Modern Catholic Women

    Not Just Pretty Men: An Appeal for Distinctively Female Characters

    Not just pretty men: An appeal for distinctively female characters --

    Outrage rang loudly through the internet with the announcement that the classic film “Ghostbusters” would be remade with all-female leads. While many of those complaints could be dismissed as sexist, there is a valid reason to complain when remakes put women in roles formerly held by men: it’s lazy writing at best, and more concerning, it is a huge disservice to women.

    As Catholics, we know that men and women are distinct – and in certain ways, that makes us different. When we take a well-known movie and just switch out a man for a woman, we are acting like men and women are merely interchangeable. Rather than developing a strong female character based on the unique traits of women, we are acting as though there is nothing distinctive about being a woman. Though equal in dignity, men and women have different strengths, weaknesses, and traits that make them uniquely masculine or feminine.  A strong female character should emphasize these gifts; she shouldn’t just be a pretty man.

    When we take a well-known movie and just switch out a man for a woman, we are acting like men and women are merely interchangeable.

    Though many movies fail to even pass the infamous feminist “Bechdel test” -let alone present strong female leads- there are also movies that present strong women who draw their strength from their femininity, not in spite of it. What do specifically feminine strengths look like? Inspired by these four Feminine Gifts scholars say were identified by Pope Saint John Paul II, I sought out movies that presented strong women – as women. Here’s what I found.

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    Other Resources

    Discussions on Divorce: What We’re Leaving Out

    Divorce & What we're leaving out --

    Discussions on divorce in Catholic circles tend to focus on two points: 1) pastoral care for divorced persons in the Church and 2) the question of (not) permitting divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion. As members of the body of Christ, we need to ask these questions and properly care for divorced Catholics. At the same time, there is a sobering void in our discussions. We are quick to state how deeply divorce hurts children, but we are largely silent when it comes to how we can help them.

    We are quick to state how deeply divorce hurts children, but we are largely silent when it comes to how we can help them.

    The truly efficacious grace given to me during the sacrament of Confirmation is, I am convinced, what kept me in the Church. One year after my Confirmation, my parents told me they were getting divorced. I sought comfort and healing in the Church, spent more time at my parish than before their divorce, and never missed Mass on Sundays. How I wish my situation were the rule and not the exception.

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    Dear Edith

    Starving at Church Response #1 – Jacque

    When Parish life leaves you feeling dry --

    Dear Starving but Wanting to Stay,

    There is a letter by J.R.R. Tolkien written to his son, to which I refer frequently because of Tolkien’s eminent reverence for the Eucharist; but Tolkien also gives his son a piece of advice that I think about often and find appropriate to share here:

    “I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand – after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.”

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    Modern Catholic Women

    Stronger than darkness: The call to respond to racism

    The Call to Respond to Racism --

    I could not believe my eyes when I sat on my bed, on a typical Saturday morning in Charlottesville, scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook.

    All that I saw were videos of protesters, carrying torches and marching in a line, down the lawn of the University of Virginia, my university, in the dead of night.

    I knew that the Unite the Right white supremacist rally was going to take place in Emancipation Park later in the day, but I had no idea that this evil would be marching less than one mile away from my apartment in the dead of night.  

    I had no idea that this evil would be marching less than one mile away from my apartment in the dead of night.

    The next twenty-four hours were spent on lockdown alone in my apartment, with my eyes glued to a livestream of the news on my laptop while all of Virginia was in a state of emergency. A white supremacy rally had turned into large scale riots, violence had out-broken between the supremacists and protesters, policemen were struggling to clear the crowd, and a car was driven by a white supremacist down a crowded street, killing a woman and injuring others. The places where I had the past three years laughing with my friends was full of carnage, evil, and terrorism.

    The following day I walked straight into my university parish and asked the chaplain, “What happened and what now?”

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    Modern Catholic Women, Other Resources

    Shopping in blissful ignorance: A spotlight on Fast Fashion

    I begin with a prayer that I may not be blind or indifferent to the suffering of others.  

    I first heard the term “fast fashion” two years ago.  

    I took in the scene immediately: the quickly changing trends, the insatiable consumerism, the disregard for waste, the rock-bottom prices and consequent rock-bottom wages.  

    The phrase itself validated my lifelong sense of being a step behind the fashion curve.  By the time I pondered a new trend long enough to decide whether I liked it, then decided whether it was worth a purchase, and THEN got around to actually shopping – the trend was stale, more often than not.  

    The phrase also convicted.  How often have I bought an item, only to barely use it or find I didn’t like it as much when I got home?  

    I knew in a vague sense about the connection between fast fashion, sweatshops, and garment workers’ rights.  I could name a brand or two that claimed to be ethically made.  

    But I was horrified to learn what I hadn’t known.  

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    Modern Catholic Women

    Contributor Convo: Notre Dame and the Contraceptive Mandate

    Contributor Convo: Notre Dame and the Contraceptive Mandate --

    Faithful Catholic feminists, discussing tough issues.


    Recently the Trump Administration rolled back the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate – allowing organizations to refuse “no questions asked” coverage of birth control on the grounds of religious freedom. The University of Notre Dame is among the most prominent organizations to announce it will be utilizing this religious exemption, and dropping birth control coverage for women without a medical need.

    THE PRO SIDE: Agreeing with Notre Dame’s decision to drop contraception coverage

    By Samantha Povlock 

    To start off, it’s important to note that there are a whole list of reasons why the so-called ACA “Contraceptive Mandate” is ineffective at promoting women’s freedom and health.

    But as a feminist, a Catholic, and an alumna of Notre Dame myself, I wanted to respond specifically to the discussion I’ve seen around the University’s decision, and to challenge the most common claims I’ve seen for why this decision is an attack on women.

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    From Resenting to Befriending Mary

    From Resenting to Befriending Mary --

    Though I was raised Catholic, the Virgin Mary has been a figure I have wrestled with throughout my life. Experiences of hurt and certain secular feminist perspectives caused me to question and even resent who I thought Mary was. Experiences of healing, prayer, and reflection ultimately revealed more about Mary, and led to a deep friendship with her and greater peace within myself.

    In order to explain the progression in my relationship with Mary, I need to share a bit of my own story. When I was a sophomore in high school, my mom and dad split up after my dad came forward about being unfaithful. Eventually, my dad moved out of state while I was still in high school and was financially unstable and inconsistent with any kind of support to my mom. My mom was a single parent, breadwinner, sole caretaker for my little sister and I, yet she was also going through her own anguish which I often bore the brunt of. My dad fell from the pedestal I’d placed him on, and my mom simultaneously modeled that she didn’t need a man (or couldn’t rely on one) and yet often shifted the responsibility (unwittingly) onto me to pick up her broken pieces.

    Understandably as a result of this, I learned to bottle up my emotions in order to be strong for others. I learned not to trust others to be there for you, especially men, and that women need to be strong for themselves. Both my maternal grandmother, and great grandmother were also single mothers with failed marriages.  I come from a line of women who are independent, strong, stubborn, resilient, gritty, and unorthodox. I also learned to downplay my femininity because it seemed to be so associated with a lot of negative stereotypes about women such as being less capable, less intelligent, and weak or easy to manipulate. In my desire to be treated as equal I felt I needed to embody more masculine qualities, and I resented my femininity and seeing others who displayed it.

    Yet, deep down, I longed for someone to support me, to be loved by a man in the ways my dad failed to love my mom and me. This longing was often manifested in unhealthy and codependent ways. I longed to not repress my femininity. So when I saw it so openly and freely expressed in others, my resentment was rooted partly in my own longing to be more feminine, partly in feelings of inadequacy – that I would never be feminine enough – that I could never embody all that consists of being the perfect, ideal woman.  

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