Alice Von Hildebrand on Feminism and Femininity
Says Women Can Escape a Trap by Imitating Mary's Strength and Humility
NEW ROCHELLE, New York, NOV. 26, 2003 (Zenit) - Women in the secularized world need to be reminded that fulfilling their maternal role is infinitely valuable in God's sight, says the wife of philosopher Dietrich Von Hildebrand.
Alice Von Hildebrand, author of "The Privilege of Being a Woman" (Sapientia) and a philosopher in her own right, shared how every woman can find supernatural strength in what feminism perceives as her weakness and look to Mary as a model of perfect femininity.
Von Hildebrand earned her doctorate in philosophy at Fordham University and is professor emeritus of Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
Von Hildebrand: The poison of secularism has penetrated deeply into our society. It did so by stages. Men were its first victims: They became more and more convinced that in order to be someone they had to succeed in the world. Success means money, power, fame, recognition, creativity, inventiveness, etc.
Many of them sacrificed their family life in order to achieve this goal: They came home just to relax or have fun. Work was the serious part of their life.
Innumerable marriages have been ruined by this attitude. Wives rightly felt that they were mere appendixes -- a necessary relaxation. Husbands had little time for loving exchanges, as they were too busy. The children saw very little of their fathers. That wives suffered was not only understandable, but also legitimate.
Q: Why do women need to be convinced that it is good to be a woman?
Von Hildebrand: The amazing thing is that feminism, instead of making women more profoundly aware of the beauty and dignity of their role as wives as mothers, and of the spiritual power that they can exercise over their husbands, convinced them that they, too, had to adopt a secularist mentality: They, too, should enter the work force; they, too, should prove to themselves that they were someone by getting diplomas, competing with men in the work market, showing that they were their equals and -- when given opportunities -- could outsmart them.
They let themselves become convinced that femininity meant weakness. They started to look down upon virtues -- such as patience, selflessness, self-giving, tenderness -- and aimed at becoming like men in all things. Some of them even convinced themselves that they had to use coarse language in order to show the "strong" sex that they were not the fragile, delicate, insignificant dolls that men believed them to be.
The war of the sexes was on. Those who fell into the traps of feminism wanted to become like men in all things and sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. They became blind to the fact that men and women, though equal in ontological dignity, were made different by God's choice: Male and female he made them. Different and complementary.
Each sex has its strengths; each sex has its weaknesses. According to God's admirable plan, the husband is to help his wife overcome these weaknesses so that all the treasures of her femininity will come to full bloom, and vice versa.
How many men truly become "themselves" thanks to the love of their wives. How may wives are transformed by their husband's strength and courage.
The tragedy of the world in which we live is that we have become apostates. Many have abandoned the treasures given to us by revelation -- the supernatural.
Original sin was essentially an attack on the hierarchy of values: Man wanted to become like God, without God. The punishment was terrible: Man's body revolted against his soul. Today, this reversal of the hierarchy of values goes so far that Peter Singer denies man's superiority over animals, and that baby whales are saved while human babies are murdered.
The whole is topsy-turvy: Marriages break down; many do not even consider getting married; partnership lasts only as long as it satisfies one. Unnatural relationships so severely condemned by Plato are fashionable and claim their rights to be put on the same level as those that God has ordered.
Q: How can women's purported weakness be seen as a source strength?
Von Hildebrand: Granted that from a naturalistic point of view, men are stronger: not only because they are physically stronger, but also because they are more creative, more inventive and more productive -- most great works in theology, philosophy and fine arts have been made by men. They are the great engineers, the great architects.
But the Christian message is that, valuable as all these inventions are, they are dust and ashes compared to every act of virtue. Because a woman by her very nature is maternal -- for every woman, whether ...
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