The other day I opened a news magazine. The mannish face of a young woman stared at me from the glossy page. It was one of those faces that one could describe as almost handsome even though it was a woman’s. Yes, handsome was certainly the adjective; not beautiful or pretty, but handsome. The jaw was too wide, the features too chiseled, the expression too hard, to merit the usual feminine adjectives.
Sure enough, she was an avowed, all-out, go-getter feminist. Her name was given, of course, but the object of this article is not a name but a mentality, which she, at that particular moment, embodied in my mind, setting the wheels turning.
The face, and the mentality behind the face, had intrigued me enough that I turned more pages to see other pictures of this modern warrioress. What I really wanted to see was if the face corresponded to the body, if the body was as muscular and hard as the face. To my surprise it was a frail and, actually, very feminine frame. The ensemble produced a contradictory impression that was not altogether pleasant to the eye.
Days later, I found myself thinking of one of Aesop’s fables. It was the story of a bullfrog much admired for his size by the other frogs. One day, as an ox began grazing nearby, the frogs all began to croak and comment on the size and muscular form of the ox. Hearing the various admiring comments, the bullfrog began to suffer from something of an inferiority complex. Suddenly, he announced to an astounded and unbelieving audience that he could expand himself to the size of the ox. Then began the bullfrog’s incredible ordeal of taking his name literally. He swelled and swelled until — inevitable disaster! — he burst.
I also recalled watching a crew opening the road in front of my house a few years ago. Five or so men and one woman toiled to break the macadam and uncover a problem pipe. I remember noticing that the men never panted for lack of breath. The woman, on the contrary, was constantly in a terrible exertion that actually made me feel sorry for her. She was obviously not as naturally fit for that physically demanding job as the men were.
Suddenly, a question popped into my mind. Why? Why so much effort to be what one is not? Why try to equalize what is fundamentally different? Are these advocates of equality between men and women not aware that things which are fundamentally diverse cannot be compared, let alone equated?
Why compare a flower to a pumpkin or a stone to a tank or a frog to an ox? Surely women have something in common with men, their same human nature — just as a flower has the same vegetable nature as the pumpkin, the stone the same inanimate nature as the iron, and the frog the same animal nature as the ox. Of course, between a man and a woman there is a lot more similarity than between these other examples,especially since they have a human soul in common, but the differences are still great and fundamental.
Could it be that underlying all this “toughtalk” and “tough acting” on the part of feminism is an inferiority complex after all?
Surely, if women are to start from the premise that because they share the title “human” they have to look and act equally, they are bound to have an inferiority complex. If a woman thinks of herself like a bullfrog that absurdly tries to live up to its name, so to speak, she might as well start huffing and puffing. But if she thinks of her-self, for example, as a bird compared to an ox, would she want to exchange her wings for all the ox’s muscle? Could she not be as perfectly proud of her plumage and wings as he is of his strength?
Yes, I like to think of a woman as a bird. Better still, as a fairy or an angel.
Don’t smile; I know. Many, many times at the onset of life this is the young girl’s ideal: She will be the caring angel of a large family of little angels headed by a knight in shining armor. She soon learns that the knight in shining armor keeps the roses flowing uninterruptedly only before the walk down the aisle; after all, he is really just a man.
She finds, too, that to bring forth little angels she must brace herself for much pain and much worrying and much caring — and that these angels are only such when asleep.
Furthermore, the tears flow easily and life hits hard. Finally, she discovers that she is not the gentle fairy she imagined herself to be, especially when her nerves tense up and irritation tightens like a noose around her throat… For, after all, she is only a woman…
Yet, to every ideal there are two sides: the unreal romantic and the sublime.
The unreal romantic is the deceptive side, the side that promises but does not fulfill because it does not provide the tools to attain the goal. The sublime is the side of truth. It never lies, but it still points; it points to an ideal still loftier than the one proposed by the romantic side. It points to sanctity and provides the supernatural tools for attaining it, mainly prayer, the sacraments, and the practice of solid virtue. It tells a woman that she can be a fairy and an angel if she just makes her chief strength the strength to bear; if she just seeks to complement rather than compete; if she just practices humility and, at times, has the courage to remain in the background. There is no shame in that; only the tremendous merit of loving disinterestedly.
This nation, like every other nation around the world, has witnessed the silent spectacle of the hand that rocks the cradle. No fairy hand could ever compare to that hand. Even the angels must have knelt in speechless silence when they saw such a hand rock the cradle of the Divine Infant.
For human nature to become that sweet and to do that much good takes more strength than any feminist could ever muster at a construction site or on a soccer field.
Such a woman is so admirable that Scriptures could not refrain from singing her praises: “Who shall find a valiant woman? Far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her…. Her children rose up,and called her blessed: her husband, and he praised her. Many daughters have gathered together riches: thou hast surpassed them all” (Proverbs 31:10, 28-29).
Now, I am not advocating that a woman’s role is that of a mother and no other. A woman can discharge many roles successfully, but I still sustain that our world maintained a better emotional balance when a woman found no shame in a full-time mother’s role without feeling the necessity to acquire other titles.
A good example is presented in the book She Said Yes by Misty Bernall, the mother of Cassie Bernall, the Columbine student who was shot to death after admitting to her murderer that she believed in God. Cassie is now widely seen as a heroine, and she certainly is. It is not easy to look straight into a mad assassin’s eyes and see certain death spelled there as a sure answer to her forthcoming “yes.” Yet, according to a fellow student hiding nearby who heard the exchange, when, after a short pause, her “yes” came, it was strong.
Yet, just two years earlier, Cassie had been on the same path as her killer. She was involved with a group of Satanists who were planning to kill a teacher and suggesting to Cassie in unspeakable terms that she “get rid” of her parents.
If Cassie made a complete “U-turn,” as Misty Bernall calls her daughter’s change, it was because her parents decided to fight for her. At one point, her mother quit her job, and the family was living on one salary (as most families used to be able to do, as some readers will recall) so that she could give fuller attention to her daughter. It was a terrible ordeal, but it resulted in a complete turnaround, even at the price of life itself.
This is the power of a mother full-time behind a child, the power to make heroes.
Something we have difficulty understanding is that God, being the Creator of the natural order, stands behind His creation. Once someone decides to act according to her God-given role in the natural order of things, she has the full right to count on His cooperation. It is what clearly happened in the Bernalls’ case.
Is it too much to expect that women go back to “just” being mothers? Is it realistic? Maybe not. After all, the whole system seems to have devolved into requiring two paychecks just to make ends meet, even as incredible headlines seem to cry out for some radical changes or solutions, even at the price of making less or being poorer.
In any case, even if it is not completely realistic; even if women have had the career mentality so infused in their veins that they cannot feel fulfilled otherwise; even if sheer necessity does not allow them to “just” be mothers, at least they can still be feminine.
The other day, while teaching religion class at my parish, I was amazed when this subject came up. All the girls began to speak of “body building” and how they knew this girl and that girl who could beat this or that boy in a fight.
This is the mentality being instilled today, permeating society from all angles. Surely we have much to lose, for at her best, a “muscle-woman” will always be only a small man. And her unique role will be left unfilled.
There is so much talk and concern about various endangered animal species, but few seem to realize what havoc the feminist agenda is wrecking in feminine ranks. A truly feminine woman is becoming a real rarity, especially in the younger generations. Will she soon be extinct all together? I hope not. I hope we soon return to the realization that a woman’s role is truly unique, that we must start bringing up our daughters to be proud of being feminine, that they develop their incredible natural feminine capacity to love, to care and, therefore, to sacrifice, which is their main strength.
Forget the muscles, forget the competition. Spread your wings and rock the world — to the right side.