A Woman’s Instinctive Wish Is To Create A Home And Bring Up Children

We can recognise the differences between the sexes and still affirm the equal dignity of women.

By  on 27th January 2014 in The Catholic Herald

The reality is that women can't have it all

The reality is that women can’t have it all

At the end of Mass yesterday in our parish, a smartly suited man came up to the lectern at the invitation of our parish priest to talk about the Catenian Association. For those who haven’t heard of it, it is an association of professional Catholic men for the purpose of good fellowship, funding charitable enterprises and providing support for the families of members. The talk was short and snappy and included the message that “In case we sound misogynist, this isn’t the case at all. We have ladies evenings three times a year in which members bring their wives along for dinner.”

During coffee after Mass our Resident Parish Feminist expressed her irritation that the “Catenians aren’t open to women. “ She went on to ask, “Why are there these artificial gender barriers in this day and age? I don’t agree with it.” An affable chap (who is also a Catenian) pointed out to her mildly that there is an organisation called “The Union of Catholic Mothers” which does not include men. What did she think of that? Without batting an eyelid, she replied that it implied another “gender-based divide” and should be open to men.

I said to her, “But men like clubs. On the whole women don’t.” I was thinking of the remark by Enoch Powell in Jonathan Aitken’s very good biography of Margaret Thatcher, which I have just read, in which he explained why Thatcher didn’t function well in Cabinet meetings: “It’s because she’s a Lone Ranger.” In Powell’s view, the public school men in the Cabinet had been programmed to join in team games from their prep schooldays; joining the Cabinet was merely the pinnacle of the team games ethos.

There is something to this; when the Catenians began, it seemed a sensible and pleasant way for professional Catholic men to do what Rotarians and freemasons do: organise themselves into a clubby society and raise money for good purposes. Why not let them get on with it? I forgot to mention to the Parish Feminist that I run an all-woman book club. We decided very early on we didn’t want men in it, not because they would “spoil” it but because they would change the dynamics and we felt comfortable the way we were. I dislike the demand for “gender equality” that insists that inoffensive male societies like the Catenians are somehow “sexist” because members enjoy social fellowship with other men.

Having written this I must now correct myself: women can be clubby too – but within their own sex. Pope Francis met with members of the Italian Women’s Centre on Saturday. This is a federation of Catholic women’s associations established in 1944 when Italy introduced universal suffrage. The Pope told his audience that “It is with great joy that I see many women sharing pastoral responsibilities with priests, both in theological reflection and by supporting individuals, families and communities.” I suspect our Parish Feminist doesn’t realise that Catholic women are not being held back from the life of the Church because of their gender; she has allowed herself to be too influenced by the zeitgeist without seeing that a Catholic understanding of women’s roles includes dignity within difference – not subservience or being somehow “shut out” from where the action is.

Pope Francis went on to raise the obvious question: “How is it possible for any woman to develop an incisive presence in the many areas of public and professional life where important decisions are made, and at the same time to maintain a special presence within the family?” Indeed. Sacrifices and choices have to be made; there is no such thing as “having it all.” I was talking to a friend the other day. A Cambridge graduate with a Ph.D. in history, she confessed that when her three children were young she sometimes felt frustrated at the hours she spent keeping the home and family together. But she was also clear that she would never have wanted a nanny or nursery to take her place in raising her children. Doesn’t it come down to this: with rare exceptions (Thatcher being one of them) a woman’s instinctive wish is to create a home and bring up children; everything else – clubs, societies, careers, the public sphere – is a secondary consideration.

I will have to develop this discussion with the Parish Feminist next week.

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31 Responses to A Woman’s Instinctive Wish Is To Create A Home And Bring Up Children

  1. Shadaan says:

    Women have always be discriminated against by all religions and the catholic religion is no better. I came across this quote by Guru Nanak the founder of sikhism and was very proud of what he said out of simplcity. –
    We are born of woman, we are conceived in the womb of woman, we are engaged and married to woman. We make friendship with woman and the lineage continued because of woman. When one woman dies, we take another one, we are bound with the world through woman. Why should we talk ill of her, who gives birth to kings? The woman is born from woman; there is none without her. Only the One True Lord is without woman” (Guru Nanak, Var Asa, pg. 473)

  2. Toadspittle says:

    A very well-argued piece.

    It leads us to ask what men’s ‘instinctive wishes’ are.
    Not generally very nice, I suspect.
    But we must learn to overcome them, and occasionally do.

    “Having written this I must now correct myself: women can be clubby too – but within their own sex.” …Just like men. Hmm. Puts a little bit of a dent in the case – which is that men are clubby because they are men – I think.

  3. GC says:

    Toad, good morning. There are some reads over at the “Strange Notions” website that may interest you and your (exclusively?) men’s philosophy club. (I think there is only one woman mentioned among the dozens of men real deep thinkers named.)

    Dr Edward Feser (surely you’ve heard of him? I certainly have) explains his steps through philosophy from atheism/naturalism to Catholicism. I loved the the way he was rude about Nietzsche.

    http://www.strangenotions.com/the-road-from-atheism-dr-edward-fesers-conversion-part-1-of-3/

    In three gripping parts. No, don’t thank me.

  4. Toadspittle says:

    Good morning GC – no, Toad is a kind of female Margaret Thatcher* himself who detests clubs and might be described as a ‘Lone Ranger.’
    Never heard of Feser, I’m not ashamed to admit – but will look into it. Very vogueish to be rude about Nietzsche.
    Iris Murdoch was an expert on Wittgenstein, but women in philosophy are rare, certainly.
    Too much sense, and too many sensible things to do, no doubt.
    Might also explain why religion is male dominated, when we think about it..

    *joke.

  5. Unfortunately, many women still seem to think – at least subconsciously – that because they are different from men, they are therefore inferior and have to fight for “equality.” It doesn’t seem to occur to them that their differences may actually make them superior to men in many ways and that when they fight for “equality,” what they are really fighting for is a chance to drag themselves down, in many respects, to the same level as men.

  6. kathleen says:

    Now that my ‘children’ are no longer children, I look back on those years when they were growing up as the best years of my life. There is nothing more enjoyable and fulfilling for a woman than to be a stay-at-home mother if she is fortunate enough to be able to do this. Thanks to the generosity and understanding of my husband, when we certainly could have done with bringing two salaries into the home, I had his full support in this.

    To be absolutely honest, I have never found a man who looks down on women who do not work and who prefer to stay at home with their kids, but on just the odd occasion, a few very career-minded women! A guilty conscience perhaps? Or the sub-conscience idea that it is a less worthy task?

  7. Toadspittle says:

    I once worked with a very high-powered woman executive who was constantly guilty because she felt she wasn’t devoting enough time to either her family or her job. So, Kathleen is right. I think.
    But re John Bennett – she got the same pay as I would have had, in her job. That’s the ‘equality’ that counts.

  8. GC says:

    On the other hand, Obama judicial nominee: abortion necessary to save women from ‘conscription’ into motherhood.

    Where did we go wrong?

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/obama-judicial-nominee-abortion-necessary-to-save-women-from-conscription-i

  9. Toadspittle says:

    “Where did we go wrong?”

    …Original Sin?

  10. johnhenrycn says:

    One good aspect of the Internet is that it enables some women to work from home, often on a flexible schedule.

  11. Toadspittle says:

    “When I was an undergrad I came across the saying that learning a little philosophy leads you away from God, but learning a lot of philosophy leads you back. As a young man who had learned a little philosophy, I scoffed. But in later years and at least in my own case, I would come to see that it’s true.”

    Well, GC – I read the three pieces by Feser, and enjoyed them a lot. Above is his pay-off.

    I can (as can we all) provide a list of philosophers as long as Balham High Street who were not “…led back to God,” by learning a lot of the stuff.
    Perhaps someone can provide an alternative list of those who did – starting with Feser , er …and then who?

    I agree Atheism is a scarcely tenable option. Not enough information.

  12. GC says:

    Pleased that you enjoyed them, Toad.

    I can (as can we all) provide a list of philosophers as long as Balham High Street who were not “…led back to God,” by learning a lot of the stuff.

    Sounds like you are saying reasoning does not provide a sure answer for the question of “to God or not to God”. Any suggestion as to what will? No, I thought not.

  13. Toadspittle says:

    “Sounds like you are saying reasoning does not provide a sure answer for the question of “to God or not to God” Any suggestion as to what will?”.

    I would tentatively suggest, “fear” and “uncertainty.”
    But, you are right – I have very little idea. “Reasoning” certainly does not. Well, not for me.
    Possibly uncertainty. I strongly suspect there are no ‘sure’ answers to anything much – certainly not to anything metaphysical.

    That is, if I understand you right, GC. Which is also uncertain.

  14. kathleen says:

    @ Shadaan (4:51 yesterday)

    “Women have always be discriminated against by all religions and the catholic religion is no better.”

    Absolute rubbish Shadaan! It is precisely the Catholic religion, with her great love and veneration of the Blessed Mother of God, that puts women on a pedestal. Our Lady’s perfect example, epitomising all the feminine virtues, makes her an inspiration and model for all Catholic women.

  15. Ponder Anew says:

    Re: female ‘who else’ philosopher. Edith Stein, or St. Edith Stein if you please. Born 1891, she was an atheist who studied phenomenology in college with William Husserl. She converted to Catholicism after reading St Teresa of Avila. And oh btw, she died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

  16. Toadspittle says:

    Right, Ponder. Now we have two. Next…
    …I didn’t say there weren’t any. Although Stein, remarkable and wonderful though she was, added nothing original to philosophy.
    Still, I doubt if Uncle Feser has added all that much. But I don’t know.

    Do women actually want to be put on pedestals?
    Except to clean them, of course.
    Woody Allen once complained that the trouble with his ex-wife was, “…She used to put me under a pedestal.”

  17. Toadspittle says:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/robert-fisk-the-number-of-women-sentenced-to-death-across-the-middle-east-has-very-little-to-do-with-justice-9117510.html?origin=internalSearch

    Dave’s link didn’t work for me. Maybe this will. Anyway it is well worth reading.
    Whether or not The Catholic Church treats women poorly is beside the point – and utterly trivial – compared to Fisk’s piece.
    But this is CP&S, not IslamP&S, and Muslims must clean their own houses.
    The perception, among a good many Catholic women, and practically all non-Catholic women – is that The Church does discriminate negatively against women. Stained glass ceiling, you might say.
    At least, this is the impression I get, admittedly mostly at second hand.
    Whether or not this perception is important to Catholicism’s “image,” I don’t know.
    It creates a considerable problem with “evangelising,” Catholicism, though.
    Explaining that the Aztecs didn’t have women priests either – doesn’t really help all that much.

  18. kathleen says:

    What I do not understand in Toad’s reasoning is how this gruesome report on the torture and murder of young women by these cruel and savage regimes has anything to do with a women’s role in the Catholic Church. They are two entirely different subjects.

    Speaking for myself, my female friends and family – and many talented women Catholic bloggers who write on this subject – we see our femininity as a beautiful and precious gift. In the Catholic Church we have a special and unique place in which to live out our feminine characteristics. (I have even heard women converts to the Catholic Faith say how they discover this treasure on entering the Church! They never knew it in their previous Protestant churches.)
    There are plenty of women, past and present, who have achieved amazing fame and contributed greatly to the Catholic Church without ever feeling the need to be part of the hierarchy! Why then do some people insist we women should be given the possibility of becoming ‘priestesses’ when we have no desire for such a thing in the first place?

    The only women who might protest their lack of authority in the Catholic Church (apart from a percentage of Catholics who have a poor knowledge of their Faith to start with) appear to be the extreme liberal or frustrated types of feminists who want to be the same as men in every way. That is an impossibility! Men and women are of equal human dignity and value, but we are NOT THE SAME in our make up as is plainly obvious. To even try to pretend such a thing devalues the human being into some sort of genderless androgynous type of creature that crushes our God-given and delightful differences.

  19. GC says:

    kathleen, I think if Toad wants to go on about “stained glass ceilings”, then he’s completely on the wrong track – not merely on the wrong page but he’s got hold of the wrong book. Talking about desiring positions of power within the Church is just plain wrong, for both men and women. We must have a desire to serve only and that, of course, includes priests. Then we will serve either as men or women and completely forget about the “power”, please God.

    Pope Francis has been saying much the same thing very clearly quite often, which probably means he has been stealing my ideas too.

  20. Toadspittle says:

    It’s not what I,Toad – (there you go, Eccles – “I” agree) thinks, at all, GC and Kathleen – it’s what the general perception is.
    Naturally, I don’t care whether priests are men or women, gay or straight, or a mixture of both.
    Nor do I care if they are “good” at their job, or not. But that’s just me. (and several million others, it must be said.)
    To Catholics, though, this issue is very important. And rightly so.
    But to anyone who doesn’t think that there are ambitious priests – who want to be bishops, and then cardinals, and then who knows what – I suggest, “Dream on.”
    The quest for power is only human nature.
    May be wrong, sinful… but there it is.

  21. GC says:

    Toad, I think I feel a musical response coming on.

    To serve is to reign. Problem solved (I hope).

  22. Toadspittle says:

    What truly excellent “comments” you put up, GC!

    As a matter of personal taste, I am not over-fond of that sort of music, but that is neither here nor there. (Sounds to me as if was rather hastily written by the Music Mistress for the Under Seven’s parents’ Christmas Show the week before.)
    But it takes all sorts…
    “..To serve is to reign.” …Well, I suppose that works for Jeeves. Or – contrariwise – for Tony Blair, Stalin, or Katherine the Great.

    No denying that.( Well, not much, maybe.)

  23. GC says:

    Not my favourite music either, Toad, but the pictures were good and the words from the Gospels and St Ignatius. one of whose spiritual sons the composer, Fr Christopher Willcock SJ , is.

  24. Toadspittle says:

    Yikes!!!, as Jabba* used to cry…yet more Jesuits!!! Apolykips now!!!

    *Good old Jab. I liked him. Hope he’s OK. He had a lot of problems.

  25. Toadspittle says:

    “Why then do some people insist we women should be given the possibility of becoming ‘priestesses’ when we have no desire for such a thing in the first place?”

    Well, Kathleen, brace yourself – I have yet more unsettling news for you.
    Some women really do desire to be come priests, (“Priestess,” is a bit sexist, it seems – like “Actress,”) and in Toledo, Northern Ohio, one has actually gone ahead and done it.

    Her name is Beverly Bingle (this is not one of Toad’s celebrated lies, I swear – even I couldn’t make this stuff up) and, naturally, “Bev” was swiftly excommunicated by the chaps in charge.
    Quite right, too.
    She’s still decidedly popular in my old stomping ground, though.
    Or so I’m told.
    …But Toledoans are simple folk, in the main.
    Not given to excessive theologising.

  26. kathleen says:

    Toad,
    If you reread the last paragraph of my comment at 13:23 yesterday you will see that such news does not really “surprise” me.

    As GC points out, the priesthood is a vocation of service. The priest taking the place of Our Lord Jesus Christ; the Church, His Bride. The priest becomes the Good Shepherd serving God (through the sacrament of ordination in the Catholic Church) to tend the flock and lead them to Heaven.
    Beverly Bingle’s disobedience and flaunting of the Church’s commandments is a clear indication that she is simply serving her puffed-up ego. Poor woman!

    All I can say is…. please pray for Beverly Bingle. She is certainly in dire need of prayers!
    And pray for those she has led astray.

  27. Toadspittle says:

    “The priest becomes the Good Shepherd serving God (through the sacrament of ordination in the Catholic Church) to tend the flock and lead them to Heaven.”</i.

    As I've pointed out before – the function of the "good" (i.e. successful) shepherd in Castilla-Leon at least – is to tend his flock and lead them to the slaughterhouse in good order and condition.

    Not a particularly "happy" analogy, it seems to me.
    But what do I know?

  28. Toad,

    My religious name has been inspired by the lat Fr. Solanus Casey. Fr. Casey had a learning disability, and was deemed unfit to be a priest. He was ordained a simplex priest who was not allowed to hear confessions or preach. He got very popular without preaching a single sermon. He did not sue the church for his rights, he did not get angry, or bitter and had a sense of humour about life. God rewarded him for his humility and he is now a candidate for canonization.

    When I started discerning myself, A number of communities told me I was not being called to their community, even though I wanted to join them. Suppose I got mad and thought they were discriminating against me. I would never have found my true calling, somewhere else.

    The perception about the church stems from the lack of understanding about vocation both among Catholics and non-Catholics. One has to be called. Simply wanting something does not mean you can have it.

    God works in mysterious ways. I know nuns who have atheist parents. I also have an aunt who is a bit envious of me, because her family is “more” Catholic than mine, but her kids are not interested in a religious vocation. She was like, “Why were you picked?”

  29. Toadspittle says:

    Very nice indeed to hear from you, Sister Solana. Excellent news that it’s all going well. If you include me in your prayers I will not mind a bit.
    And drop us all a line whenever you like.
    We love you and are keenly interested in your progress.

    “Simply wanting something does not mean you can have it.”

    No argument there. …And often we wish for things – and get them – and then realise we didn’t want really them at all, and they are actually no good for us. But by then it’s too late.

    Not true for a moment in your case, I have absolutely no doubt.

  30. Thank you Toad. I will keep you in my prayers, and I hope you keep me in your prayers too.

  31. Toadspittle says:

    …A bargain – of which I fully expect to get the better part.

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