*I want to share a post I did over at Ignitum Today, which is a Catholic blog for young adults on all sorts of topics. Although The Guiding Star Project is not specifically a “catholic” project, I share that post here as I think it has value for anyone interested in ending birth control, abortion, and other abuses against women’s bodies. Pay special attention to the section about working with Second Wave Feminists to change our world’s view of women (yes, you read that correctly!)
To see the original post in it’s proper format, visit here.
“New Feminism is True Feminism” by Leah Jacobson
Feminist. The f-word of femininity.
Ok, maybe that’s a little over the top and not exactly true, but stay with me for a second here. The emotions and negative perceptions that this one little word can stir up in conservative circles is really not much different than what a tirade of curse words would result in at a church ladies luncheon. It’s just not proper or polite fodder to entertain such uncouth conversation about “girls gone wild” with our fellow church-goers.
We think of Feminists as the women of the 1960-70s Sexual Revolution; the women who boldly put careers in front of families and embraced the practices of birth control and abortion as a means to free themselves of the “comfortable concentration camps of the home” ( from Betty Frieden’s Feminine Mystique). We think of the women at NARAL rallies and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards when we think Feminist. Short haircuts, pant suits, Hillary Clinton…..need I say more?? We think of women who are really very un-womanly and in fact seem to want to emulate masculine traits and eschew the very things that make them uniquely feminine.
So what would you say if I said that I consider myself to be a Feminist? (Gasp! Why would she ever want to tell readers of a Catholic blog that she’s one of them?) Well, mostly because I am very decidedly NOT one of “them” and I want you and other Catholic women to understand and embrace what our late Holy Father John Paul II called “New Feminism”.
In 1988, John Paul II sent out an Apostolic Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem, or, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women. In this letter he began the use of the term the “genius of women” in describing the special attributes and contributions of females. He outlined the special characteristics that set us apart from men. And in a refreshing move, he upheld these unique talents as both beautiful and necessary to compliment the traits of men. This came not long after a time when women’s gifts were often belittled and considered “female weaknesses”. A woman was considered a “weak” leader if she felt empathy for those working under her. This deprecation of natural feminine characteristics is what led many women in the decades before Mulieris Dignitatem to leave their roles as wives and mothers and seek the recognition and appreciation they needed elsewhere. While he encouraged all women in their roles as wives and mothers, JP2 also encouraged further participation in politics and economics. JP2 never said women’s gifts were only useful in the home raising children. Instead he first worked to affirm that these traits were innately good and necessary, and then made the move seven years later to more directly challenge women to bring them to every aspect of their lives.
In 1995 JP2 wrote Evangelium Vitae, and called for a “New Feminism” to take root in the heart of the Catholic Church. He called for the women of the Church to infuse our world with our “feminine genius” and return to our culture the role of motherhood and the beautiful truth about women’s true talents and contributions. He called for us to “promote a “new feminism that 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, exploitation, and violence.” He even went so far as to say that this was a prerequisite for creating a Culture of Life and placed this task in the hands of the women of the Church. (EV n.99)
There has been some debate about his use of the term “feminist” saying that what he called for was something so completely foreign to the Feminist mantra that we should avoid using the word altogether when describing this new movement of women who embrace and love the feminine genius. Some have suggested the term “Complimentarianists” is a better fit. (Although even typing it is honestly a trial!) And others have just not wanted to create confusion and be mistaken with the women we talked about so fondly earlier. They fear creating scandal by association with that word. I tend to think John Paul II knew exactly what he was saying when he chose to send us forth as New Feminists.
You see before there were crazy “My Body, My Choice” feminists, there were Suffragists who were nothing like the women who hijacked their momentum roughly 60 years later. These Suffragist Feminists were overwhelmingly pro-life, pro-family, and anti-birth control and abortion. They fought for and won the right for women to vote in 1920. But yet in today’s history books (or “her-story books” if I want to be politically correct) somehow these women are considered the Mothers of Feminism, despite their complete disapproval of most of the new movements causes. They have been dubbed The First Wave of Feminism and the women we tend to think of as Feminists, the Second Wave. Their legacies have almost been wiped out by the new movement’s momentum and claim to their victories. Second Wave Feminists have managed in many cases to rewrite our understanding of these First Wavers and twist their stories to fit their current agenda. Yet they do so in a way that seems almost complimentary and with sisterly adoration. They gloss over the parts they do not agree with and chalk them up to a different time period with less education and technology available to these brave women. They assert that the First Wave would have held the same opinion they do if they had been born 50 years later (awfully presumptuos!). They focus on the Suffragists strong spirits and the successes of these women to build support for their own agendas.
I say JP2 knew exactly what he was saying when he used the term New Feminist because in doing so he set a challenge before us to not run out and create an entirely new movement that alienates and separates women from one another. He didn’t want to see an “us vs. them” situation. He has challenged us to take the same approach executed brilliantly by the Second Wave Feminists in how they assimilated the followers from the First Wave Suffragist/Feminists. He is asking that we try very hard to honor Second Wavers as sisters and give them the gracious benefit of the doubt that surely their opinions and ill-conceived solutions were not the result of malice, but of the time period and a lack of proper education and the technological advancements that are available to us today. He asks that we recognize their spirit of goodwill and give them a gracious opportunity to bow out of their antiquated ways of thinking. Then we quickly move on to how we all now know better and that by working together we can truly bring about a better state of affairs for all humanity. He is asking us to use our “feminine genius” and the traits of Empathy, Interpersonal Relations, Emotive Capacity, Subjectivity, Communication, Intuition, and Personalization to reunite women with one another in reclaiming authentic femininity.
Do I think this will be easy or that the Second Wave Feminist ideas will die easily? Absolutely not, but I think JP2 was on to something big and it resonates in my heart. I know I have been called to this work and that if I can do it with authentic love, the truth will be made clear and soon we will see a huge shift in our societies’ understanding of femininity and human life in general. It is through women and our ability to mother and accept others with hospitality that the world will learn how to accept and love one another.
So yes, I am a Feminist. I am a New Feminist and I invite others to join me in helping to share the truth about who God created us to be.
In a brief exchange via social media this evening, I was reminded why it is so important for those of us in the pro-life movement to keep a bigger picture mentality when looking at abortion and how to change a society that accepts and supports this horrendous practice as a “right”. I read a post on a pro-life educators Facebook page about how the movement must unite and not be bogged down by side-conversations that are of little value to reaching the ultimate goal of ending abortion. I whole-heartedly agreed with that statement. We need to work together to end this problem as its too big for any one of us to beat alone.
But in the comments that followed I began to notice problems with this single-minded logic; we have much too small of a view of what it means to be pro-life.
Some of the follow-up comments that caught my attention were about not caring whether or not other people vaccinate their kids, or if they wear pink in support of the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation. While I agree that these things don’t immediately appear to be linked to abortion, with further investigation we can see that they are indeed part of that bigger picture view of a society that supports and loves abortion. Although many people are completely unaware of this fact, some vaccinations were created using cell lines from aborted babies, thus making their use highly questionable and unethical. Check out Children of God For Life for more information about this fact. Also last year alone Susan. G. Komen gave $700,000 to Planned Parenthood, our nation’s largest abortion provider. So in this case, yes, wearing pink is a pro-life issue. By ignoring practices and companies that support abortion, we unintentionally end up voting with our money to continue the violence of abortion in our land. While these are really not the worst examples of supporting a pro-choice agenda, they make clear the descent down the ladder that ends with having no guide to defend life other than opposing abortion alone. As Cardinal Bernardin once said, we are called to make our pro-life stance a “seamless garment of life”. It should apply to our everyday lives and extend beyond abortion to other issues that destroy human dignity.
Being pro-life cannot simply be relegated to the single issue of abortion and making it illegal. This ignores all the other injustices demanding our attention and effort; but mostly because it does nothing to address what Susan B. Anthony called the “root causes” of abortion. In an editorial by Anthony printed in her
publication, Revolution in 1869 she states,
“Much as I deplore the horrible crime of child-murder, earnestly as I desire its suppression, I cannot believe … that such a law would have the desired effect. It seems to me to be only mowing off the top of the noxious weed, while the root remains. We want prevention, not merely punishment. We must reach the root of the evil, and destroy it. To my certain knowledge this crime is not confined to those whose love of ease, amusement and fashionable life leads them to desire immunity from the cares of children: but is practiced by those whose inmost souls revolt from the dreadful deed, and in whose hearts the maternal feeling is pure and undying. What, then has driven these women to the desperation necessary to force them to commit such a deed? This question being answered, I believe, we shall have such an insight into the matter as to be able to talk more clearly of a remedy.”
Clearly what Anthony was calling for in better support for women has been achieved by the amazing crisis pregnancy centers we see all around our nation. But while we have worked hard to address this need and have been able to provide pretty much any pregnant woman seeking support the help she needs; we still have abortions happening every day. Why? Because as I have said before, crisis pregnancy and abortion are not the only issues needing to be addressed in creating a Culture of Life. To end abortion we need a much bigger movement.
We need “specialists” (like the crisis pregnancy centers and pro-life educators) in several areas of societal struggle to all be working together to reach the end goal. We need sex educators, fertility instructors, childbirth educators, doctors, midwives, lactation consultants, post abortion therapists, marriage counselors, hospice programs, and basically anyone with pro-life convictions to bring their specialty to the forefront of the pro-life battle. This is a fight we must all fight in our everyday lives with the degrees and careers that we have. We need to work united with one another to strengthen our movement and to highlight that it is much bigger than just fighting abortion. We are fighting for a way of looking at humanity. We are fighting for a Culture of Life that recognizes everyone as irreplaceable and precious. We can all do that in how we execute our professions and vocations.
So to not make this any longer than it already is….yes, we need to unite. Let’s be lovers and not haters. We need to share our expertise and build upon one another to create a culture that supports life. But we need to stop and recognize that abortion is not the only battle to be won, and that by aligning the strengths of many forces the war will come much more quickly to an end. We pray for the wisdom to accept a guiding set of principles that will make this sort of cooperation possible in our nation.