I sometimes find myself in arguments with traditionalists or conservatives over feminism. They'll rail against the damage it's done, and I will say, "I agree with you, but..."
I do agree. I fully feel the terrible spiritual losses incurred by the excesses of feminism and the sexual revolution. Sometimes the thought of it all tempts me to despair. How will we ever recover from such a depth and extent of self-inflicted misery? What kind of world am I sending my children into?
The "but," though, has to do with a sense that the valid complaints and aspirations of feminism are too easily dismissed or overlooked. I don't like it when fellow-Catholics talk or write as if feminism is essentially a rebellion against God and morality and the true vocation of women. I don't deny all that was part of it. I only deny that that was the only thing going on.
An article linked by a facebook friend this morning makes my case very concretely. It's called "Ten things an Irish woman could not to in the 1970s (and be prepared to cringe.)" Here is the first:
1. Keep her job in the public service or a bank when she got married
Female civil servants and other public servants (primary teachers from 1958 were excluded from the so-called "marriage bar") had to resign from their jobs when they got married, on the grounds that they were occupying a job that should go to a man. Banks operated a similar policy.
Now, a traditionalist might point out that his is not an entirely senseless and arbitrary law. Society as a whole surely benefits from having men be the primary breadwinners and married women homemakers. A convincing case could even be made that women, too, were generally happier and better off under that arrangement than they are now. I don't argue with any of that. But, still, it needs to be said: it's not okay for a majority to decide that women's personhood and individual liberty will have to be sacrificed for the benefit of society as a whole. Nor would it be just to accuse women who protested that law of being rebellious and unfeminine.
Here's another thing Irish women couldn't do just a few decades back:
8. Refuse to have sex with her husband
In 1970 the phrase "marital rape" was a contradiction in terms. A husband was assumed to have the right to have sex with his wife and consent was not, in the eyes of the law, an issue.
Can we agree that this is a serious problem?
Feminism, it in its best form, is not a rebellion against femininity, but an assertion of women's equal dignity as persons, and a refusal to be treated as subordinate to men. If we think it wasn't necessary,we're not in reality.