Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Catholic feminism

A young woman asks on the occasion of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade... Is There Such a Thing as a Pro-Life Feminist?

I’m going to try to make it simple. What does it mean to be a feminist? Can you be both pro-life and a feminist? First, looking up “feminism” in the dictionary, leads me to this definition:

the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men

Hmm…ok, pretty simple to understand. There’s no formula or step-by-step beliefs you must ascribe to in order to fit into this category. Basically, a feminist believes that women deserve equal rights—in all areas of life—to men. A feminist is pro-woman. This simple definition leads me to five conclusions.

1) Anyone, including a man, can be a feminist. Ok, this really is a serious article, but silly thoughts first. I find it very odd when women fighting for their equal rights shun men who also want to fight for women’s equal rights. We should welcome them! Men can be pro-women. Men can believe in equal rights for women. I know. I happen to have exactly two brothers, one father, and one husband like this. And they’re not rare in my circle of friends. Feminists should not be anti-men.

2) Though “rights” should be equal, talents or roles cannot always be. There is a big, big, BIG difference in saying that women should have the right to play sports and saying that women can play tackle football just as well as men. Personally, while women may arguably have the right to play any sport they want, I will not be allowing my daughter to get tackled and splatted to kingdom come by 250 pound men. Just a thought. Now if there was only an all-women’s football team…

Seriously, though, watch small children, and you will see that there is an inherent difference in little boys and little girls. We are created differently and we suit different roles better. It’s not a violation of “equal rights” to say that women and men are different.

But what if 1 and 2 are in opposition? What part of the definition of justice requires that what is unlike must be made like?

Some rights may pertain to all in so far as they are human. But what if some rights pertain specifically to men as male (and all that is attendant upon being of that sex) and some specifically to women as female (and all that is attendant upon being of that sex)? Equal pay may sound nice, but does a woman have the same responsibility to the family as a father? Even if women claim they are willing to shoulder 1/2 or all of the burden of financially supporting a family, how many of them would be satisfied with a man willing to give up that role?

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