe in the distinct equality of the human person - but I also greatly value the beauty in the differences between men and women and how God created two genders...not one.
I'm a Aquinas-loving, theology-reading, baseball loving woman with a pixie cut. I love a good maxi skirt, a strong espresso, and the desire to totally loose myself in love of others. And I believe that radical feminism has destroyed femininity.
I'm tired of a radical feminism that says that my desires to get married and have a family are old fashioned and I'm giving up on what should be my 'real dreams' if I pursue something so archaic. I'm tired of an angry feminism that says it's my body and I can do with it whatever I want. I'm sick of the radical feminism that says woman should just be clones of men and there is no difference between the two.
I value womanhood and femininity as a whole because the world needs femininity and, frankly, the world needs the beauty and uniqueness of women. For too long, today's culture has squished what is feminine down into the outskirts of society, all with the battle cry that women are equal, and men and women are the same. And if womanhood is talked about, it's reduced to narcissistic messages about how woman can look...which is more objectifying than empowering.
In his letter to women in 1995, Saint John Paul II wrote, "Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic."
A valuing of women and Catholicism aren't two things that are at odds with each other. In fact, it is in the Catholic Church that I am the most valued, respected, and honored as a woman. The love and honor showed to our Blessed Mother radiates the appreciation of the beauty of a woman's role in salvation history. Saint Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) wrote, "The feminine sex is ennobled by the virtue of the Savior's being born of a human mother; a woman was the gateway through which God found entrance to humankind." Whoa. Re-read that line if you have to : it was a woman who acted as the very portal for Christ to enter the world and take on human nature. If that honor isn't something that values a woman, I don't know what is.
Being a woman doesn't mean that I'm weak, or insignificant, or less-than-a-person. It actually means that I'm strong, beautifully valued, and a whole person who finds my value and significance in Christ.
Being a woman isn't about what you wear, what service projects you have on your resume, whether you are married, or devoted to the religious life. It isn't about how long your hair is, whether you wear high heels, what religious orders' charism appeals to you, or who your favorite spiritual author is. Being a female, desiring to uphold the dignity of women as human beings, and possessing a sense of femininity is something completely different.
"It's about what inspires our deepest passion, and who reigns in our hearts." Colleen Carroll Campbell says in her talk, "The Feminine Genius."
We live in a world that hungers so deeply for saints to rise up, and whose brokenness yearns for the touch a spiritual materialism. But the culture's answer to this problem is to create a uni-gender mentality that blurs the lines between roles of men and women, and disdains any difference between what is male and what is female.
Femininity is not a burden or a set back. Instead, it is a beautiful gift that allows one to be so receptive to Christ's love for oneself and for the world. Call me old fashioned, but I agree with Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said, "The level of any civilization is always its level of womanhood. In as much as woman is loved, it follows that the nobler a woman is, the nobler a man will have to be to be deserving of that love. That is why the level of any civilization of its womanhood."
The feminine genius that JPII called women to is a great call - a call to love. A call to embrace the fact that woman are called to help create a culture and world that is open to life.
If we take what JPII and the Church says about women, Colleen Campbell says, "We realize that our fulfillment lies not in tearing men down, or, in imitating boys behaving badly. It lies in becoming more fully what God created us to be: human beings who bear His image to the world in a distinctively feminine way."
Viva La Difference....Viva La Feminine.