Femininity and the Secular World View

Are you familiar with this image? 

It’s an interesting experiment to show this image to someone who has never seen it before.  The response is usually instantaneous.  One sees either a young or an old lady.   One has to bend his or her mind, usually with a little guidance from someone else, to see the alternate image.  In fact, I’ve been in conversations where people have flat out refused to believe that there is another image.

The problem then, becomes one of perspective.  The truth is that there are two images within one image.  One only has to look a certain way to see the elderly babushka, and another to see the young and mysterious woman.

In my humble opinion, this resonates with the current discussion surrounding femininity, and feminine “restrictions” within the Church.  Christianity views women one way, and secular western culture views women another.  To try and understand how Christianity views women while still wearing your secular glasses… well it’s bound to distort the image you see.

You may have heard about Jimmy Carter making an ass of himself trying to discuss something which he doesn’t understand and has no authority to speak on.  But politicians speaking on the Church just make me hoppin’ mad, so I’m not going to go there.

What actually sparked this thought process for me was a talk I went to last week called “Women and the Church: What Today’s Women Can Learn from St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, and Mary Ward.”

I won’t go into the nitty gritty of the talk except to say that the lovely woman who gave the talk fell into much the same trap I describe above.  The point that put me over the edge, though, was a short video shown just before intermission (presumably a fundraising video) depicting a girls’ school in southern Sudan. The school is run by some sisters in the order founded by Venerable Mary Ward, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Make no mistake: these sisters have a huge impact.  They’re teaching young women, educating them beyond the level of any of their female ancestors.  But rather than building up their intelligence and leaving them to decide their future, the  sisters are also apparently indoctrinating them in the ways of the secular west.  Case in point: at the end of the video, one of the sisters teaching the girls starts pointing at each of their beautiful faces and saying, “She is the next prime minister, she is a future minister of education, she is a future head of state…” and so on down the line with all 6 or 7 girls.  No mention is made of homemakers, or teachers, or any other less political (and therefor less valuable) professions which traditionally have been assumed by women.

It is right and good for women to be in public service.  It is right and just for women to be leaders.  It is an entirely secular world view, however, that women must be in positions of perceived authority in order to be contributing members of society.

Here’s where, in my opinion, the breakdown occurs: western secular culture says: women are valuable because they can do the same things as men.  The Church says: from conception to death, women are valuable.  Period.

In order for a woman to be valuable, our secular western culture says that she must produce something.  She must lead, she must be in authority over others, and overall she must have something to show for her time here on earth.  Some award or recognition or career or celebrity status which says, “This is what a woman can do, if only she can throw off the shackles of tradition.”

I hereby, with great pomp and verbosity, reject that statement.

I completely and utterly reject the opinion that a woman must do something to be successful.  Women are valuable because they are women, made in the image and likeness of God.  Any caveat placed therein diminishes a woman’s inherent worth.

And now we’re back to the visual illusion above.  If you are like me, you see the young woman at first glance.  Her fine bone structure, her fabulous (if completely un-PC) fur coat.  It takes a retraining of the mind to see the old woman.  So too has the secular view of women infiltrated that of the Church.  A Christian woman is perceived by Jimmy Carter (and many other less offensive people) as being oppressed, as having less worth because of what she can’t do.  You’ll forgive me if I don’t buy into this dogma.



Look into my eyes.  Listen closely.  You are precious.  You are irreplaceable.  You have infinite value, no matter what degree is or isn’t hanging on the wall, your profession or your marital status is, or your bank statement says.  Don’t let the secular world view distort that beauty.



  1. That is the crux of the matter isn’t it. The secular world says you are valuable because of what you *do*. That’s why the secular world has no room for people with down syndrome or genetic disorders or people in comas or or the unborn anyone that isn’t capable of “doing” as much as the world thinks they should “do”

    Catholicism says you are valuable because of who you are…not what you can do.
    Amelia recently posted…Bentrup BabblingsMy Profile

    • Micaela says:

      Absolutely, Amelia. The unborn and the poor and people with disabilities are treated as second class citizens. It’s just so sad.

  2. Mary Kate says:

    Beautifully said, Micaela!!! Brava!!

  3. Excellent. This has so been on my mind lately, especially as I get older and we have moved over and over again to further my husband’s career. It is so hard not to feel second class because I will have never given the secularly recognized input into building a list of accomplishments. Absolutely part of it is the unwillingness of the world to recognize worth as being inherent to the human person. I think for men and women it is an obstacle to feel yourself living to your fullest potential unless you are continually striving ahead career-wise. It is a great mistake of this age to evaluate life happiness and accomplishment by how our living is earned, or what public accolades we have received. So, yeah, what you said.

    • Micaela says:

      “I think for men and women it is an obstacle to feel yourself living to your fullest potential unless you are continually striving ahead career-wise.” Yep. What you said too. I feel this way all the time, until I smack myself out of it.

  4. Cheers! Hooray! Thank you! Thank you!
    SO SO SO (did I say “so”?) timely!

  5. Beautiful! Thank you!

  6. Getting caught up around here…
    Great post. I’m also one who’s always upset by the idea that women “need” to do everything men can do in order to be equal, as if the very things that make us different (our ability to bear children) is completely meaningless. Or only worth something if we can bear children AND hold down a career.
    And Jimmy Carter…seriously…..who really cares what he says anymore??
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