by Miriam Bethencourt
Women have a long history of maltreatment and misjudgment. For centuries, we, women, didn’t have a vote, a job, or an education. Our great-grandmothers and their colleagues struggled greatly to bring about the society we have today, a place where women enjoy the liberties of every man. (Mind you, this exists in many countries, but there still remain many where women suffer under the crippling hold of patriarchy, and we must pray for them.)
This very noble and justified cause, however, has evolved into a secular, belligerent fight with confused concepts of what women’s rights are. Now, what most people identify as “feminist” or “pro-woman” is commonly confused with ideals the Catholic Church cannot uphold, such as abortion or birth control.
Can Catholic Women Be Pro-Woman?
Catholic women can no longer identify with many pro-woman movements, and yet, this cannot hinder us from growing in society and advancing our own place in it. We have not lost “girl power” to the abortion clinics and to the liberal media and we can very much live it out for ourselves and for our daughters.
Let’s retake feminism and make it our own; let’s understand what “girl power” really is.
Girl Power is Magnanimous
Feminism is all about greatness, but to a Catholic feminist, this is not just greatness in and of itself. It is, instead, a “greatness of spirit, a largeness of heart wherein many can find refuge”: magnanimity. A magnanimous woman is no doubt an ambitious woman, who strives after world-changing dreams and goals, for “Small-mindedness has no home in the magnanimous heart.”
This driven woman is strong not just for herself. Her goals do not only advance her own achievements, but also those of others. She is a flaming star, but to be a light in others’ darkness. (To clarify, this does not exclude self-care and enrichment, for a woman can only help others if she is in a position to.) This woman achieves greatness and lays it down for others, and ultimately, for God.
This is the girl power we see in a young teenager, fundraising to go on a mission trip in Jamaica. This is the girl power we see in a young entrepreneur, building a business in line with her faith. This is the girl power we see in a mother, taking on the challenge of raising a child. It is magnanimous feminism, which is more than greatness, but greatness for God.
Girl Power is Daring
To be this great woman, this vibrant beacon of light for others, it takes guts. Big dreams are scary and the world is enormous and often times aggressively anti-Christian. On top of this, in American society, there is a tendency to please others: to say what others want to hear, to act the way others act.
This leads to a discrepancy in who people are and who they seem to be. To help others also means being true to others and we must be daring enough to show them who we are: strong, faithful, Catholic women who live and strive for God.
So, girl power is that woman who takes her faith into her workplace. Girl power is that woman who defends her faith among her friends and the mother who educates her daughters so that they can follow her example. Daring feminism is not just about being a female leader, but about being a leader of integrity and truth.
Girl Power is Joyful
The face of female leadership does not scowl angrily. She does not just roll her eyes and clench her fist. Her face is that of a laughing girl with a wide smile and joyful eyes. Because that can be more powerful than any show of force.
Optimism and joy are crucial to the enduring strength of a woman. But “Christian optimism is not a sugary optimism. . .blind to the difficulties and simply trust[ing] that everything will always turn out well”.
This joy is not whimsical nor is it naive or weak. It is simply rooted “in the sure knowledge of the power of grace” with the certainty of God’s use of our struggles. It is the joy that gives us strength to cope during the bad times and bring about the good times.
Girl power is that girl that is not shot down by her circumstances. Girl power is that girl who does not complain, but pushes through her issues with a cheerful heart. A smile is stronger than any flexed muscle and joyful feminism is the best power we can enforce.
We Are Daughters of God
In the end, a girl’s power is simply her faith. The stronger it is, the stronger she becomes. And this is precisely what allows women within the Catholic Church to maintain their pro-woman stance. We can be Catholic feminists, because we know what type of feminism we want to live out.
We know that we can be strong, because we can be kind. We know that we can be great, because we can be faithful. We know that we can be powerful, because we are daughters of God.