The Value of Women in Society: True Humanization

This, I think, could easily become my rallying cry and a motivating goal for any authentic feminist:

A greater presence of women in society will prove most valuable, for it will help to manifest the contradictions present when society is organized solely according to the criteria of efficiency and productivity, and it will force systems to be redesigned in a way which favours the processes of humanization which mark the ‘civilization of love.’ (para 4)

This comes from John Paul II’s 1995 Letter to Women.

Bring the baby!

Thriving, life-loving women can perform something vital for our culture: help move us away from systems and definitions that value only production.

A society worth living in–a society God wants us to live in–is a society that loves human life and celebrates a life of flourishing for all.

All people, all women and especially stay-at-home moms (who are all too often overlooked by well-meaning folks) can participate in this. Two huge strategies I see for moving our culture closer to a more human dynamic are these: (and they don’t even require a revolution)

1. Education. Education itself in most schools is set up like a factory: desks in rows, students grouped by age like expiration dates on products, lots of sitting, bells to announce shifts, huge group lunches, standardized tests and standardized curriculum. Unsurprisingly, the forms of public schools were developed during industrialization. They produce factory workers. Let’s change that.

Let’s make education more human, more child-friendly. This is the job of all parents and especially stay-at-home moms who dedicate their lives to their children because they know that caregivers are not interchangeable robots who wipe bottoms and spoon mush into baby mouths.

Homeschooling, unschooling, Montessori, new schooling–and hey it can include public schools if they are open to it. Parents forming groups of like-minded fellows to get together and teach or rather…to present, to incorporate the child, to let the child grow. One thing is for sure: segregating kids by age is out. Misleading benchmarks are out. Attentive, loving connection is in. Authentic discipline, guidance, virtue. These are what we want.

2. Bring kids everywhere. As a stay-at-home mom, I really want to break the taboo that forbids children from a lot of public places. Congressional Hall, for instance; libraries; nice restaurants; universities; art galleries; Target (they can come here, but they had better not touch anything); courtrooms; office buildings.

All the important places where adults get together and do important things are unofficial no-kid zones. Why is that? Surely many of the people participating must have children. Surely these people might be interested in sharing important things with their children.

I think it has a lot to do with that mindset of favoring only production. This production mindset says: “We can’t have kids here because kids have needs like eating and going to the bathroom, and we important adults can’t get distracted with that stuff because what we are doing is just so very important for all of us important adults.”

And that seems to make sense because our culture is very concerned with important adults and the things (and money) that they make. For this reason, we have compartmentalized society: the adults are on one side making, doing and saying important things. The kids are on the other side not interfering with the adults and simultaneously being trained to do important things, or so goes the narrative.

But perhaps this compartmentalization ought to be challenged. If we are indeed a unified society and children grow up to take over the reins, why exclude them? Why balk at the diaper changing mat?

So here is my one-woman revolution: there are lectures and conferences I would like to attend. I will attend them, and I will bring my baby. If she needs to be excused, I will take her out because I sincerely want all participants to benefit from the meeting. But as long as she is non-disruptive, why should she not come?

I saw this work very successfully at the Diocese of Arlington’s Risk Jesus event, which I attended with my baby. As did many mothers. All day long. It went just fine.

What if our society began to incorporate children? What if mothers and fathers could bring their kids to work? What if work places became learning places too? And corporate centers had playgrounds? What if CEOs taught leadership skills from 1:00-2:00pm to ten year olds right there in the building? What if engineers taught math? What if literature professors taught reading? What if people of all ages were seen as the rightful center of value, as different but beloved parts of a whole?

Well, for one thing, it would eliminate the stay-at-home vs. working-mom dilemma.

And it can start without policy changes or massive overhauls. A civilization of love can start with you bringing your baby to a lecture; you creating a curriculum of ideas you deeply value and sharing it with your children and your friends’ children. It starts with congresswomen bringing their children.

Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli is already doing it. She’s pictured above.

It starts with any of us. And the results could be staggering.

**

Reader Questions: Am I crazy? Where else is off-limits to children? What is the true purpose of society? And is it defensible to segregate the children and the elderly?

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3 thoughts on “The Value of Women in Society: True Humanization

  1. Absolutely love this!
    Regarding segregation of the young, I *would* worry about CEOS teaching values to impressionable children (ideally, these values would be better communicated by a kind person willingly earning $25k per year because they love their work). Likewise, teaching first grade reading is a different ball game than teaching college lit – the former engages the person (and specific developmental needs), the latter the text. All that being said, I love the idea of mixed grades, better-educated primary school teachers, smaller class sizes, and less factory-oriented classroom design. I also love the argument against banning presence of children in public spaces. I think it would make strangers more empathetic to one another if we saw each other in our parenting roles in public. Great work, Stephanie!

  2. All good points Meg! Ha, about the CEO, I suppose I imagined an ideal world where the CEO was teaching authentic values out of a sense of purpose and duty, who held his or her job for the sake of stewardship, not for mountains of money or personal status. But in our current world, yes, you make an insightful point.

    On the point of the professor vs the reading teacher, yes they are very different jobs. I think we tend to over-specialize, getting really, really good at one thing and ignoring everything else. Specialization certainly builds expertise and that’s good. I think a lot of people would benefit though from developing more than one talent and by connecting it to the education of young children. Nothing makes things more earthy and real that a little kid. Keeping little ones in mind, I think, helps us remember that ideas always have real world implications.

    Yes, I do think having little people around would generally increase empathy in a way more in keeping with a civilization of love. The Washington Post ran an article last year about why having kids makes people unhappy (lol — it doesn’t) but one of the things it mentioned is that having children takes parents out of the rhythms of normal adult life. That idea really struck me. In a society, why should children not be part of the rhythms of normal life. Normal adult life includes parenthood, after all, and the begetting of children is certainly necessary to preserving a society. So my response is that children SHOULD be part of the rhythms of normal adult life.

  3. I found this whole post super interesting! I agree, we do focus too much on productivity. What is my value when all I have done all day was manage to feed and clean my children? Who are girls, one of whom just told me “mommy, when I’m all the way big I’m going to be a mom just like you” – we ask, what is the POINT? Basically, the whole point is union with God – as a society we’ve forgotten that entirely and our driving force is production, progress, “happiness” in the form of pleasure…it’s messed up.
    I’m not a big fan of the idea of bringing kids to work – I don’t know HOW you did that – but I think I just couldn’t concentrate on both/either if I did that. I DO like the ideas of places that have in-house day-care/preschool or what-not where parents can pop in throughout the day.
    I also think we have this crazy idea of things being “not the place for children” – I agree with you completely that this is ridiculous. Children are people, too. It’s like when you go into a restaurant and they see you have a baby and they say, “oh, two and a half?” NO. my baby is not a half person!
    Nothing has brought me closer to God than my children and nothing reminds me of His love for me more than my children – I agree having kids around would keep a civilization of love.
    AND. YES. children ARE part of the rhythms of normal adult life. We’ve forgotten that as a society, though, because we think “normal”=”focused on me.”
    I could probably type forever, so I’ll just stop here and we can chat about it sometime if you want 🙂

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