Can You Be Catholic and Feminist?

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About a week ago, I saw an article pop up here on Ignitum Today called Roots, Fruits, and Feminism.

I eagerly clicked on the link, wondering what new light it could shed on feminism. (I’ll be honest, I love me some old-fashioned feminist rants!) Then I realised, oh dear me, this wasn’t any old article about Feminism. Oh no.

This one was about… me.

Ok, it wasn’t just about me. The article was a response to a post I’d written a few months ago on my own blog, Catholic Cravings, called “I’m A Feminist Because I’m a Hypocrite.” It was the first in three-part series where I explained three reasons why I’m a feminist. (The other two are “Because Being Female is Dangerous” and “Because I Love Patriarchy“)

I really appreciate Meghan sharing her thoughts on my post. So I thought I’d share mine on hers — as well as some of my concerns. Now, Meghan says this is nothing personal and I believe her. She is courteous and warm throughout her article, and I really appreciate that. I hope I can act with some of that grace in response.

I’ll try be as concise as possible but this is a looong post. Feel free to skim!

So, shall we?

The Issue At Hand: Catholic and Feminist?

The question here is whether Catholics can and should call themselves feminists. I say yes. Meghan, however, says no. She writes that while at first blush, my arguments for feminism seem reasonable, they are actually a capitulation and a compromise.

“It is abhorrent to me that Catholic women like her [i.e., me] feel a compunction to compromise with the feminists and somehow give them credit for misappropriated victories.”

Naturally, I disagree.

I am a feminist and I am proud to call myself a feminist, despite the some of the evils feminism has encouraged. This is because feminism is a diverse movement, including both good and bad “fruits” as Meghan would say. But at its heart, grounded in the full equality of the sexes, it aims to secure the rights of women and to advocate for our inherent dignity and well-being.


Look up any dictionary or textbook and you will read that definition. I think how could you not want to be a part of that?

In my original post, I argued that many of us have a caricatured version of feminism. We think it’s all sex, abortion, man-hating — and maybe the vote too.

Against this caricature, I briefly outlined the history of feminism from the early 19th Century to the present day, trying to highlight the diversity of feminism and to point out the many good things feminism has achieved.

Generally, feminism is divided into three waves:

  1. First wave (19th Century – 1920s), which was primarily focused on rights to suffrage, property and education.
  2. Second wave (1960s – 1980s), which was mainly about equal wages, sexual abuse, reproductive “rights” and sex discrimination.
  3. Third wave (1980s – ), which seems to be about “things like the ‘right’ to… engage in all kinds of unnatural or promiscuous sexual experimentation on the grounds of a gendered ‘self-expression’” as Meghan aptly put it, but also about how sexism is one kind of discrimination among others, and how feminism has silenced women of colour and from third world countries in its own history.

To these waves, many would add a “first-and-a-half” wave from 1920s – 1950s. Feminism activism was less during this period, but that’s because we had, oh what was it, a World War, a Great Depression, and another World War.

The main point of my post was that feminism, considered as a complex, historically conditioned movement, has more than enough room for faithful Christians.

Was First Wave Feminism Just A Suffrage Movement?

My first problem with Meghan’s critique is that she ignores this complex history. She reduces what historians call first wave feminism (19th Century – 1920s) to a suffrage movement, which she describes as “a totally different beast” from the feminism we know today.

There is no doubt that the right to vote was incredibly important to the early women’s rights movements. But there was so much more!

First wave feminism won us the right to vote, to own property (and manage and dispose of that property), to sit on juries, to take out loans, to attend universities; essentially, to be our own legal persons and not the property or childish dependents of our husbands.

Women’s rights activists also advocated for education reform, set up schools, campaigned for better treatment of prostitutes (who were shamefully exploited by men), and supported improvements in women’s working conditions and wages (which were worse than men’s — and theirs were bad!) Perhaps most importantly, feminists of the 19th Century encouraged women, and society more generally, to see women as rational adultsTo wit,

“My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.”

– Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792

Meghan dismisses this rich history by labeling first wave feminism simply as “suffrage.” This means from the start, we are talking about two very definitions of feminism.

So who’s right?

Suffragettes on the way to Boston

Can We Call the First Wave Feminist?

If Meghan provided some historical evidence that first wave feminism wasn’t in fact feminist, but simply a suffrage movement, maybe that would be something. But she doesn’t. Instead, she simply asserts “feminism as we know it has roots only in the Sexual Revolution.” [my emphasis]

Historically, that is untenable.

In both popular and scholarly discourse, feminism refers to the women’s rights movement from early pioneers in the 19th Century to the present day. Admittedly, the term ‘feminist’ itself was not used by the first women’s rights supporters. It was originally a French term and didn’t enter the English language until the 1890s after the First International Women’s Conference in Paris, 1892. Still, that’s a good seventy years before the Sexual Revolution and a good twenty-five before women were able to vote in most Western countries.

Modern feminism today definitely draws a great deal from the Sexual Revolution (mostly for worse), but both it and the feminism of the 60s and 70s, are rooted in the older feminism of the 19th Century. We can see this in some of the good things modern feminists have achieved — but I’ll come to do that in a moment.

Is Feminism About Human Rights?

Eleanor Roosevelt with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Eleanor Roosevelt with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

My second problem with Meghan’s response is what I see as a reductionist account of human rights.

Part of my original argument was that while feminists today generally promote abortion (thus violating the most fundamental human right to live), feminists have also been instrumental in securing some of the most basic human rights for women.

As I explained above, Meghan doesn’t address such rights gained from first wave feminism because she doesn’t treat it as feminism.

But she also dismisses such gains from the second wave too.

University Admission, Equal Pay, Consequence-Free Sex, Abortion on Demand, etc: None of these are rights, and all of these are associated with the kinds of feminism that are not suffrage. A right is as narrowly defined as suffrage–it isn’t anything and everything to which you feel entitled. A right is a human being’s claim on their identity as a child of God.  In secular terms, it is ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’.

I agree that consequence-free sex and abortion are not human rights; both are immoral and we never have a right to do what is immoral.

But surely university admission and equal pay for women are human rights? I mean, that’s a pretty basic right against discrimination. Maybe Meghan thought I was saying all women must attend university or must all be paid exactly the same amount — but there is nothing in my article to suggest that. It’s certainly not what I think! (Though I think we could do with a whole lot more equity in both areas.)

University admission and equal pay without sex discrimination are human rights. How could not being discriminated against for being female (or male for that matter), in either education or employment, not be a human right? 

It’s in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically in articles 23 & 26.

It’s also in Catholic teaching. For example, Gaudium et Spes declared that,

Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design. For in truth it must still be regretted that fundamental personal rights are still not being universally honored. Such is the case of a woman who is denied the right to choose a husband freely, to embrace a state of life or to acquire an education or cultural benefits equal to those recognized for men. (Gaudium et Spes, §29)

That’s right, according to Gaudium et Spes, not being able “to acquire an education or cultural benefits equal to those recognised for men” is a violation of a woman’s “fundamental personal rights.”

Did Any Good Come Out of Modern Feminism?

d59d1f4820799db8cf24e4556e8c5e93Meghan’s critique fails to recognise the real achievements of second wave feminism in advocating for women’s rights.

To education and equal pay, we could add a legal right against sexism, stricter laws about sexual assault, greater social freedom in pursuing careers, and the recognition that women can be raped by their husbands. (It was a legal impossibility before.)

Second wave feminists also campaigned strongly against pornography, which they rightly thought was degrading to women, and the sexualisation of women in the media. And feminists continue to do so.

To sum up, I must reject the bulk of Meghan’s critique because in it, she fails to consider feminism as a whole. Instead, she ignores the good of early feminism by reducing it to a suffrage movement and also the good of modern feminism by a reductionistic account of human rights.

Should We Reclaim Feminism?

Nonetheless, the real question at the heart of this article remains.

Given this complex heritage, should Catholic women be feminists? There is a great deal of evil in feminism — and I’m not afraid to describe it as such. So is there any point to calling ourselves feminists? Can we reclaim feminism for Christ?

My answer remains a firm yes.

Meghan writes,

Despite Laura’s optimism that since it has changed twice already maybe it will change again, I don’t think we need to waste anymore time on a cultural identifier that has at its very root things that we as Catholics claim to want to do away with. Be a suffragist, be a woman, be feminine. Don’t try to perform moral and intellectual gymnastics to try and contort feminism into something you can get behind.

Maybe it’s because I was raised by a feminist mother and grew up with feminist friends but when I think feminism, I don’t think Sexual Revolution and I certainly don’t think evil, man-hating, baby-killing slut out to destroy society. (Not, to be fair, that Meghan’s writes that — although plenty think that way!)

I think of equality.

It is equality that truly lies at the very root of feminism. For me and countless others, feminism is a “cultural identifier” that says I am for equality and I am for women.

I don’t want to abandon the legacy of our feminist forebears to a radical feminism which is actually anti-woman. I don’t want my daughters to grow up believing the lie that being pro-woman means being pro-abortion. I don’t want the real roots of feminism to be obscured by bad fruit.

I want in.

Feminism still has so much good to do in the world.

Pakistani women

Women still make up about 70% of the world’s poorest people, earn only about 3/4 of the amount men do for the same work, and those aged 15-45 are still more likely to die from male violence than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. (Source: Half the Sky Movement)

Of the 775 million people who are illiterate, two thirds are women. Over 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is legal, around 3 million girls will suffer genital mutilation every year, and over 1000 women are raped every day in the Congo alone.

Across the third world, women are disadvantaged and oppressed in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. Such entrenched discrimination against women requires a specifically feminist response. I’m not saying feminism can single-handly solve these problems. It can’t; it’s a whole lot more complicated than that. (But isn’t it always?)

Conclusion: Catholic and Feminist

If it’s optimistic to believe that feminism can live up, even in part, to its own values and founding principles, then call me an optimist.

That’s fine by me.

like being optimistic. I will keep believing that women deserve better, can do better, and can use our God-given femininity, by the grace of God, to further His Kingdom. I would never put my feminism above my Catholic faith because that would be putting a human endeavour above the cause of Christ. But where I can, I am glad to be a feminist.

I am a Catholic and then a feminist.

I am a feminist because I am first a Catholic.

I am Catholic and feminist.

Laura McAlister

Laura McAlister

Laura is a baby Catholic, research student, writer, tea-drinker and aspiring countess from Sydney, Australia. Formerly an Evangelical Protestant, she came back to the Catholic Church in 2012. She disturbs the universe at Catholic Cravings.

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58 thoughts on “Can You Be Catholic and Feminist?”

  1. Pingback: Can You Be Catholic and Feminist? - Catholic Cravings

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    Amen! Not to mention also, that the “classical” feminists such as Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were adamantly pro-life. Their writings were fraught with the idea that abortion and infanticide only degrades women and their life-giving capacity, and allows men to use women as merely sexual beings instead of ALL of who we are- mind, body and spirit. Feminists For Life of America, while being a secular organization (and therefore pro-contraception), is a great resource for early feminist writings and is working to allow women to not HAVE to choose between their babies and their education or careers. 🙂

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        I think it can be both. Most women don’t want to have abortions but feel they have no option. Sometimes, they are cruelly bullied by the men in their lives. Of course, the moral culpability depends on each individual’s circumstance but I’d say as a practice, abortion exploits women under the guise of freeing them because it reduces women to objects of sexual pleasure. While abortion itself is an abhorrent evil, the reasons why women have them are far more complicated. 🙁

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        One thing all feminisms have is they reduce women to helpless baby seals who are victims of evil all powerful men.

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        Last I checked one did not need to be a woman to perpetrate such a barbarity. GosnelI is a male, no?

        The barbarous practice of abortion is done to women by women and men under the flimsy pretect of doing things for women, and half the time results in the death of members of the female sex.

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        Stop putting words in my mouth. I never said men don’t perpetuate abortion along with women. My point is I am tired of hearing how women were ‘tricked by feminism’ into doing things.

        You are talking right past me.

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      I absolutely agree with most of what you said! I just wanted to add in FFL’s defense: when I interned there in 2010, the organization itself did not take a stand on contraception, because the board members all have very different opinions and beliefs. The official position could have changed since then, but that’s as far as I know! The organization is secular, but many of its members, employees, and board members are not.

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        Right. I think I put that in my comment. 🙂
        Also, Mr. or Ms. Hat – FFL does NOT wish to “reduce women to helpless baby seals who are victims of evil all powerful men”; which is why I like them. They are attempting to make it so they can keep their babies and have an education and/or career. Classical feminists were mothers, wives, and graduates. They did NOT want to be “free” from men; they wanted women to have the same rights to vote and property that men had. I agree that the current and ’60’s generations of feminists have rabid anti-men, anti-child, pro-abortion agendas, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. At. All. You can be submissive to your husband as St. Paul writes and still be a classical feminist- as long as your husband is yoked to Christ.

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        On one level I agree with you. However, second wave feminism was an inevitable outcome of first wave feminism.

        Once women had all the legal and political rights men had(minus the responsibilities – ie the draft), it was only a matter of time before they would demand further ‘rights’/privileges via the ballot box.

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        I don’t believe the second wave was inevitable. I believe that the second wave was due to the ‘sexual revolution”s highjacking of the feminist movement. In order to make money, abortionists tied their argument for legalizing abortion into the whole “my body, my choice’ mantra- see Dr. Barnard Nathanson’s biography/interviews. He was one of the founding members of NARAL who admits to elevating the numbers of illegal abortions in order to convince the SCOTUS to legalize abortion- all for the dollars. It had nothing to do with caring about women and their so-called ‘freedom of choice’.
        The draft has not been used since Vietnam, which ended in the early ’70’s. I imagine if it were reinstated now, they would be included. I guess I say that to tell you I disagree with your conclusion that women don’t have the same responsibilities men do. Can you tell me any other specifice instances where women don’t have the same responsibilities as men but do have the rights?

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        Contraceptives and the sexual revolution, along with the civil rights movement preceded second wave feminism. Feminism has always attached itself to other social movements.

        The demand for abortion was always there. Conspiracy theories are usually wrong.

        Even today family courts award primary financial responsibility to the man while the women maintains primary access to the children.

        Feminism is old fashioned gynocentric chivalry squared, only the alpha male state plays the role of provider and protector.

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        What conspiracy theories? It’s from Dr. Nathanson’s own mouth that he help cook the books in order to get abortion legalized. He testified before SCOTUS on the number of illegal abortions and the need for legalization, and he elevated the actual numbers so that it looked like there were more abortions performed. Read some of his interviews- the televised versions are out there on the internet. It’s not a consipiracy theory that NARAL’s founders were out to make wads of money off of the abortion industry, and they used the feminist movement to get widespread support vis-a-vis “it’s my body and my right to do what I want with it” propaganda. Women fell for it- hook, line and sinker, and I was one of them. But that does not negate the classical feminist movement that believes that BECAUSE women have a life-giving capacity, they should not be discriminated against if they are pregnant or are caring for small children.
        Yes, I can agree that most courts do award custody to moms and child support to dads, but that is changing more and more as women are working full time more. For me, the optimum situation is a two-parent, one father/one mother family. It’s Biblical and what God has ordained.

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        I don’t at all dispute your facts, but you make is sound like Dr. Nathanson was the primary reason for legalization.

        Feminism might have conned some women, but there is no way it could have conned the majority for as long as it has. Feminism gave women the ‘gun’ but individual women choose to pull the trigger time and time again with false rape/dv accusations and divorce.

        Nobody forces women to have abortions and the demand was always there. You ARE reducing women to infants.

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        Dr. Nathanson and his group’s testimony were most definitely the primary reason that abortion was legalized by SCOTUS. Without his perjury (which he freely admits to), the chances of abortion being made the law of the land are significantly reduced. I don’t dispute that abortions occurred before 1972, but their numbers were small. If the propaganda machine of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW had not made abortion such a big deal, there wouldn’t be 50 million American children dead now. I fail to see how I am reducing women to “infants” because I think they should be able earn equal wages and not be discriminated against if they choose life for their babies instead of death.

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        Are you saying 50 million women were tricked into having abortions?

        How exactly are women discriminated against if they choose life??????

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        Not 50 million women- a lot of them have more than one abortion in their lifetime, so probably less than that. I mean that the combined efforts of the ’60’s and ’70’s women’s movement, the fledgling abortion industry who saw dollar signs, and pharmaceutical companies who patented the birth control pill all contributed into advertising a way of life that touted abortion and “free love” to women as a “right” and that it made one an “independent” woman.
        Employers (and I have seen this first-hand) tend to regard women, especially pregnant ones, as liabilities because they may leave their jobs to care for their children; so the employer is reluctant to promote a woman to higher positions. Also, women who become pregnant a lot of times feel pressured to choose between aborting their babies and choosing a career path or continuing education.
        I understand that having sex is a choice, and pregnancy is a consequence (albeit good, IMHO) of having sex- and tha women as well as men need to be held responsible for their sexual activity if it results in pregnancy. But I also believe that once a parent makes the choice to give their baby life, society (and by that I do NOT mean the government; I mean the community) needs to help him/her to succeed as much as possible.

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        So you are against abortion, but you are against employers ‘discriminating’ against women who ‘may leave their jobs to care for their children’. ‘I also believe that once a parent makes the choice to give their baby life, society (and by that I do NOT mean the government; I mean the community) needs to help him/her to succeed as much as possible.’

        What does this mean? Spell out exactly what you want.

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        I believe in the Catholic teaching of subsidiarity, which utilizes the the “lowest common denominator”, for lack of a better term, in helping our fellow man. In other words, when someone needs help, they first need to turn to family; then friends; then church; then neighborhood; then community, etc., – so that formal government is the LAST option for sustenance or help.

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        Because I’ve seen it happen. An employer doesn’t want to promote a woman because she’s getting married and “might get pregnant and quit”; or she’s already pregnant and interviews, but they find some other reason to hire someone else because she might be taking more days off to care for her baby; stuff like that. Never enough to actually prosecute or accuse the employer of discrimination, of course- they’re not stupid enough to be that overt. But it does happen, even in 2014. I’m not saying ALL employers do this; I’m saying it happens.

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        But of course abortion should be illegal and society should support her and her family. This is just equivocation.

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        That’s not what I said.
        Yes, abortion should be illegal because it’s the killing of a human being; it’s murder. A woman, when she becomes pregnant whether of her own act (98 % of the time) or not is committed to giving life to that child. She can either choose to give that child to an adoptive family (there are many families on waiting lists to adopt) or raise the child herself. If she does her personal best and STILL cannot provide for herself and her child, she should go to her family for support. If they cannot afford to help her, she needs to go to her church, synagogue or mosque for support. If they cannot help (which I highly doubt, given that just the Catholic Church alone has the largest charitable organization in the world), THEN she goes to the local community for help. But nice try.

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        As a Catholic, my form of contraception, NFP, is as effective as the birth control pill; is virtually free; is not invasive or full of chemicals; and does not interfere with the unitive and procreative aspects of the sacrament of marriage. Contraception is based on religious & personal values. You can still work.

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        Well if it works for you thats great. Most women do not have such regular cycles.

        On a mass scale it won’t work. You can not have women in the work force and deny them access to contraception.

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        In NFP, regular cycles aren’t required. The various forms of NFP utilize basal temperatures and/or mucus readings to determine fertility. It is not Grandmother’s old “rhythm method”- it’s scientific. Many, many studies have proven its effectiveness, including one done in India with thousands of illiterate, poor women who only needed a thermometer and pencil & paper. So it’s cheap, easy and effective contraception. The pharmacutical companies HATE it because they can’t make money off of it; neither can doctors, so it’s discouraged and advertised as ineffective. So, it does work on a mass scale -without chemicals or expensive equipment.

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        I can testify that NFP helped me uncover why my cycles were so irregular, and helped address it. I was skeptical at first, but now I know it’s effective, for both avoiding AND achieving. It can be used contraceptively, but I’d caution against calling it just another form of contraception. To me, it’s like the difference between studying for an ‘A’, and cheating for it, or dieting vs. bulimia. (Harsh words, I know!)

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        You might not know this, but NFP is taught from a feminist perspective as the “fertility awareness method” or FAM.

        Toni Weschler’s “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” is a bestselling secular book on NFP. It has a couple of chapters on why the method is better for women’s health than contraceptives, especially hormonal contraceptives. She asks why women should take hormones all month and deal with the side-effects all the time, when they’re only naturally fertile for about a week? The Justisse Method was created specifically to teach NFP from a feminist perspective. (It’s a hybrid of Creighton and Symptothermal)

        There is also some confusion in terminology. Catholic Church is against contraception, but doesn’t consider NFP to be contraception. Instead, she sees it as “well-timed abstinence”. However, people assume that the Catholic position is against all forms of family planning, which isn’t the case.

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        Honestly, this is quite interesting, however this discussion has strayed far from the original topic.

        The problem I have with Feminism is that it can mean anything in that it has no consistent idea of what ‘equality’ is.

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        Well, all righty, then. You’re entitled to that opinion. I somewhat agree with you. This opine still holds true, IMO, that you can be a faithful Catholic and still be feminist, in a classical sense of the word.

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        The problem with this discussion is that it really doesn’t shed light on anything, because no one has any real stance. Keep in mind that at the time ‘classical Feminists’ were fighting for the female vote, men were dying in the trenches in Europe.

        I can’t honestly look at feminism and say that it ever had anything to do with equality. The only way we will ever have anything close to real equality is if men give up their responsibilities of being providers and reject their disposability.

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    No, Feminism is merely the desire for the paramount position in society and civilization for the Feminine founded by the debauched free love movement of the 19th Century. It is a sexual power dynamic not a Catholic view of sexual complementary.

    Saint Joan of Arc was an anomaly and called to her martial by God but she always remained the humble and holy maid.

    Even the Suffragettes (If anyone ever bothered to read them) were Feminine supremacists.

    No movement that is so counter to the most civilized, productive and normative organization of a good society as Feminism can be Catholic. Patriarchy is the natural order in every culture and Matriarchy is an obscenity.

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      While I would mostly agree with this, ‘Patriarchy’ as most people think of the word, has never really existed. Male disposability has always been the rule.

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      I think Laura is a talented blogger. Personally, I am not a fan of feminism at all, but she makes her case.

      The reason I am commenting though is because I noticed what you wrote about how, “Matriarchy is an obscenity.”

      I would disagree, but before I scare you to bits, let me explain why.

      The masculine and the feminine must work together in order for anything to get done. I have wrote about this myself quite a bit, and I know that the masculine principal (note the word “principal” – I am not referring to direct people just yet) cannot be completed without the feminine. The same goes for the feminine principal – it cannot even really begin to get anything done without the masculine.

      Both are intrinsically necessary.

      This means that they must work together – and they must rule together.

      For every King, there is a Queen.

      It is just how it works.

      This means that, since God created the masculine and the feminine (now I am talking about people, and not principals), and he gave them power over the earth, he expected them to rule the earth together.

      Adam was in his own right a King, and Eve was in her own right a Queen.

      This means that both Patriarchy and Matriarchy were both active, because Adam ruled as a King (Patriarch) and Eve ruled as a Queen (Matriarch).

      If we say that Matriarchy is an obscenity, we defy the natural order of things.

      Perhaps in our limited perceptions, we see Patriarchy as the natural order in our “culture” (something else I have written about, where we limit our perceptions of the world to earthly social structures), but the natural order beyond “culture” is the true order, for it is God’s order.

      To deny women their right to be Queens in the Kingdom of Heaven is to deny men their right to be Kings. They balance one another, because both has a place that they must rule.

      The masculine rules the masculine elements that need taken care of, and the feminine rules the feminine ones.

      I mean, seriously, what man thinks he rules pregnancy? Our logic tells us that it is the woman’s body that fulfills and completes what he began. He ruled the beginning – and she rules in her fulfillment of the completion. It is her realm – not his, the same that the realm of the masculine is his, and not hers.

      Thus if Matriarchy is an absurdity, so is Patriarchy.

      Let women be the Queens of their domain, and men the Kings of theirs. Together, Patriarchy and Matriarchy work wonders – Patriarchy taking care of certain structures that are more public, and Matriarchy ruling the deeper, more interior and internal structures of the heart.

      Matriarchy is a beautiful gift from God that needs to be appreciated just as much as Patriarchy – it just needs to be understood in the right way.

      I think the problem is that your understanding is one that is a misunderstanding, which is very common. I think what you are trying to say is “Matriarchs should not try to be Patriarchs.” Totally agreed – just like how Patriarchs should not try to be Matriarchs.

      It is just not their place.

      God bless you!

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    Hi, Laura! I was tickled to see that you responded (a ‘real’ blogger responded to my post! 😉 ), and that you weren’t offended or anything. I do respect you and really enjoy your writing.

    This post gave me a lot more food for thought; I appreciate it. I do have a kind of fundamental question though, which the above post did *not* clarify for me: how do you define ‘human right’?

    My understanding of a ‘right’, based both on theology and American constitutionalism (if that is a word) is that it includes things essential to life, and is highly specific. Furthermore, my understanding of what constitutes a ‘human right’ has also highlighted for me that there seems to be a sharp divide between a ‘right’ and a ‘privelege’, one which modern society tends to totally reverse or ignore, much to its detriment (the ‘right to abortion’, the ‘right to own a cell phone’–no joke, look up Obama and cell phones–etc etc.). I’m curious how and why you define it the way you do.

    Thanks for the great dialogue!

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      Hey Meghan, sorry for taking a while to reply to your comment. I just wanted to think about it some more!

      I really enjoyed your response and I wasn’t offended at all. On the contrary, it was a privilege to have another real blogger respond! 🙂

      Now, from privileges to rights!

      I think we probably define human rights quite differently. I was going to mention this in my post but it was getting so long as it was. I also couldn’t quite articulate my thoughts beyond, “ugh why is she being so… American??” That didn’t seem a very strong argument! :p

      But when I posted this on my own blog, one guy commented that he thought the issue was that America is at odds with much of the Western world in the understanding of what human rights are.

      The US has a very strong classical liberal tradition, which stresses the idea of negative liberty. Crudely put, it’s the right not to be interfered with. Australia, however, follows in the European (including British) tradition, where there’s a much stronger emphasis on positive liberty, which isn’t so much about being free from stuff as having the stuff to be what you want to be. Negative liberty is freedom from, positive liberty is freedom to or freedom for.

      This latter tradition has a fairly strong emphasis on more rights like non-discrimination, fair wages, decent education etc. I’d argue that both UN declarations on human rights (all of them) and the Church’s social teaching is thoroughly grounded in this idea of positive liberty. If you read Pacem in Terris or Centesimus Annus, you can see how much human rights cover.

      It isn’t enough that you’re not getting killed (though that is a basic and necessary place to start), or even ticking off a box of a certain list. We’re after human flourishing.

      Theologically, it is also never enough to be free from the bad, we also must be truly free to pursue the good, which includes the resources, skills, and personal agency to do so.

      (Also, I looked up “Obama right to own cell phone” and I’m not sure what you’re referring to.)

      I hope that makes sense, and thank you for such a great and thoughtful question! I’d love to hear how theologically, you explain human rights as you do. 🙂

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        The controversy is that at the previous general election, Obama promised that his government would, if reelected, provide as part of its welfare package basic cell phones for unemployed homeless people so they could have a number they could be reached at if a potential employer wanted to follow up on an emoloyment application. Whatever the merits of the proposed program, he was criticized because it was seen by the centre right as a waste of money, and something the government has no business providing (there’s that classical liberalism again).

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    I would say that in practice, at least in the US, it is naive
    to think you can be both a Catholic and a Feminist. It’s like saying you are a
    pro-life Democrat and expecting a leadership place at the table.

    Feminism in the US IS abortion, up to and including partial
    birth abortion no exceptions, the most sacred of all sacred cows; totally pro-gay
    marriage and any other aspect of the lifestyle; against traditional marriage, family–building, and children, if all those things make you unable to be all that you can-as defined only by them; and claiming men hate women because of their belief systems.
    M Sanger is one of their great heroes, not Pope Francis. They are divisive and intolerant of opposing beliefs and desire not to in live in harmony with those others, and they fight in the courts and with their politicians the rights of others. They are doing everything they possibly can to eliminate religious beliefs from the public square.
    Feminism is as anti-Catholic as anything you can imagine during the formative years of our country when Catholics were the minority and “not allowed.”

    No offense, but you don’t know what you don’t know. Modern Feminism is not steeped in some kind of secular humanistic moral system or utopia; nor is it based in Christian theology and love. It is based in the inequality of self-preservation at all costs ( you must “die” figuratively speaking and sometimes literally so that I can live) without regard to a Godly purpose.

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      I would add to Raymond’s thoughtful comment (with which I am in agreement) that another significant problem for a Catholic legitimization of feminism is that the hard core left long ago appropriated firm control over the theory, direction, content, and rhetoric of the movement – much like was done in the once legitimate environmental movement, education, medicine, etc.

      There are some things you say feminism “achieved” for women which can be compatible with Catholicism, but frankly I believe whatever there is of value in feminsim is inherently available from Catholicism, and in a form which remains essentially Catholic without advancing the progressive agenda transform the culture into a self-absorbed image and likeness of itself.

      No matter what you call up from the “rich” history you site, the fact
      remains that feminism presides over the destruction of authentic Catholic femininity. Every day young girls are brainwashed (I use that word deliberately because the lies start in grade school, with more layers added through high school and later college) into believing that among other things, equality with males is fully lived out through adopting typically male (and fallen) attitudes towards sex at the expense of others : make a priority the attainment of your own sexual pleasure.

      By high school the foundations have been laid sufficiently for
      introduction to anonymous sex – usually oral, which everybody knows is not sex because the president famously said so.

      Like a gateway drug, it’s only a very small step into sexual intercourse, given all the in-depth training with visual aids supplied by our wonderful education establishment. “Hooking up” ropes young women into socially-mandated sexual activities damaging them physically with record levels of STDs, confusing and harming them psychologically, and most importantly, devastating them spiritually.

      I know you have good reasons to admire the efforts through the struggles you outline, but the truth is that today feminism is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the Left, who wields it along with all its other weapons to advance its overall agenda. You cannot do anything about this; it is beyond your capability and, in a manner of speaking, you are “sleeping with the enemy.”

      I would point you to all of the terrific Catholic writing on women and
      authentic femininity, beginning with Pope John Paul II and his Theology of the Body, and also his various letters and other papal documents regarding “the genius of women” which has excited many Catholic women with previous feminist instincts. I gather there is some debate among them as to the feasibility and appropriateness of continuing to use the word “feminism” in a Catholic sense, or to further develop what Pope Francis called a “theology of women” without remaining a part of the overall feminist movement, and therefore suspend use of the word except on rare occasion, for clarity’s sake.

      Also, I urge you to read Alice von Hildebrand and her husband Dietrich, as well as the works of St Edith Stein. No feminist theorist can touch these two great Catholic women.

      No matter what merit you can mine from its beginning and later stages, modern feminism is today corrupt and tainted with sin and evil, quite frankly, because of its appeal to the glorification of self (as is true of ALL leftwing movements). You can do better than hitching to its ever-descending star.

      You’re a bright, idealistic Catholic woman, and you deserve better. The Church guided by Mary offers what you seek in a manner unavailable anywhere else.

      God bless you.

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        The left does not control feminism. Feminism was and is an independent movement that inserted itself into the left. The left vs right duality is a facade. Feminism is just politicized hypergamy.

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        Three years later, as more examples become public, I believe feminism is absolutely controlled by the Left. Under the guise of identity politics with its allies, it wages war against the Right on every single issue. Empowered women on the Right are excluded from the club. It’s the same for high IQ, successful, empowered Blacks like Ben Carson, labeled an Uncle Tom for charting his own course away from the Black Establishment. Feminism is not a lofty goal in pursuit of fairness and equality; it is power over others, intolerance, celebrity, and greed. No different from any other mass movement.

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      Thanks for the great comment, Raymond! It’s always good to have thoughtful push-back!

      Maybe part of the issue here is that I’m not American, I’m Australian. While our two countries are quite similar, they’re not identical in their political cultures. I don’t think feminism here has the same sort of negative connotations that it might in the US. For one thing, we don’t have the same sort of Culture Wars and I think the Australian political landscape is far less polarised.

      I also don’t think being a pro-life feminist it’s like being a pro-life Democrat. The US Democratic Party is clearly defined political party of a particular country with its own structures and policies. Feminism is a transnational and incredibly diverse movement that is defined by its core belief in the equality for women.

      Moreover, I completely reject the right of some American elite to define what feminism is. Feminism is so much more.

      Maybe that is naive, maybe it’s optimistic – or maybe going against the tide and trying to change things for the better is always going to mean straddling that divide between hope and folly. But we won’t know unless we try, will we?

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        When I taught a business ethics course in college, the first day of class I’d hold up the book above my head and exclaim, “For the next sixteen weeks I’m going to teach you how to be unethical. Just maybe by knowing what is wrong you will see what it means to be right. Since you have an intellect and are of age, I believe that you don’t need to hear from me what is right and wrong, nor do you need to read it from this book; since you have free will it is likely that no one will hinder you from making a good or bad choices.

        “But one thing is certain—you cannot run and hide from you choices. At some point in your lives, you will confront an ethical dilemma, whether it is of you own making or is thrust upon you. In fact, if you live long enough, you will be confronted with many grave ethical situations. You will not like facing those situations because you fear making the wrong decision. You may capitulate and take the easiest path. But whatever decision you
        make, it will affect you from here to eternity. So, what I am going to teach you in this course is what I mean by ‘the long run,’ why absolute standards are important, and I am going to teach you the meaning of the phrase ‘courage under fire’ when you make your decisions.”

        You have a choice to make-will your belief in Feminism lead you to a God-centered life or a man-centered life, and a corollary, how will you train your conscience to recognize the difference. Do not be a stupid Catholic and believe that an unformed
        conscience is a virtue and negates sin from your life. Do not think that by shaking hands with the Devil some greater moral good will be achieved; you will unknowingly accede to a far greater evil.

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      I tend to agree with your sentiments, though I certainly applaud the gung-ho and desire to see what is good in feminism.

      I have a friend who loaned me “The Feminine Mystique,” after I gave her Mulieris Dignitatem. Ultimately, they’re contradictory. And I see the Feminine Mystique brand of feminism as the one with the most power, certainly here in the US. This same friend too talked about how much nuance there is within feminism, then said she didn’t want to get me going on birth-control. (I love her to death.)

      I think trying to reclaim feminism might be like trying to manually turn an aircraft carrier around. I’m unsure about how wise it is.

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        Everyone is trying to ‘reclaim feminism’ to suit their own agenda. It doesn’t say much about an ideology that can interpreted in almost any way.

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        Interesting thought. Some might argue that an ideology that flexible can be quite influential. Of course, like you say, the counter-risk is losing all influence. Perhaps it depends on the situation?

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        This makes me curious. Is that not also a kind of ideology, a guiding principle? Maybe we have different concepts of ideology.

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    Sexual Revolution started at least back to the time of the French Revolution, with Marquis de Sade, and (ahem) Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, sad to say. It could be argued that her daughter, Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein, was writing a critique of the profusion of extramarital couplings unleashed by the French Revolution, and therefore, actually, an indictment of her mother’s “freeliving” ways.

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    I went to an all-girls high school so feminism was talked about all day long. I do not call myself a feminist not because I do not support gender equality but because I do not wish to affiliate myself with the Feminist Movement in America. I believe that the Feminist Movement’s values are often not only opposed to my faith but also counterproductive. I believe that sexual liberation and abortion are oppressing women, not liberating them. For that reason, I refuse to call myself a Feminist. I refuse to be associated with the movement. If I call myself a Feminist, I am implicitly saying that I support the movement even though I do not.

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      Schools at every level have become feminist indoctrination centers. You can’t even have a debate on a collage campus without feminists trying to crash the show as they did at the University of Toronto.

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    I suppose it all goes to how one defines Feminism. I see it as intractably entangled with modernism. That is I don’t believe you can separate the modernist presuppositions from any existent school of feminism. As a Catholic, however, and therefore as someone who confesses a commitment to Christian realism the highest model for my life is a woman, and every time I receive the Eucharistic I am engaging in an actively that positively celebrates the feminine. I aspire to an emphatic affirmation of and surrender to the activity of the Holy Spirit, wishing to be impregnated, myself, with the Christ. In this way I believe I hold the highest respect and truly value for what we culturally think of as feminine and this extends to actual flesh and blood women (and their political rights). However I would never think of myself as a feminist, just a Catholic.

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