Just finished The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand and wanted to dash off a few lines in ref. Perhaps, before we go any further, I should just mention that I am not a member of the Catholic church. There is no need to be Catholic to see eye to eye with this lady on not-a-few issues, her book is inspiring and a pleasure to read. Fairly early on in the proceedings von Hildebrand waggles a finger at the modern school of thought (which carelessly talks of the "emancipation" of women, but really means the "masculinization" of women) and I like to stand by and look smug whenever that's being done. Plus, she does sum it up rather well,
Unwittingly, the feminists acknowledge the superiority of the male sex by wishing to become like men. They foolishly want to alter inequality rather than to achieve truth or justice. (p10)This book is refreshing because she upholds womanhood - not because women are the best or that we are strong in ourselves or because we are simply united in an earthly way - but because God holds up women and has given us many graces and privileges. She also reminds us that motherhood isn't a lowly harangue:
The fashions of the day are all geared toward destroying women's sensitivity for the dignity of their sex. (p90)
...in the light of redemption (which has given a sublime meaning to suffering), to suffer agony to bring another human being into the world is a premonition of the sufferings of Christ whose blood has redeemed us. (p16)
One day, all human accomplishments will be reduced to a pile of ashes. But every single child to whom a woman has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an immortal soul made to God's image and likeness. In this light, the assertion of de Beauvoir that "woman produces nothing" becomes particularly ludicrous. (p33)The best part of the book, though, is when she touches on weakness or perceived weakness. This "weakness" includes humility, chastity, modesty, self-sacrifice, and service.
Just as Christ has suffered the agonizing pains of the crucifixion in order to reopen for us the gates of heaven, so the woman has received the costly privilege of suffering so that another child made in God's image and likeness can enter into the world... Chesterton writes, "No one staring at the frightful female privilege, can quite believe in the equality of the sexes..." (p87)
...Nietzsche's philosophy in a nutshell - the glorification of strength and the denigration of weakness - has become the shallow core of modern thought and feminist belief. (p23)
...secularistic view is the claim that 'service is degrading'... It is humiliating. (p31)
Modern ideology wages war on the Gospel which teaches humility and that those that lower themselves will be exalted. (p32)
Women are more geared to piety because they have a keener awareness of their weakness. This is their true strength. (p66)
And, of course, von Hildebrand brings forth the most excellent example of Mary the Mother of Jesus. She points us to Mary who was a woman who was not passive, but receptive: "be it done to me according to Thy word".
...women are called upon to imitate Mary's virtues: first and foremost, her radiant humility. (p99)There were, as with any work, statements I would debate. For example, I would disagree with the authoress on the point she made that Mary's womb was too holy after the birth of Jesus to consummate her marriage with Joseph. But there are many gems in this short (small book, 100 pages) read.
Some other authors she quotes:
...if all knees should bend in front of the Saviour, all heads should bow in front of His mother. (Gueranger)
un peuple vaut ce que valent ses femmes (Vinet)
the value of a people is to be gauged by the value of its women
Where the woman is faithful, no evil can befall. The woman is the root and the man the tree. The tree grows only as high as the root is strong. (Confucius)
The artist who no longer gives God the honor, and instead proclaims only himself, must, by excluding the religious element from culture, practically eliminate also its womanly quality. (Gertrud von le Fort, speaking on modern art)
I hate all talk about the emancipation of women...for once [man] has made her believe that she is entirely in his power, at the mercy of his will, she can be nothing for him except a prey to his whims, whereas as woman, she can be everything for him. (Kierkegaard)
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
plus potuit, quia plus amavit (Saint Gregory)
having the stronger love, she had the stronger power