I came across an article the other called Never Date a Feminist: 12 Warning Signs for Young Men. And no, it wasn’t a spoof of this kind of thing:


It was a very serious article!

It solemnly informed young Christian men that “most women below the age of 30 in America are infected by Feminism”, which is apparently defined as “the belief that the female sex is universally (meaning each and every woman) most happy, liberated, and fulfilled outside of the traditional (and biological) role of wife and mother“. (Funny – I’ve never heard that definition before…)

Even better, it supplied a handy list of trigger words that such a Feminist (read: demon woman) might use, such as ‘I am a strong independent woman’ or ‘I do think feminism has been a good thing’. Beware, young men: if a woman offers to pay for half of her meal, she’s not good enough for you, even if she’s pretty, young, and Christian too!

Here’s the thing: I don’t disagree with everything in the article. In fact, I think it made a few good points – for example, I agree that profanity is a very unappealing trait, and the opposite of ’empowering’, no matter what some women may think. What irritated me about it was how it was written, and I’m sorry to say that it’s not the first time I’ve read something along these lines.

I think it’s absolutely wonderful that there are websites specifically for young Christian or Catholic men, especially websites that encourage chastity, manliness, and prayer. In a world which is increasingly demanding men to abandon their principles, to be selfish, to love pornography, to use women, and to degrade beauty, I am very glad that there are sources of support for the young men and boys who want something better, and who want to embrace the true meaning of being a man. I also like the fact that I have male Catholic friends who keep me striving to be the best I can be, knowing that they respect me and would be disappointed if I was too coarse or rude or immodest. It’s nice to be held to high standards, and I return the favour. And I do appreciate that it can be difficult to find someone who fulfils all your expectations – and that guidelines can be helpful sometimes.

But…. sometimes the line wears very thin.

I think the problem is that young men, especially Catholics, pride themselves so much on being different from all the other men out there (you know, the scumbags, the users, etc etc) that they forget that dismissing feminism as an evil of society doesn’t instantly make you a gentleman; it’s possible to go too far the other way.

Please, boys – don’t patronise us. Don’t talk about us like we’re poor, pathetic, innocent, helpless things, infected by that terrible plague, Feminism. We’re not. We may not be the same as you, but we are equal. And remember that if you apply such exacting standards to us, we will do the same to you. When you talk about us, remember that we are worthy of your respect, not your scorn; remember that we are not perfect, and that it is not fair to expect us to be so.

Feminism may have some nasty connotations, and I myself am uncomfortable with using the label (see my many posts about it…), but that doesn’t mean I do not consider myself an independent woman quite capable of paying half the bill, if I feel it is necessary or applicable. Reducing my independence to potential ‘heartache, arguments, cuckoldry, a sexless marriage, and/or divorce’ is hurtful and, frankly, sexist. For me and for many young Christian women, feminism is not about being anti-woman; it’s about embracing our femininity, but also acknowledging our courage, our strength, and our value. Women should not be passive; we have a role to play as much as men do!

If you’ve got this far and still have no idea why I didn’t like the article, let’s try a little experiment and flip round the subjects.

Ladies, if you want to be happily married, discern carefully. Being young, handsome, and Christian is not enough. He may be the most attractive man you have ever met, but run for the hills if you encounter any of the following:

  1. “I am a gentleman! I hold the door open for women all the time! But I don’t have many friends who are women; they find my humour too crude.” 
  2. “I have to go to Brosary with the other guys. It’s a man-only prayer group. But of course women are welcome too if they really want to come along.” 
  3. Making lists of undesirable traits in the women they would consider dating, or saying “I expect my future wife to be [….].”
  4. “Women are so emotional and difficult. They take offence way too easily.”
  5. He shows off his looks and is too conscious about them, spending hours on his hair, looking in mirrors, etc – vanity is a very unattractive trait.
  6. “I would never date a girl who doesn’t wear a mantilla.” 
  7. He refers to women who have ambition for a career as ‘feminazis’ and claims that they would be best in the kitchen, baking for a man.
  8. “Eww!! I don’t want to know about your feminine problems!” 
  9. He is not absolutely amazing with children, and shows impatience with babies.
  10. “It’s so disgusting when women wear immodest clothes. They should all be wrapped in curtains from head to foot. I don’t want to see your ankles, temptress!!!” 
  11. “Girls are always complaining about stupid stuff like their periods. How hard can it be to be a woman?”
  12. “The liturgy has become way too feminine lately.”

Get the idea?

The problem with having this attitude towards the women you may consider as your potential mate is that it presupposes certain things about us. It’s like we are supposed to just wait around, being a feminine damsel, wearing our nun-like clothes, and blushing at the mere mention of marriage, until a Catholic Gentleman ™ gallops towards us on his white horse and rescues us from our servitude. If we show the slightest indication of having our own will, of wanting to make something of our lives, of having ambition, we are told that we are unwomanly and too feminist. This is just not fair! (And also sets us back at least two hundred years.)

If you have to make lists, let them be of positive things. There is a big difference between “I would never date a girl who was crude/unchaste/immodest” and “I admire and respect girls who make an effort to be modest/chaste”, in the same way that there is a difference between “I would never date a guy who hated feminists” and “I admire and respect men who cherish the role of motherhood”. Simples.

Alternatively – girls, if you make sure to shun feminism completely and introduce yourself as a weak, co-dependent woman in desperate need of saving from herself, you might just get lucky enough to win yourself someone like Mr Maccabee…..

The fight for life

Last weekend I, along with some members of the pro-life society, attended the SPUC Youth Conference 2016. There we listened to talks on (among other subjects) end-of-life ethics. We were fortunate enough to have Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri Schiavo, speak to us about the tragedy of her death and the agony their family suffered. (Find an article on the same topic by him here.) All of us who listened found the talk extremely emotional; many of us cried. The harsh reality of the ‘culture of death’ that we live in was brought home forcefully.

That same weekend, my grandfather was taken into hospital totally unexpectedly, and placed on a ventilator in the ICU. By Tuesday evening, the doctors informed us to our shock that he was not responding to any treatment, and that it was time to let him go.

I won’t go into any details – they’re too excruciating – or write a tribute to my wonderful Nonno, because it’s too soon and he was too dear to all of us to put into words. But the entire experience was traumatic… exhausting… awful.

The entire way through, the doctors were amazing. They were supportive, cheerful, helpful, gentle. They were incredibly kind; they were very open and honest. They didn’t want to give us false hope, which we’re all grateful for, though I’m not sure whether any of us have really processed the truth just yet. And they did everything they could for Nonno.

I can’t imagine the horror of not being able to trust the medical practitioners who have the life of your loved one in their hands. I can’t imagine how terrible it would be to think that someone might have had a chance, if only the doctors had seen them as a human being rather than a drain to valuable resources. I can only dimly picture the guilt, the constant what-ifs that would plague you, the helpless anger. Witnessing someone you love die is a horrible thing, no matter how much faith and hope you have. If you had to do that knowing that they could have lived, I feel that it would be nearly impossible to bear.

The pro-life movement is not just a smokescreen for crazy men’s rights activists who want to forcefully impregnate women and make them baby-slaves. It’s not deluded anti-feminist women, either. It’s not the clinical, emotionless, hard-hearted logical thinkers the pro-choicers make us out to be, or the generalisers that dismiss individuals who are struggling. The pro-life movement is simply made up of people who recognise the dignity and worth of the human person, regardless of age, location, viability, ability, and so on. Very real and very human experiences of agony, love, and loss are at its heart, and this is why no matter how hard they try to screen us out, to move against us, to prevent us speaking, we will always be here, fighting for the lives of those who cannot fight for themselves. My grandfather, thanks be to God, died in peace; there are many who did not.

Life is more than just a heartbeat

This is why I will always, no matter how small my contribution may be, take a stand in the fight for life. And if you haven’t, or aren’t, please do. It’s not enough to sit and shake your head over the ways of the world, or to philosophise on the nature of ‘personhood’ while innocent people die. We are all called to action, in infinitely varying ways, and it is incredibly important that we respond to that call. Please.

We have so many wonderful people praying for us and for Nonno, but I would request my reader’s prayers as well. If you could spare a decade of the rosary, or even just a Hail Mary, for the repose of his soul I would be so grateful. He was the most generous and kindhearted man I’ve ever met, and he will be sorely missed. Requiescat in pace.

Male and female He created them

Before term ended for Christmas, I had my Italian oral exam. The format was fairly simple: I was to arrive ten minutes beforehand and be given a topic (one out of five) that I would then prepare a brief, five-minute presentation on. I would deliver this presentation, then have some conversation on the topic and the book and film we had studied in class.

Somewhat to my disappointment, instead of getting the topic ‘literature’ or ‘music’, I picked ‘feminism’.

When you’re presenting in another language, you tend to simplify things as much as possible – especially when you’re as nervous as I get about oral exams. I spent five minutes shakily blurting out, in very sub-par Italian, how I think feminism in the third world and feminism here are very different issues; that some women today still struggle to even be allowed an opinion and a voice, while women here complain about representation whilst having access to a job, healthcare, career options, respect. I’m not convinced about how well I put my point across, but to be honest I don’t remember much of the exam at all – except that as soon as they stopped recording me, my Italian dramatically improved. (Typical.)

Feminism used to be a fairly black and white topic, as I saw it. I used to call myself a feminist, and then I got to know the internet a bit better, and changed my mind. But it seems to be that the more I learn about it – the more I learn about life in general, even – the more complicated the issue becomes, and I still don’t really know where I stand.

I just came back from my first lecture of the new year: ‘Italian Women’s Writing’. It was just a basic introduction to the topic, and the teacher clearly wanted to get us thinking about some of the background issues. She gave us some quotes on women’s writing from the late 19th century, saying how women needed to learn to write about their own experiences, because so far literature had been primarily a man’s domain; how women needed learn to write authentically, not copy a man’s style. Then we discussed the difference between men’s writing and women’s. She told us that she can usually tell the gender of her students just from their essays, because boys write very differently from girls. Apparently, girls are very unsure and tend not to express strong opinions.

This is when I started feeling confused. I agreed that men and women write differently: my creative writing classes have been fascinating in illustrating that. But I wasn’t so sure about women not expressing strong opinions. Perhaps I’m biased – or different – but I’m pretty sure I spend most of my life expressing strong opinions. And my confusion only grew when the tutor began to ask us to consider our own experiences: “Think about your university,” she said. “Your language classes are dominated by women – there are maybe five men to forty of you – and so are your teachers, but the higher faculty members are mostly men. What does that say? Why are so many women being told what to do by men?”

“The problem with women,” she went on to explain, “is that we are too afraid. We have this fundamental characteristic that means we struggle to speak aloud. We are afraid of public speaking. Our voices become shrill when we present. We don’t push ourselves, because we find it hard to live in a world of men. Think of all the jobs that women are not allowed.”

Eager student: “Like high positions in the Church!”

Teacher: “Yes, exactly! In the Roman Catholic Church, women are not allowed to be priests. If they have a vocation, they have to be a nun.”

And so on and so forth.

I’m writing this partly because I’m not even sure how to formulate a response, or why this has affected me so profoundly. Because I don’t feel like that. I don’t feel, as a woman lucky (privileged, even!) enough to be born into a first-world country, like I live in a male-dominated world where I am afraid to open my mouth. To be honest, I’m not afraid of men shouting me down, because every single time I’ve been corrected, it has been women who are angry with me. Angry with me being pro-life. Angry with me being pro-marriage and pro-family. When I am afraid to speak, it is because I know that my views do not coincide with the majority, and it is not men who tell me that I am wrong.

The ways I experience sexism are very different from the ways my teacher spoke about. I feel that my womanhood is held against me not when I am choosing my career, not when I am surrounded by other girls in my classes, but when I go to the doctor and am told to take the pill so that men can sleep with me without me getting pregnant. I feel that my gender is a problem not when I look at the supposed lack of female politicians or scientists or even priests, but when my anxiety is dismissed as an excess of emotion, or when my natural bodily functions (sorry, I can’t think of a way that saying that that isn’t gross) are considered a hindrance. Did you know that experiencing period cramps is a disability? Something over which I have absolutely no control – something that happens once a month to half of the population – is considered a disability. I mean, I’m not complaining, because now that they’ve ‘diagnosed’ me, allowances are made if I can’t leave my bed once a month or if I can’t concentrate in exams because I’m in excruciating pain. But before then, as far as they were concerned, I just had to suck it up. That to me is what sexism is: basing women solely on their physical attributes and then trying to eliminate, rather than celebrate, them.

I can’t really cover all my thoughts on the topic in one blog post and this is only skimming the surface, but the bottom line is that to me, I’ve got the best possible position on this whole debate. (I suppose everyone thinks that!) My Church, my Faith (though it may seem a very different thing from the outside) has truly beautiful teachings on the value of men and women. A lot of modern-day feminism – even some habits I find myself slipping into occasionally – is at the expense of men. It’s almost as if we dismiss them, now that we have outgrown them. When my teacher was talking about being a woman in a ‘world of men’, there was a sense of how unnecessary they are, how they hold us back, how they fail to recognise that we are so much better. While I’m sure she didn’t intend that interpretation, it’s not an uncommon one.

But my faith tells me that men and women should treat each other with love and respect. We recognise the beauty in each other and honour it. We celebrate the amazing thing that is true manliness: sacrifice, strength, endurance, protectiveness, fatherhood, and we ask all men to live up to that example of the most manly man of all, Christ. But women aren’t left behind! Where but in the Church is our femininity, our fertility, our nurturing nature and our endless capacity for love honoured most? Do we not have the most perfect example of Mary, mother of all, to live up to? And do not men and women love each other in the best way possible, not putting each other down but seeing the best we can see in one another, and discovering how it is only together that we can achieve the most incredible things?

Almost inevitably, this is a topic I keep writing about, and I apologise if I’m only repeating things you’ve already heard. I think it’s that every time I consider it, I see a new depth and a new beauty to the way that the Church calls us to love one another, whether in a romantic or platonic way; and each new experience makes me reconsider and reaffirm my commitment to my Catholic faith.

male and female

On a less philosophical note: hey everyone, in case you didn’t know, I got engaged! Before Christmas, I was lucky enough to have the best boyfriend in the whole world make my room into a fairytale grotto (I KNOW) and ask me to marry him. The past two months have rushed by in a stressful whirlwind of exam revision, essay writing, and wedding planning, but despite it all I’m insanely happy and excited for the summer (the big day is in August!).

And yes, I’m afraid you can probably expect posts reflecting on what it’s like to be engaged, blah blah. Sorry!

Thanks to anyone who’s still reading – I know I’ve been silent for a while! I won’t set myself a goal of how often to write because then I’ll inevitably fail, but this is a habit I do want to keep up as much as possible, so we’ll see how it goes! 🙂