A Catholic Feminist.
Sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not.
There is a preconceived notion that a feminist equates to a raging bra-less woman who refuses to shave or conform to any oppressive ideal that controls the body. While a stereotypical Catholic woman is donning on her floor length skirts, waving around a rosary and bible. Subjected to [in the feminist mind] a patriarchal institution that maintains inequality and thus compromising dignity of persons. In fact, if we were to make this into a social experiment by personifying each of these stereotyped ideals and placed them both in a room. I believe it would be safe to say that neither of them would get along.
It’s these extremist views of what defines a Feminist and a Catholic problematic.
Feminism is far more than just Women’s Rights. It is the argument for equality among all persons. Not just women. It is the push for all oppressed or marginalized persons. If you agree with these statements, chances are you are a feminist and don’t even know it. And yes, it’s not just a movement for the opinionated women of the world.
Guess what else. Catholics believe the same thing.
Let’s observe the mere fact that Catholics are Christ followers. Christ himself was one of the first feminist reaching out to the poor, oppressed and marginalized people of his time.
If you don’t think this is applicable to the current day values of the church, think again. In fact, it was Pope John Paul II who called for a re-definition of a “new feminism” within the church and proclaimed: “Io sono il Papa feminista”— “I am the feminist pope” in his the first papal letter [Mulieris Dignitatem] devoted entirely to women.
Consider the following doctrinal statement:
2334 “In creating men ‘male and female,’ God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity.”119 “Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God.”120
Dignity between man and woman are created and given equally. By the same God in the same image and likeness.
If we are made equal, why is it that we as people build barriers to distance and separate ourselves from one another? Yet we make tiresome efforts to dismantle those walls we’ve created as a society. How is this any different than what we do to “empower” young women? Wouldn’t the simple solution be that we stop creating those walls?
Ladies, I’m going to ask you a bold question here.
What do you envision an empowered woman to look like? Where is this woman’s source of power?
According to MissRepresentation.org, “Girls as young as age six are starting to see themselves as sex objects, based on a combination of media influence, mother’s parenting and religion.”
This is the world our young sisters and daughters are growing and learning in. We are to blame! We contribute to a society that builds on the idea that in order to be successful and powerful you must have: youth, beauty and sexuality.
It’s almost no wonder why women and young girls try to establish her power by using the only power she is taught to have. Her sexuality. Ladies, this is fighting fire with fire. It is bound to blow up in our faces.
Let’s consider the usage of contraception.
Women have control of their bodies! Yes! Now a man can no longer govern the body of a woman! But wait. What?! How does that work?! Shouldn’t the power of a woman’s sexuality lie in her voice and strength? How is it empowering if we put a pill in our bodies? Who dictates that a woman must be the one to change and chemically alter her natural hormonal make up for sexual intercourse? Is it not man? Usage of contraception removes all accountability for actions. It creates a culture that strips away a person’s dignity. A society that says: yes, I want you. Not all of you but the physical body of you. In order to satisfy my bodily needs. I want you, I maybe love you, but I don’t want to create a family or life with you. This is not what God had intended.
Procreation is what our biological make up is intended for. There is no denying that.
Why else would “one-night stands” and “walks of shame” leave a person so emotionally broken and empty? Because without that desired promise or intention to procreate we end up feeling used and undervalued. Why else are women fleeing to spending hundreds of dollars in hair and beauty products? Are we perhaps attempting to regain that sense of self-esteem so easily lost in this culture?
This is empowering? This is suppose to level the playing field between men and women? Sounds a lot like this is just perpetuating the same patriarchal system in a new subtle form, masked as a tool for empowerment.
Instead of trying to demolish what we are continuously building, how about we, *radical idea* stop teaching our young sisters that their value equates to the physical. That it is not found within those various colors of eye shadow, that daily birth control pill or that ‘how to blast cellulite’ section of the magazine. It is found in her own voice. A voice that is equal in power as every other human being on this earth. It is in understanding that we are equally made. In God’s eyes.
Illustration by: © Courtney Wotherspoon