I was watching CBS This Morning and they had a segment about feminism. It seems that Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg has a new book out called Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead where she talks about women in the workplace not taking on leadership positions for a number of reasons. It is fascinating to watch the secular femi-wars as a faithful Catholic woman. It helps me to understand my life as a Catholic wife and mother and to understand what I believe.
It seems that many women are starting to stay at home and devote themselves to their families, and not just religious women. I really don’t know the in’s and out’s of the “lean in” vs “lean out” movements, but it’s intriguing to watch women debate who should or shouldn’t be considered a feminist.
I am a granddaughter of Spanish-speaking migrant workers who were Spanish-speaking Americans. I have a 10th grade education and am in my 2nd year of community college. I have come to the feminist game pretty late and with little to no experience about what feminism even means. The little knowledge I have comes from watching shows like The Golden Girls, Roseanne, and Everybody Loves Raymond. (I only realized the feminism in the The Golden Girls after watching it recently, as a kid I just loved Sophia and thought they were all funny.) I was also raised by a single mother who didn’t date anyone. I formed ideas about what a woman should be and I formed feelings about men, ideas which affected every relationship I ever had. Not only did I not have a father, I was sexually abused as a child. Combine all of that and you get the hot mess that I was for most of my life until Jesus found me and brought me Home to His Church 4 years ago, which ironically is when I came across the word or movement that is — feminism.
That’s not to say that I didn’t care about women’s issues, because I have always cared about those. Being a sexual abuse victim, teen mother, domestic abuse survivor, and Hispanic woman it has always been my dream to advance the life of women in this country as well as the world.
The line that popped out at me in this news segment this morning was “women who call themselves feminists, but stay at home with kids and devote themselves to their husbands and families.” The thing about women is that we are champions of using passive-aggressive wording to insult one another. Four years of working at Hooter’s taught me how to read between those lines. Then there’s Ephesians 5:
“Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ. Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord: Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He is the saviour of his body. Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it.” Ephesians 5: 21- 25
The truth is that most feminists, even those who think that women should be respected for staying at home with their families, don’t think that an Ephesians 5 wife is anything to be admired. What is an Ephesians 5 wife in proper context? To answer that question I had to learn what an Ephesians 5 husband is. I had a huge problem with Ephesians 5 when I first became Catholic. (I had a huge problem with all Church teaching when I first began this journey 4 years ago!)
One Sunday our Pastor gave a homily that made me and my husband really get it. He said that many men want to point out the obvious self-serving part of that chapter in Ephesians but somehow overlook the part where it says that men should love their wives as Christ loves his Bride, the Church. So if a husband is not first and foremost a husband that lays down his life for his bride, loves her as himself, and puts her before himself, then he has no business pointing to that Chapter in the Bible and demanding his wife wash his clothes. He also has to put the Will of God before his own wants, which means being able to discern God’s will in the first place.
Simply being a man does not qualify a husband to have a “submissive wife”. I have an Ephesians 5 husband. He wasn’t always this kind of man. He has his own past and has made his own mistakes. God gave me a bird’s eye view to watch my own husband’s conversion on the Holy Stairs in Rome. (What a gift that was.) That puts me in a place where I have first-hand knowledge of how prayerful my husband is, and even then following his lead was still hard. My husband does not dominate me, which is a classic misinterpretation of that reading. Leading does not equal domination. The reason that I can follow my husband’s lead is because I know that he is allowing himself to be led by God. Even if my husband fails, God can work it out for our good because I know that my husband’s intentions are good. Knowing all of these things is why I married him in the first place.
There is something to be said about being married to someone who you know has your best interest at heart, who you know prays to be led by God to do the right thing and who centers his life based on the Truth of God and not his own opinions. I know that about my husband so it is not hard for me to be submissive to him, in the proper sense of the word (the Christian definition of the word) because I understand that that means putting myself under his mission, which is to get me and our kids to Heaven. It means allowing him to serve us as the head of our household. That service is a service of protection. It makes sense if you think about the Secret Service; their job is to protect the president, not to dominate him. It is the same way in marriages; our husbands’ jobs are to protect us, not to dominate us.
I thank God for my husband. I pray that every woman can find a man like him to marry and who makes her life as joyous as my husband makes mine. That is the true beauty of the Sacrament of Marriage. I still call myself a feminist though; I stay at home with my kids and devout myself to serving my husband. Maybe I’m a “lean on” kind of feminist.
© 2013. Leticia Adams. All Rights Reserved.