Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Strong Women = Lustful Men?

I want to be a strong woman. If I were to look to the media for guidance, I would see countless “strong” women; women portrayed as vain, greedy, ambitious, and lustful. These women seem to attribute hedonistic and selfish values to masculinity (which does a grave disservice to men). Women like Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex in the City,” whose goal, as she describes it in one of the earliest episodes, is to, “have sex like a man.” In other words, she wants flimsy strings of meaningless one-night stands with which to package an emotionless and hedonistic lifestyle. Is this strength?

St. Edith Stein did not believe so. In her Essays on Women, St. Stein describes how womanhood and femininity should be exemplified. She describes the role of women as one of support, nurture, maternity, and obedience. She uses the Blessed Virgin Mary as the exemplary female, writing,

The image of the Mother of God demonstrates the basic spiritual attitude which corresponds to woman’s natural vocation; her relation to her husband is one of obedience, trust, and participation in his life as she furthers his objective tasks and personality development; to the child she gives true care, encouragement, and formation of his God-given talents; she offers both selfless surrender and a quiet withdrawal when unneeded. All is based on the concept of marriage and motherhood as a vocation from God; it is carried out for God’s sake and under His guidance (46).

If we look carefully at this passage, we see a description that is quite different from the individualistic, ambitious, selfish attitudes Americans tend to cherish. We are taught to work hard, not to further society or implement meaningful change, but to “get ahead”—essentially, to beat everyone else in the rat race to wealth and vainglory. And when a woman succumbs to this view, it is desperately against the values of which St. Stein writes. I know firsthand that it is difficult to lay aside vanity and pride for our actions. To be perfectly candid, when I accomplish something, I want people to know about it so that they love and admire me. This can be a sinful and is always a destructive way to live a life, and I am ashamed of it. It contrasts truly Christian charity for men and women, but also contradicts the supportive and nurturing roles that specifically belong to females.

To combat the images with which the media assails us, women must learn to see and demonstrate strength by striving for the best values to which the Lord, through His love and wisdom, has created our natures to dispose us. Also, men must strive to combat the vices with which society them. Few of the values and attitudes cherished by the media are worthy of emulation. We must change this!


Kristen said...

Google emails me everytime someone mentions Edith Stein. I write a spirituality newsletter for Catholic women called Secretum Meum Mihi - you can check it out online at www.MySecretisMine.com

It's wonderful to see more and more women turning to Edith Stein for guidance at how to be a powerful woman today...for God. And, I would suggest, based on many years of struggling to do that, that the internal stability required to be truly strong can only come from celebrating our femininity in all of its many facets...

Great blog post!

Theresa said...

It's so good to see women as good examples for other women to follow in a world that promotes selfishness and personal pleasure. To be selfish in this regard is not to fully embrace life. It is rather people taking and refusing to give and to contribute to society in love and service. We as women are called to serve in whatever capacity that God has called us to. Life is so much more when given freely, than when horded. It's like a butterfly: if you try to hold it tightly in your fist, it suffocates and dies, but if you hold it in an open palm where it can come and go freely, it has life.