In case you missed it, Sister Joan Chittister wrote a beautifully compelling piece yesterday for NCR entitled “Gender inequality is a man’s problem.” As a Catholic, a woman, and a feminist*, it took me some time to process my reactions to her post. After all, I don’t want to authorize men to speak on behalf of women; the suppression of women’s voices has been one of the greatest contributing factors to gender inequality in the Church and the world. I certainly don’t want to perpetuate it by setting up a knight-in-shining-armor-model in which the already over-exposed male voice speaks on behalf of the oft-silenced female one. But the more I reflected on Chittister’s words, the more I realized how necessary they are.
Up until this point, I’ve been letting men off the hook way too easily. Given the number of male acquaintances and relatives I have who genuinely do not recognize gender equality as a valuable or important goal, my general sentiment has been, “the ones who support the fact that I personally am a feminist are already counter-cultural, ahead of the Catholic norm, so I can’t really expect anything more from them beyond tacit support.” After processing Chittister’s words, though, I’m done with that mindset. It is not enough for a Catholic man to resist flinching when I mention feminism. That does not make him an advocate for women. What is needed are not men who simply allow women to speak (which should be a bare minimum), but men who notice cultural norms that are oppressive to women and who vocally identify them, who aren’t afraid to speak up and identify as a male feminist. Continue reading Catholic Men Should Be Feminists