“Woman is weak and looks up to man to provide for her, just as the moon receives its strength from the sun. For this reason she is subject to man and should always be prepared to serve him.” St. Hildegard of Bingen (Book of Divine Works IV, 65)
Woman’s role is described in Scripture,[i] which has been a guide for human behaviour down through the centuries. Saints and popes have written about it,[ii] teaching the meaning of Scripture for the benefit of all men and women. Other interested individuals have also added to the discussion about woman’s role,[iii] up until our time when feminist and other ideological positions have superseded rational, thoughtful discussion about how best to order our lives.
In previous times woman’s role was generally understood to be that of wife and mother in the home under the authority of her husband. This role was viewed as part of a natural and God-given order. Woman was created as man’s helpmate and wives are subject to their husbands. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa that it was right for the woman to be made from the rib of man “to signify the social union of man and woman, for the woman should neither ‘use authority over man,’ and so she was not made from his head; nor was it right for her to be subject to man’s contempt as his slave, and so she was not made from his feet.”
In his 1869 essay The Woman Question, Catholic writer Orestes Brownson put it thusly:
Of course, we hold that the woman was made for the man, not the man for the woman, and that the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, not the wife of the husband…We are Catholics, and the church has always held in high honor chaste, modest, and worthy women as matrons, widows, or virgins. Her calendar has a full proportion of female saints, whose names she proposes to the honor and veneration of all the faithful. She bids the wife obey her husband in the Lord; but asserts her moral independence of him, leaves her conscience free, and holds her accountable for her own deeds.
St. Pius X in an address given to a delegation of the Union of Italian Catholic Women in 1909, stated:
After creating man, God created woman and determined her mission, namely, that of being man’s companion, helpmeet and consolation…It is a mistake, therefore, to maintain that woman’s rights are the same as man’s. Women in war or parliament are outside their proper sphere and their position. There would be the desperation and ruin of society. Woman, created as man’s companion, must so remain under the power of love and affection, but always under his power. How mistaken, therefore, is that misguided feminism which seeks to correct God’s work. It is like a mechanic trying to correct the signs and movements of the universe. Scripture, and especially the three epistles of St. Paul, emphasizes woman’s dependence on man, her love and assistance, but not her slavery to him.
Woman’s subjection as expressed by St. Hildegard in the quote above is anathema to modern man’s sense of right and wrong. It conjures up dramatic images of unhappy housewives and timid women being tormented by abusive husbands. However, as it is found both in Scripture and Catholic Tradition woman’s subjection has nothing to do with such things. In its proper context, that of both men and women being subject to God and the authority of the Church, it is not harmful to women. Rather, it is the just and good order of things—an order set down by God in His wisdom.
While it is true that there are men who abuse their position of authority by mistreating women, such abuse is not the norm, particularly in a Christian social order.
It was Protestantism that warped the Christian idea of woman and her role; it unhinged woman’s subjection to her husband from her, and both of their subjection to Christ and His Church. The relationship between man and woman became distorted,[iv] and man’s authority over woman was interpreted as absolute. Protestantism also destroyed the high ideal—higher than marriage—of the virgin consecrated to God and of the religious life as an inspired vocation for a woman. With Protestantism came the idea that woman was made for one thing only: marriage and motherhood.[v]
Hence, it is in Protestantism that we find the roots of certain women’s discontent[vi] which eventually lead to feminism and, ironically, of women’s abandonment of their traditional role as wife and mother in the home. However, there is a much earlier development to take into account.
A “Jezebel Spirit”[vii] has been with us since the Garden of Eden when Eve in her pride and vanity usurped the authority of Adam. Queen Jezebel likewise usurped the authority of King Ahab and rejected his headship over her. We know well the damage inflicted upon mankind by the actions of such women who were disobedient and acted outside of their proper sphere.
Feminism has its origins in a 19th century Protestant milieu and is founded upon an attitude of Revolution[viii] and the political philosophy of liberalism. Previously, the Jezebel Spirit had risen up in individual women—Eve, Jezebel herself, and countless other women throughout history, known and unknown. As the spirit of liberalism pervaded the West, completing man’s rebellion against his subjection to God and the authority of the Catholic Church—beginning with the Protestant Revolt and finding explicit expression in the French Revolution—the social order and man’s life with it became more and more disordered (up to the current times in which the West lies in a degraded and chaotic state).
Within this growing disorder with its denial of Truth and even of reality, the Jezebel Spirit began to thrive and became organized. This is feminism, an ideology that has taken over men’s and women’s lives to the point that they no longer notice it—like fluoride in the water.[ix]
Feminism at its core is a rejection of God’s authority and the authority of the Catholic Church—over the social order as well as over individual lives. First, men threw off the authority of the Church, from the Protestant Revolt on, then, women followed by throwing off the authority of their husbands.
Protestantism provided both the reason for feminist women’s discontent, as stated earlier, by warping the Christian idea of woman and her role, as well as the seed of the Revolutionary spirit with which she eventually tried to solve the problem of her discontent. You cannot use error to solve error, however, although this seems to sum up the strategy of politicians and policy makers today.[x]
Feminism, like its parentage, hinges on the rejection of authority due to human pride. The proud Jezebel Spirit—now having such dominance and power in the social order, owing to feminism—is constantly at play, and is a continual source of destruction of what is good.
A prime example of this destruction is the “working mother.”
Feminism ripped woman from the home to destabilize family and home life. Feminist leaders realized women would always want to have children, so they integrated motherhood into feminist ideology.[xi] Feminism denigrated homemaking and glorified work outside the home, but it didn’t suggest women forego having children altogether. Daycare, birth control and abortion were made available to women to take care of the problem motherhood poses to the modern woman’s climb out of the home and up the career ladder. Hence, we have the new norm of the working mother.
The working mother is the genius idea of feminism—that is, it is the means to keep women from the home to destroy it: let them have babies, but not very many, and offer them easy means, daycares and imported cheap labour, of not having to be tied down to their children day in and day out. Suggesting women not have babies wouldn’t have worked—the childless Gloria Steinem figure does not resonate with the average woman, while the Sheryl Sandberg figure does. Feminism cannot rid women of their maternal instinct, but it can and does mess with it.
The working mother destroys family and home life, and also attempts to destroy womanhood itself. A woman who participates in the modern workforce divests herself of the traits and virtues central to her womanhood in order to compete and “get ahead.” What are those traits? Modesty, obedience, gentleness, caring, and her capacity to nurture the development of others whilst making a sacrifice of her own life. These traits are naturally brought to the fore when a woman concentrates her energies on being a wife and mother, while they are squandered and made impotent at the office. In the modern workplace she must assert herself over others, not sacrifice herself for others, and she must concern herself with her own development, not nurture the development of others.
The woman who earns her own paycheque fulfills the cardinal rule of feminism: independence from men, which gives her the sense that she is her own authority and not subject to her husband. Hence, the natural and God-given hierarchical structure of the family and society is undermined, creating chaos and decay in the social order.
And where are men in all this? Feminism has made a mockery of womanhood, but it has been even more devastating to manhood. Neutralizing masculinity is an integral part of the feminist vision.
On one side of the coin there is the Jezebel Spirit, and on the other, the spirit of Ahab—that is, the sometimes tendency of men to shrink and flee from responsibility.[xii] Contrary to what feminist ideology has instilled in our minds, it is not the strong “alpha male” type who is the problem—there is no epidemic of campus rape or workplace sexual harassment[xiii]—it is the weak, effeminate man who fails to exercise his authority who is the problem.
Much of feminism has been directed at making Ahabs of all men—this is the flipside of women’s empowerment—men’s emasculization.
Can women be empowered without the figurative castration of the men around them? No, they cannot. It’s a requirement for women to get ahead because women are the weaker vessel. For women to lead, men must allow them to. It is not a true competition—the system is now set up to give the weaker vessel the edge she requires. She’s given a boost in a myriad of ways from Title IX to subsidized daycare to legalized contraception to the figurative castration of men by identifying them all as potential rapists.
Feminism has so taken hold and is so successful that a good man who exercises his authority well is simply not allowed. He who leads with courage, decisiveness, wisdom and foresight is no more. Feminists didn’t want to rid society of the few barbaric rapists running around, they wanted to neuter all men of their power and authority. The current anti-sexual harassment campaign expressed in the Twitter hashtags #metoo and #timesup are aimed at this end.
We are not and never will be living in a utopian garden of equality—there is a hierarchical order that exists to govern the relationship between men and women. It existed in man’s condition before the Fall, and is there whether we acknowledge it or not. In short, Ephesians 5:22 cannot be ignored.
Men must take leadership and responsibility even when they feel inadequate, and women need to deny their own wills and obey their husbands.[xiv] This is necessary to foster masculinity in men and stabilize the family and help set aright our chaotic social order.
However, this cannot be advised without recognizing a certain reality: we in the West, especially in North America, live in a social order created by Protestantism. Protestantism is a revolt against the authority of the Catholic Church, and a social order created by it is hostile to Catholicism. The Protestant Revolt shattered the good order of medieval Christian Europe and offered men a distorted version of Christianity. Our goal should be a return to a Catholic social order, or, a return to Christendom. Without a Catholic State, we cannot have a well-ordered society.
Pope St. Pius X wrote in Notre Charge Apostolique in 1910:
We must repeat with the utmost energy in these times of social and intellectual anarchy when everyone takes it upon himself to teach as a teacher and lawmaker – the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be setup unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants.
The overachieving progeny of the Protestant Revolt—feminism—has organized the Jezebel Spirit and exploited it until it has become a monstrous force in the social order. Its tentacles are everywhere wrapped tightly, and it will take nothing short of a true counter-revolution to stop it.