a philosophy which emphasizes a belief in an integral complementarity of men and women, rather than the superiority of men over women or women over men; the idea that women and men are different and equal, and that the equality is not defined by one being able to be like or do the same as the other gender, but that their humanity defines their equality while their gender differences define their complementarity. New Feminism believes that women are defined by their femininity, not their attempts at being like a man or masking their unique feminine qualities. New Feminism does not attempt to hide, deny, or alter the natural femininity of women, but instead celebrates and exemplifies the unique perfection of the woman as made in God's image. New Feminism's main aim is to promote the idea that women are individuals with equal worth as men; and that in social, economic and legal senses they should be equal, while accepting the natural differences between the sexes.
New Feminism has a long history originated by the Catholic Church at its inception two thousand years ago. More recently it has seen a revival in secular circles as feminists across the globe and spanning economic, cultural and societal backgrounds have responded to Pope Saint John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life") which "rejects the temptation of imitating models of 'male domination' in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation". "The true genius of women" is the idea that all of the ways in which women give of themselves are ways that reflect their capacity for physical or spiritual motherhood.
In Evangelium Vitae, Pope Saint John Paul II (JP2) describes his belief that men and women are formed as complementary human beings, whose purpose, strengths and weaknesses are reflected in the physical make-up of their bodies. In 1988, John Paul II sent out an apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, or, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, in which he called on women to value their "feminine genius" (from Greek "ingenium" which is properly understood as
- innate or natural quality, natural character; nature
- disposition, temper, inclination
- intelligence, natural capacity and should not be read as meaning an intellectual aptitude)
JP2 further doubled-down on his exhortations in his Apostolic Letter to Women in 1995.
New Feminism and The Body
New Feminism promotes an understanding of the human person as one who is made in the image and likeness of God for the purpose of union and communion. New Feminism celebrates distinct differences in the ways in which men and women make a sincere gift of themselves through the 'nuptial meaning of the body', and see these gifts as shedding light on the mysteries of God and their own vocation, mission and dignity.
As further regards The Body, New Feminism believes and acknowledges:
- that the different bodily structures of men and women lead both to different lived experiences.
- that the different ways in which men and women give life physically reveal how they give life emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.
- that being a woman means being a mother; whether or not they do it well, women are physically structured to be mothers, to develop life within their wombs. The physical capacity for motherhood gives rise to psychological, spiritual and emotional characteristics that women would need to be mothers.
- that regardless of whether or not a woman ever gives birth, she has the capacity for maternal love in spiritual motherhood.
The Feminine Genius
"The Feminine Genius" refers to the idea that all of the ways in which women give of themselves are ways that reflect their capacity for physical or spiritual motherhood. See Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Woman's Journey by Katrina Zeno for in-depth reflection on this.
The ways that women give of themselves that reflect their unique (meaning men cannot do these) capacity for physical or spiritual motherhood include:
Receptivity. Only women are created with a physical empty space inside of themselves with the sole purpose of receiving another person. When a woman conceives, she gives a gift of self - her own body - in order that their child can receive the gift of life. (From On the privilege of being a Woman by Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, January 14, 1997). Because of this uniqueness, "a woman's entire being is oriented toward receiving and nurturing new life." Zeno
Emphasis on the Person
Emphasis on the Person. Because they can receive, conceive and develop life within their wombs, women have a specifically unique openness to a new person - her child. This inherently imbues women with the capacity to unify humanity because we were all once united with our mothers in their wombs - we have a singular, physically associative sameness in our terrestrial origin. "[W]oman tends naturally to wholeness and self-containment." (From Of Pillars and Spores: The Genius of Woman by Sister Renee Mirkes, 2000)
Empathetic Nature. Because of the physical imperative to care for her child developing within her womb and as an infant, a women has "a profound need to share [their lives] with another and, consequently, a capacity for unselfish love, for commitment, a capacity to transcend the self..." (See Edith Stein's Essays on Woman.) The gift of subjectivity comports to empathy.
Obedience, Dependence, and Inter-Dependence
Obedience, Dependence and Inter-Dependence. In order for life to be physically conceived, a woman must allow a man to be inside of her and remain there. Independence, isolation and autonomy do not cause or infuse life, but instead refute and deny its possibility - a woman's willingness to be receptive to the man and yield to him (See Mary Shivanandan's Feminism and Marriage, the section on "The Subjectivity of Man and Woman in Marriage") is a natural imperative for life. For New Feminists, this does not mean inequality where two leaders are constantly competing and fighting for the top. Women show men how to listen to the opinions of others, accept others into their hearts and minds, and allow God to work within them. This is the fiat mentality. caldecott As Dr. Alice von Hildebrand explains, "Authority is...not the same thing as moral superiority."
Guidance of Man
Guidance of Man. Women seek to draw out the best of man in the sexual act through all levels of his being. A man shares in parenthood, but naturally remains outside the process of pregnancy and birth. Because of this, a man, it can be argued, has to learn to be a father from the mother. Women thus lead men to become all they can be as fathers, reflecting the fatherhood of God (from The Teachers of Man, for the Church as Bride by Anne-Marie Pelletier.
New Feminism does not discourage voting; contrarily, it encourages women to participate actively in modern political life. For example, Edith Stein wrote in 1932, "[L]egislative and administrative functions also require direct feminine collaboration. Women are needed to deliberate, resolve, and initiate laws."
Protction of Life
Protection of Life. Because life within her womb is helpless, a woman has a specific, instinctive vocation to and proclivity for caring for those who cannot care for themselves - the weak, the poor, the outcast, infirm - any whom society may have deemed without value. New Feminism knows that women are designed to protect their children, and they believe it to be specifically unnatural when women support abortion, infanticide, embryonic stem cell research, or in-vitro fertilization. See Maggie Gallagher's Enemies of Eros: How the Sexual Revolution is killing Families, Marriage and Sex and what we can do about it.
Sanctity and Modesty
Sanctity and Modesty. Creation of life takes place within a woman, so New Feminism practices a sense of modesty to guard against the exploitation, objectification of or immoral temptation towards the sacredness of the woman's body (from Domestic Tranquility by F. Carolyn Craglia, 1998 - See an interview with the author concerning the book and this topic here). Only total love - unconditional commitment and mutual self-giving in marriage - "has the capacity to absorb the shame of human nature." This naturally leads to the New Feminist dictate against unmarried couples living together and having sex outside of marriage.
New Feminism and Masculinity
To the New Feminist, being a Dad means spiritual priesthood - A man's giving of his body and blood for the sanctification of the world. It was because Jesus gave his body and blood away both as a sacrifice for his Church and as a gift to the Church in the form of the Eucharist that new spiritual life could be conceived. "A man is 'head' of his wife not to stroke his own ego, but in order to give up his body for her" and thus create new life. As keepers of the Eucharist, men are entrusted with the body and blood of Christ. All men, whether single or married, are entrusted with woman - the body of the Church. "She is their Eucharist." zeno
All Dads embracing to the utmost their Spiritual Aptitude, according to New Feminists, also have a responsibility to protect the mutual self-giving of man and woman. This sense of protection of their wives and families is also built into a man's physical capacities - in the greater physical strength of men, generally speaking, as well as their psychological need to feel competent and capable. (see The Silence of Adam: Becoming Men of Courage in a World of Chaos by Dr. Larry Crabb, 1998).
By these understandings, I believe that in order to become a ManHusbandDad, one must embrace the New Feminism as the path to fulfilling the natural vocation of Fatherhood through first being a Man.
You shall know New Feminists by their actions
Tenets of New Feminism are distinctively non-gender specific: One does not have to be a woman or a man to hold or espouse or live these tenets with complete understanding and experience.
Distinction, not Discrimination. "Discrimination is an evil, but distinction is God's design." Zeno To the New Feminist, men and women are different and this difference is naturally and divinely, purposefully meant to affect the way they live their lives, what they care about, and their strengths and weaknesses. A woman should fulfill this vocational calling by being spiritual mothers in whatever their role: as wife, mother, consecrated woman, working professional, or single woman. To a New Feminist, differences between the sexes are never to be used to unilaterally discriminate. Distinction is the justification for gender-based separation in instances when a task is subjectively contingent upon a person being of a certain sex. For Catholics, this includes the priesthood for men and motherhood for women.
Marriage as Communion. New Feminism knows that marriage is a reciprocal self-giving of persons in free, total, faithful and fruitful communion (See Mary Shivanandan Forming a community of Persons: the rights, dignity, and role of men and women: a response, 1993). Marriage is not a "partnership" and requires mutual service towards and for one another. A communion can only take place between persons who are united in their difference, male and female, not between those of the same sex (whose joining can never be fruitful). Universally, all of humanity is part of an interpersonal communion ( See Pope Saint John Paul II's General Audience of November 14, 1979, also included in Evangelium Vitae).
Celebration of the Family and the Home. New Feminists know that true feminism includes - but is not just about - women: it is about the Family - individually and collectively in the Church and Humanity. The family is the foundational unit of society, but since the dawn of time countless women have been forced to leave their home and their children because of social, economic or political pressures (See Shavananda: Nurturing as a basic right and responsibility) ; Fraiberg Every child's birthright: in defense of mothering ; and Glendon Feminism and family an indissoulble marriage ). Women's work as mothers and in the home must be valued as complete and good in and of itself - a career or external occupation meant to validate a woman's self-worth, value to society and accomplishments is incompatible with New Feminism.
Love and Service. New Feminists know that other "feminisms" are obsessed with power, domination and visible forms of authority and these incomplete "feminisms" claim that such qualities are masculine and faulty. New Feminists plainly see the bitterness, hatred, and retribution of illegitimate "feminisms" against men or other women for real or imagined transgressions and we New Feminists argue that men and women should cooperate with one another in interpersonal communion.Graglia In other words, New Feminists give of themselves in mutual service and love. New Feminists avoid the militant feminist tactic of consciousness raising because we believe this form of activism encourages venting, bitterness and creates wedges and even greater disparity instead of mutual commitment (per Janne Haaland-Matlary, "The paradox for modern man is, of course, that Christian power is equal to service." from Men and Women in Family, Society and Politics. 2005.)
Freedom Embraces Purpose, Rights and Oughts. New Feminists know that men and women can only truly be free when they act in accordance with the way they are psychologically and emotionally structured as sexed human persons. The New Feminists' philosophy and religion, then, are essential components in the search for how men and women should and ought to act for "a higher truth or good", not just how they want or can act (See Alvare, A New Feminism, 1997). New Feminists know that people must remember God and purpose to recognize that life is a gift and not something which a person can claim as his or her exclusive property to do with what he or she pleases (See Glendon Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse 2008).
Fruitfulness along with Productivity. New Feminists know that, while productivity is valuable, helpful and necessary, it is a very masculine way of looking at actions; we must also be fruitful - which takes longer, requires patience and cooperation with and of others, and is appreciated but not necessarily measured. To us and act of service is a witness to and proclamation of the worth of the human person and intrinsically and naturally nudges forward the progress of the whole human race. Zeno
Fertility. Fertility is a natural, healthy biological process, not a disease from which a woman seeks a cure with a pill (See Smith, Contraception. Why Not? 1994). If a woman respects her fertility - her natural potential for physical and spiritual motherhood - fruit will have a place to grow. When a woman contracepts, she denies the basic defining factor of her womanhood - her ability be a mother - and rejects it, turning it, at best, into an unwanted intrusion and at worst an abomination and mistake of nature's God (See Shivanandan, Body narratives: language of truth?, 2000. The New Feminist knows that a contracepted body is separated from spirit and purpose and is objectified for the pursuit of pleasure alone. The man, in contracepting, rejects the woman's fertility as well - he denies that which is the very definition of the woman - her ability to achieve motherhood. Their communion is now is a sterile culture, where physical and spiritual fruit is prohibited from growing. It follows, then, that New Feminists discuss the spiritual, emotional, and physical benefits for men and women by following natural family planning or otherwise embracing trust in God and welcoming Him into their bedroom as part of the physically and spiritually intimate act instead of debasing sex to a form of physical entertainment by utilizing contraception. Shivanandan
ManHusbandDad notes on New Feminism
Much of the above was culled from various online sources and re-ordered and paraphrased to provide consistency with the feel and readability of this web site. These are not my original ideas, but a compilation of ideas, principles and practices that span thousands of years and that I am learning from.
I are particularly proud that a majority of the citations above are from women - New Feminists all, though some nearly one hundred years separated from their first utterance.
As I embrace, understand and teach New Feminism, I believe it is impossible to have a complete understanding of the philosophy, movement, and its implementation without taking under serious study the many resources cited above. While I am convinced that men who do not need to be retrained to be ManHusbandDads already naturally embrace and practice New Feminism as they have for millennia, the resources above provide for clarity in evangelizing this principle to others.
For me, these principles are taught, espoused, and practiced daily in the Catholic Church, and much of it I have learned through that resource.
I believe that one cannot be a ManHusbandDad without the principle of New Feminism firmly in hand, heart, and mind as revealed by one's lifestyle.