A couple of years ago, I read about three women at an online magazine. These women were all very successful, secular career women, but each expressed a deep discontentment with her life. One said she wanted to just go bake bread, another said she wanted to plant a garden, and the third said she wanted to leave everything behind and just go raise a mess of children. What was going on with these women and how is it that they were pulled so strongly by these desires despite appearing to “have it all,” as judged by the world?
The idea for my book The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Femininity (TAN, 2019) first started when I looked at the elite women of our culture and compared them to Our Lady. The Virgin Mother is the woman who has rightfully been called “the most powerful woman in the world,” even by National Geographic. And yet the elite women who hold so much sway over our culture have very little in common with Mary. These elite women – whom I’ve come to call the matriarchy – control much of the way women in America think today. Their influence saturates journalism, academia, Hollywood, politics, and the fashion industry.
How is it that these women came to control so much?
A deadly combination
The answer, I found in several years of research, was the deadly combination of Marxism and the Occult that was baked into the cake of second-wave feminism and disseminated rapidly through the new media of television. This combination shouldn’t surprise us: we know what a strong influence Marxism has had since the beginning of second-wave of feminism. We can see the fingerprints of Machiavellian ideas of power at any cost, and Nietzsche’s “will to power.” Mimicking the rhetorical trends in Soviet Russia, western women have been taught that men are our adversaries (even though we strive to be like them), and children are our enemy, sabotaging our futures.
What was surprising to me is the significant role the Occult played in radical feminism. I was struck by it because the Occult seems irrational – how could smart, educated women fall prey to such drivel? And yet, they did. But, truly, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Once I started thinking about it more deeply, it is clear that paganism and idol worship always make their way into ideologies whenever Judaism and Christianity are weak – the Israelites fell prey to it as they raised idols to worship in the desert in their search for Cana, as has every culture since that doesn’t understand the one true God. Humans make gods out of our own image and likeness in a grasp for security and control in a chaotic world.
We can see Marxism and the Occult on display in the lives of twelve women (not an insignificant number), including Kate Millett—who was raised a Catholic and was the mastermind behind women’s studies programs in our universities—as they recited a shocking “litany” in the early 1970s in a New York apartment, which proclaimed their desire to destroy the family and monogamy by “promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution, abortion and homosexuality”.
These women – these anti-apostles – achieved all of these things, normalizing all of them. They have also normalized Wicca – which now has more practitioners then Presbyterianism – goddess worship, and the idolization of women (“believe all women”).
Phyllis Chesler, one of the grandmothers of radical feminism, makes it clear in her latest book, titled Politically Incorrect Feminism, that all of the major players in the movement were broken women with troubled childhoods, particularly with significant issues with their mothers. These broken relationships led them to a common bond. Chesler refers to them as the “Lost Girls.” These lost girls, who rode the wave of feminism’s meteoric rise through television and books, overwhelmingly influenced the culture in ways that are difficult to wrap our minds around because it was so surprising and happened so quickly.
Despite all the differences among them, the one thing these “lost girls” could all agree on was abortion. Whether it was the Kate Millett-types who were deeply intellectual and brooding, or the Helen Gurley Brown-types who believed that “good girls go to heaven, while bad girls go everywhere,” abortion was the glue that held the movement together. More than anything, these women convinced generations of women – millions and millions of women – that the most precious and natural bond on earth, that of mother and child, was no longer important, and in fact was actually an impediment to a woman’s happiness.
How is it that this lie could spread so quickly and so resoundingly?
Yes, of course there is a demonic aspect to it, but what is at the heart of it is category change in the minds of everyday women that took hold and that we haven’t let go of since. This category change was to make women think about their lives in terms of power. Radical feminism convinced women that their happiness, their goal in life, was to be powerful. The new goal was to be able to control our lives, our men, our careers, and our fertility, to liberate us do whatever we want and to have it all. We can see crumbs of it dotting our own cultural landscape in how women speak and encourage other women today. We have grown used to phrases like “girl power,” “strong is the new pretty,” “be fierce,” and “empowerment.” Today the highest praise we can laud upon a woman is “badass”.
While these sound innocuous enough to us, what they reveal is the goal of power and of strength. A quick look at popular feminist books includes titles such as “Nasty Women,” “Full Frontal Feminism,” “Witches, Sluts, Feminists,” “Bad Girls Throughout History,” “Bad Feminist,” and “Feminist Fight Club.” The overriding message sent to women is that we must be tough and powerful. This is new. That a woman was “tough as a whore” was never meant to be a compliment, as it denoted a woman who had been hardened by the world, broken by it so that she developed a thick skin to hide her vulnerabilities, while simultaneously using her sexuality to control others.
But again, this is basically what we praise in women today, even if we don’t use that phrase to describe them. We applaud them for their toughness while neglecting the sad things that made them tough. We look at the exterior trappings while ignoring the interior wounds.
This new shiny idol of power promoted by radical feminism spread like wildfire. Power was something men had and women didn’t, so women needed to get it in equal drafts. The shift was subtle, seductive, emboldening, and energizing. But this new striving for power, rather than satisfying their broken hungry souls, wounded them all the more: these women got drunk off of it, they reveled in it, quite literally to the point of drug-fueled orgies. What was targeted by feminism was something unique; it was the fruitfulness of womanhood – both in virginity and motherhood.
Satan knows, just as he did when he targeted Eve, that if he gets the woman, he gets everyone. And if he can destroy women’s source of fruitfulness, then he has succeeded, because our greatest gift isn’t in power; it is in being fruitful. The idea of power supplanted the notion of fruitfulness. Coupled with the arrival of the Pill, sterility was the means through which women could become powerful and in control of their lives. Tossed aside was the idea of the family and the work necessary to cultivate and nurture souls and society. Women quickly forgot the very essential role they have in forming children into healthy and mature adults – the very building blocks of any healthy civilization.
Fruitfulness and spiritual motherhood
Female fruitfulness it isn’t just about raising children, but includes the notion of spiritual motherhood as well. Fruitfulness is that spark or desire planted in the body and heart of every woman.
What then, does fruitfulness look like? It is hard for us to grasp this concept of fruitfulness because it doesn’t always come with a paycheck, it isn’t always clear that it is happening – especially on the spiritual level – and there aren’t always pats on the back and public affirmation of fruitful efforts. In fact, mothers of large families can tell you that quite the opposite happens.
One of the richest sources of research for my book was Erich von Neumann seemingly exhaustive work The Great Mother. In it a pattern emerged that was deeply insightful about what fruitfulness is. Drawing from millennia of mythology about women, von Neumann describes a common characteristic of women as vessels – as ships, soil, ovens, even the ocean. We see this in the romance languages that use the feminine form for all of these concepts. The Church expresses this pattern when it is called “she.” As a structure, the main part of the church is the nave, which comes from the Latin word for ship, like navy.
Women’s souls are meant to hold and transform those whom we love. As St. Edith Stein wrote, “The woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.” Our Lady clearly fits into this model of being a container. She has been called “the soil” by St. Irenaeus. In a litany to her she is called: a spiritual vessel, a vessel of honor, a singular vessel of devotion, the House of Gold, the Ark of the Covenant, the refuge of sinners, and the Seat of Wisdom. All clear references to holding and containing.
In Western culture today, we have the mistaken notion that women can be mothers or not; motherhood isn’t an essential part of our being, but is merely accidental. This idea that our human nature can change and that we can exist outside of motherhood (again, spiritual motherhood, too) is, historically thinking, a preposterous idea. We can’t simply step out of it and deny it. Even the infertile or post-menopausal woman still has body that says “you are made to be a mother” – the way her arms fold, her hips, breasts, and so on express the concepts of holding and nourishing. This notion disconnecting women from motherhood is a modern fiction, spread widely in Soviet Russia, and now widely believed here.
What von Neuman also makes clear is that because we cannot step out of maternity, women can be defined by the way we act as mothers. There are basically two ways in which we can be bad mothers: we can neglect our children, or we can hold them too tightly. If we use Aristotle’s model of two extreme vices and the virtue residing in the middle, we can see that the healthy mother/the good woman is the one right in the middle, who understands the balance of tending to and letting go of her children. Through her years of care, this mother basically works herself out of a job. On the extremes, the neglecting mother rejects her motherhood, while the smothering mother makes the child all about her, stunting and contorting its personality.
It is easy to see how abortion, while giving the impression that we can step out of motherhood, doesn’t actually do that. The child exists. Abortion is the personification of what von Neumann calls the awful mother – the woman who doesn’t just neglect her child, but actively kills her child. Curiously, with the smothering mother, although the etymology suggests otherwise, there is something striking about the fact that smothering is so close to the word “mothering”.
Our fruitfulness isn’t just contained in our physical bodies, but mimics what happens to women on a spiritual level. The physical act of having a biological child is similar to the spiritual fruitfulness we witness in the lives of the saints and holy women, particularly cloistered religious. In these cases, a tiny seed is planted. Initially, the woman is the only one aware of the new life within her. Time, great care, love, and sacrifice eventually bring a child to life, a child who will eventually have a life of his own, no longer needing the mother for his life to continue. We understand this clearly with biological children, but it is more hidden in the spiritual life. It can be witnessed in the lives of women such as St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, or St. Faustina. St. Teresa of Calcutta had a seed planted in Ireland to move to India to serve the poorest of the poor; today, we know this little seed has grown into something far beyond her imagining, and lives on without her. She worked herself out of a job.
Soil, seed, surrender
At its core, fruitfulness requires receptivity. It cannot be done alone. Without actively receiving the seed, there will be no fruit. Fruitfulness requires a kind of surrender and trust that must exist between the soil and the seed-sower, be it a husband physically, or the Trinity, spiritually. Women are the soil into which the seed of life, but also spiritual seeds, are planted.
When targeting this particular aspect of women, Satan has whispered convincingly to so many women of our age: “Don’t let a seed take on life in you. Pleasure is your right and babies have nothing to do with sex.” And if you do get pregnant, “You don’t need to have a child. That child will ruin your life.” Contraception and abortion are the direct means Satan uses to destroy our fruitfulness. Without fruitfulness, we cannot understand our bodies, our souls, our mission, or our relationships. Without understanding women’s relationship to it, all of these become murky, disjointed, and compartmentalized.
Without fruitfulness, we also cannot see the value or virtues of Christianity’s greatest model: the Virgin Mother. She only makes sense within a context of fruitfulness, despite still being the most powerful woman in the world.
The desire to nurture others is deep in the heart of every woman – even women who don’t know what it is or how it works in their lives, as we saw above with the successful secular women. Women were made to nurture something. We can see this in the current popularity of pets. Women are trying to fill the void that has been made by the absence of children and grandchild.
This desire is not going away, but will only find new avenues for expression. We are made to be fruitful.
Gertrude von le Fort made it clear in her writings that the problem with women isn’t that we are weak. It is that we are powerful. We are living in a time unlike any other when we can see the chaotic power of women on display, like the violent destruction of a tempest, or the hidden power of a deadly riptide. Women are powerful. The key for us is to surrender what can be destructive power and live in the will of God. And the solution for that is already with us, it is a return to the Woman, the Star of the Sea, whom St. Bernard promises us will never abandon us, but will ever guide us safely to shore.
Our Lady, no matter how out of vogue she may be today, in light of the context of fruitfulness, remains the perfect model of femininity.
(Editor’s note: This essay was originally posted on July 7, 2019.)
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