Feminism Needs a Makeover

How Mother Mary Shows Us the True Meaning of Femininity

The Catholic Church views Mother Mary as a great example of many things, including a loving and holy mother and a faithful follower of Jesus. Katie Zeppieri, a speaker at the Theology on Tap West in May, presented Mother Mary as a model of a Christian woman we can aspire to be. As a motivational speaker and a social entrepreneur, Katie works with girls and young women who struggle to love themselves and be confident of who they are. In a world full of distorted and unrealistic images of femininity, Katie has been working to empower these young women and help them recognize their beauty, worth, and potential.

As a young kid, I was a tomboy who did not quite act like typical girls of my age. Yes, I did enjoy playing with dolls and had a lot of them, and I would talk with other girls about boys we liked from school. But, it was just as fun for me to build model robots and play sports with boys in my neighbourhood. Knowing that I acted somewhat differently from other girls and spent more time with boys, robots, and video games made me feel inadequate, like I was some sort of a mutant. I couldn’t understand why I was different and what I had to do to be considered more feminine. My parents tried hard to convince me to act more like my female friends, but acting more ‘like a girl’ sounded like I wasn’t supposed to do some of my favourite things or be my authentic self.

Today, I am more confident of who I am and appreciate myself (even the tomboy part of me), but what it means to be feminine still perplexes me greatly. I still wonder if I am lacking something as a female, especially when I see other women who exhibit what the society seems to consider feminine in a traditional – and even stereotypical – sense.

Katie said that there are different opinions among people as to the definition of femininity and feminism; what some believe to be feminism is often just a political belief that leans people towards certain ideals, and it is not a true example of what or who a female is and should be. So, what does it mean to be truly female? More importantly for us, what does it mean to be a Christian female in today’s world?
According to Katie, we can learn a great deal from Mary about real femininity, especially in terms of selfless giving and love, celebrating motherhood and the role of family, and obeying God’s command for our lives.

Mary’s fiat to Angel Gabriel (and, ultimately, God) was an act of self-giving, putting the well-being of others before herself. Her willingness to sacrifice her plan and even reputation (since pre-marital pregnancy was considered a disgrace in her time) to fulfill God’s plan contrasts with today’s ‘me-focused’ feminism, where wishes of self often come before the well-being of others.

Mary’s devotion to motherhood was another example of femininity that Katie mentioned. It is “an example of a long-term sacrifice and commitment that is not glamourous yet deeply important,” said Katie. Motherhood requires a woman to be interdependent and make a choice to become a mother, which is contrary to the society’s view of feminism that praises independence and women’s choice to reject life in them. Katie urged the audience to celebrate mothers, and recognize the sanctity of life and women’s vital role in reproduction.

Obeying God’s command was Katie’s third example of femininity we see through Mary; it is our willingness to drop our plans and follow God to become who He calls us to be. Following God’s command might mean going against the flow, and living and acting differently from the rest of the world. Others might criticize us for not living according to the society’s rules and norms. But, like Mary who pondered God’s words and obeyed them, we need to pray and reflect on what it means for each of us to be feminine, and how our unique femininity can be part of God’s plan for us and the world.

After listening to Katie’s talk, I felt free. All these years, I had many ideas of femininity according to what I saw in the world and what others told me; they were holding me back from being my authentic self and appreciating the true femininity that God has given me. Sure, perhaps some of my interests are not very traditionally feminine. I headlock guy friends who tease me when I wear make-up or wear dresses (instead of my go-to fashion items – jeans and sweaters). I laugh out loud enough to blow the rooftop and have my mom scold me for being too loud for a girl. But, at least, I am surer of who I am now – a beautiful creation of God with all the femininity that I need to glorify Him and allow Him to bless others in my own unique ways.

Theresa Kim is a blog writer for Faith Connections. She is an aspiring freelance writer and a polymath with many, many interests and passions, including writing, visual arts, mathematics, social justice, and (of course) God and the Catholic Church.