December 3-9, 2001
volume 12, no. 159

The Egalitarian Revolution    part nine

The Emancipation of Women

    We might say that the first organized assault of the Revolution against women began with a psychological emancipation. The Revolution began to present the situation of the woman at home as a kind of servitude to her hus-band. The title "helpmate of man" became distasteful as if she were not her own person, but a kind of appendage added on in God's plan for the benefit of man. So woman, instead of being the happy wife and proud mother of her children, truly the queen of the home, was encouraged to consider herself as an exploited person working for the others who were not considering her rights.

    There were many factors that contributed to this change in the model ideal of a woman as an obedient wife and dedicated mother. A whole talk could be given on the influence of Hollywood films. According to the Hollywood model, the ideal woman was no longer the dignified mother and supportive wife so appropriately described by Pius XII in the text cited in the previous article. Nor was she the noble and refined lady who could still be found in many circles of the European aristocracy.

    The new Hollywood model presented very beautiful women, but turned toward self-contemplation of their beauty and their worldly success, rather than any spiritual value. If a women is turned primarily toward her own pleasure, sooner or later she will begin to seek exciting love affairs, which is what the movie stars did, reacting only to their feelings of the moment. The glamorous Hollywood stars - Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Rita Hayword, Elizabeth Taylor - played roles without any serious concern for marriage and even less for a future family. Their personal lives became fodder for the gossip columns and movie magazines -- divorce, remarriage, then another disillusionment and a new romance. In other words, the ideal moral standards completely changed with the new Hollywood model.

    This kind of new glamorous Hollywood model, along with other factors, exerted a great psychological pressure on the woman to find realization outside the home. Instead of loving God and being dedicated and willing to sacrifice for an ideal, the ideal of the Catholic family, she began to see her vocation as wife and mother as a shameful sign of weakness and degradation. To restore her supposedly lost dignity, she would need to no longer submit to her husband and begin to take a psychological distance from her children so that she could be independent, live her own life and not be swallowed up by the family.

The next three Emancipations

    Now, having looked at the first psychological moral emancipation, let's consider briefly the next three: 2nd, the political emancipation of the woman, which was followed by the 3rd, the economic emancipation, and finally, 4th, the degrading sexual emancipation that we are witnessing today.

    The political emancipation marks the beginning of the 20th century as women won the right to vote in Scandinavian countries and various other Protestant countries, including the United States, which passed the 19th Amendment in 1917. From there, it contaminated the legislation of Catholic European countries like France, Italy and Portugal. (1)

    Until the beginning of 20th century, generally speaking, the primary role of women was considered to be inside the home, to be the queen of the home. Public affairs were the domain of men. According to Catholic doctrine, men are better suited by nature to govern in the public domain. When the man is the head, acting in the public domain and with the voice to defend his home and property, it serves to preserve the unity of the family. Thus the political emancipation of women was a step in the breakdown of traditional family values and hierarchy.

    Parallel to this was the economic emancipation of women, which often found its footing in an unbalanced desire for progress. A middle-class couple with a good education made a tacit agreement to make a quick jump to another social level - for example, from the ethnic city neighborhood to the suburb. Instead of being content to stay at or near the same level as their parents, a revolutionary impulse made them focus their primary energies on "getting ahead." So both had jobs. A double income, double of what their parents had. But this also meant putting off having many children and limiting the size of the family. Without children or with only a few, with both parents out of home all day at work, it is not difficult to realize that we have the destruction of the organic family.

    I remember a good friend of mine who was a child of this kind of Catholic marriage in the '50s. When she would walk home from school on those Wisconsin winter afternoons where darkness sets in so early, she would loiter, knowing that when she reached her house it would be cold, dark, empty. To delay a little, she would peek into the picture windows of houses where the lights were on, the mother was home and everything seemed so warm and light. As Pius XII noted, the wife is the sun that illuminates and warms the home.

    This kind of practical couple intent on economic stability or success -- the ideal of the Yuppies -- doesn't realize that every child needs an atmosphere of respect, affection, and warmth, and this depends so much on the mother. Otherwise the child can be extremely hurt and perhaps even definitively deformed in his psychology. Further, the wife accustomed to have the independence of her own job, sometimes more profitable than that of her husband, will normally find many opportunities for sentimental adventures. The husband, without the at-traction of the family ambience in which he reigns as a kind of king and realizing his wife is not dependent upon him, also can feel freer to undertake his own adventures to fill the emptiness of his home life.

Feminismo arrabiato

    Parallel to this economic emancipation, the '60s saw the rise of a radical "furious feminism,"(2) as the Italians termed it. It was headed by the new champions of women liberation, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Freiden, Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem, to name a few.(3) This rabid feminist movement launched a true class warfare against men. Everything a man did, he was accused of machismo. It was a feminism that seemed to insist a woman become like a man, and women even took on masculine manners: smoking, speaking vulgarly or even cursing, talking about business, cars, sports etc. Then, with the wife out of the home doing a man's work, often the husband had to take the place of the wife at home, even to the point where a new term was phrased, the house husband.

    An error coming and going. Trying to liberate women, feminism in real-ity masculinized them. And the men underwent a kind of feminization. Therefore, by masculinizing women and feminizing men, this virulent phase of radical feminism indirectly favored androgynism. Of course this "furious feminism" of the '60s and '70s attacked the Christian precepts of chastity, virginity, conjugal fidelity, and the indissolu-bility of the matrimonial bond. The 1968 hippie revolution of the Sorbonne demanded sexual freedom for women, promoted contraception and called for virtually unrestricted abortion rights. Hollywood and the mass media again have been indispensable tools for further acceptance of these anti-na-tural ideas, which many young women today consider their rights.

    Thus, the first anti-man, anti-family phase of feminism was based on the notion of radical equality of men and women, which in fact, tried to make women into male clones.

Marian Therese Horvat, Ph.D.


  • (1) - The right to vote for women was established in 1907 in Finland, 1910 in England, 1913 in the United States, and 1925 in Denmark, Sweden and Holland. Around 30 years later it found its way into the laws of France, Italy, Portugal and other Catholic Christian countries.
  • (2) - The expression feminismo arrabiato was coined by Fr. Piersando Vanzan, S. J, in his article "Problematiche feministe alla vigilia del sinodo sui laici," published in La CiviltÓ Cattolica, March 7, 1987, p. 461, Note 9.
  • (3) - Simone de Beauvoir, a bisexual, wrote The Second Sex (launched in France in 1949) in which she insisted that a woman had to enter the workplace to become a free human being and that maternity was a myth invented to subdue and enslave women. Betty Freiden described the housewife as a "parasite" in The Feminine Mystique, and rejected domestic life as unsuitable for any woman. Germaine Greer argued that marriage was out-moded in her popular work, The Female Eunuch, and Gloria Steinem called for complete sexual freedom and deliberately chose childlessness in order to "give birth only to myself."

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    For past columns by Dr. Horvat, see Archives of Echoes of True Catholicism

    December 3-9, 2001
    volume 12, no. 159
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