Recapturing feminism

We’re all called to evangelize by virtue of our baptism, but what’s the most effective way to do that? We’re just wrapping up the Christmas season in the Church. The world has long forgotten that season by now, with many a neighbor throwing out the tree just hours after Christmas dinner — or sooner. And if you haven’t seen them already, look around and no doubt you’ll spot advertisements for Valentine’s Day. You may even notice heart-shaped candy boxes, not to mention rows of Valentine’s cards lining the shelves. The world is moving on, kicking God to the curb, along with those discarded Christmas trees at an ever increasingly fast pace. So, what is a concerned Christian who takes his or her role in evangelization seriously to do?

Ironically, the craziness occurring in our culture, which spiked last fall and is continuing as we begin a new year, actually is handing us one opportunity after another to bring God into the conversation. Whether folks realize it, Church teachings, especially in the areas of the dignity of women and the overall issue of sexuality, are being reaffirmed practically daily.

One example is a feature story that made headlines in mid-December. It was the annual choice of Merriam-Webster’s word of the year. The word for 2017 was “feminism.” According to their statistics, it was the most looked-up word in their online dictionary and generated 70 percent more searches from the previous year. It spiked last January after the Women’s March on Washington and again about a month later when Kellyanne Conway, a Catholic, pro-life activist and adviser to President Trump, said she had a hard time calling herself a feminist because of what the word had come to mean and to represent: only those women who supported abortion on demand as well as other issues contrary to Catholic teaching.

Given all the discussion based on what feminism is and isn’t, and all the concern generated through the #metoo campaign stemming from the ever-growing list of famous men accused of sexual misconduct against women, why not start a buzz about what the Church has identified as “new feminism,” which is really true feminism at its best?

You could discuss how new feminism helps women embrace their unique qualities and how women could build on those qualities, as opposed to forcing them into a limited category or description and forcing them to act against their nature. You could casually toss out names such as Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta, of course) a brilliant educator, philosopher and speaker who addressed women’s rights in Nazi-occupied Europe; a woman who eventually lost her life at the concentration camps because of her beliefs. And most folks, even those who don’t consider themselves religious, are familiar with and might even have a fondness for the very popular Pope St. John Paul II, the man who came up with the phrase in the first place.

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Depending on the audience, you’re not exactly going to talk deep theology or hand out copies of Church documents in the office lunch room or while standing in line at the grocery store. But we simply have to start getting up more courage to talk about the beautiful way the Church promotes, protects and dignifies all of us, especially women.

Given the fact that the word “feminism” drew so much interest last year, it’s obvious people are searching for answers. What a great way to begin 2018, to respond to that searching with the truth about what feminism really means according to the one who created all of us. Happy New Year!

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and SiriusXM Channel 130.