Two Freelances: Wonder Woman and Pro-Life Feminism at CUA

Pop Culture and Theology: Wonder Woman: Facing the Darkness and Embracing her Gifts

“Nevertheless, our calling is precisely to join that inner fight. The Catechism continues, even taking up the analogy of battle: “Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity” (409). To see the evil outside in the world and the urges to it inside our own hearts, and to seek to counter that, as Diana’s friends do when they elect to continue their mission despite lack of payment and high likelihood of death, is the central focus on our life on this planet. They master their own selfishness, their inner temptations, and in so doing challenge evil in the great war itself.”

Wonder Woman: Facing the Darkness, Embracing Her Gifts

Truth and Charity Forum – How Abortion Divides the Feminist Movement

“Best, was both sides recognizing the structural factors lead to the demand for abortion and agree that those are problems. The demands of caring for young children can prevent hard-up women from from supporting themselves. As pro-life Catholics, glossing over these realities makes us lose our credibility.

Meanwhile, hearing the abortion supporters articulate the philosophical worthlessness of the person: whether born, developing, dying or suffering was the most tragic part. This mentality that easily permits physician-assisted suicide, abortion in general and abortion of the disabled, poses a rapidly-eroding threat to the value of life which must undergird a healthy society, one that values all its members.”

More here – http://truthandcharityforum.org/how-abortion-divides-the-feminist-movement/

Way Better Idea of Success than Money and Status

A friend of mine posted this article from On Being, called “Scrapping Outdated Definitions of Success” by Courtney Martin.

This really resonated with me as my husband and I have been navigating career moves recently trying to produce a happier household.

The cultural narrative overshadows us all, to the extent that we buy into it: you will be successful if you can go beyond your parents’ earnings and their collar.

The rub is that it’s simply not true.

Bigger earnings don’t always translate into a better life, as evidenced by the preponderance of miserable lawyers, doctors, sales managers, and investment bankers. The trusty old collar metaphor turns out to be dangerously reductive, as was so beautifully discussed in Krista Tippett’s recent interview with Mike Rose.

As the tectonic plates of work shift under our feet, there’s a palpable sense of professional insecurity. On the flip side, there’s a real opportunity to tell the truth in a moment when we don’t have as much to lose. If we successfully scrap outdated definitions of success — salaries and collars, foremost among them — what’s left?

Here’s my attempt at synthesizing what I see among my friends, family, colleagues, and co-housing community. We want to be paid enough to live without the specter of an empty bank account or an empty cupboard hanging over our heads. We want to have access to childcare for our children and doctors for our aging parents. We want work that demands something of our minds and our bodies; we want to think and move. We want to feel like our gifts, whatever weird and wonderful things those might be, are put to good use (which first requires knowing what they hell they are). We want to work alongside other people who see and celebrate those gifts, people who teach us things, people who want to make cool stuff with us, people who are kind and mostly good and don’t create a lot of unnecessary drama. We want to be treated fairly. We want to be trusted, to know how and when and where we do our best work. We want to wake up in the morning and feel like there is a place to direct our energy and that place, while it may not define us, dignifies us.

Then, there was this:

In any case, women tend to walk around with an itchy, un-lived version of their own lives.

Carl Jung wrote:

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”

Martin sites this quotation both in relation to moms with careers and stay at home moms, that either way, in the past there has been a sense that something must be lost: that working women may have unfulfilled lives with their children and also that stay-at-home women may wonder about their creative potential or gifts. This is certainly a pressing question that feminism has wrestled with again and again with no good outcome.

I myself addressed it earlier this year and concluded that somehow, it must be possible to use and develop our gifts and to nurture our children well–both for women and men, though both make a great many sacrifices. I penned a similar thought to Martin:

Unfortunately, our standard of “success” is usually public recognition or the number of zeros in a paycheck. The standard should be though a happy, purposeful life.

This Jung quote struck me though as a powerful reminder that wherever we struggle for fulfillment, it really does matter, both to us and to our families, whether it’s wanting to be with children more or develop our gifts more. We are actually better parents when we find balance and take care of ourselves, which looks different for different people and even for husbands and wives. But the shared truth is that by attempting to suppress any good and real part of our beings, something is lost and our children feel that too.

It is worth adding that may people live through difficult circumstances and do not always the chance to strive in both or either of these areas. Compassion and aid to these people is a must, for our happiness and success as individuals is not unrelated to the success and happiness of our neighbors. And it’s simple decency. But it is not selfish to seek sustainable, healthy development in all areas of life. As I’ve cited before. this quote from Pope John Paul II sums it up:

“It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards ‘having’ rather than ‘being,’ and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself.”
— Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus
Question then: what does success mean to you?

“Just” A Mom: Beyond Having it all

New from me on the Truth and Charity Forum:

Just a Mom: Beyond Having it all

“The truth is: no one gets to have it all. Not a single human being has a perfect life devoid of dilemma and tragedy; we are absurd when we suggest that there could be a silver bullet that will deliver all the happiness we could ever desire this side of heaven.”

Unfortunately, our standard of “success” is usually public recognition or the number of zeros in a paycheck. The standard should be though a happy, purposeful life. The rearing of children is in fact fulfilling and important, and it can balanced in the evening hours with the pursuit of a talent.

Mothers are human beings just like other women and just like men who benefit and grow from the pursuit of excellence in a way that contributes to their flourishing, in a way that makes them better humans and therefore better mothers. We mothers of young children only benefit by sharing our experience and our gifts and encouraging one another to pursue excellence.

Click to read it all

Reconciling Feminism with Being Pro-Life

Before I converted, I long identified as a feminist, and I still do. However, nowadays I understand that a bit differently than I did before. Here are some excerpts from my recent Truth and Charity Forum piece. Whole article here.

***

Erika Bachiochi recently published an essay called “I’m a Feminist and I’m Against Abortion.” She notes the contradiction of feminist support for abortion:

But abortion, which is often the assumed solution to unexpected pregnancy in our culture, attempts to cure that sexual asymmetry: the biological fact that women get pregnant and men don’t. It does this by putting the responsibility to care for — or dispense with — the life of a nascent, developing human being on women alone.

Abortion expects nothing more of men, nothing more of medicine, and nothing more of society at large.

***

At the same time, John Paul II’s letter invites us to recall that the Church is truly the ally of all authentic human goods. He thanks all women: mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, working women and consecrated women then offers his explanation of the nexus of women’s value, which, of course, is based in God, in being created in the image of God. After recalling the story of creation, he says:

“The creation of woman is thus marked from the outset by the principle of help: a help which is not one-sided, but mutual.… men and women are complementary. Womanhood expresses the “human” as much as manhood does, but in a different and complementary way.” (7)

This formulation that John Paul speaks on behalf of the Church is truly the best of all the insights of feminism at once. It proclaims the difference of women, which is a certain truth, while affirming the equality in rational nature and value. While every woman and man is different, we are equal without being the same.

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?

4 Glaring Problems with Obama’s Remarks Regarding Stay-at-home Motherhood

In a recent address about expanding work opportunities for women, Obama said that staying home with children is “not a choice we want Americans to make.”

And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result.  And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.

This came as part of his call for expanded subsidized daycares and preschools. Now, I actually agree with many of his points about expanding parental leave. But nevertheless, this comment about staying home is something that needs to be addressed.

1. It would be okay if he simply said he didn’t want Americans to be pressured to make such a choice.

It’s true that we don’t want a lack of options forcing people (women or men) into something they don’t want to do. And if mom really doesn’t want to stay at home, then lack of child care is a problem. Every mother and father must make decisions for their own families and children. But if a mom (or dad) wants to stay home with the children, why would that be a choice he doesn’t want Americans to make?

2. This mentality assumes that money is the highest possible value and the purpose of life.

The answer of course is in his sentence. It’s because staying home with kids adversely affects lifetime earnings. Now this is indeed a problem if earnings and money is the highest end of life or highest goal to be achieved. But money is not the highest end, happiness is. Or so said Aristotle about this earthly life of ours. St. Thomas Aquinas amended the highest end to include eternal beatitude. Either way, money is only a means. If a choice brings happiness as such (such as the joy of raising children or family harmony), then it is far greater than numbers in a bank account.

I hope that the president of the United States does not diminish the value of life to nothing more than a monetary calculation.

3. Who is the “we” in that sentence?

He says staying at home is not a choice “we” want Americans to make. Who decides what choices Americans should make and if they are desirable or not? The President? The cabinet? The three branches of government? The intelligentsia? Who? The implication of that answer is more than a little bit scary.

4. Clearly, the “pro-choice” rhetoric doesn’t apply to all choices. Some choices are unpopular.

Mainline feminist rhetoric has long endorsed the value of “choice,” most obviously in the defense of abortion. “Choice” has also been used more legitimately in the women’s movement to affirm the value of work and of staying at home, but not in this case. This really pulls the curtain off of radical feminism and the president’s agenda. He’s not for a woman’s right to choose anything, especially not something as integral to her life caring for her children. Instead, he only supports the “right” to choose what he wants her to choose–an embrace of a particular ideology and the lifestyle that accompanies it.

Against Children as Burdens: A Response To Amy Glass

Motherhood

The author of a recent blog, pseudonymous Amy Glass, admits to looking down on married young women with children.  “Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself?” She asks in “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry.”

Glass promotes the widely accepted, but less often spoken views that children are burdens, paid employment matters more than anything else, and the choice to stay home is genuinely inferior to the choice to work. The piece has made its rounds around the web, and there have been several responses, but I thought I might provide one as well.

I thank this author for her honesty. No more to beating around the bush, indeed.

I would like to respond to several of the main points, especially based on the question mom-writer, Danielle Bean, asked in her reflections: “Why are we mommies such easy targets?”

Easy: young mothers and stay-at-home mothers particularly, are sitting ducks because we have consciously rejected the wisdom of the world for the apparently “foolish” alternative. The worldly wisdom is that stated by our author: job, delayed marriage, delayed or no children. The alternative of home life, marriage, child-rearing, and *gasp* even cooking and cleaning appears foolish because it rejects the former goods which are loudly and also subconsciously promoted in our culture.

But even back in the first century A.D., Paul knew that those who follow Christ necessarily reject the “wisdom” of the world:

Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe … We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor. 1:20-25)

The world’s wisdom doesn’t know God, but His truth, His wisdom goes far beyond the world—even calling us to things that look like errors from a worldly point of view. There is a huge reason to make that foolish seeming choice, and it’s not just because God wills it, although He certainly does will it for many women, not all of course, as everyone’s call is truly unique.

The reason is that there is abundant joy in home life as it fits well with our human end of flourishing. The life-giving end of flourishing has largely and sadly been forgotten.

Conversely, while certainly many women may not be called to have children, I insist that it is no more inherently a joyful path than the other, despite how they are painted. And if we are really honest, isn’t joy and happiness the real point of it all? Not just items that look shiny on a resume. We all know too well that the most prestigious of resumes and accomplishments don’t necessarily bring peace or joy with them.

With that in mind, here are responses to a few of her statements:

 “I want to have a shower for a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia, gets a promotion, or lands a dream job not when she stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing which is the path of least resistance.”

I want to have a shower for these women too! But not because the former type of activities are superior. We throw parties to celebrate milestones and callings. And a woman may be called to the single life or to married life or religious life or all sorts of different things. And for many women, the call to marriage can be unexpected, intentional and significant. We should recognize the important steps people take in their lives regardless of how prized they are by society. The woman who lands a great job or plans an arduous trip shouldn’t look down on the woman expecting her second baby because the former might be called to have a family one day too.

“I hear women talk about how “hard” it is to raise kids and manage a household all the time. I never hear men talk about this. It’s because women secretly like to talk about how hard managing a household is so they don’t have to explain their lack of real accomplishments. Men don’t care to “manage a household.” They aren’t conditioned to think stupid things like that are “important.” “

Haha, that’s because men don’t usually play the same role in managing a household. Often, the husband and wife play different roles that both contribute to the well-being of the household, viewing the family and its functioning as a unit rather than a zero-sum game of personal accomplishments.

Additionally, it really is hard to manage a household. Bill paying, food-inventory management, scheduling etc are very similar to the tasks involved in running a small business. None of the tasks required are unimportant or stupid.

Of course, the accomplishments the author values such as getting a promotion or landing a dream job or completing a hiking trip are genuinely hard too. Her idea of “real accomplishments” is simply a bias of more glamorous things. The more-hidden difficulty here is the assumption that a human life is less valuable or worthy based on certain types of outer achievements or deeds. Gone is the notion of the inherent dignity of woman (or man). I think this is dangerous and especially can bring on feelings of inferiority in anyone who must work for a living at something not-so-trendy or inspiring.

The reality is that the value of human life is in being a good human person—that’s right, just plain being. We can’t all do wondrous things; some of us have disabilities; some of us are poor. Fortunately, we need only to do as much as we are able, given each of our individual circumstances. All of us can be, and we can be very well.

Nevertheless, the most problematic thing in this essay, I think, is illustrated well by the last quotation: it’s a type of feminism that assumes being a man or the way men do things really is better. What type of pro-woman theory actually affirms that the male way is superior and that women must perform in exactly the same capacities as men in order to be valuable? Something truly pro-woman can see that woman bring a unique perspective and way of doing things. It would also recognize that men and women are not the same. There is nothing truly feminist or pro-woman about calling men/the male perspective superior. A true feminism recognizes the inherent dignity, complementarity and equal value despite differences of the sexes.

“Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business.”

As I hope has been made clear, “important” is relative and being matters more than certain types of doing. Also as mentioned, the type of careers Glass mentions and values are the flashy ones. And those really are great jobs. But there is inherent classism in this statement. Most women (and men) who do hold jobs don’t hold top-tier, stimulating, “important” jobs. What about the woman (or man) who works at the laundromat, since she mocks doing laundry? Is the value of her paid position less than that of the doctor? I think the author would have to say “yes.” In which case, she isn’t just insisting that having a job is better than being a mother. She is also insisting that being upper class is better than being working class. While many people work admirably to change their circumstances, others choose harsh jobs in order to support loved ones or for other reasons. Is such a choice not also admirable and fulfilling in a different way?

As I hope has been made clear, joy and flourishing is the purpose or end that we strive for in life. Big accomplishments may bring us there, but often they do not. Each person’s path to flourishing may look different, but as long as it includes genuine goodness, there is no reason to look down on anyone else.

What do you think? Are Glass’s opinions common? What do you think captures the true purpose or essence of a life well-lived?

Catholic Hippie Mom, Part II: Natural Parenting, Self-giving, my Transition into Mommy-hood

Little ones playing

As someone raised to be strongly feminist, becoming a mother was a bit disorienting for me. In my mind, a good mother was a working mother. The intense feelings of joy, love and attachment that swept over me within moments of Baby W’s birth caught me completely off-guard. Here was not a burden or an inconvenience to deal with and get through so that I could go back to doing important, grown-up things like making money. Here was a tiny, blessed creature that knew nothing other than to trust me to support and care for him. This miniature angel belongs more to God than he does to me. He was not a task to be struck from a to-do list; he is a gift to embrace and welcome. (Not saying that working moms feel babies as burdens—it’s just how I thought I would feel. Even when I was pregnant, I thought to myself “Gee, I hope I like my baby”).

So totally against everything I had said and felt before, I quit my job. Though I loved my son, this was painfully ambivalent for me. I had viewed my value through the lens of my career and education; now those stopped (though education, in a way, always continues). It was a type of identity crisis.

Of course, it was my own hang up not to respect  child-rearing as equally valuable to vocations outside the home. Though I was Catholic and gave lip-service to the value of motherhood, my heart lagged behind and in some ways still does. Occasionally, I have trouble respecting myself when I compare myself with other women. This is a problem and a struggle. (I know comparing is deeply harmful; and I know that true feminism, which simply affirms the value of women, does not disparage the choice to stay home).

Enter natural parenting. For me, it’s a philosophy that helps me give identity to my new role. Continue reading