Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Authentic Feminism

Femininity is having something of an identity crisis right now, due largely to the influence of some who call themselves feminists. These women insist that to be equal to men we must do what they do. The areas in which we most need to "catch up" are in education, career success, "sexual expression", and pregnancy.

Perhaps "catch up" is not the right phrase to use in reference to pregnancy anyway. Today's feminists discourage pregnancy. We women are told that to be as successful as men we must suppress our fertility with birth control pills, so that we won't be held back in the workplace by employers unwilling to pay for maternity leave. Our supression of fertility also allows us to enjoy sexual freedom, without consquences, wich the feminists claim men have had an unfair monopoly on.

"Goody!" many of us replied. "Now we can treat men as they have been treating us!" and we proceeded to treat them as sexual objects, to disregard their feelings, opinions, and wishes just as much as (we assumed) they would disregard ours.

But we are forgetting something. This also meant that we bore the whole of the burden. It is our responsibility to remember to take the pills, to carry the condom, or the sponge, or whichever item is necessary. Ours is the burdon of making the "choice" about what to do about an unplanned pregnancy. Men are as much without consequences as ever (if not more so), and we have exchanged one set of burdens for another.

Authentic feminism must recognize the dignity of the whole woman, including her fertility. It must recognize that just because a woman unlike a man in some respects, she is not unequal to him. this also means that the dignity of the man must be recognized as well.

We women were born with a womb. Our fertility was not foisted upon us by a massive anti-feminist cosmic conspiracy. It is a part of who we are as women. Just ask women who face infertility. It does not upset them simply because they want children and are unable to bear them. It is felt to be a slap in the face of one's femininity. Many women suppress as a nuisance what others would give anything to have. We should all value our fertility as something beautiful.

The early feminists recognized that a society that truly values women will allow them to be women, and that includes supporting them as they nurture new lives within their bodies. This is something that only women can do. We are the only ones who can carry a child within ourselves. It is our heartbeat that our children hear for the first nine months of our lives. Our breathing, our voices are the first comforts they have. We are the only ones who can use our own bodies to feed our children after they are born. This beautiful gift of self that we have had from our mothers is unique and should be treated as sacred.

Mattie Brinkerhoff, a 19th century feminist said, "When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society - so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged." (The Revolution, 4(9):138-9 September 2, 1869)

The nature of fertility, when it is given due respect, requires that both men and women give careful consideration to their behavior with respect to the opposite sex. This is why the Catholic Church is so in favor of Natural Family Planning methods, which require even married couples to give consideration to their fertility. When we can't have something every time we wish for it, it should teach us to appreciate it all the more when it is available. Respect for women, for men, and for the fertility of each requires that we not take our partners in life for granted. That we treat one another as equals, and not as objects.

Related link: Feminists for Life of America

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