I will be the first to admit that the Women’s March in DC seemed a little toned down this year compared to last. As I was scrolling through news articles, comments, and social media posts, I did not see as many pink hats, as many vulgar signs, as many poor depictions of both male and female genitalia. I suspect that this might be in large part because last year’s March was so reactionary. Just scrolling through my Facebook feed last year, it was obvious that there were two main focuses for the Women’s March: it was anti-Trump and pro-female reproductive rights (primarily pro-abortion and pro-contraception). I know many acquaintances claim that it is about raising awareness about women’s rights in the work place, and putting a stop to human trafficking, and reminding the victims of domestic abuse that they are not alone, and I’m sure plenty of women marched on Washington because they felt passionately about one or more of those topics, but just a quick scan of the literature and signage from the Women’s March makes it abundantly clear that those issues took the backseat in the face of the countless anti-Trump and pro-abortion signs. We can claim that the Women’s March is about all sorts of things, but the reality is this: the organizers of the Women’s March have an agenda and that agenda is overwhelmingly anti-Trump and pro-abortion.
The Women’s March did seem a bit toned down this year, but as a mother to a toddler boy, it still worries me. Our culture worries me. Our society and its beliefs about the sexes worry me. Recently, I have seen several girls dressed in shirts that read, “My superpower is being a girl.” People seem to love the shirt, but it does puzzle me. What does it mean when we say that our superpower is being a girl? That our superpower is twirling in wide skirts and weaving crowns of flowers to adorn our heads? Because that doesn’t seem to define femininity in my opinion. That our superpower is the ability to triumph in the face of adversity? Because that seems like a human quality, not a strictly female one. That our superpower is the ability to do everything that boys can do, but better? That seems to be the consensus, especially if we’re going to consult the other very popular girls shirt that reads, “Everything that you can do, I can do better.” Or the more grown-up version in meme form: “Everything that you can do, I can do while bleeding from…” You get the point.
I think we’re so concerned about strengthening our daughters’ sense of girl power that we have forgotten about our sons, our little boys. What kind of message is our society trying to send my son, my beautiful little boy? That’s he’s not as good because he’s not a girl? That’s he’s inferior because he’s a boy? That “girlness” is a superpower, while “boyness” is just an unfortunate circumstance of his genes?
What if some store somewhere put out a male equivalent of that popular superpower shirt: “My superpower is being a boy.” How do you think the feminists in our society would react to a little boy wearing a shirt like that? Why must being a girl be a superpower, while being a boy is not something to be proud of? Why is our culture telling my son that he needs to apologize for his maleness before he has even done a single thing to offend anyone besides having been born a boy? Why can’t he be proud to be a boy?
Our culture is obsessed with creating a society of strong, independent women. Honestly, I think that idea is inherently flawed. We were never meant to be entirely independent. We need each other. And we’re kidding ourselves if we think that we don’t need men, that we only need women. We need men, just as much as we need women. I am dependent on my husband, just as I am dependent on my closest girl friend. I need them both, but they meet my needs differently. If we tell our kids that they don’t need anyone, that they don’t need a man, any man, then we are setting them up for failure. We all need each other.
In addition, our society’s obsession with creating strong women is problematic in practice. Don’t get me wrong- I think it’s important for women to be strong. My top female role models are all strong women, and I admire them, and I long to be like them. But these women have real strength. I don’t think the same can be said for most of the female characters that we encounter in today’s media.
Recently, several movies and TV shows have featured women as main characters, and many of them share a very problematic characteristic: the male characters are ridiculously weak. While the women are saving the day, the men are blundering idiots, or are terrified of their own shadow, or are noticeably feminine in their build, mannerisms, and personality. They stay at home while their women defend the world. They cower in corners while the world is falling down around them. Or they are just plain evil.
It would seem that the only way for women to be strong is to make the men weak. Apparently, we are not capable of being strong on our own. For women to be strong, we must tear down the men. We must emasculate them. It would seem that the worst thing that we can teach our boys is that they should be strong. Strong men will only continue the vicious cycle of female oppression. If we teach boys to be strong, they will become bullies, woman-haters, misogynists. The only good man is a weak one.
Now here’s the thing. I don’t want my son to be weak. I want him to be strong. I want him to be strong like his father. I want him to believe that both men and women can be strong. I want him to believe that men can be strong without making women weak, and then women can be strong without making men weak. We do not need to tear each other down to build ourselves up. Because here’s the thing- if you need to tear someone down to feel strong, that makes you weak. That might even make you weaker than the person you tore down.
So do you know what that means for us, ladies? That means that every time we tear down a man to show our strength, we are just beating ourselves down. We are making ourselves weak. Strength is not claiming that everything you can do, I can do better. Strength is knowing that there are some things that I do better, and there are some things that you do better, and that’s okay. We are all a combination of strength and weakness, a blend of traits that make us human. We were never meant to “have it all.” We were meant to be unique; we were meant to be special.
I don’t want my son to grow up in a world that tells him that he’s inferior just because he’s a boy, that he must always bow before the woman who can do it all. I hate this whole, “everything you can do, I can do better” mentality. It’s just so juvenile. It’s a sentiment that we took with us from the elementary school playground, where we girls felt like we needed to defend ourselves, prove ourselves. We should have left it there, with our pigtails, jump ropes, and sidewalk chalk. We should be more mature than school-aged girls.
Because here’s the truth of it all. That statement is not true: I cannot do everything better than a man. I can do some things better than a man, but I cannot do it all. I will be better at some things, and worse at others. Our ability to do something does not give us dignity. God has given us our dignity; it is not something that we must earn. If we think that we need to earn our dignity, that we must make ourselves equal through sheer willpower, we will never succeed. Dignity is not earned; it is a birth rite.
Men and women are both born possessing dignity. We are born equal. In a very real sense, these gifts are inviolable. They cannot be destroyed. We can have our dignity ignored, even trampled upon, but our dignity remains. We might be treated as inferior, or treat other as if they were inferior, but we would remain equal. God loves us equally. We are all human persons, embodied souls destined to live forever. We are loved by God, and we are capable of unfathomable depths of love ourselves. That is our superpower. This superpower will manifest itself differently depending on our sex, but we are all called to love. I love as only a woman can, and my husband loves only as a man can. He is my superhero, and I am his. We are all called to be superheroes, and our superpower is the greatest power of all, the power of love.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!