In my first post (and on the “About” page) I told you about my vision for this blog and about who “the new feminist” is. If you’re not already familiar with the term “new feminism,” though, you’re probably still wondering what on earth it’s all about. So I’d like to give you a little background.
Pope St. John Paul II coined the term “new feminism” in his writings on women as a way to designate the need for a feminism that is grounded in faith and upholds the dignity of women and of all human life. Not to be confused with “new wave feminism,” which denies the differences between men and women and all too often is a vehicle for attacks on marriage, family, and even men, new feminism embraces the complementarity, as well as the equality, of men and women. John Paul II used the term “feminine genius” to describe the unique gifts entrusted to women. These primarily include maternity (both physical and spiritual), generosity, sensitivity, and receptivity. In recognizing these particularly feminine attributes, new feminism does not limit women or imply that they are “less than” men. Quite the opposite: it acknowledges that women can and should be present in all areas of society, and on an equal footing with men, precisely because they have so much to contribute to the world as women. It frees women to embrace who they are, rather than trying to conform to a man’s world. John Paul II knew all too well the discrimination and injustice women have faced throughout history, and to a great extent still do. He believed that the feminist movement had brought great progress in many ways and praised the courageous women who fought for the right to be heard. However, he also recognized that this progress had come at a cost. Today, feminism tells women that just being a woman isn’t good enough. It tells them that they must reject the very things that make them a woman in order to be successful, and that success is only measured in terms of professional accomplishment. Stay at home moms and women who make sacrifices in their career to accommodate children and family are often looked down upon. On the other hand, Catholics who see the wrong turn feminism has taken sometimes run too far in the other direction, rejecting any talk of women’s rights, or arguing that working moms are somehow un-Catholic. John Paul II taught us that we can be Catholics and feminists. In order to do that, though, we need a NEW FEMINISM.
If you’re interested in learning more, I strongly encourage you to read some of John Paul II’s writings on women. “Letter to Women” is a great one to start with, as it’s very accessible and not too long. You can then go on to others, of which my favorite is “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.” You can find these documents by following these links:
There is also a great organization, Endow, which publishes study guides and trains women to lead study groups on topics surrounding surrounding the nature and dignity of women. (Disclaimer: this blog is not affiliated with Endow. I am a trained facilitator, but I am not paid to talk about Endow; I just think it is awesome!) If you want to learn more about what they do, or maybe even find a study group in your area, check out http://www.endowgroups.org.