Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Church, Gender Roles, and Feminism

Many people will attack the Church on the idea that she is an archaic and out-dated old relic of a time-gone-by whose chief offense is being anti-woman. This charge is far from the truth. It's not like we're advocating the requirement of wearing veils or wives walking ten paces behind their husbands or not speaking unless spoken to! If the Church is so anti-woman, then why is Mary so highly venerated as first among saints? The Church celebrates women frequently. The problem that opponents of the Church have is that they aren't looking at women the same way.

Let's face it. Women and men are different. God created Man and Woman, separate and distinct, but both human and both capable of the love and salvation of Christ. Some of these differences are (obviously) physiological, some emotional and mental. But those differences lend themselves to complementariness! What one lacks the other has in spades. Granted there is a wide spectrum and much overlap, but you get the point. Someone has to harvest the wheat and someone has to thresh it or no one's going to eat.

In the second creation narrative, through the symbolism of the woman's creation from the man's rib, Scripture shows that humanity is not complete until woman is created (cf Gen 2:18-24). . . . . "Created together, man and woman are willed by God one for the other" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 371). Woman's presentation as a "help similar to him" (Gen 2:18) does not mean that woman is man's servant — "help" does not equal "servant"; the Psalmist says to God: "You are my help" (Ps 70:6; cf 115:9-11; 118:7; 146:5). Rather, the expression means that woman is worthy of collaborating with man because she is his perfect correspondence. Woman is another type of "I" in a common humanity, constituted in perfect equality of dignity by man and woman. — Pope John Paul II, General Audience, "Woman as Masterpiece of God's Creation," November 24, 1999

The Church celebrates femininity. John Paul II wrote much about it (see in particular Evangelium Vitae). Radical Feminists celebrate women being masculine. See the difference? Radical Feminists want women and men to be the same, and in so doing, deride what is feminine. Now I'm not talking about social justice here. Obviously equal pay for equal work and suffrage and the like are commendable and necessary. But this radical feminism scoffs at child-birth, breastfeeding, stay-at-home moms, being a loving wife, modesty, sexual fidelity, etc.

So who is really in favor of femininity? Sociologically making women into men hurts women. It objectifies them. The sexual revolution has done more to hurt women than any other movement in civilized society before it because it essentially advocates the objectification of women into sexual objects instead of people who are mothers and daughters who deserve to be respected and whose image and dignity protected.

In transforming the 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. — Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, par. 99 (1997)

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