The 12-year-old daughter of a Catholic friend of mine recently joined Facebook and "friended" me. I was stunned when, over the course of the first few hours of our "friendship," I watched as she posted a series of provocative photos that, to my mind at least, demonstrated a girl far more "worldly" than her years. Later that night, she began posting her favorite designers and her top five TV shows, which included the likes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Now, I had no idea what this show was about, so I googled it and learned, unfortunately, that its episodes include such high-brow fare as the girls going to Mexico for a Girls Gone Wild photo shoot, one of the girls posing for Playboy, the girls going to Vegas and one learning she may be pregnant, and on and on. Other favorite shows on the 12-year-old's list weren't much better.
I couldn't understand the whole thing. The obviously unfiltered -- by parents -- Facebook page, the choice of entertainment, the choice of dress, all happening in a Catholic home where Catholic education is a mainstay. The mom is highly intelligent, a former religion teacher, and a feminist (pro-life as far as I know). If this kind of family can fall prey to the seduction of the secular culture with its misguided view of women, what hope is there for those who don't have the benefit of faith and values?
All of this got me thinking about the strange dichotomy between secular feminists and secular culture. Why aren't secular feminists outraged by the constant portrayal of women as nothing more than objects designed for the pleasure of men? Why aren't they out on the streets protesting the rampant rise in pornography, the renewed stereotyping of females according to body measurements, the effort by the media to convince young girls that being an overtly sexual female is what will make them a successful female.
The secular culture loves to cast the Catholic Church as anti-woman, pointing to the all-male priesthood and the ban on birth control, and yet it is the Church that continually strives to protect the dignity of women and to promote a true appreciation for feminine genius and feminine influence in a culture that really couldn't care less about any of that.
As I was ruminating on all of this, I happened upon a YouTube clip of Catholic University law professor Helen Alvare discussing the "New Feminism" as described by Pope John Paul II. In the five-minute clip, she addresses the Church's appreciation of and respect for the inherent and vital qualities that women bring not only to the family but to the public square, qualities that have everything to do with intelligence and compassion and strength and nothing to do with the warped secularized view of the female role in society. Take a few minutes and watch it, if you can. (UPDATED COPY: The Alvare video was recorded as a Mother's Day feature for Fathers for Good, a program of the Knights of Columbus.)
If you'd like to learn more about the New Feminism, visit ENDOW, the Denver-based organization that helps women "discover their God-given dignity and understand their role in humanizing and transforming society." ENDOW has small study groups throughout the country. For more information, click HERE.