In the past, I wrote a post about how, as a white, pro-life woman on the centre-right of politics, I felt that my energy was better spent working for change on the things that matter to me instead of trying to be accepted into a left-wing movement that sees my whole existence as problematic. If you want to read the full thing, you can find it here (On Feminism). However, 3 years on, Gilette released an advert calling for men to stand up against toxic masculinity, and the reaction on the right was that Gilette had embraced PC-culture and that feminism hates men because to them all masculinity is toxic and the fact people equate being a jerk with being masculine is problematic and therefore I changed my mind.
We need right-wing women to be in the movement. People cannot be left to dismiss something as important because the people making the argument live and breathe Marxist theory. Over the past few years I have been relatively involved in what one may term Catholic feminism, which is more of a movement promoting the lay leadership of women in the Catholic Church than a force for change in the larger feminist movement. It exists as a reaction to the idea that, for the Church to value women, she has to make them priests, and such stuff of nonsense. It exists, also, to an extent, as a force for change in the larger feminist movement, except that often the women involved come to face the same stumbling blocks that I have faced, and that made me write what I wrote in 2016. If it feels like an uphill battle within the Church, with people saying horrible things to Lauren of Brick House in the City for a t-shirt that has the word feminism on it among others, it’s even more uphill outside of it, when the very essence of Catholicism is rejected. Still, as a Catholic, I cannot see the affronts on the dignity of men that go on within the movement and outside of it and stand by any longer.
Toxic masculinity is a thing. Yes, left-wing feminism may appear to be intent on feminising anything, and as a Catholic who believe in two genders which are different but have equal value I understand the frustration with what is perceived as an attack on masculinity, but for heaven’s sake can we not avoid going to the polar opposite? The antidote to an attack on masculinity is not to attack masculinity by making it something it’s not. We have plenty of Biblical examples of what healthy masculinity looks like, but also secular ones. Beyond some obvious innate characteristics that are linked to the biological sex of a person, a lot of what we perceive as feminine or masculine is coloured by societal expectations, and often it’s about societal circles and not even the whole of society can agree on what traits to value. Take for example the Victorian times, when you had muscular Christianity and dandyism as conflicting ideas of what a man ought to be like.
Masculinity is about strength, not violence. If your masculinity is threatened by carrying a baby, a vulnerable creature that needs protecting, you have a problem. If your masculinity is threatened by not being able to harass a woman on the street, you have a problem. If your masculinity is threatened by being told not to bully people with homophobic slurs that use femininity as an insult, you have a problem. If your masculinity is threatened by saying that boys don’t have to have a fight to be boys, you have a problem. Confusing strength which is moral, emotional and spiritual as well as physical, with being violent and assertive and bossy is a sign that you aren’t quite as strong as you think.
While rates have been decreasing, men in the UK are 3 times more likely than women to die by suicide. It remains the biggest killer of men, especially younger ones. Chances are, if you haven’t been depressed yourself, you know at least someone else who has, or someone who died because of how bad it was. I have lost more than two close friends to this over the years, and that’s without counting the people I know more broadly. A lot has been said about how men find it harder to open up, with many campaigns around it. Sadly, I often see comments on social media that reinforce the stigma around it and, you guessed it, they all move from the premise that people need to toughen up. As if this elusive idea of toughening up was not the problem all along. As a Catholic feminist, I have to challenge the idea there is something wrong in being soft, and the implications that allow people to use femininity as an insult.
In the Bible, God is described with many attributes, some of them masculine and some of them feminine. While the Incarnation was a man, the Hebrew and Aramaic words for the Holy Spirit are feminine (in Greek they are neutral), and this alone should tell us something about the importance of femininity even without reading Mulieris Dignitatem (which, by the way, you should). But there’s more. Pro-abortion feminism has long tried to cut men out of the conversation around pregnancy when the men are pro-life, but I don’t see that much uproar about men who coerce women into abortions for going against a woman’s choice. The silence is even more deafening about the pain of men who see their fatherhood stolen from them. Some even go as far as dismissing the pain of miscarriages to make an ideological point. Conceiving children takes two people, and often it’s the case that a single father raises them. Equality in parenting is not demasculinizing men, but a recognition not only that life isn’t perfect, but that God created the two sexes as equals in His image, to cooperate. The law should reflect that, from parental leave at work to divorce settlements. As a Catholic feminist, I have to challenge every instance that attacks the God-given dignity of either sex.
We are always calling for more women in leadership, but we are also asking them to see everything that makes them women as a hindrance to this goal. We also see plenty of stigma around men joining what are seen as feminine professions. I recently watched “The Blind Side”, a film based on the real life story of an American football player, and I find it a good example of what I mean about this attitude. American Football, like rugby, is a physical and even violent sport. Throughout the film, one particular characteristic of Michael is highlighted. It was not his size and physical strength (although unusual), or the moral one that had him overcome the difficulties of his early life, but his protective nature that made him the champion he was. We should see personality traits that are not what we traditionally associate with leadership and power as a strength, and help people fulfill their ambitions while embracing them, especially children if one has them. As a Catholic feminist, I have to challenge the idea that a woman’s fertility is a hindrance instead of a gift to a society that needs young people.
As a woman on the right I will always have a problem with the Marxist narratives that come from the current and previous wave of feminism; freedom is important to me as a political concept, as is my one nation belief in mitigating one’s freedom with a desire for the common good, and it’s this desire for the common good that moves me not to remain a bystander in a world where the equality of the sexes seems as far from reach as ever.
This post is part of the Love Blog Challenge on the topic of Change.
Meet your hosts
Brita of Belle Brita
Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. On her blog and social media, you’ll discover more than authentic storytelling–she’s brutally honest about pursuing a fulfilling and joyful life even with Crohn’s Disease and depression.
Shoshanah of From L.A. to LA
Shoshanah is a California girl who moved to Louisiana and fell in love. (Hence her blog, From L.A. to LA.) She is the mother of a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. She loves all things pumpkin, reading (especially historical fiction), and gingerbread lattes.