Championing a True Presentation of Womanhood

Published April 11, 2023

National Catholic Register

Mother’s Day, for years a holiday of little controversy, seems now like a relic destined for gender-neutral rebranding, as we approach the May Sunday that has long honored mothers in the United States. Mother/father speak of a hopelessly antiquated binary (so we are told). Many official forms reflect this already — from passport applications to federal student loans, “father” and “mother” are replaced with “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.” Is it inevitable that we will eventually be saying “Happy Parent 1 Day”? Renaming a mother with a number for a beloved holiday is a bit on the dystopian nose.

It might take a while. The revolutionaries know it’s easier for people to shrug at gender-neutral language on a form, but harder to dismiss it on a day meant to honor their own mothers. “Birthing Person’s Day” not only sounds ridiculous but insulting when applied to one’s own mom. Afterall, we’re not celebrating a lone act of a “chest feeder” on the day of our birth. The holiday honors mothering, which (for those of us still living in a world of reality) conveys an ongoing ontological reality, not a singular biological act.

But singular acts and superficialities are all our social reengineers can really point to. What a woman is cannot be something imbued with deeper meaning, but rather must be an aggregate of such superficialities as heels, hairdos, and spliced and fused body parts.

I won’t be the first to point out that the ones most harmed by all this are those in the formerly-known-as-marginalized class of actual womanhood. Female swimmer Riley Gaines, one of the fastest 200 butterflyers of all time at University of Kentucky remarkably tied, down to the hundredth of the second, Lia Thomas, a man identifying as a woman. The tie was a remarkable feat. Thomas had been an average swimmer when competing against other men, but was easily dominating the women’s division. But despite Gaines’ feat, the NCAA told Gaines the trophy would go to Thomas for photo purposes.

This is enough to warrant outrage, but it was while describing having to share a locker room with him that Gaines began to break down emotionally. There was no consent sought nor given, only an insistence that the women athletes would undress in front of an exposed male. “There’s a 6-foot-4 biological man dropping his pants and watching us undress, and we were exposed to male genitalia,” she recalled. “Not even probably a year, two years ago, this would have been considered some form of sexual assault, voyeurism.” In return for her courage in speaking out at a recent event, she was physically assaulted by a man in a dress, chased by a deranged mob screaming insults at her, and barricaded in a room for hours.

It might be tempting to point to this obvious injustice and to identify men once again as the problem and feminism the solution. But transgenderism hardly began in a vacuum. The feminism that preceded it sold its own version of the meaninglessness of the female body. The lie told in the name of women’s liberation is that her body, in its capacity to bear and nurture life, does not reveal a more profound meaning of her nature; rather, it is merely something to harness and manipulate to make her more like a man — free to engage in sex with no consequences.

An older version of a lie cannot solve the problems presented by the newer version of that same lie.

The body of the woman speaks to the reality of human nature and the duties incumbent on us all. The woman’s body, designed with the capacity to bear life, tells the man that he can and should protect that life. Her vulnerability is his to revere in ways that speak to a responsibility each bears as potential mother and potential father. Far from this being a limitation on our freedom, it is rather a marvelous indication that we are made for one another.

The task of the reengineer is to undo this all. One effective method is to present what is most human as utterly banal in order to make us perceive the world as meaningless. In her 1949 book The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir writes, “The housewife wears herself out marking time: She makes nothing, simply perpetuates the present. … Eating, sleeping, cleaning — the years no longer rise up towards heaven, they lie spread out ahead, grey and identical. The battle against dust and dirt is never won.”

Happy Mother’s Day — another year of marking time in your fruitless endeavor!

Such is the banality of a progressive ideology that sees as slavish the call to serve. Such is the boredom of the ideologue who sees motherhood — perhaps the greatest clarion call to a life of love — and says, “Meh.”

But to all of those who still believe in the stuff of the soul, you are left to know and defend the true dignity of the stuff of life. The unsung daily work of cleaning, caring, shouldering and comforting is not at all reducible to drudgery when seen with love, but rather is the foundational work of civilization. Her value is not reducible to utility: The value of a good mother is in the indelible impact she has on the persons in her care and how that impact reaches into eternity.

This is largely why we started Theology of Home: to refuse to cede the cultural imagination to the distortions of ideologues. But one simple shift any woman can make to aid the culture: dressing with womanly elegance. I don’t mean donning costume-like clothing from the 1950s in some sort of throwback version of womanhood. Rather, we can, with naturalness and care, dress in a dignified manner that communicates who we know ourselves to be, how we intend to conduct ourselves, and how we expect to be treated. 

The two visions of womanhood most promoted in media are either androgynous or semi-pornographic. Though seemingly contradictory, at their core both reflect a hatred of beauty and of the female body. 

Maybe it seems like a small form of resistance, but if the revolutionaries’ latest disruption of culture is through drag and trans displays of a superficial performance of womanhood, we might at least respond with a true presentation of it. Theirs is effective in the way that the shouting and repeating of lies might coerce compliance. Ours is effective in the way that a simple whisper of something true might prompt conversion. 

 Happy Mother’s Day.

Noelle Mering is a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center where she co-directs EPPC’s Theology of Home Project. She is the author of the book Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology (TAN Books, May 2021).

Noelle Mering is a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center where she co-directs EPPC’s Theology of Home Project. She is the author of the book Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology (TAN Books, May 2021).

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