Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Big Round of Applause to A&E For Doing the Honest Thing!

Well, it's about time. A&E has suspended Duck Dynasty's patriarch, Phil Robertson, for his frank Christian commentary on homosexuality.

The popular show, which is about evangelical Christians, has been a wildly popular, profitable venture for A&E.  Only now, with the dismissal of Phil Robertson, have they decided that their claim of "having always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community" actually requires them to air programs in line with that claim.

To see this as an entertainment-page drama over free speech is silly (sorry, Sarah Palin). Instead, this is yet another instance in which a major American entity has made it clear that in the fight between culture and morality, they are on the side opposite Christians.

As some people have pointed out, they were within their rights. Nobody insists that a private network allow anything and everything just because participants in their program wish to exercise their right to free speech. I'm not complaining that the network made this move. In fact, I'm grateful.

I prefer a fair fight. Make it clear where you stand, since I have made it equally clear.  Let us dispense with the obfuscating, trendy language of tolerance and openness, which really only masks a vast intolerance of all opinions but their own.

This is not the true tolerance, and ecumenism of Pope Francis, who says, "True openness involves remaining steadfast in one’s deepest convictions, clear and joyful in one’s own identity, while at the same time being “open to understanding those of the other party” and “knowing that dialogue can enrich each side”. (Evangelii gaudium).

This is the false-faced 'tolerance' of the "Co-Exist" generation, which, when it is revealed for the sham it is, evaporates into the privileging of one set of opinions over everything and everyone else, with a totalitarian silencing of any who think differently--or worse (and more commonly) the launching of a smear-campaign predicated on misquotes and caricatures.

Not to overquote Pope Francis, but he also said, of interreligious dialogue (which liberals and the 'Co-Exist' proponents claim to want):
"A healthy pluralism, one which genuinely respects differences and values them as such, does not entail privatizing religions in an attempt to reduce them to the quiet obscurity of the individual’s conscience or to relegate them to the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues or mosques. This would represent, in effect, a new form of discrimination and authoritarianism. The respect due to the agnostic or non-believing minority should not be arbitrarily imposed in a way that silences the convictions of the believing majority or ignores the wealth of religious traditions" (EG 255).
Yet arbitrarily imposing silence on Christians in the name of 'tolerance' is exactly what A&E, Starbucks, and others, are doing in the U.S.

Take for example, what Phil Robertson actually said (excerpted directly from the interview):
“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Two paragraphs later, Phil continues:
“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
 Compare that to what is reported. Headlines include things like 'Duck Dynasty' star suspended for anti-gay remarks', and the articles, invariably, quote sparingly and manipulatively from the first paragraph I quoted above, where he lists homosexuality along with other sexual sins, but never from the second paragraph, where he speaks of forgiveness, evangelization, and non-judgment.  In fact, his original point in mentioning things like bestiality and adultery was to offer his opinion that, if you allow some sin, you end up having to allow all sin, but that at the end of it all, the right to judge hearts lies with God.

The way the media spins it, however, you'd think he'd said he hated gays or wished they were all dead.  Like this little gem of reporting from CNN:
"Phil Robertson, a star of A&E's "Duck Dynasty," has been suspended indefinitely after slamming gays in a magazine interview."

Then you have the response of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) to Robertson's remarks:
"Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe. He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans — and Americans — who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families."
Christianity has always been clear about homosexuality. It condemns it.  People who disagree with that tenet of Christian belief are not really Christian. So firstly, the GLAAD representative's remark is inaccurate. More importantly, Phil's comments were not stereotyping or even commenting on gay people themselves. He merely reiterated/paraphrased the Bible, and made an observation about the slippery slope of an all-inclusive relative morality.  Furthermore, for a group clamoring for an non-judgmental acceptance of others regardless of their lifestyle, GLAAD seems to be making some pretty sweeping judgments about the sincerity of the Robertsons' beliefs, and some pretty intolerant desires for 'public disdain' and rejection as their punishment for living a Christian lifestyle.

As I said before, I'm grateful. Thank you, A&E, for making it so clear what you think of Christianity.  Thank you for showing us all that the only reason you've aired Duck Dynasty to begin with was profit. Thank you for letting practicing Christians in the U.S. (millions of whom are Duck Dynasty fans) know that you consider them a 'stain' on the country.

Because, let's speak plainly.  Even though we are to fight evil with Christ and hatred with love, let us not describe such conflicts in honeyed terms, or pretend that there are not two sides.

This is war.

Dear Rush Limbaugh (et al): "This Exhortation is not a social document"

 Given that my title contains a quote as clear as the above, I shouldn't need to expand this post one sentence further. But I've encountered some confusion lately regarding Pope Francis' new exhortation, Evangelii gaudium, in regards to its intended message about economics.  Rush Limbaugh, most notably, offered a scathing rant on the topic on his radio program (later half-retracted), but I've heard the same types of concerns voiced by many people around me.

The exhortation is so rich, I couldn't begin to adequately explain all of the facets of merely the section on economies, but I think it's helpful to clarify a few points.

1. Clear and Consistent.

The Pope himself says, as my title suggests:
"This Exhortation is not a social document, and for reflection on those different themes we have a most suitable tool in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, whose use and study I heartily recommend. Furthermore, neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems" (EG 184).
 He means it, I am fairly certain, the way it reads: Evangelii gaudium is not intended to be a definitive road-map--especially not one to be globally applicable or even multi-nationally inclusive--for economics.  Quoting Paul VI, he says: "'It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country'" (EG 147). It is not an updated Catholic version of a little red book, or a Marshall plan.  It is a comment on economics from the perspective the social and the spiritual.  It is not concerned with dictating the structures, but is instead calling attention to the impact of the structure on the people.  This people-and-poor oriented lens is totally consistent with Francis' papacy so far, and to omit that is to miss the entire heart of the message, and the intent of its author.

2. What you do, not (dictating) how you do it.

One example of the kind of 'economic suggestions' Francis makes is that of the just wage.  Far from being radical, his statement is enthusiastic and optimistic, but hardly unreasonable:
"We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a “dignified sustenance” for all people, but also their “general temporal welfare and prosperity”. This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives. A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use" (EG 152)
I have heard people claiming that this means he is for the redistribution of wealth, or that he is for socialized medicine, or that he is calling for a kind of religious-Communism, and, perhaps because South America is so close to his heart, it is assumed that he himself endorses Socialism.

A problem that seems to be plaguing this Pope's words is the sound-byte mentality of our media culture. Nobody reads what he actually says, and if they do, they only read a snippet, out of context.  To quote him as saying that everyone should have access to education, healthcare, and a job, could indeed sound like Socialism if not fitted accurately and comfortably within the context of the rest of the exhortation.

But it is not a social document, and even the sentence that mentions the just wage itself offers clarity.  To offer a person a just wage, a living wage, with which they can adequately care for themselves and their family (and I beg your pardon, but minimum wage in the United States is not even close to a just wage) is not the same as socializing and federally subsidizing elements of everyday life that would otherwise be unaffordable to someone who is being underpaid.  Hallmarks of Communism and Socialism are the fatal poverty, yet also the touted equality.  A just wage is a simple, general concept that has no political attachments, no economic implications.  It certainly says nothing about taking from the rich to give to the poor.  It is merely a request for the care of human dignity, in ways, as the earlier quote from Paul VI suggests, that are tailored by each respective country to their cultural and economic structures.

 3. Income Distribution
The exhortation does treat with the matter of an imbalanced distribution of income.  Francis says that the suffering of the poor, resultant in part from a lack of just wage or equal opportunities, "seem[s] to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for true and integral development" (EG 203). 
He states point blank that "as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills" (EG 202).
However--and this is an integral 'however'--nowhere does he offer an explicit or specific political or economic structure to supplement or replace any existing ones.  While he is very wary of the dire risk of "trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market" (EG 204), he does not target capitalism, or any other specific system, by name, nor does he say that any extant systems cannot or should not be preserved.  What he says is that it is time for citizens, governments, and politicians to focus the trajectory of their goals and efforts towards the care of the dignity of the population in their given locale.  He calls for deliberate "decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality" (EG 204), but it is nowhere stated or even implied that a government (or any other entity) is solely responsible for, or should have total authority over such mechanisms.  A Communist or Socialist would seek to place the responsibility for these things in the hands of a completely centralized government, since they believe the populace incapable of administering any kind of justice or equality themselves.  Pope Francis, far from this position, suggests a tandem personal and communal accountability for the other, for the neighbor.

Furthermore, it is not that he has an intrinsic hatred of or problem with, say, capitalism.  It is simply that, from the perspective of a shepherd concerned with the well-being of his flock, he is objectively noting a broken mechanism.
"I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded" (EG 204).
He can hardly be clearer than by his words in the preceding.  Populism--'the political doctrine that supports the rights and powers of the common people in their struggle with the privileged elite'--is the kind of umbrella under which falls other ideologies, including Socialism and Communism.  Thus, the Pope is definitively dismissing the idea of his endorsing any 'populist' ideals, which he sees as 'irresponsible'.
"Economy, as the very word indicates, should be the art of achieving a fitting management of our common home, which is the world as a whole. Each meaningful economic decision made in one part of the world has repercussions everywhere else; consequently, no government can act without regard for shared responsibility" (EG 206).
If his immediate words in the exhortation were not enough, he clarified even further in an interview a few days later (in which he stated unequivocally: "Marxism is wrong."), the translation of which you may read here if you are interested.

The take-away? It's the same as I could (and have) noted about Pope Francis before: Context. He is scintillatingly clear, but even the most eloquent, pithy individual would sound different, even opposite, if unmoored from any kind of context. At first I thought that it might be helpful to suggest this contextualization as a reading strategy for Francis; but on further thought I realize that this is a common courtesy we pay to so many others on a regular basis--the media is often criticized for taking soundbytes out of context, and we are incensed by the subsequent misappropriation and misapplication of someone's words. Why should this be any less or any different for our Pope?
"If anyone feels offended by my words, I would respond that I speak them with affection and with the best of intentions, quite apart from any personal interest or political ideology. My words are not those of a foe or an opponent. I am interested only in helping those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centred mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking which is more humane, noble and fruitful, and which will bring dignity to their presence on this earth" (EG 208).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Stripped: Against the Over, Under, and Asexualization of Women

 A friend pinned this cartoon via Pinterest today:

 She tagged it with a few things, like 'feminism' and 'oversexualization'. I do not intend to accuse her personally of necessarily thinking any of the following, but the way I took those hashtags in tandem with the picture was that it intended to convey something like this:
"Women/the female body have/has been oversexualized to the point where there are extant double-standards that allow men to dress and behave in ways that are condoned, while women are subject to harsh censure for the same or equivalent behavior and fashions. This is a bad thing."
Now, I understand that there is significant backlash to the modesty-culture rampant in Protestant and some Catholic circles.

Modesty culture places a very heavy onus of responsibility for modesty on women, asserting that it is their appearance and behavior solely that evokes men's lustful responses, and that if men are reacting to them with lust, they must be doing something immodest. Women are expected to be actively modest; men passively so--by not looking or by verbally correcting women in their lives who are not being modest. Advocates of these ideas post vehement articles littered with phrases like 'custody of the eyes' and warn of the beauty of the female body as though it is a detriment, not a God-given reality.  They also claim that women are assigned value as an inverse result of the valuation of modesty, which results in an inadvertent (or, intentional, depending on who you are talking to) devaluation of the woman as a person.

(Disclaimer: This post isn't endorsing the extremes of far-right modesty culture. It's taking issue with the mentality of the above cartoon, that male and female nudity--understanding 'nudity' as nakedness with a sexual connotation--should be defined on a one to one basis in Anglo/American culture).

The subsequent push-back against the modesty culture tends towards an opposite extreme.  Even if they are not condoning some kind of orgiastic response to right the injustices inherent in female-based modesty, they usually do call for a great equalizer: the flesh. Women are humans; men are humans. There is nothing innately sexual about the female body, they say, any more than there is about the male body.  All the sexuality associated with the female body is an arbitrary cultural construction.  Any and all exposure shows equality, not indecency. Flesh is flesh.

The seductive danger of the cultural construction model is that it is partially true. In Africa, it is not abnormal or overtly sexual for women to go topless. Indeed, when we see African women on a TV show, or African men in barely-there loincloths, here in the States, we aren't scandalized or incited to lust. It is understood that this is a cultural norm, foreign to ours.  But just because it is cultural does not make it arbitrary.

Furthermore, because our culture does associate sexuality with certain kinds of nakedness (whether or not you condone that), the way in which the counterarguments against modesty culture are phrased cannot be and are not non-sexual.
To uncover, as a woman, cannot be non-sexual in a culture so over-saturated with sex, and with such a historical underpinning of the mystery of the body.
More than that, however, I'm troubled by this apparent desire to erase the feminine qualities which started this whole debate in the first place. Boiling the whole thing down, the argument is over the oversexualization of the female body.  One extreme is the Miley Cyrus-style commodification of the female body.  The other end of the spectrum:  women's bodies should be such neutral territory that they could walk around topless or in revealing clothes and not one man would look at their bodies in a sexual way.  The problems with the former extreme are obvious; the problems with the latter are no less serious, if slightly more subtle.

Doesn't this insistent uncovering, and shrill 'equality'/homogenization do a grave disservice to women? However misguided or over-enthusiastically applied, the modesty culture is a result of a desire to preserve the dignity of women, and prevent them from being completely objectified for their bodies (and for men to be prevented from doing the objectifying).
In response to an oversexualization of women, people on the opposite extreme call for an asexualization--for the removal of the unique and--properly contextualized--beautiful aspects of the feminine form to be neutered as harshly as they accuse shapeless dresses and loose shirts of doing.
On a related level, it's as if proponents of the anti-modesty culture hate the female body and what it means to have one.  The kind of rebellious flaunting of everything without shame, without regard or reverence for the beauty and art of our bodies, as crafted by God, bespeaks a virulent devaluing of them.  You don't burn an effigy because you love the person it represents.  You make a public spectacle or public revelation in this way to bring shame and degradation on the object, or to remove reverence of it.  There is something inculcated in human nature about reverence for the unseen or the hidden, and a perpetual saturation and overexposure not only desensitizes but also debases it.

Finally, to return to the irony.  Part of what is so violent and disfiguring about the act of rape--so often linked with modesty culture as a so-called cause and horrible effect--is that a woman is forcibly uncovered and violated.  Somehow, when such uncovering is voluntary, and the violation is of the eyes and minds of men or children--this is laudable. Did someone mention a double standard?

I'm hardly excusing men from guarding their own purity. Just because a woman decides to walk naked down the street does not mean you have to stare at her and commit mental or actual impurities with her. But--and I've used this analogy before--knowing that we have something so appealing to men, to defiantly shove it in their faces while simultaneously demanding them ignore it is equivalent to knowing your husband is an alcoholic but surrounding him with the smell of alcohol and trying to hold his nose and pour it down his throat, all the while berating him for being tempted to drink.

What I'm getting at is this: if what is truly desired is an equal standard to regulate the relationship between sexuality and the human form, allowing women to go without a shirt because men can is not a solution.  Rather, asking both men and women to cover the sensitive, sexual areas of their bodies out of self-respect and out of respect for the eyes and minds of those around them would be real equality, and would indicate a true understanding of (ungendered) human modesty and sexuality.
Both modesty and sexuality are utterly deplorable influences when decontextualized or homogeneously, disproportionately applied. 

Really quickly: I realize I've begun many of my posts with 'I read something a friend posted' or 'On a classmates' facebook'... This is not to say that I'm attacking those friends/coworkers/classmates. One of the primary forces that sparks me to write about a topic is seeing something I strongly agree/disagree with via people I know. So don't take it personally ;)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Rhetorical Questions: In Defense of Pope Francis

I read an article from the Washington Post yesterday called 'Like Pope Francis? You'll love Jesus.' Basically, it's a tongue in cheek notation of the way in which so many left-leaning politicians, celebrities, etc, are all enthused over Pope Francis for what they perceive as a shift in Church policies and attitudes.  The author of the article points out that all Francis is really doing is reiterating ideas that have been innate in the Catholic Church since its founding by Christ.  So, to all those non-Catholics or fallen-away Catholics who are suddenly finding this papacy a reason to be invigorated by their Faith again--this isn't new. Your Faith has always been this invigorating!

I think the article makes an excellent point, and it's nice to see it somewhere like the Washington Post.  More importantly, however, it offers already-faithful Catholics, who probably love Francis because he is renewing and living the tenets of Faith given to us by Christ, some rich food for thought.

Obviously, Catholics aren't out to please the entire world. But there is something to be said for the interest Francis has sparked from so many diametrically-opposed groups.  Nor has he garnered such support by somehow compromising Catholic morality or Catholic teaching.  So what has he done that has suddenly made the Catholic Church and its Faith more palatable to people who wouldn't have touched us with a 15 foot pole before?

First, I think there's something to be said for his demeanor on the most superficial level.

From the very beginning of his papacy, when he stopped by his hotel to pick up his bags personally, or when he called the newspaper vendor from his former diocese, Francis has impressed the world with his affability, his humility, and his humanity.  Not that all our other popes have been stiff or vain--but Francis has such an air of approachability.  We must imagine that Christ had this same air; people from all groups felt able to approach Him without fear of judgment or exclusion, and, upon approaching Him, to feel that He was truly looking at them, listening and speaking to them.  This is the impression people have gotten from Pope Francis.

Secondly, it's his method of delivery when speaking, preaching, or writing.  Having fostered with his manner an openness to dialogue in many people who might otherwise have ignored him, he next tends to demonstrate a corresponding gentleness in how he says what he says. That is not to say that he is weak, ambiguous, or abstract (he's been accused of all three).  But everything he says is uttered simply, logically, and charitably.  He sets an example of the things he talks about, especially in regards to love of neighbor, and is so unassuming that you find yourself listening, I think, even when you don't intend to.

But that brings us to the third aspect of Francis' appeal, which is the content of his message. I find it interesting that Francis has been frequently called 'naive', cast by Catholic and secular media alike as though he stumbled into the papacy an inexperienced Diocesan official, and hasn't quite caught the hang of using precise language to express himself on a global scale, or hasn't noticed that what he says off the cuff is broadcasted and can be twisted by the media.

On the contrary, I think Pope Francis is very savvy indeed.  In the new Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel) he emphasizes the importance of evangelizing the culture on its own terms, not by compromising our values to fit the times, but rather, by speaking a language that the times can comprehend and will gravitate towards.  

It is obvious that he does not have a problem being extremely explicit when he wants to be; take, for example, this quote from the Exhortation: "A preacher who does not prepare is not “spiritual”; he is dishonest and irresponsible with the gifts he has received." (Paragraph 145). He has spoken clearly and firmly on moral issues like abortion, homosexual 'marriage', and the challenges facing the family.  When he talks about female roles in the Church in Evangelii gaudium, he says "The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion" (Paragraph 104). Boom. End of story. Pope Francis is not afraid to be clear, nor is he incapable.

So why is he accused of naivete, or why do left-leaning individuals think, at least at first, that he might be on the brink of an overhaul of Catholic morality?

I see it in terms of a song by M. Ward, one of my favorite artists.  The song "Fisher of Men" says:
"He tied a feather to the hook for to get you to look
And by the time you know what took you, you already took
He's got a line in the water, he's a fisher of men

And he put the thorns on the rose for to get you to bleed
And by the time you know what stuck you, the pain's in deep
He's got a line in the water, he's a fisher of men
He's got a lot on the line, he's a fisher of men"
Similarly, Francis' 'feather on the hook' is his tendency to begin speaking on common, general topic.  He uses the buzzwords to get the attention, like a teaser trailer for a movie, then reiterates the pith of Catholic teaching in a careful, gentle way that highlights its freshness and appropriateness for our time and culture.

For example, let's look briefly (very briefly) at the portion of Evangelii gaudium on multiculturalism.

Francis' method of dealing with this topic is not the accident of an inexperienced Pontiff.  Rather, it is conscious rhetoric.  Aware of "our difficulty in restoring a mystical adherence to the faith in a pluralistic religious landscape" (Paragraph 70), Pope Francis quotes John Paul II in calling for "the faith and the life of the Church [to] be expressed in legitimate forms appropriate for each culture" (Paragraph 118).  He doesn't merely dump this in the middle of the Exhortation, to form an ambiguous glob of multiculturalism that can be applied at the whim of the reader--that would be the result of inexperience or naivete, or even of misdirected good intentions.  Instead, he qualifies his statement with the understanding that cultural diversity must be "properly understood" (Paragraph 117) in order to be useful to the Church's work of evangelization, and develops the idea that "We would not do justice to the logic of the incarnation if we thought of Christianity as monocultural and monotonous" (117).    (This may potentially yield a post soon on the complex issue of Pope Francis and the Extraordinary Form)  This might seem radical, but it is actually only an old tenet of Catholicism phrased anew.

St. Paul puts it this way
“What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you," (Acts 17:23)
while Francis says
"As part of his mysterious love for humanity, God furnishes the totality of the faithful with an instinct of faith – sensus fidei – which helps them to discern what is truly of God" (Paragraph 119).
What I'm getting at (without getting further carried away breaking down specifics from the Exhortation) is that Francis is clearly very intelligent, very well educated, and very methodical.  He knows the Truth, he wants to speak the Truth, and he has discerned the best possible way for him to do so in a way that will bear the most fruit in this time and place.  Sometimes his words may come across a little jarring to Catholics--perhaps because we are used to what he would call "fixed formulations learned by heart or by specific words which express an absolutely invariable content" (Paragraph 129), but given the clear and courageous way in which he delineates our morals and tells the world that 'they are not open to discussion', I don't think we need fear (not that we need to anyway, since of course the Holy Spirit protects the Papacy).  Rather, perhaps these jarring moments are an invitation to look closely at what the Pope is saying, and to learn from his example in how he is saying it.
"He's a fisher of men, he's as wise as a prizefighter"

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Roots, Fruits, and Feminism

Briefly, my thoughts on an article entitled "I'm a Feminist Because I'm Not a Hypocrite."

Laura's post on her blog, Catholic Cravings is about her understanding of the term 'feminist' in light of her self-characterization as "a pro-life, anti-contraception, mantilla-wearing, submission-preaching, chivalry-loving woman".  At first blush, it seems like a reasonable argument: as a Catholic who has embraced her God-given femininity, she understands and appreciates feminism in its various forms for the good it has done for women over the decades, while still more than comfortable criticizing it for the numerous moral evils it has heralded.

The post does a great job breaking down three apparent stages of feminism in the US: Suffrage, the Sexual Revolution, and modern Feminism. Laura argues that, having achieved 99.9% of the legal goals that Suffrage asked for, and many of the (destructive) 'reproductive rights' that the second stage of the 1960's vociferously demanded, feminists now are forced to turn inward on their own bodies, to fight for things like the 'right' to dress scandalously or engage in all kinds of unnatural or promiscuous sexual experimentation on the grounds of a gendered 'self-expression'.

Laura notes that she doesn't think we should "jettison feminism simply because the feminist cri de guerre at the moment is that murdering babies in the womb is pro-woman".  Because she has had the opportunity for a college education and equal pay, etc, she sees a reason to try to reclaim the word 'feminist', or at least to hold out hope that its application or meaning will morph again into a morally-acceptable entity.

I totally understand the mentality, but something kept nagging at me as I read it.  For example, it seemed to make perfect sense when she wrote,
"Irony of ironies, feminism is the reason I could go to university to write essays arguing against feminism. And feminism is the reason that I could do so with all the assurance that my opinion was as important and valuable as anyone else’s. The truth is that no woman can argue against feminism without biting the hand that fed her."
But on further thought, I asked that really the case? Is it true that we ('we' = women) can or should try to selectively appreciate or reclaim a term that has warped so much of our culture? And is my college education (or Laura's) the result of feminism, or the result of something else that has been appropriated as a victory by feminism?

The Vote: While I personally don't have a problem with a system in which the head of a household votes for his household, since we have been granted it, I also fully support, treasure, and exercise my right to participate in the electoral process. But did 'feminism' give me that? Honestly, I say, no. Women's suffrage did.  Suffrage--which by definition is 'the right of voting')--is focused on, well, voting.  It's a narrowly defined, narrowly applied category of activism.  Furthermore, the 'right to vote' is a definable one, found in the amendments to the Constitution, namely the 12th, 15th, and 19th.  For women as citizens of the United States to lobby for this kind of equal right was justified. 

So, is it reasonable to include suffrage in feminism at all? I'd argue that it isn't. Suffrage is light years away, in specificity and parameters of acceptable results, from 'feminism'.  Equating suffrage with feminism is like equating geology with neurology: both fit under the category of 'science', but they are clearly nothing to do with one another.

Similarly, but to a lesser degree, the ability to sit in a college classroom and the ability to kill your child are miles apart, yet both get labelled a feminist concern.

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', where 'life' is the right to live at any age or circumstance, 'liberty' is the freedom to do what is right, and 'pursuit of happiness' is the search for the good and the true (aka, God, or, in secular terms, justice/morality etc).  True rights are few. Privileges are many, but they are not innately deserved or owed, and a privilege cannot hyper-extend outside of morality. The right to kill your unborn child is no more a right than being 'entitled' to own a cell phone, and it is no more a privilege to be awarded than slamming into your neighbor's new car because you're jealous.

Christ said that you know a tree by the fruit it bears. I would argue that in examining what is blanketed as 'feminism', we are actually looking the fruit of two different trees. One that results in a fuller realization of female participation in society, and one which champions an array of perverted sexual license(s). To circle back to Laura's supposition in her post: As Catholic women, do we really owe anything to 'feminism'? As Catholic women, is there anything to be gained in reclaiming the term?

I myself have invoked the phrase 'new feminism' for the sake of convenience, meaning by it an authentic femininity that embraces its God-given role(s). But having read this article and thought about it, I feel like we need something that doesn't have the connotations 'feminism' has.  The term is too closely knit to the activist portion--that's the fruit-producing part that has yielded abortion and the like--to try and salvage any semblance of anything else. Since, as I have tried to demonstrate, suffrage is a totally different beast, feminism as we know it has roots only in the Sexual Revolution, and what Catholic would want to be tied in any way to that movement? 

(As an aside: By admitting that female activism has, on some level, yielded some good things to women, such as college education etc, does that mean I'm conceding the point? Definitely not. The ends don't justify the means, and while I can appreciate the results, I am under no obligation whatsoever to be beholden to the cause, if the cause is innately of the world, the flesh, and the devil.)

Now I'm not attacking Laura personally, because everything about her post indicates that she is an articulate, sincere, Catholic young lady.  But it is abhorrent to me that Catholic women like her feel a compunction to compromise with the feminists and somehow give them credit for misappropriated victories.  Feminists didn't accomplish those things; women did. I reject the idea that women and feminists are interchangeable terms. There is nothing womanly about what we know as feminism. We are under no obligation to align ourselves on any level with feminists, unless it is by the starkness of our contrasting lifestyle and example. And 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. But don't try to perform moral and intellectual gymnastics to try and contort feminism into something you can get behind. You can't.