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.