Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Five Things I Am Excited About as a Cathofeminist




Today I happened across five things that excited me, and I wanted to share them with you.

1.       St. Joan of Arc: Today is her feast day. I came across this write up about her, and I wanted to share it because I mostly only see her analyzed by folks that swear she was insane. Insane or not, her courage and faith have always moved me, and Joan happens to be my grandmother’s middle name. Both are extremely strong women that inspire me.

2.       St. Hildegard Von Bingen: A friend linked to an online article about Pope Benedict XVI and St. Hildegard Von Bingen. While the article is filled with language and a tone that is in keeping with the general thought that feminism is the opposite of Catholicism, I appreciate the notice being drawn to important Catholic women that in some ways have not been properly acknowledged.

3.       Authentically Free At Last: Finally I will have a way to satisfy my obsession with Gloria Purvis! This in-production EWTN series sounds amazing. The link is to a video where the three host of the show discuss the general scope of the series. It is almost an hour long, but when you have the time, I highly suggest you check it out. I am certain it will be thought provoking to say the least, and I will be setting my DVR accordingly!

4.       Brave: This movie is the first Disney/Pixar movie I have wanted to see since Toy Story. Not only does it feature a strong female lead, it bucks the Disney Princess trend that tells our sons and daughters that women are a prize to be won. She has wild, unruly hair that seems to match her personality and I am just so excited to see it! I will insert this as a caution though: our purchasing power is important. I just might go get the Disney version and a few books if the movie is all I am hoping it will be.

5.       Jo Ann Nardelli: This woman is clearly one of character. It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when you must do so in the public eye. I do not find myself too closely identifying with a political party at all these days, but mad props to her for following her conscience instead of the party line.

What inspired you today?

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Work in Progress

A few months ago, I attended a Lenten mini-retreat. I was interested because it combined two of my favorite subjects: the Catholic faith and art. It was put on by one of the priests at our parish, Fr. Rojas. I have been thinking about his message that weekend lately, and I wanted to share it.

He spoke about using some of the tools we use when we are studying art in our daily life when it comes to our faith. He spoke of these 5 tools:
1. Look
2. Admire
3. Adore
4. Contemplate
5. Recreate

Pieta- Michelangelo
The reason these things have been popping into my head?
1. I typed my notes from the retreat on my iPhone and I keep scanning over them.
2. I have been thinking about how I can apply this to my interactions with others.

One thing that I am grateful for this year, is that I have managed to find my voice again when it comes to speaking up and standing for my beliefs, and for engaging in conversations with others. My intention in these engagements is to challenge others thought processes as well as my own, and this blog is the result of my struggles with this. Religion and politics are always heated subjects, but there seem to be very few places where people engage constructively, without insults, and where people remember who they are talking to: not a different political or religious belief, but another person. What if we all took the time to:

Look at an issue at face value, then admire it from ALL angles, sides, perspectives and took the time to sift through information? I would change adore to respect for my comparison. There is a proper amount of respect and decorum that should exist in these kinds of conversations if anyone is to learn anything. What if we took the time to contemplate an issue and think our positions through to the possible conclusions? What if we took the time to contemplate resolutions in a more complete way through these discussions? Finally, what if we recreate the discussion by changing the tone, losing the insults, and taking off the blinders?

There have been many times I get lost in the "comments" at the bottom of an article or link. I see completely anonymous people be completely hateful to one another. I also see that there are many times the two (or ten) arguing parties agree on a few basic positions, but are too busy insulting each other to get to the heart of the matter. I am tired of these arguments. I want to be better than this. If we as constituents or feminists or Catholics or any other group want to be better than this and we begin to expect it from others, then the conversation will change.

I am still at work on defining some things about this page, because it is a reflection of who I am: a work in progress. I wanted to share these thoughts with those that read this page because it seems you too would like to see some things change.

Thank you to everyone that has commented and reads my posts. Please, please keep the comments coming! I have also set up a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/Cathofeminism) where I am active on a daily basis. I encourage you to join the page if you have not already, and please share with others. You do not have to be Catholic or consider yourself a feminist to be a part of this community.

So what do you think? How will you change the discussion?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Statue Grows in an Arboretum


This week, I have had several conversations revolving around parenting. I probably always do, but this week’s topics were more interesting.

The thing that never ceases to amaze me about being a parent is how exciting it is. Oh sure the kids give me a workout and I am never bored with them, but it is also such an amazing opportunity to put into action the kind of person you want to be. I have previously described the tugs and inner conflict I have when it comes to being Catholic and a feminist. In my head, there is a constant script running. That script reminds me of all the wonderful things I want to be and to teach to my children and how I incorporate the values I hold important to me in how I raise my children to be upstanding citizens and virtuous people.

When I had my son, I was thrilled to be pregnant. We did not find out he was a boy until he was born. I was elated at the sight of him, and so grateful and honored. It is impossible to put into words. We had been waiting for him to arrive and he is every bit as fantastic as I thought he would be and more. My daughter was sneakier about her arrival. I was Knock-Me-Over-With-A-Feather surprised when my doctor told me I was 6 weeks pregnant when I went in to tell him that we were ready to try to have another baby (God knew when we needed her!) I was excited and I knew immediately that I was having a girl. That is when the weight and the worry set in. I have a daughter. She will be every bit as stubborn as I am (oh, and she is, even at eight months). She will have a more challenging road ahead. I never questioned my ability to raise and be a mother to my son, but I was all sorts of worried about being a capable mother to my daughter. Can I prepare her for her life? Can I answer her questions? Am I strong enough to be the kind of woman she so desperately needs as a role model? I spent the rest of my pregnancy equal parts excited and terrified. When I went in to deliver her, there was a delay and I spent most of that time crying and more nervous than I have ever been as I thought about the type of woman, parent, sister, daughter and friend I am and want to be.

My children are under the age of three and everyday they are being molded. I no longer worry more about how I am parenting my daughter versus my son. My worries and doubts came from a very real place, but the reality is that both our sons and daughters have trials ahead of them. Maybe I thought about it more with my daughter because I am blatantly aware of the kinds of struggles she could face and it seems to permeate a girls’ childhood from day one: bombarded with pink and frills, clothing that fits weird and has elastic bands in weird places, princess culture and the message that beauty is most important from day one.  Overly sexualized clothing (skimpy bathing suits, tops, and in some cases even thong underwear for little girls) is the norm. Advertisers push and market specific types of inactive play to girls, and every doll, TV show or movie showcases unrealistic beauty expectations. We also do this on a seemingly milder scale with our boys: toy guns, violent toys and games, and a general consensus that boys shouldn’t play with ‘girl’ things or like ‘girl’ colors. How then, are we surprised when girls and boys alike view girls as sexual objects? How are we surprised that our girls experience sexual assault at a higher rate than they smoke? Then we continue to put the blame on the victims by saying there must have been something they did or didn’t do to ask for it.

All this being said, if I cannot live my life in one extreme, why live it in another? I do not believe my choices are to either give in to the sexual culture that pits our children against each other or hide them from the world. I choose balance. I will dress my kids in clothes that allow them room to play, and let them like whatever colors they want to like. I will raise my son and daughter to think critically and to experience a variety of what this world has to offer. This might include seeing some things that I might rather they didn’t see.  I know that as they get older the questions they have will be harder, but I am up for the challenge. I see a stark difference between advocating for a childhood that is free from bullying and forced gender roles and advocating for censorship. I cannot control what my children are seeing and doing 24/7. My oldest is 2 ½ and I can’t keep him in his own bed all night! That kind of control is exhausting and sucks the life out of you. I set boundaries of course, but I am my child’s primary educator. I take solace in the fact that I will be the educator and role model that they come to when they have questions, for instance, about a weird statue in the park or something they overhear, or see at a friend’s house. How are they supposed to relax and enjoy childhood if I am so tightly wound up from all the protesting and boycotting I am supposed to be doing?

UPDATE 08/15/2012
Now it is for the courts to decide...
http://www.kansas.com/2012/08/15/2450974/group-ready-to-take-sculpture.html

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My 8th Grade Sex Education Class


We should all be well aware there are things happening in our nation that bring the Catholic teachings on birth control and abortion front and center. We hear things in the news about the “The GOP (or Catholic or Republican) War on Women”. We are not short on politicians or feminist organizations or Planned Parenthood supporters to tell us the Catholic Churchis seeking to impose its will on America, and that its traditions and values are straight from the Dark Ages. Nearly every report from a mainstream source I have read likes to point out that many Catholics use birth control, so essentially the Catholic Church is trying to manhandle the government into enforcing the policies it has failed to enforce among Catholics. Cardinal Timothy Dolan (Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) has done a wonderful job of responding publically and correcting the assumption that opposition to the HHS Mandate is about birth control and women, when it is about religious freedom.

Don’t worry. I am not writing about whether or not this is about religious freedom. That is not the purpose of this CathoFeminism project. There are misconceptions about Catholic beliefs and how they relate to birth control and abortion that I would venture to guess that even most Catholics fall for. I would like to shed some light on this. This is an important subject when the question of Catholicism and Feminism is brought up because many mainstream brands of Feminism criticize the Catholic Church’s stance on birth control and abortion. Most importantly, I would like to start sifting through some of the details.

My excellent 8th grade sex education class was more that your standard abstinence only class. While that was the purpose of the class, it also gave me important information about the various forms of contraception. As that class was over 15 years ago, some new things have been added to the list, but the most important thing that class taught me was the importance of realistically assessing birth control: effectiveness, potential side effects, how it works, what it contains, and exactly why the Catholic Church is against its use.

Here is the most important question: Why does the Catholic Church oppose contraception?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:  (1643) "Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter -appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that ,beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values."

In other words,  Catholics are to see sex as reserved for marriage to bond or unite husband and wife and open to procreation always (unless there is a serious reason not to have a child).  Sex must always be unitive, and open to life. Sex should not be about saying to your husband or wife “I love you, but not all of you.” It is about loving and respecting each other fully (including our fertility),because we are equals.

(You can get much of this information and more from a site like WebMD.) As I recall, we began our class talking about barrier methods of contraception. The most common forms of barrier methods are condoms and diaphragms, though there are others as well. Barrier methods block sperm from entering the uterus. Don’t worry; I won’t give you the entire analysis! I want only to give an overview at this time.  If you were to put them on a line and told to rank the various forms of contraception from least to most problematic, barrier methods are on the lesser end of the spectrum, but they still prevent intercourse from being open to life.

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) can be made of copper or hormonal (like Mirena). IUDs fit with barrier and hormonal contraception because they utilize chemicals or hormones to block sperm. Copper is toxic to sperm (it is also not good for the human body in general, but I digress), but there are now hormonal forms of IUDs that focus on keeping the uterine lining thin, and thickening the cervical mucus so that sperm cannot get through. These also prevent intercourse from being open to life. (Ok, all birth control has been created to avoid pregnancy obviously!)

Hormonal contraception (pills, shots) has the potential to be an entirely different ballgame; an abortafacient. Hormonal contraception utilizes progesterone or estrogen to control the uterine environment: thickening mucus, thinning the uterine lining, etc. This means it is extremely likely that if conception has occurred, the uterine environment will tell awoman’s body it is not pregnant, and menstruation will flush all that is inside the uterus, including the human life (AKA: abortion: hence the term abortafacient). Emergency contraception has also been in the news lately for various reasons, but its claim to fame is that it can be taken after sex and can “prevent” pregnancy. The reality is that it is a beefed up dose of birth control and it tricks a woman’s body into think it is not pregnant and everything is flushed during menstruation (if it works). This kind of birth control is further along on the spectrum I mentioned earlier because it not only eliminates the procreative element for sex, but it takes a human life.

There are other, more permanent, solutions to prevent pregnancy: sterilization (tubal ligation, vasectomy) or abortion. I don’t think I need to elaborate on these.

Thankfully, there are better options for women (Catholic or not) that do not include pumping hormones into our bodies, killing our offspring or inserting torturous-looking devices into our nether regions. These options are the various natural planning methods (NFP): Billings, Creighton, Sympto Thermal Method (STM) and Marquette to name a few. Hormonal contraception manipulates the uterine environment to avoid pregnancy. This fact alone proves that there is science behind what makesa woman fertile or not. The various NFP methods involve tracking certain fertility measures (mucus consistency, cervix location, waking body temperature for example). Look at that. This is not the Rhythm Method! No moon or hocus pocus mentioned. Scientific evidence exists to help a woman not only know her body better, but to avoid pregnancy or conceive successfully. The best part about this option, is that once you have the instruction, the costs are minimal. Depending on which method works best for you, you are talking about a thermometer and some charts, or some charts and a monitor. I will not go into success vs. failure rates of any of these methods. That information is important, but it is not the point that I am trying to make here. (Can you imagine sitting through all of that for weeks as a 13 year old in mixed company?!)

So, I should get to it already, right? My point it this: I oppose abortion and abortafacients (including hormonal contraception) because they take a life. I believe life begins at conception because I am a woman (not because I am Catholic) and none of the other options make sense. It is either a life from the first moment or it would stand to reason that you could take a life at any random moment from beginning to end and it wouldn’t matter. There is never a moment where it could be a cow or a chicken or anything else: when sperm fertilizes an egg, a human life has begun. While Catholicism certainly supports this, I am not pro-life because I am Catholic. I am a prolife feminist because I believe women should not have to choose between being a woman and their children. That is where mainstream Feminism gets it wrong.

As for my opposition to other forms of contraception, that is deeply rooted in my Catholic faith. You will note that at no point did I state others could not hold different opinions, or that the government should be enforcing Catholic beliefs. You see, the beauty of being a human is that we have free will and intellect. Decide for yourself what you believe. You have the right to practice or not practice your faith or lack thereof, as do I. I vote we should all be responsible for paying for our own birth control or family planning methods or lack thereof. Not our employer, not our church, and certainly not our tax payers or government.

So what about you? What informs and guides your beliefs? I am also interested how you remember your sex education classes... informative? Glossed over?

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Brief Terminology Review



All taken from Merriam Webster Online Dictionary (The years that follow each term are the year of the first known usage of that word)

Pro-Life (1971): Opposed to abortion

Pro-Choice (1975)/Pro-Abortion (1972): Favoring the legalization of abortion

Anti –Abortion (1866)/ Anti-Choice (1978): Opposed to abortion and especially the legalization of abortion

I hear the above terms used often. The definitions I discovered are different from what they mean in discussions, debates, arguments and protest signs. First, let us look at the term Pro-Life. I identify as being Pro-Life. This word to me means that I value life beginning to natural end, not that I am simply opposed to abortion. It means I am also opposed to infanticide, assisted or unassisted suicide, murder, mercy killing, and the death penalty. Do I believe that I have control over all of these things? No. I would however like to be a part of creating an environment where we believe in the goodness in other people, that all human life is valuable, and in the rehabilitation of criminals. I also would like to be a part of a society where those that have help those who have not, etc.  Sounds idealistic, but isn’t people being selfless and caring for others that what all of us would rather see? I am also held to a higher standard by those in opposition to my stance than merely being “opposed to abortion”. I have often seen arguments arguing the hypocrisy of the Pro-Lifer that believes in the death penalty, and accusations that Pro-Lifers stop caring about life after birth.

Now, take the term Pro-Choice. I was surprised to see the definition stop at legalizing abortion. The word choice implies to me that one would favor choices, not that it is interchangeable with Pro-Abortion. I would like to see more Pro-Choicers held to a higher standard: if you are advocating for choice, shouldn’t you be advocating for all choices, including supportive environments for women that choose to respect the life growing inside them and continue their pregnancy? (This concept does not address the issues with not supporting the women and men that are being aborted as casualties of this choice).

Finally we have the terms that seem to be appearing with more frequency as of late: Anti-Abortion and Anti-Choice. Anti-Abortion is not a term I take issue with. I am, indeed, Anti-Abortion. Anti-Choice, however, implies that I am against a woman having choices at all and that is simply not the case. If you recall, I identify as being Pro-Life, so I do not see abortion as being a choice because that innocent life that an abortion would take deserves a chance to live. I do support a woman’s true choices. She deserves a supportive environment if she decides to raise her child or if she decides adoption is her best option. Women that felt their only option was abortion need support and care after the trauma. I also believe in eliminating the reasons a woman would feel backed into that decision (more on this later!).

I found the years of the first usage of these terms to be interesting. Most of them require no further explanation, but to see that Anti-Abortion predates them all by nearly 100 years… I don’t know what to think about that!

 Do you have similar or different thoughts on the analysis of these terms? Any terms to add?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Ode to Friendship


I have a friend named Misty. Misty and I are different in nearly every way imaginable, but as with any friendship, we have a few things we both are very passionate about. As I recall, our first conversation included subjects like sex education, religion and politics. I adore our conversations as much as I adore her. We both strive to put our families first. We both struggle at times with motherhood, and our roles as mothers, sisters, friends and coworkers. We are both women that want to see better for our children. We both view friendships like ours as the key to real change.

Not all of our conversations are political or about religion, but when something hits the news, I want to know her thoughts. When I read a book about feminism, I want her to be reading it also so that I can tell her my thoughts and get her perspective as well. Sometimes I think we both wish the other would come around a bit on certain issues. Sometimes the conversation feels more like an argument, or one of us is at a loss for words and we take a break. Most of the time we talk things through and we arrive at the same old conclusion: we agree on the root cause of whatever that day’s topic may be. When we take the time to work through an issue without name calling, personal attacks, preconceived ideas or the given political party lines, we get somewhere. We have a focus.

I wish that every conversation I had with people that involves feminism, politics, religion or any other hot button issue could be as productive as the talks I have with Misty. It is a difficult thing to not lash out at someone that doesn’t agree with you. I have been improving my communication skills within my friendship with Misty going on 5 years. All of that practice and just today I slipped and typed before I had a chance to calm down and think about what I was saying. I anticipated a negative response to my words before I had even written them and that is precisely what was given to me in return.  This slip-up was not with Misty, but all the same I regret not contributing positively and instead allowing myself to be baited.

I am still a work in progress. Next time, I will allow myself time to think and respond properly. Do you have something you can work on to make these conversations more productive?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Part Two: My Feminist History




“Feminist” was sort of a dirty word for me until recently. It isn’t that I wasn’t one, more that I was scared to admit that I was. In 2006, I applied for a domestic and sexual advocacy position at the local shelter. I was so nervous to interview: the interview taking place before me took a very long time, and I just knew they had already found someone to fill the position. I knew I wanted the job and I was eager to begin working in a field where I felt I could make a difference, but I was afraid that the fact I did not consider myself a feminist would show through and I would not be hired. It felt at first like just a job in some ways, but I also could not imagine doing anything else once I started.  I enjoyed working with survivors, and I learned a great deal from them as well as my coworkers. I still did not think I was a feminist though. After all, you could not be a feminist and be pro-life. Many of the mainstream feminist organizations told me this. You also cannot be a feminist and vote even the slightest bit conservatively. Perhaps most importantly, you cannot be a feminist and be Catholic.

My time as an advocate made me acutely aware of many things about the reality many women face day after day. They face a series of systems that set them up to fail. Women are told in nearly every advertisement, magazine, TV show and movie how they need to be in order to “get a man”. The over-sexualization begins younger every season. We tell our women that they must fit a special mold to be a woman, and then when they fit this mold, we tell them it is their fault when they are sexually assaulted. We blame them for being in abusive relationships. We blame women for being victims but that is what we ask them to be when we do not focus instead on how we stop the abuse.  Then these women are left to pick up the pieces amid chaos.

In a way, mainstream modern feminism contributes to this by focusing on the aftermath versus the problem.  The concept that abortions should be available in case someone gets raped or molested does not help keep these things from happening. Changing how our society views women is a far more complex, but it is a path that will give real solutions instead of more victim-blaming.

It was not until the past few months that I began to really look at the history of feminism. As I mentioned in my first post, I have often felt ostracized in these conversations by both sides, and this finally kicked me into research mode a few months ago. The fact that the first feminists were pro-life and that the number of pro-life feminist groups continues to grow was a truly life-altering realization for me. I had resisted the research and at times I resisted making connections with other women, because I was certain feminism was in opposition to my faith because the brand of feminism I was familiar with was anti-Catholic.

This concept of being a Catholic Feminist is so new to me; there are still many things I have to learn. I do know that we are having the wrong conversations if we think Catholicism and Feminism are mutually exclusive.

What I find humorous in all of this is that I have been entrenched in “Cathofeminism” for most of my life without realizing it. A few days after I began my advocacy work, a coworker asked me if I had studied for the interview because 99% of my responses were spot on despite not having any prior training. Much like my faith, the feminist torch had been passed to me by my mother, my aunts and my grandmother.

Our challenge now is to begin having the right conversations.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Part One: My Catholic History (in brief)



“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” – St. Augustine

At times it is simply a mystery to me how I held on to my Catholic identity.

 I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school until I was in the eighth grade. I went to a public high school, but very willingly attended CCD (religious education classes) as well as Totus Tuus(for some reason I cannot get the link to work correctly:  http://catholicdioceseofwichita.org/totus-tuus/totus-tuus-home) in the summer. I became active in youth group. It never occurred to me to take a different path to be honest. This doesn’t mean that my faith has never been tested or challenged, but I always had a solid idea of where I was going in life even if I was fuzzy on the details. Being Catholic was not up for debate or compromise in my life. After high school I went to a state university, but even there I began attending daily Mass, and many of my friends and acquaintances were Catholic. I went on to spend two summers teaching Totus Tuus. My first summer teaching brought about a few changes in my life: new friends, the death of a role model, and lost friendships. I also began the difficult process of filling in the details of what I wanted to do with my life. This prompted a change of schools for my junior and senior years of college and an intense internal struggle with my personal discernment process. It meant I was headed back to a Catholic education. I spent the rest of college studying my faith as well as falling in love (a quick shout out to my husband!) It was important to me to take the basic principles of my faith beyond my eighth grade understanding. Teaching Totus Tuus was a strong motivator for this, but so was my life. Not many of my family members remained Catholic, not many of my friends did either. I was confirmed my junior year of high school (barely), and I had a very good idea of the kind of Catholic woman I wanted to be then, but I did not know why I wanted this. (I believe that the Catholic Church has some adjusting and expanding to do in regards to religious education standards, but this is a topic for another day).  I wanted to expand my knowledge of what it means to be a Catholic woman today, in America. To do this I studied. I asked questions. I entered into debates with priests and sisters. I discussed these things with my fellow Totus Tuus teammates and I surrounded myself with people that would challenge my beliefs so that I could learn more.  As my heart and mind became more devout, my struggles intensified, but only because I became more certain of my faith and more aware of my own imperfections. I am grateful for these experiences.

Of course, my journey as a Catholic does not end there. As a wife and mother, every day brings new challenges. That is precisely what I love about my Catholic faith: it is not a set of rules that you blindly follow, nor is it a list of things to do or not to do.  It is a way of life. It is a calling to know and love and believe when things are good and when things are difficult. It is all encompassing, and requires you to do the leg work.  I am incapable of understanding it all, but I have my entire life to work on it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Whew!

That first post came out of the gate a bit strong, eh? Rough month. All of 2012 has been that way for me to be honest.
I think the best way to get this started is at the beginning. The next few posts will lay out the basics of where I am coming from, and I hope to hear more of the same from others that want to join the conversation. Too often I feel hesitant to take my seat at the table. I would wager this usually is because I am short on time, allies, and patience.When you begin discussing politics, religion or feminism online you open yourself up to personal attacks  that can be brutal. The anonymity seems to make some folks believe they can be hurtful and ugly. I simply needed to create a space where I am confident my views will be heard and discussed, because I think I am pretty awesome!
Stay tuned, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Also, If you would like to join me on Facebook, here is the link:

http://www.facebook.com/Cathofeminism

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Mission Statement of Sorts

I live in a world that tells me I cannot be a Feminist and Catholic.

When I am in discussion with Feminists, I am small minded and sexist. I am hateful for opposing abortion. I am treated as though my very core is anti-woman and perspective is part of a patriarchal point of view that has a singular purpose: destroying women. I am ridiculed for staying home with my children instead of exercising my right to work outside the home. The hounds are released and they do not stop until they draw blood. I am not treated with respect for my point of view or my beliefs. I am ignored, passed over and seen as some sort of joke. Though I have spent 24 years and counting studying the complexities of Catholic doctrine and faith and spent 6 of those years pursuing a liberal arts undergraduate degree as well as a masters degree in business administration, I am told I am uneducated and dense for believing in God and that both men and women have beautiful purpose and equality. When I say that men and women are different and equal and that those differences can be embraced, I am told that separate and equal doesn’t work. I am a religious zealot that does not belong this conversation.

When I am in discussion with conservative Catholic women, I am also a joke. I have been indoctrinated with liberal brain-washing that tells me women are better than men. I obviously do not know my place. I am absurd for believing women have a place outside the home if they so choose. I am rejecting church teaching by believing my strongest witness to my faith is in how I treat others instead of how I judge others. I am a hypocrite for not ensuring that every penny I spend does not indirectly end up supporting immoral actions. I am too secular for this discussion.

In both circles, I am a fool for expecting to be heard. I am guilty of bigotry before I open my mouth to speak. I am not an expert. I need to be “fixed” to join the unceasing debate.

Yet here I am. I was born and raised Catholic. My faith is as much who I am as my womanhood, motherhood and sisterhood. I believe that every human deserves a chance at life regardless of who their parents are or ability. I believe that every individual has hardships that help form who they are in life, and that those contributions are important. There is death, destruction, hate, and evil in this world and it is all ugly. It can’t be ignored but I choose to focus on how I can make it better. I believe I have a duty to focus on the good I can bring into this world. I believe that my Catholic identity is complex and beautiful. I believe there is room for feminism.

I was also born and raised a feminist. My parents taught me that women matter. I was allowed room to disagree, discuss and form my own conclusions for issues both simple and complex. I was taught to think for myself, to respect myself and to trust in my abilities, strengths, and even things that appear to be weaknesses. My interests were encouraged. I was raised to stand up for what I believed in and to love others.  I pursued a liberal arts degree and a master’s degree. Before (and after) becoming a mother, I pursued a career helping survivors of physical, mental and sexual violence. I believe there is room for Catholicism.

I will continue to live my life believing that my Feminist and Catholic identities are not mutually exclusive. I will continue to speak up even though others feel I need to be “fixed” or “educated” or “put in my place”. Use whatever vulgar language you need to in order to make yourself feel better. When you are ready for civil and respectful discussion, let me know. I believe that kind of discussion can lead to some pretty amazing things, and I look forward to a day where everyone really does have a seat at the table. I look forward to a day where we start recognizing and addressing the real problems instead of focusing on the resulting solutions that steal focus and divide.