The Dispatch: More from CWR...

The One answer to the ancient and continuing bondage of women

Questions have always surrounded the female sex, while the only answer and its bearer often got lost in the sea of voices. In order to make the woman become more acceptable, different tools were invented.  Tools of bondage; tools of oppression.

(Image: DANNY G/Unsplash.com)

Womanhood is messy and uncomfortable. The first steps into womanhood are awkward, to say the least, and often come with much anxiety and insecurity.

At the end of one school year, I could run and play basketball with all the boys.  A few months later, the boys came back taller and ripped, athletically much more capable and overall better looking. The girls, on the other hand, had to deal with the weight of growing hips and chests—some too big, some too small. Hair grew in places it shouldn’t. And if that wasn’t enough, our common monthly ordeal would give us the gift of pain and moodiness.

During those difficult years, many of us looked into the mirror and did not know how to deal with the new image seen there.

Then came the avalanche of expectations from family, classmates, social media, and society at large. Who is this young woman who stares back in the mirror? What or who is she supposed to look like? Is she a seducer? Does she had the right size of feet? Is she pretty enough? Is she supposed to be a she? Questions have always surrounded the female sex, while the only answer and its bearer often got lost in the sea of voices. In order to make the woman become more acceptable, different tools were invented. Tools of their trade that always involved bondage, and never freedom. Tools of bondage; tools of oppression.

At the end of the day, the identity of a woman comes down to who she sees in the mirror. This is, however, no ordinary mirror, but an obsidian mirror used for scrying, because on its dark surface, many lies appear to be truth, as the gazer watches herself twisted and incomplete. She is never enough, never beautiful, never wanted.

A woman with big feet appear in the mirror.

In the 10th-century China, the practice of footbinding became common among the elite women and then spread to the rest of the country. Bound feet became a mark of beauty and a status symbol, despite the fact that it caused pain and often limited the mobility of women. Prolonged footbinding often caused life-long disabilities, became women could have the coveted lotus feet. In the 19th century, up to half of Chinese women bound their feet to fit in the tiny shoes that could be mistaken for doll shoes. For a millennium the practice continued, finally dying down in the beginning of the 20th century.

A woman with a thick waist stares back in the mirror.

In the West, the practice of tightlacing or waist training became popular in the 19th century, beginning with the 16th-century trend of wearing a corset to achieve the perfect figure. An extremely tight corset would result in a tiny waist and also push the breasts upwards and flatten the stomach. The body’s look would forever be altered if a woman practiced tightlacing long enough. In the beginning of the 20th century, the practice came to an end, although one can easily find corsets and other waist training equipment to make the female body more appealing even today.

A seducer points an accusing finger in the mirror.

Women are inferior and more sinful than men, thus they bear the responsibility of making sure that men don’t fall into sin because of their immodesty. The Hadith records Muhammed’s words of caution to women:

O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)….You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” (Bukhari 6:304)

Women in Muslim lands grow up to learn that a mere glance at their elbows or ankles could induce men into adultery—and the fault would be upon the female who has exposed herself so shamelessly. Therefore, women should cover their entire body (except their hands and faces) during prayer and when around males who are not part of the women’s household. In some countries, even her face and hands are offensive to the onlooker.

A woman whose ovaries are inconvenient glares from the dark mirror.

Her body is once again in the way, she is told over and over again. She had bound her feet, her waist and spent an inordinate amount of money to become attractive. Would it really matter now if she also bound her ovaries? The perfectly functioning reproductive organs need to be bridled because men want sex without consequences. And she needs a career that will fulfill all her needs. And motherhood is enslavement. It is better to work for a complete stranger than to be surrounded by people who think you are the center of the universe. So, she pops the Pill. It is better to bind the natural workings of one’s body than to come face to face with the fact that the man you love is not up to the task of being a caring husband and a father.

It is better to bind your body with contraceptives than to live a life of inconvenience.

The tiny human inside her womb peers at her from the only light part of the mirror. She is not ready. Her boyfriend, fiancé. or husband does not want children. It was an accident. She cannot have a child now. Other women tell her that it is not a baby, but merely a glob of tissues. It is a parasite. Her body means her choice. And modern science offers convenient and new ways for her to bind her body’s most miraculous function. Someone could simply reach inside her and rip the undesirable being away from her body, solving all her problems. The place that gave a life a few weeks ago becomes a tomb and carries women to a place of mourning, whether she acknowledges or not.

A body she doesn’t want gawks at her in the mirror.

She doesn’t recognize herself anymore. Her friends are all perfect; they are happy on social media. What is wrong with her? She asks the all-knowing Google about her insecurities, and finds the answers she needs. The tools that would rid her of anxiety and loneliness are at the tip of her fingers. “You are a man stuck in a woman’s body,” some tell her. “You can decide your own gender,” others affirm. “Your birth-assigned gender is not right,” some nod their head. “Let’s start with breast-binders,” someone suggests.

What a wonderful solution! She doesn’t have to deal with those pesky breasts anymore. “We can talk about testosterone treatment afterwards. Did she know testosterone will help improve her mood and relieve her anxiety?” No, she did not. “Let’s put a permanent bandaid on this temporary problem and change your body forever.”

Over and over women peer into the dark mirror, hoping to see a beautiful and loved person who does not have to bind herself to fit in what the obsidian of the day tell hers. Only the kind of bondage changes, but the binding is always there as the tool of the trade in the sinful world in which we all wander, looking for meaning and desperate for belonging.

The only person who offers true freedom for women goes unnoticed as His daughters suffer one bondage after another. He meets a woman at the well who is burdened and ostracized because of her sins, and sets her free. He draws a line in the sand for the men, so that He can offer forgiveness to the woman caught in sin. He tells Martha not to trouble herself with things of this world, but to sit at His feet. He shares the glory of His resurrection with women first. He crowns His mother the Queen of Heaven.

Jesus Christ is the only One who looks in the mirror behind every woman and sees a beloved daughter who was created in the image of God.

While sinful men and misguided women put His daughter in one bondage after another, Christ and His Church offer the only freedom woman can achieve in this fallen world: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”


If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.


About Derya M. Little 16 Articles
Derya M. Little has a PhD in politics from Durham University, England and an MA in history from Bilkent University, Turkey. She is the author of several books, including From Islam to Christ: One Woman's Path through the Riddles of God (Ignatius Press, 2017) and A Beginner's Guide to the Latin Mass (2019). She can be visited online at DeryaLittle.com.

29 Comments

    • John Doe is purposefully a generic and obscuring name, which I assume is your point. So, I have no idea if you are a man or not. But if you are a man, your response to this article is telling.

  1. Dear Derya M. Little,

    Thank you for the beautiful article! So true! We need to hear them loud and clear every day. I was fortunate to have an Italian outspoken father who reminded his 17 children, especially his 8 girls, about who they were. That is when they remarked about their many flaws to him when they looked in the mirror. One of his famous sayings and he was an artist was that we couldn’t see the true natural beauty in front of us that God made. Looking back at my skinning legs, Italian nose, and curly hair that I fought so hard to conceal every day. One time when I was young, I asked him to sketch my profile, but with a different nose. He threw his pad and pencil down, and said, “That would be wrong! Why are you not satisfied with your gifted Italian features? I don’t what is the matter with you! And why you can’t see yourself correctly?”

    Many years later, and now that I’m in my 70s, I realize his blessed words with grace.

    God bless and keep us.

  2. Derya Little describes a part of the true history of human beings. Our task in dealing with the matters she describes is to use our power of reason, to separate certain parts from the whole. We must use our ability to sort one thing from another; our great power to untangle the tangles; to extract – as Derya Little does here – a perspective that enlightens and provides a way forward.

    The life of Derya Little herself offers a perspective. She provides a vision of clear thinking which developed through the events of her life. How has she done this? She has studied; she has contemplated; she has evaluated practices. She emphasizes certain offensive practices and attitudes that had and have potential to do great harm. She does this, perhaps because of space limitations here, at the expense of proper balance. Why do we not hear about countless women, past and present, who in spite of times of suffering, even anguish, loved their lives – their parents, their husbands, their children, their neighbors, their communities, even their nation and its traditions? Would it not be better to resist over-simplification, especially as relations between men and women are concerned? It cannot be true that women through all times did not understand the great burdens placed also on men; burdens which were carried alongside those of women.

    Where are all the good men in her history? Where is the history of those men who loved their mothers, their female friends, their wives, their daughters; who did indeed strive to protect and cherish these women? Where again is the balance? We need testimony from the countless men and women throughout history who achieved wisdom and knowledge, who loved and continued to love goodness, even in the face of horrors – goodness that is in the hearts and souls of ordinary people; goodness also in the hearts and souls of those who were not corrupted by power and wealth. I pray we will speak of these people – those who were and are united in pursuit of goodness – not angels, far from perfect, subject to error, in other words, real persons.

    • In 2019, my book, “Male and Female, Made in God’s Image” was published. Married for 55 years at the time, I gave a historical account of dating, marriage and family from the 1940’s onward. The reader gets the perspective of before when Christian values were upheld and after the sexual revolution that has continued to change the world to one of sexual distortion and mutual disrespect for the opposite sex.

  3. Men may want sex without consequences Derya unfortunately so do many [liberated] women. Perversity affects both sexes, women currently so popular men are trending to become women. Bondage or the failure of both? What is said the weaker sex by Peter is meant for men to be temperate. Women are meant to be women with all the differences you note that is perceived as a disadvantage. Perhaps you’re right and men have failed miserably, although from this man’s perspective so have women. The strongest women I’ve met were in Brooklyn, daughters of immigrants living in dockside communities where weeping over one’s frailties got zero respect. Then I wouldn’t want to be a woman with all her challenges. From thoughts pondered on this it seems that the radical differences that cause such distress, which Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House caused the West to shudder and rethink the perennial conflict, is what makes either sex more lovable and more bearable. I’ll end my woman bashing with your beautiful words, “Jesus Christ is the only One who looks in the mirror behind every woman and sees a beloved daughter who was created in the image of God”. Although Derya, there are men who perceive that too.

  4. ‘At the end of one school year, I could run and play basketball with all the boys. A few months later, the boys came back taller and ripped, athletically much more capable and overall better looking. The girls, on the other hand, had to deal with the weight of growing hips and chests—some too big, some too small. Hair grew in places it shouldn’t. And if that wasn’t enough, our common monthly ordeal would give us the gift of pain and moodiness”. — Was this article researched? This seems in many respects to be one woman’s opinion, and judging from the quote above, a belief that women are inferior. Boys going through adolescence are just as “unattractive” and “awkward” as women and I’ve never thought or heard any differently until reading this article. Particularly this quote: “It is better to work for a complete stranger than to be surrounded by people who think you are the center of the universe.”, is odd. It’s as if the author doesn’t realize woman need to work outside the home just to pay the bills and help support the family-it has nothing to do with birth control. If you want more women to have babies, you need corporate America to pay women better and provide child care.

  5. Very well done! Good basis for a meditation, because there are abundant formed-fitted lies for every woman. Older women take note: make sure you are free and healed so that you can help guide (and love!) this next generation out of their cages.

  6. This is my second comment: In my childhood days, there must have been girls who played sports with the boys. I read of one father’s good counsel to his daughter, a girl with athetic skills equal to that of the young boys. At the onset of puberty, he advised her to switch to the girls’ teams. This was not in anyway viewed as a negative thing. It was in fact part of this particular girl’s education; her training in clearly seeing that which is real, i.e., that females and males differ in certain ways. In the account I read, this young girl went on to excel in women’s sports.

    I am in the group now classified as “the elderly” and the fact of the matter is that I am just that: elderly. I am active in many ways, blessed with energy enough to participate in the “ora et labora” of life. But I am also aware there is no process that will render me youthful. I too must face reality. This is a very good thing.

    These transitions occur in every life, sooner or perhaps later. But they cannot be avoided.

    May I say though that the girl I was and the girls I knew did not in any way regret their femininity or their female bodies. Many girls valued the interesting and important distinctions that seemed in the nature of things. The boys interested us as they were but sameness was not in any way our goal.

    I found the beginning of menstruation mysterious. I sensed an essential change. It was my first intimation, my understanding of my body as life-conceiving and life-nuturing. I had not been taught to regret or to devalue this. I was fourteen at the time – sixty-six years ago. Although I had a long learning process ahead of me, long and arduous I might say, still my intuition told me this was a good thing. These many years later I can say with conviction that I still believe that marriage and motherhood, all difficulties and struggles notwithstanding, were great and beautiful blessings. They required me to become an “acting person”, a person who lives in relation to others, a person who has been humbled and also “raised up” through time. May God renew the “feminine genius” within us; may we revalue our femaleness, as Derya Little teaches, with Christ as our guide.

  7. Added to my comment among ICU RNs strong women, beautiful, and I mean physically beautiful, highly intelligent, compassionate and straight forward, no make up, no affectation, were perhaps the most favorably impressive persons male of female I’ve known.

  8. Thank you , also in preparation for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and in gratitude to our Lord who gives us The Mother , to help undo the evil knots ,
    in the Light of purity and holiness in The Spirit , to be taken in at ever greater levels in families and generations .

    Women made with two ‘hearts’ – the womb being of the same tissue as that of the heart , thus the envy of the enemy who hates both natural and supernatural life of humanity and making women as special targets with promises of false power in carnality and its realms, esp. to the men .

    Interesting how the effects of same have manifested from ancient times on – Ephesus also being the place chosen for The Mother to spend her last days , her power in Love over creation itself revealed to us esp. at Fatima .

    The Spirit ever inviting humanity to desire to be bound to The Love in The Trinity to free us from the whims and waves of the spirit of the world , that the Holy Father too warns us against , as the ‘polite demons ‘-

    https://rcspirituality.org/ask_a_priest/ask-priest-st-paul-seem-sexist-1-timothy-2/

    Thank God that we live in times with more Light of Truth , as the goodness in what The Father Wills , in patient steps , restoring grace , to help convert the fallen impulses as well as related pain and sufferings as occasions of deepening Oneness in Him in The Precious Blood .

    The face of Adam , with hairs that were like sunbeams , destined again to proclaim in Persona Christi ,as at every Holy Mass , the words in The Word , to raise up all of creation in praise and love for The Father …and all such brought to us , through a Mother and her glorious ties with us all –

    http://www.comingofthekingdom.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/66-Our-Blessed-Mother.pdf

    Blessings !

    • Would like to also mention the role of added Magnesium ( oceans of info on same on line , ocean water itself a good source ) in dealing with issues such as PMS and cramps , irritability , hair loss and addictions – in both sexes , heart health
      and inflammations of all sorts , from infections as well as allergies .
      The saltiness of His holiness , may same be renewed in its richness all through our lives !

  9. This is an excellent article & unfortunately so true of today’s society. The radical ‘feminists’ are too blame for a lot of unhappiness today.

  10. Glad I am a man sometimes, it seems women bear more suffering…what baffles (and angers me) is the silence of modern-day feminists towards the great surge of pornography, what degrades a woman more???

    • It may be “heresy,” but women have it better than men in some ways. They aren’t expected to fight in wars. They know who their children are without DNA testing. They have an “excuse” not to work – taking care of the children. Their “boss” (i.e. husband) loves them for who they are and not primarily as a money-maker. They naturally “bond” with other women, and can be much “closer” friends to each other than is acceptable with men.

      There are worse sins than those of the flesh, but the scandal of pornography is certainly very spiritually degrading to a woman and those who are accessories to the sin. It is more than just so-called “objectification.”

      There has been campaigns against pornography, and this may be the only thing that a Catholic and at least a certain “kind” of feminist could agree on. (If not for the same reasons.) That said, even feminism is no match for the porn industry for obvious reasons($$$).

      I understand that it was Bill Clinton who “enabled” Internet porn even though it is a federal crime. One can’t transport indecent/obscene materials across state lines. It is difficult for anything outside of an X-rated motion pictures to be more obscene. So much for the rule of law. And of course the unjust “principle” (i.e. license) could be extrapolated to many other areas of “law.”

      It appears that porn was at the beginning, if not cause of the decline of the USA’s morality. I understand that it “exploded” in the 1950s. However, the decline in general has been very successful over time. Largely it probably is the result of weak or bad Catholics.

      Catholics succeeded in converting the Roman Empire, but they couldn’t deal with heresies and irreligion that started about the beginning of the “modern” world in 1500 A.D. I am not sure exactly why. It appears that Catholics have been too focused on their own salvation, and didn’t care enough to fight vigorously for the salvation of others. Such a policy would have involved vigorously fighting an unjust state, and mightily striving to convert those in error. One couldn’t do much better than modeling oneself after St. Thomas More. [Although the Protestant MLKJ (Who got his ideas from St. Thomas Aquinas.) can be a source of inspiration, if not, obviously, emulation.]

      If there is anything that is holding back the world from conversion, it is ignorance and malice. The media is careful not to upset the status quo (e.g. regarding fornication and “divorce”), and may be purposefully focused on corrupting (e.g. immodesty).

      • “They have an “excuse” not to work – taking care of the children.”

        Ummmm – you don’t think taking care of the children is work? Possibly you think cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc., are also the equivalent of a casual stroll in the park?

  11. Thanks so much for this; may many daughters of God read and believe.

    When I was a v. young boy, I learned that one of the first people to fight foot-binding in China was missionary Gladys Aylard, a Christian missionary known as “The Small Woman” (she was supported in this by the local mandarin).

    Thank you again.

  12. As usual, a woman writes an article from the depths of her heart, and the majority of the commentators trash her. How about we park the knee-jerk narcissism at the door. How about we listen without refuting.

  13. This one of the best articles on this subject I have ever read. It doesn’t surprise me. Ms. Little is just a superb writer and thinker. Well done.

  14. I really appreciate the depth of your article, I know I’m not the only one that is so absolutely exhausted by never-ending pressures on looks, weight, and then especially in the United States culture, there are almost no real men left. most men want instant sex within a week or two of meeting them, never mind the potential for pregnancy with a man it doesn’t even love you, divorces abound, the majority of men could care less about anything but themselves and as you put it, sex with no consequences. It is not a sport it is a pro creative act. We need to bring God back into our lives, as the spiritual laws that are designed to protect women and children have been strangled and destroyed by atheistic selfish creatures, who I no longer recognize as my fellow human beings… but rather as puppets for the demons, making their Uncle Satan proud.

    • I am an old woman. I say this only as background. Several days ago, a young man whom I’ve known since childhood delivered some supplies to me and we chatted for a few minutes. He mentioned how frustrated he is because the girls he meets have all had multiple “relationships” and look for more. This is probably a stereotype too, but shows that it isn’t women who are under pressure–some of it because, as our Lord said, we are sheep. The media are our masters. Women think, dress, and try to look like the creatures on television etc. Frankly, I am weary of the self pity and fussing from those who spend too much time looking in that mirror. I’m sorry for the boys searching for a pure girl and even more sorry for women who think they must follow and be everything they see. We all want to be beautiful, we all want to be desired. But not for an hour. So how about forgetting ourselves for a bit and realizing that youth and beauty is only a breath. The thickness of our waists and the length of our legs will be irrelevant in a few very short years. If we (both sexes) don’t practice kindness, self respect, and actively defy what the world admires, then it’s all meaningless anyway.

  15. The author appears to see that being a woman is somehow unnatural. This is obviously false.

    “Tools of their trade that always involved bondage, and never freedom. Tools of bondage; tools of oppression.”

    Any kind of mutilation is wrong. However, one doesn’t impinge on freedom by reasonable expectations and commands. And this quote appears to be quite feminist.

    “Women in Muslim lands grow up to learn that a mere glance at their elbows or ankles could induce men into adultery—and the fault would be upon the female who has exposed herself so shamelessly.”

    Muslims go not enough and too far. The only way to completely remove temptation from a man is for him to never see a woman and his imagination to never be presented with a percept of one.

    However, their modesty standard is unreasonable. It is unnecessary for a woman to hide her face, hands, or feet. Hair is okay, but to be better a covering or having it “up” is good. The typical habit of a nun is very good.

    • “The author appears to see that being a woman is somehow unnatural.”

      An obviously wrong reading of the actual reading. Lord have mercy.

      • So now he thinks we all need to dressed in nuns’ habits.

        What a seriously odd person he is.

        ‘And this quote appears to be quite feminist.

        “Women in Muslim lands grow up to learn that a mere glance at their elbows or ankles could induce men into adultery—and the fault would be upon the female who has exposed herself so shamelessly.”’

        The author, unlike the commenter, grew up in Muslim lands. She made a statement of fact. I do not see how that causes the statement to be “feminist.” Of course those Muslim men, and those with the same mindset, would probably argue that since they know a woman is naked under her clothing they were driven to a frenzy and anything that happened to her was her fault. Nothing like blaming others for your own sins and evil.

  16. I was born in the pre-womens lib days. I don’t get the whine. My parents ( who also had two sons) never had different or lower expectations for me because I was a girl. I was sent to private school and then went to college, and earned a Masters Degree.I was fortunate not to struggle with weight but my average looks would never class me as a beauty queen. In spite of that I had dates with nice men ( who liked me for MYSELF and not my looks) and eventually married the love of my life. I never had the sense of being unhappy with who I was, nor a need to change myself to accommodate others. I pity the women who feel that way. The opinions of others CANNOT invalidate who you are. Ever. Find your strengths, and use the abilities and talents God gave you to help others. There is tremendous satisfaction in that, as well as personal validation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.


*