Ain’t I a person?
Although every faithful Catholic has already rejected the false premises of radical feminism, feminism in its purest form cannot be rejected wholesale. It is a movement to protect and promote women as human persons. The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Providentially, this milestone coincides with the 25th anniversary of Evangelium Vitae, Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical The Gospel of Life. The intersection of these anniversaries is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how radical feminism is a departure from the movement’s historical foundation. The vast majority of the fore mothers of America did not espouse the sexual liberation ideologies that characterize 21st century mainstream feminism. Within the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the Catholic Church called for a new feminism. Although there are many pro-life, orthodox Catholic, new feminists, the majority of Catholics refuse to establish solidarity with the feminist movement. A brief overview of the history of feminism will illustrate the importance of maintaining solidarity with this necessary movement.
Although feminism originated in the 20th century pursuit of suffrage rights, the movement continues to play a vital role in the 21st century pursuit of justice. Even in 21st century society, women continue to bear a disproportionate burden of inequality. Poverty, domestic violence and sexual assault are all evils that are perpetrated against women more than men. Feminism exposes violence perpetrated against women and seeks to dismantle the social sin of discrimination that is woven into the fabric of society. No Christian should place themselves in opposition to the pursuit of the cardinal virtue of justice. In particular, it is vital that traditional Catholic men join the effort, because they continue to enjoy greater representation in leadership roles in society and the church.
The American Feminists, established in 1972 as the Feminists for Life organization, have made it their purpose to bring the historical facts about the feminist movement back to the forefront of America’s social conscience. Historians testify that the vast majority of suffrage activists were pro-life. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the primary author of the “Declaration of Sentiments” from the Seneca Falls Convention, wrote, in her letter to Julia Ward Howe, “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.” Suffrage was just the first step in the effort to establish recognition of women as human persons, as opposed to male property. From the very beginning this recognition of person hood included unborn children.