Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

May 27, 2010

A Feminism for Generations Y and Z

Just last week I began to introduce my sophomores to some of JPII's "new feminism." We've been exploring the role of the laity in the Church and their specific calling to holiness. The holiness of the lay person doesn't look like the holiness of the priest or the religious insofar as the means to achieving sanctity are quite different. I watched quite a few girls have "a-ha" moments when they realized that they could grow in sanctity precisely by being virtuous students, friends, daughters and siblings.

I figured that I could smoothly transition into growing in holiness through femininity, since all of my students are female. So far, not so good! I've noticed a few trends in their answers, which seems to indicate that they need to be exposed to very different images at any earlier age than they have been.

Many of my students are convinced that gender is something that is relative, subjective, and conditioned. While they are willing to recognize biological differences between men and women, they do not, for their lives, want to associate biology with gender. They don't want to name anything essential to masculinity or femininity. I think this still stems from a fear of being pigeon-holed into pursuing certain careers or having limitations put on their dreams.

Now, it's really difficult for me to teach the anthropology and philosophy of John Paul II, Edith Stein, and Benedict XVI (another blog post on his writings on femininity is forthcoming!) to fifteen-year-olds. They can't yet think abstractly enough, and their experiences are still limited.
Has anyone attempted to break this down for this age group and been successful? Any thoughts on a helpful approach to helping young woman see their femininity as a privilege, opportunity, and blessed responsibility?

1 comment:

Christina said...

"Any thoughts on a helpful approach to helping young woman see their femininity as a privilege, opportunity, and blessed responsibility?"

Jane Austen! I know, that's my answer to everything. And I'm not sure it would be feasible to incorporate Austen into a theology class, so maybe this is a bad idea. All I can say is that, for me personally, Austen has taught me more about how to be a woman than almost anyone else. Fanny Price from Mansfield Park is a good example: she's very meek, and most readers perceive her as a boring goody-goody, but her strong moral principles and womanly demeanor eventually reveal her to be the strongest character in the novel -- she's the only one who never wavers from her original (morally right) position.

I've gotten carried away...but failing an incorporation of Austen into the curriculum, there are many amazing stories of strong women in the Bible whose stories might be more appropriate. :) Women such as Ruth, Esther, Deborah, and of course the Blessed Mother have so much to teach us about what it means to be feminine. I hope your girls will come to realize that femininity is not the same as weakness!

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