If you ask any woman today who has young children and a full-time job, or any woman who sleeps around indiscriminately, or even the average middle-class single mom who most likely initiated her divorce, she’s likely to say she’s not a feminist…Indeed, she has probably never joined a feminist cause in her life, nor does she necessarily have a strong opinion on the matter. But her lifestyle is a direct result of feminism’s influence in her life. That is the insidious nature of the feminist revolution, and it is the reason why it’s the most significant social movement of our time.
–Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly, The Flipside of Feminism
I’ve already touched on one of the main effects of feminism—abortion as a cherished “right”—in the previous parts of this post. There is not one effect of feminism that should be acceptable for a Catholic, as has already been suggested in Part 2 on the ideology of feminism, as an ideology and its effects are inseparable. However, I will discuss some effects of feminism to illustrate again why Catholicism and feminism are incompatible.
Some of the obvious effects of feminism are the legalization of abortion, easy access to birth control and liberalization of divorce laws. These things have harmed women, the family and the wider community. Abortion in particular is a grave evil that will one day have to be accounted for.
There are other less visible effects of feminism, however.
Perhaps the most profound effect of feminism has been to destroy womanhood as a concrete reality and as an ideal. While womanhood in a physical sense can never be destroyed because it is built into one half of the human race, the less concrete aspects of womanhood can be destroyed or subverted. This destruction of womanhood is part of a greater plan of destruction.
Because feminism is a child of liberalism it seeks to destroy what liberalism seeks to destroy, but through women. Liberalism seeks to destroy man’s faith in God and his obedience to God. Specifically, liberalism is anti-Catholic (as the French Revolution illustrated so well).
Feminism, as an outgrowth of liberalism, offered a new way to attack man, confuse him, and ultimately to destroy him by pitting him against instead of moving him toward his salvation. Instead of following God and abiding by His order and design, feminists sought to destroy distinct femininity and masculinity to create disorder within the natural order. From this disorder they have created a new order that is opposed to woman’s nature. For example, woman’s nature is nurturing—yet in the feminist new order she must abandon her child at a daycare to pursue the feminist ideal of the career woman. Woman’s nature is that of a mother—yet, in the feminist new order she has the option of aborting her child if it interferes with her life plans and goals. This is a total subversion of the nature God placed in woman. By wrecking woman, the whole world can be wrecked—the role of woman at the Fall is evidence of this.
Confusion about who we are is rampant today. At other times, man wondered about who he was and what his purpose was—now, the question is ignored or closed before it is really answered, and people are left with only vague ideas based on biology, sociology and psychology. Within this general confusion is confusion about sex roles or “gender” roles as they are now called. Men and women no longer understand themselves and their roles. Further, femininity for women and masculinity for men are not ideals; rather, masculinity in women and femininity in men are encouraged. Tomboy girls and “sensitive” men are admired. From this confusion comes “transgender children” as young as four who are “choosing” to live as the opposite sex. From this confusion comes “same-sex” marriage which is not marriage at all. From this confusion come families broken down by divorce, young women’s lives scarred by sexual promiscuity and many, many lives lost to abortion. Feminists encouraged this confusion and called it healthy, and now they and the world celebrate the results.
On one side of the coin of feminism are glorious stories of the first woman to do this or that. Amelia Earhart, for example, is a major American historical figure. On the other side of the coin is divorce, birth control and abortion—Earhart was a strident advocate for birth control and had an “open” marriage with her husband.
All the so-called good effects of feminism such as increased opportunities for women in education and work are inextricably tied to the bad aspects such as birth control and abortion. In the feminist vision, a woman’s personal freedom is dependent on economic freedom which in turn is dependent on “reproductive freedom” (because a woman who stays at home having babies can never be “fulfilled”). If a woman can’t control the number and timing of pregnancies she has, it is hard to pursue the career that gives her economic independence and personal fulfillment.
Most women, self-proclaimed feminists or not, perpetuate the lie of “having it all.” In their own private lives, however, they can’t help but recognize the impossibility of it. On occasion, women speak out about this impossibility. After actress Drew Barrymore had her first child she candidly said in an interview that women can’t have it all:
It sucks when you’ve worked really hard for certain things and you have to give them up because you know that you’re going to miss out on your child’s upbringing, or you realize that your relationship has suffered…I can’t direct right now because I would miss out on my daughter. It was heartbreaking to let it go, but it was a clear choice…I was raised in that generation of women can have it all, and I don’t think you can. I think some things fall off the table…
For the Catholic woman it should be obvious: God is not going to judge her on how successful she was in her career, but she will have to account for how she cared for her children. However, even Catholic women who are obedient to the Church’s teachings on sexual morality fall into the feminist trap of desperately trying to fulfill the feminist ideal of “having it all” and wearing themselves and their families out in pursuit of this illusory dream.
G.K. Chesterton saw the futility and absurdity of feminism:
I do not deny that women have been wronged and even tortured; but I doubt if they were ever tortured so much as they are tortured now by the absurd modern attempt to make them domestic empresses and competitive clerks at the same time. I do not deny that even under the old tradition women had a harder time than men; that is why we take off our hats. I do not deny that all these various female functions were exasperating; but I say that there was some aim and meaning in keeping them various. (The Emancipation of Domesticity)
Ultimately, feminism is a misguided search for freedom. Are women freer now than at any other time in history? Freedom comes from living in accordance with God’s law, so I think not.
The women and men who created the feminist movement and its ideology had mistaken ideas about the human person and God’s role in our lives. Therefore, they cannot be the architects of a society that fosters freedom for women or for anyone. Further, if we believe what we say we believe as Catholics, why would we ascribe to any ideology or solution created by those that are anti-Catholic? Yet, we have gotten to the point where Catholic women see no problem in joining their Catholic faith with feminism, and there are no Fr. Machebeuf’s or Cardinal Gibbons’ to tell them otherwise.
In this three-part post I’ve discussed why Catholicism and feminism cannot be reconciled. How did we get to the point where this attempt has been made at reconciling them? This will be the topic of my next post.