God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
In many places, in many cultures, and in many times femaleness has been treated as inferior to maleness. Even in our own time, when many people believe that women have made so much progress towards equality, many women have to work hard to see themselves with the dignity and care with which we were created.
For example, when I look at something like artificial contraception, its use so prevalent, and almost a rite of passage for girls entering womanhood today, I can’t help but think of the message of femininity that it brings. It is medication that is not generally given to sick people in order to heal them of their infirmity, but instead it is so often given to perfectly healthy women in order to change their natural functioning, in order to make their bodies behave not as the Creator designed them, but in a way that the culture views as “better”.
The message that artificial contraception brings is that women’s bodies and their functioning is inherently inferior to the way male bodies behave and so women must rely on pharmaceuticals to improve us. Young women, whose bodies are still maturing, are told that the “responsible” thing for them to do, is to eradicate their natural functioning, because obviously it is deficient. People tout that women cannot be liberated unless we have access to such drugs and devices, which is essentially saying that our own bodies are our enemies and that we need science to liberate those of us who were unfortunate enough to have been born female.
To me, a culture that accepts contraception and abortion as women’s liberators is a whole culture that has accepted that femininity is a defect, a kind of unlucky throw of the dice that lands unfavorably upon 50% of the population, and then that culture that looks so disrespectfully on females turns and calls this view “feminism”, when nothing could be further from the truth.
I know that such an estimation of my femininity goes against my Christian faith. My faith teaches me that I was created distinct, yet equal to males. The functions of my female body and mind were designed with care and love. I was created in the image and likeness of God and I possess a “feminine genius” — that is, a way of imaging God that is unique to females.
So I conclude that women do not need liberation from ourselves. We need liberation to be ourselves. We need liberation from a culture of deceit that states that we can never accomplish our dreams as functional women and so we must handicap our body’s natural abilities. Instead of changing women to accommodate the culture, we must change the culture so that it accommodates women, and in so doing accommodates and respects the dignity of all life, all of those whom society deems as “inferior” and “deficient” — the unborn, the elderly, the mentally ill, and those with significant physical or mental handicaps. Saint John Paul II, in his encyclical letter Evangelium vitae, states:
In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” 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.
In the garden, Satan deceived Eve by making her question God’s goodness. Satan says, “God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil. ” (Gen 3:5) With this, he plants doubt in Eve’s mind. Was God keeping something from her? Satan implies that maybe God isn’t as trustworthy as He seems. Satan tempts her with “being like gods” however, Eve was already like God. She was created in His image and likeness. Furthermore, God created the world good. So perhaps “knowing good and evil” means that she will begin to see things that were created good, as evil. Is this not the same message women receive today? “We can be equal if only we have access to abortion and artificial birth control.” we are told. But God tells us that we are already equal, and what “access” to such things gives us is the perception of something beautiful and good as something bad. We begin to see our natural functioning and the gift of motherhood as burdensome and our entire functioning as inferior and defective.
In response to the cultural lies, let us imitate the quintessential woman, our Mother Mary, who didn’t know the whole plan of God and who couldn’t know what her future might hold. But she knew that God could be trusted, and so she gave her most feminine fiat, “May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
Bible verses taken from New American Bible, St Joseph ed. revised edition, 2010.