When the word got out that I intended to write a response to last week’s article on feminism, a few friends asked me, “Do you dislike feminism?” I found that I could not give them a simple answer but could only say that I disliked the article’s phrasing and tone. Given the prominence of the phrase “real feminism,” I think it speaks for itself that it’s not clear what we mean when we talk about feminism. I argue, therefore, that it is the duty of every liberal arts student to be suspicious of it.
Last week’s piece began with the consideration that misandry and feminism are distinctly different and that misandry “is unrelated to true feminism.” I disagree, and if I may make the comparison, we have seen this argument before. Both “peaceful Muslims” and radical jihadists claim to represent “true Islam.” Who is to be believed? And why is one more credible than the other?
Asserting that misandry is different than feminism does not take away from the reality that many feminist rallies and online posts are riddled with misandrous ideas. It may make feminism more appealing to separate it from the “stereotypical man-hating women who enjoy bra burnings,” as last week’s article described. But that does not change the reality that there is dissent among the ranks. This arbitrary redrawing of borders — baptizing a lowest-common-denominator “real feminism” and separating it from a fantastic, bastardized version — has been done many times before, and it has not yet clarified the issue.
Feminism, as it is practiced today, does not remain the modest theory of equal rights between men and women. That notion is not even specific to feminism, but is rather borrowed from our Declaration of Independence: “… that all men are created equal.” In practice, feminism is much more divisive. It stakes claims in the fields of biology, metaphysics and even economics. Many vocal proponents of modern feminism endorse principles of gender fluidity, self-determination and equity — not equality — within politics and the workforce.
With that being said, my issue with the article was mainly regarding the paragraphs concerning Mary, the mother of God. She argued that “[since] God gave Mary a choice for what she wanted in her life, [that] we too should allow other women the power to choose their own path.”
What seems to be missing here is the way in which Mary used her free will. The glory of Mary has nothing to do with her capacity to choose, but in her response. She certainly was “empowered” to “choose her own destiny,” but she is revered because she gave herself to God. The unwed Nazarene girl would not be extolled if she had refused God. The Church would not say, “What a fine exertion of willpower. Flood the calendar with days in her memory.” No, her splendor lay in her virtue and willingness to present her free will to God.
Virtue, to me, seems to be what many feminists lack. Too many advocates for feminism stress “rights,” “choice” and “empowerment” without their counterpart: responsibility. What good is your power if you do not use it for good? When will a celebrated feminist stand up and say, “Pornography is a moral evil and is degrading rather than empowering.” Who will say, “Our freedom is in following God and not within self-reliance.” As far as I am concerned, today’s feminism is not worth consideration unless this is part of the equation.