Time for a Non-Feminist Reappraisal of the Role of Women

The rank confusion spawned by the push for transgenderism is a direct result of the contemporary feminist movement, which came to the fore and started to transform American life fifty years ago. It is one of the most insidious effects of feminism and underscores the urgent need to put forth a reasonable, non-feminist—indeed, non-ideological—understanding of women’s role in society. It should be set out and insistently argued for in public and private discussion so that the feminist foundations of current social thinking can be dismantled.

This is a big topic, so I single out only a few major areas to comment on: women and work, women in the military, women in the Church, and the effects of the wholesale embracing of the contraceptive ethic and the 1960s Sexual Revolution—which contemporary feminism spun off from—on women.

As far as work is concerned, a sensible view would reject the feminist mantra that men and women are essentially interchangeable. It is foolish to claim that relative differences in physical strength have no bearing on some jobs or that some situations are not appropriate for women. So while it is fine and good for women to be in the professions (where their numbers have exploded)—the academy, journalism, politics, finance, etc.—it might not be quite as desirable for them to be coal miners, construction workers, trash collectors, or even firefighters. (Indeed, as someone said to me recently, couldn’t a woman firefighter’s lack of sufficient physical strength determine whether or not a person caught in a fire is rescued?) Isn’t the dignity of women something to also keep in mind? Is it desirable for women to be subjected to the crudeness that one encounters among men in certain rough occupations? While women have been an elevating moral force for men historically, this becomes less true when they are overwhelmed in certain job situations. Is that part of the reason why we now see a coarsening of women’s manners and attitudes?

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In talking about women and work, it’s time for a new vision that emphasizes the fact that the innate nurturing character of women—part of their nature as mothers—has meant that certain jobs are especially going to attract them, such as those involving patient care in the health care field and the teaching of young children. We should commend women who go into those fields, instead of being dismissive of them as feminists often are. Moreover, we need to stress the necessity to respect women who choose to be stay-at-home mothers. Feminists have long denigrated such women. Beyond opposing these views, we need to applaud women who recognize the importance of full-time motherhood. In doing so, of course, we are following what the Church teaches. Also, remembering that the economy is meant for persons and not the other way around, we should stress something that John Paul II said: because the family is so vitally important for society, work should be restructured so that women who leave the workforce to raise a family—this is especially pertinent to professional women—should be able to reenter it later on without facing considerable disadvantage.

The consequences of America’s rush to “sexually integrate” the military were exposed by Brian P. Mitchell as long as thirty years ago in his book Weak Link: The Feminization of the American Military, which garnered much attention. Additional exposés have come out since showing how physical standards are lowered for women, women in the military experience more health and injury problems than men (and are discharged for them much more frequently), discharges for pregnancy are frequent (and married military women wanting to conceive have heightened fertility problems), the weakening of readiness is caused by the fact that military training has become “kinder and gentler” to accommodate women, and physical and sexual abuse of women captured by enemy nations during combat would be very likely. (It is astounding that feminists are indifferent to this likelihood.) Indeed, the overwhelming number of problems found in sex-integrated units and in combat effectiveness are when women join men on the front lines. Despite this litany of problems, there is hardly any debate about the role of women in the military, whether they should be in combat units, or whether the military is appropriate for women at all. It is said that if male officers raise any of these questions their careers could soon be over.

What is needed is an insistent, courageous public questioning about such matters as these as one part of a renewed inquiry regarding the role of women after the cultural carnage caused by feminism. The aim, of course, is to build a new understanding of women’s role that comports with reality and the nature of man and woman that is not encumbered by feminist ideology or by unreasonable older attitudes that inappropriately limited female opportunities in a way that helped propel feminism in the first place.

As far as women in the Church is concerned, the current consideration of women in the diaconate is misplaced. Almost certainly, the “deaconesses” of the early Church were not the equivalent of today’s deacons, i.e., men in Holy Orders. They did not receive any kind of sacramental ordination. This question should be put to rest and more attention given to something like restoring and strengthening women’s religious orders that have been decimated since Vatican II—in no small way because of the seeping of feminist thinking into the Church. Another change should be the prohibition of altar girls. John Paul II’s troublesome decision should be reversed even if it was made as a way to stave off resistance to his reaffirmation of the all-male priesthood.

The key point here is symbolism, the importance of which should never be underestimated. Altar boys were once referred to as “little priests.” One can’t underestimate the tendency in a generally poorly catechized generation to be open to the false notion that women can become priests or deacons because they see girls around the altar. (Indeed, we hear that in some parishes the servers are mostly girls because as their numbers have increased the boys have come to see it as a “girls’ thing.”) In almost every parish, women do commendable work, mostly as volunteers—in fact, one could easily think they are the ones keeping parishes going in their day-to-day operations. Again, as with jobs, shouldn’t we take advantage of the innate strengths of girlhood and womanhood in our parishes? For example, wouldn’t there be a stronger spirit of welcoming in parishes if people coming to Sunday Mass were met by young girls acting as “greeters”?

Finally, it’s time to stop being intimidated by those ridiculing the defenders of traditional—that is, true—sexual morality. There is a need to become ever more courageous and emphatic in defending it. What is necessary, however, is not just to state it, but to instruct—that is, to explain why it is correct. A good place to start, which might get the attention of some of those not readily inclined to listen—is by talking about the consequences of discarding it. The evidence for this is abundant and all around us. Moreover, people need to speak up about this and even bring it up when appropriate in all kinds of contexts (including in their private social circles and among their friends and acquaintances). The defenders of true sexual morality too often make the same mistake as conservative politicians: they oppose but fail to educate. It needs to be conveyed to women—young women, particularly—how they are the main victims of the Sexual Revolution, and how it has been their dignity that has been undermined. It is they who are objectified, they who are mostly the ones who are used, they who bear the burdens of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, and they who face the often ongoing economic disadvantages that result from this. Another issue that even not-so-young women might pay attention to is how the Sexual Revolution made possible no-fault divorce. The case needs to be made as to how virginity and sexual abstinence before marriage are what truly uphold a woman’s dignity and how “hooking up,” sexually provocative behavior, and even immodest dress do not.

Regarding contraception, it is necessary to drive home to women the much suppressed fact—especially by the medical profession—of the physical health consequences of its use. This might make young women wonder if even “protected” nonmarital sex is really worth it. Contracepting married women who are against abortion—many are Catholics and evangelical Protestants—should be informed that many birth control pills are abortifacient. There also should be no reluctance to inform them that natural family planning is effective and not onerous. This might motivate them to reevaluate their contraceptive use. Probably the opening assault on the Sexual Revolution needs to be an assault on contraception.

Feminists claim that men should have nothing to say about women’s roles. It’s almost as if men are not allowed to be concerned about the most fundamental of human relationships, that between men and women. I’m one man who won’t buckle under to them, and it is time for clear-thinking men and women to challenge them and help enunciate a more reasonable vision of the role of women such as discussed here.

(Photo credit: Shutterstock)


  • Stephen M. Krason

    Stephen M. Krason is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists.

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