What is a “New Feminist”? Part 2

September 13, 2011 by Leah  
Filed under Latest Thoughts

We left off in Part 1, after a short history of Feminism in America, with the question of what a “New Feminist” looks like. I made the argument that the “Feminism” most of us think of when we hear the word, is actually a sharp departure from earlier “feminist” thought and action.

Most of us tend to think of Second Wave Feminists and not the First Wave Suffragists when we think of “feminism”; which as we already talked about, were NOT the same breed of women! And then I briefly mentioned that according to the historians and experts on this stuff (which I clearly am not!), we are currently living in the Third Wave of Feminist thought. As far as I can tell that means that Second Wave Feminists have moved from grassroots activism into political activism and have entrenched themselves in positions at Universities to assure the continuance of their ideological doctrines. This next generation of young women (and men) to adopt and expand on this ideology are considered the Third Wave.  Third Wavers have forged strategic partnerships with other social movements to strengthen their force and Feminism is now often associated with sexually charged agendas; including the homosexual rights movement. For those of us in this generation who do not subscribe to these views of women and think there is more to our feminity than our sexuality, there seems to be little room for our voices in the Third Wave.

So here is where I going to be bold and say that because Second and Third Wave Feminists have not listened to their sisters and have betrayed their own sex’s natural capabilities and strengths, a Fourth Wave of Feminism, or a “New Feminism” is now dawning.

After nearly seventy years of watching our daughters and mothers second-guess and belittle their very nature, we are tired of living the lies of “old Feminism”.

I had left you at the end of my first post on this topic with the question of whether or not we should even use the word “Feminism” to describe our movement, as the word was coined by Second Wavers and retroactively applied to the Suffragists. There was some division over this among “New Feminists” with some preferring to be called “Complementarianists”, but most of these doubts and differences were dispelled when in 1995 Blessed Pope John Paul II said,

In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination”, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.” ~From Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)

He went on to echoe the lines of the SecondVatican Council’s closing statement concerning women’s important role in our world.

“”Reconcile people with life“. You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person and, at the same time, confers on you a particular task: “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb . . . This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings not only towards her own child, but every human being, which profoundly marks the woman’s personality”. A mother welcomes and carries in herself another human being, enabling it to grow inside her, giving it room, respecting it in its otherness. Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health. This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect from women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.”

 His call to “New Feminism” has resonated with many and we now see the beginnings of this young movement taking root and reclaiming authentic femininity as the “New Feminist” mantra.

New Feminists ascribe to the “feminine geniuses” of:

  • empathy 
  • interpersonal relations
  • emotive capacity
  • subjectivity
  • communication
  • intuition
  • personalization

These are characteristics that women were created to excel at naturally. When women embrace their own natural gifts, it provides a balance to the masculine traits of protection, ambition, sacrificial giving, leadership, physical strength, and objectivity. Without the balance of woman, man is left to fight his own temptations void of the ability to see their effects on others. As Pope Paul VI pleaded and implored women in the 1965 Second Vatican Council’s closing address,

“Reconcile men with life and above all, we beseech you, watch carefully over the future of our race. Hold back the hand of man who, in a moment of folly, might attempt to destroy human civilization.”

New Feminists are needed to restore the balance that has been lost these last several decades. When woman decided to instead grasp at masculine qualities and abandoned her own “feminine genius” our world lost sight of “otherness” and became exceptionally self-focused. We ended up with abortion, contraception, and divorces ripping families apart. Children have suffered terribly in this world where feminine responsibility has been eschewed.

Our world needs motherhood.This is not to say that women can only live out their femininity in the home caring for children. It simply means that to be female is to be a sort of mother to our race, in whatever profession you happen to have. Motherhood does not have to be physical motherhood as the qualities that women naturally possess also lend themselves to spiritual and adoptive motherhood of those all around us. A woman in politics, a woman in the business world, and a woman raising children all have the same responsibility to teach others about universal human dignity. We need people who simply love humanity unconditionally and will fight for every one of us; like our own mothers would.

New Feminists think every person is worth love, respect, and care simply because they exist. Our messages are simple and resonate with many, yet our progress will be slow in a world so over-saturated with male-dominated ideas and values.

As author Katrina Zeno says in her book, Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Woman’s Journey,  “While productivity is valuable, helpful and necessary, New Feminists claim that it is a very masculine way of looking at actions. New Feminists assert that we must also be fruitful – a process that takes longer, requires patience and the cooperation of others, and is appreciated not measured. Every act of service is a witness to the worth of the human person and thus promotes the progress of the whole human race.”

We will not change the world tomorrow, but I for one think this is a worthy investment and invite you to join with me in little ways to rebuild our culture and create a “New Feminism” that will bring about a better world for us all.