Would John Paul II approve of International Women’s Day?

March 8th is International Women’s Day. If you logged onto Facebook this morning you were reminded that today is a day to “celebrate the amazing contributions women make to our world and our future”

And if that was what International Women’s Day was, I’d agree. But after doing some research on the origins of the holiday, I have to take a step back and ask the question only a huge Theology of the Body and history nerd like myself would ask –

Would Saint Pope John Paul II approve of International Women’s Day? 

An International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8, 1917 in Petrograd. Women who worked in the textile industry gathered in the capitol of Russia and rioted.  This was the start of the Russian Revolution, which caused Emperor Nicholas II to abdicate the throne just one short week later. The women’s day march-turned-riot was an incredible turning point for the rise of communism.  The provisional government that took the place of Emperor Nicholas granted women the right to vote. But the communist governments around the world  also issued in a reign of terror.

For perspective, Hitler and his Nazi regime killed between 11 and 12 million people, 6 million of them Jews.   Communist leader Mao Zedong of China is responsible for the deaths of somewhere between 40 and 75 million Chinese people.  His political decision of the Great Leap Forward alone is responsible for the deaths of 18 to 45 million.

Stalin is estimated to have been responsible for 20 million deaths, placing him second on the list of dictators who killed the most people.

For the almost sixty years, the holiday was celebrated mostly by socialist movements and communists countries – including the Soviet Union, China, and Spanish communists in 1936.  In commenting about the women’s march, Stalin said:

“I wish them every success…in making the two sections of the oppressed masses, which are still unequal in status, a single army of fighters for the abolition of all inequality and of all oppression, for the victory of the proletariat, and for the building of a new, socialist society in our country. Long live International Communist Women’s Day!”

So with its roots in the communist movements, I am hard pressed to believe John Paul II would be involved. After all, communism played a significant role in the life of John Paul II.  In fact, he fought it so strongly that Mikhail Gorbachev said, “I did not destroy Communism, John Paul II did.”

John Paul II  spent a majority of his life standing up against the forces of Communism – but also standing up for the beauty of the feminine genius and the beauty of masculine and feminine complimentary.  His first mission after he was elected pope was a series of 129 Wednesday audiences discussing the importance of men and women in today’s world in order to bring about a better understanding about the beauty of God, sex and our universal longing for fulfillment.  He saw people as persons to be loved, not things to be used. This didn’t sit well with the strong belief of the Communist government that people were meant to be used.

“He [John Paul II] knew that people do not exist for the good of the state. Rather, the state should exist in order to serve the people.  This wasn’t about making the government more religious, but about making it worthy of the human person. In Wojtyla’s mind, injustices such as violence and the suppression of of human rights are lies spoken against the truth of humanity. When the laws of a state are not based upon the truth of the dignity of the human person, inhuman conditions and acts inevitably follow. This is especially true under communism, which sees man as a purely material being” (Jason Evert, Saint John Paul The Great: His Five Loves).

In 1995, John Paul II released a letter to women, in which he said:

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity. (Letter to Women, 1995)

But finally, I don’t think that John Paul II, who was amazingly pro-life (from natural conception to natural death), an advocate for masculine and feminine complimentary, and a fighter for the true definition of love would stand for what the women’s moments of today stand for.  Can you picture John Paul II standing with any one of these signs?

Image result for women's march signs

Image result for women's march signs planned parenthood

protest fuck yeah sexism feminism reproductive rights misogyny protest sign SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE Arizona Women Unite Rally feminist protest signs:

One of the 2 jewish-christian creation myths says that Eve, first woman was made from the rib of adam. Then Eve would go on to give birth to children. If this is your belief system then, unless you are the Adam of that creation story, you came from a vagina. And if god had made 'her'' from his rib, Eve would be Steve. Biological fact. WAKE UP PEOPLE, the babble book was put together by men for men. Use it to start a bonfire, then it will at least serve a purpose.:

Is is it wrong to celebrate the beauty of femininity in today’s world? No! In fact, the world could use more appreciation for the inherent amazing feminine genius that women offer.  But we need to promote the beauty of a woman’s dignity by fostering a culture that understands, embraces and appreciates the beauty of her fertility and femininity.  Not by seeing her as an ends to a mean in a communist mindset, or rejecting her fertility as if it was a disease.

So I respectfully decline the celebration of International Women’s Day. Not because I hate women (I am one, after all), but because I’ve been inspired by John Paul II to appreciate women at a much deeper level than a holiday steeped with communist roots can ever supply.  To realize the beauty and dignity of woman is incredible and out of this world.  In the words of John Paul II,  “The basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty-not merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.”

“Necessary emphasis should be placed on the “genius of women”, not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfill their deepest vocation” (Letter to Women, 1995).

 

 

Femininity is Not a Hair Length

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When I was a senior in high school, I decided to chop all of my hair off.  It was shoulder length, a weird texture combination of frizzy and wavy, and in sore need of some attention.  I had dyed it every natural color under the sun, from blonde to black.  I’d straightened it, permed it, and generally abused it.  So off it went.  When the hairstylist turned my chair around and I saw short-hair-me for the first time, I fell in love with pixie cuts.  It was different.  It was unique.  It was…Chloe.

Short hair became my signature look.  I started college that fall and there were barely any other girls with short hair.  I stuck out and people remembered me pretty easily just based on my haircut.  My personal style evolved and my hair played a role in the shaping of my personal style.

After we got engaged,  I began to ponder what hair length I would want for the day of the wedding.  The question was further mulled over after the question that I heard over and over was ‘Are you growing your hair out for the wedding?’  So  I decided to try it.  After all, it had been almost four years since I had seen myself with long hair.  Things that I didn’t like about it could have changed.  Maybe the texture was different now.  Maybe I was more patient in dealing with that awkward stage between looking like Justin Bieber and rocking an #throwbackthursday 1980’s mullet.

But as the months between haircuts stretched on and on, I quickly realized that I am still not patient.  The more my hair inched along in growth, the more it didn’t feel like ‘me,’ it didn’t feel like a Chloe thing to do.  I prayed about it, asked for opinions and began to think about it quite a bit more than I had originally. 

Verily Magazine author Gail Werner wrote, “Historically, hair length has aligned itself with society’s notions of femininity. Consider the juxtaposition of the rebellious flapper bob of the 1920s with the more ladylike bouffant of the Gibson girl. Or how a pixie crop worn by Twiggy in the sixties was considered androgynous whereas the long hair and feathered bangs of the 1970s-era Farrah Fawcett was the epitome of sexiness.”  She’s right – we’ve fallen into the trap of connoting long hair with attractiveness, sexiness, desirability.

I desired that desirability, that beauty.  I was torn between wanting hair long enough that I could run my hand through it, but still loving how amazingly practical short hair is.  With the wedding day approaching, I wanted to be seen as beautiful, feminine.  But none of those things were found solely in the length of my hair.  And when I came to that realization, I ran to the salon (okay, Great Clips.  I’m in college, let’s be real).  The ladies there told me how much they had hoped I would keep my hair short for the wedding.  Leave it to hairstylists to know what’s on your mind.

But more important than realizing that it’s possible to have a pixie cut and still feel beautiful, I discovered that femininity is exponentially more than the length of one’s hair or even physical appearance in general
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Saint Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to women, in which he said, “Yet how many women have been and continue to be valued more for their physical appearance than for their skill, their professionalism, their intellectual abilities, their deep sensitivity; in a word, the very dignity of their being!” We live in a modern era where beauty is the definition of success and desirability.  But you are worth more than what you look like.  You are a human being who inherently deserves dignity simply based on the fact that you are a child of God.

“It is thus my hope, dear sisters, that you will reflect carefully on what it means to speak of the “genius of women”, not only in order to be able to see in this phrase a specific part of God’s plan which needs to be accepted and appreciated, but also in order to let this genius be more fully expressed in the life of society as a whole, as well as in the life of the Church.” (JPII)

Femininity is found in giving hearts and kind words.  In sacrifice and thoughts.  In Marian examples.  In caring and living one’s life fully for Christ.  Yet our world sees those traits as weakness.  The radical feminist movement has labeled virtue as old fashioned and patriarchal.

True femininity, not what one looks like or the clothes one wears, but true femininity is found in the concept of motherhood.  

Alice Von Hildebrand wrote, “A woman by her very nature is maternal — for every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother — she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them — for maternity implies suffering — is infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.”

Perhaps that’s why the culture has reduced femininity to physical appearances.  Hair length is much easier to perfect than an interior life most assuredly.  Louisa May Alcott wrote, “Let us be elegant or die!” which accurately describes the fascination with the outward.  Defy the culture…turn the focus inward, to the interior.

Motherhood (spiritual or physical) is sacrifice.  It’s joyful suffering for the good of the Heavenly family and the eternal life that we’re working to.  That virtuous, adventurous life is a lot harder to grow than a couple more inches of hair.  And much more rewarding.