Browse Our Articles & Podcasts

The Irony of Feminism and the Reasonableness of Marriage


The sharpest irony of the everyday feminism that has trickled down to all levels of society is simply that men—and certainly not the best men—stand to profit most from the so-called liberation of women.  Indeed, as a moment’s reflection can show, it is no exaggeration to say that the movement from the very start has played into the manipulative hands of pleasure-hungry males.  To see why this is so, we need merely consider what things used to be like before the heralds of “equal rights” and “sexual liberation” came on the scene announcing a new code of behavior.  In the past, when a woman’s “honesty” or “virtue” (as the state of premarital and marital chastity came to be called) was guarded by social convention, firm moral codes, parental supervision, religious belief, and a deeply-rooted sense that love quite naturally leads to marriage and children, the man (always in the position of suitor, one who must suit himself to the woman he wishes to woo) was expected, and usually obliged, to honor his would-be bride, promising her the fidelity of his body and the integrity of his intentions.

Now, however, nearly any man can arrange to keep a woman (whom a more forthright age would have called a mistress) for his entertainment at a minimal cost to himself, with little need for vows, forethought, or responsibility.  Since women are offended by the idea of dependency, they will bring in extra money; since they are equally horrified at the prospect of offspring (who might curtail their “liberated” desires), a man need not worry himself about the natural result of coition, and is therefore free to indulge his own bodily wants with relative impunity.  If a man gets what his body wants without any effort or sacrifice, chances are he will never stop to ask what his soul needs—or for that matter, what his mistress’s soul needs.

In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II wrote:

I think that a certain contemporary feminism finds its roots in the absence of true respect for woman.  Revealed truth teaches us something different.  Respect for woman, amazement at the mystery of womanhood, and finally the nuptial love of God Himself and of Christ, as expressed in the Redemption, are all elements that have never been completely absent in the faith and life of the Church.  This can be seen in a rich tradition of customs and practices that, regrettably, is nowadays being eroded.  In our civilization woman has become, before all else, an object of pleasure.  (p. 217)

Traditions of courtship and engagement have precisely this deeper purpose: to lay the foundations for a lasting friendship and affection rooted in the common good of man and woman together, teaching them to rise above the limitations of their private goods.  That is why continence is required throughout the years prior to consummating the marriage vows.  The consummation is meant to be the sacred seal on a pledge already inscribed in the hearts of bride and bridegroom.  When they have made their solemn vows to each other, the marriage of wills has already taken place because of their prior devotion and sacrifices.  Seen in this light, the privileges of marriage are always secondary to the demands of committed love, although nuptial love receives its most intense and fitting expression through those privileges.  In like manner, the Church counsels couples to be chaste (i.e., temperate) in their use of marital privileges for the same reason she counsels continence in courtship: that the spiritual goods of a friendship of virtue—the only real friendship, predicated upon truly common possessions—may take precedence over, and ultimately spiritualize, the goods of sensual pleasure, which are only beautiful and perfective to the extent that they solidify the deeper foundations of charity and illuminate the image of God in the souls of husband and wife.

In other words, as Augustine implies, the virtuous man is he who can transform the water of earthly pleasure into the wine of heavenly joy, without scorning the genuine goods of this world.  Christ does not say to the steward, “Get rid of that ordinary water and bring something better.”  He says, “Fill your jars with water and bring them to me,” whereupon he miraculously transmutes one substance into another, like an alchemist transmuting lead into gold.  So too, God calls upon the husband and wife to elevate and purify their fleshly union, not so that it may cease to be fleshly, but rather, that its very fleshliness may become holy and beautiful—a constant renewal of the nuptial promises, a song of praise to the Creator, a worthy symbol of the union of Christ and His Church.  The union of husband and wife on all its levels—physical, psychological, spiritual—should be a sacrament of presence, a redemption from selfishness, a banquet where each is offered to and for the other, a celebration of the solemn vows spoken months, years, decades before.  And, it seems almost superfluous to add, if such a love is truly present and active in the lives of the spouses it will bear fruit in children whose advent is eagerly sought and generously welcomed.  As the Book of Tobias expresses it: “Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: Sara, arise, and let us pray to God today and tomorrow, and the next day. . .For we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God” (8:4, 5); “And now, Lord, thou knowest that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity, in which Thy name may be blessed for ever and ever” (8:9).

The wisdom of this approach becomes evident when we consider for a moment one of the basic reasons why the Church, listening to the voice of nature, must forbid contraception.  It is wrong for couples to indulge their sensual appetites whenever they please for the simple reason that each appetite of the human being needs to be kept in due proportion or balance with the other activities of a fully human life.  When all aspects of a man’s or a woman’s life are properly measured, nothing too prominent or submerged, we then speak of a person of integrity, someone who “has it all together.”  A consequence immediately follows: as Democritus says, “If you exceed the measure, what is most enjoyable becomes least enjoyable.”  Food is naturally good, eating is an operation according to a natural inclination for sustenance; but one can eat to excess, thereby perverting the goodness of the act.  By so exceeding the mark, one brings upon oneself numerous other defects of body and soul.  Gluttony is thus an instance of the kind of indulgence which is capable of upsetting a person’s inner peace and outward behavior; it is impossible to cultivate the presence of Christ if the parts of the soul are out of order and cannot harmonize with one another.  Likewise with the act of marriage: allowing free indulgence out a mistaken “realism” is nothing other than approving the malformation of character and the disordering of wills, which is altogether contrary to human dignity and fulfillment.  Such a lax and permissive attitude, in fact, leads to the carnalization or cheapening of authentic love, which of its proper essence is a spiritual good having union with God as its final goal.  Put otherwise, the Church forbids sensual vice not because she has a problem with pleasure, but because too much pleasure causes problems.  It is the nature of man as created by God that lays down the laws by which ordinary conduct is to be governed.  An ethical code or a magisterial pronouncement is only meant to help us find the right measure, without having to ruin ourselves by the regrettable mishaps of ill-advised experimentation.

We digress from our initial theme.  The most poignant irony of our times is that “modern” women have all but invited men—already inclined by fallen nature to promiscuity and, as a result, in great need of a woman’s good example and discipline—to persevere stubbornly in their own worst vices: arbitrariness of physical passion and the constant temptation to run after the next beautiful girl.  The very behavior (not to mention dress) of many contemporary women has the result of frankly encouraging men to satisfy their desires in a bestial way, destroying at its roots the foundation for constancy and fidelity in marriage.  On the assumption that such women actually want their husbands to remain faithful to them, one cannot help but marvel at their nearsightedness.  According to current standards of “dating” and “engagement,” a man and a woman are free to parade their concupiscence and feed it wantonly.  In modern times, there is nothing holy or dignified about the way people approach the real union of lover and beloved, an act ennobled in healthier ages by the sacrament (“sacred pledge”) of matrimony.  Is it any surprise that a vast number of marriages end in divorce, when a vast number of relationships begin in lust?

Now as before, there is but one way to conquer the blindness of the world and the folly of man: living out the Christian ideal of marriage.  “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” writes St. Paul; again, “Let marriage be honorable in all things.”  The Apostle only echoes his Master, who teaches us that God is the source and end of marriage, the one who effects the bond and perfects its blessings: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”  Love that is rooted in God, a union nourished by faith and purified through suffering—this love alone will prosper and bear fruit “thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold, in time and in eternity.”


Originally published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review 98.6 (March 1998): 54–57.

32 thoughts on “The Irony of Feminism and the Reasonableness of Marriage”

  1. Since there are Bible translations that have been “gender neutered”, and modern man no longer has need for anything that smacks of traditions, I’m sure all the dictionaries will be revised to eliminate the following words as they have or are losing their meaning and value:
    1. Tradition
    2. Sin
    3. Oath
    4. Vow
    5. Marriage
    6. Man
    7. Woman
    8. Sacrifice
    9. Continence
    10. Purity
    11. Impurity
    12. Self-control
    13. Virtue
    14. Integrity
    15. Prudence
    16. Commitment
    and of course, Hell.

  2. In just the lifetime of IANS (same age as israel) TV, the school of life in America, has gone from Ricky and Lucy Ricardo sleeping separately in twin beds to sodomites sleeping together in prime time; it has gone from songs like Wake-up little Suzie (“our reputation is shot”) to Why don’t we do it in the road and all the while the One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church has decided to respond to this perverse and pernicious pornography with an attitude of permissiveness.

    Who am I to judge?

    Good call; way to read and react to the signs of the times….

    Speaking of signs – just when will the Pope get around to speaking about the Irish Referendum, the SCOTUS decision on sodomitic ceremonies, and the latest Planned Parenthood revelations of their diabolical doings?

    O, that’s right; we ARE going to do something in response to the suggilation of our souls; the Synod will approve Communion for adulterers.

  3. For myself, what the author here alludes to is what I recognize as “radical feminism”, rather than the feminism which brought women the vote, employment, autonomy, and the ability to help one’s spouse and children in supporting the household when it is necessary. What the suffragettes of the past worked for has brought a better life for women, and I think it does come under the title of feminism. I am grateful for their efforts. No doubt there are “modern women” who dress inappropriately, but there are also men who feel they have the right to visually assess and make absurd assumptions about the meaning of a woman’s clothing choice of the day. Equal rights have brought autonomy to women as they have to African Americans in the United States, and thanks be to God for these rights. I assume the author is concerned more with the wrong-headed ideas of “radical” feminism in which autonomy and self-determination are bundled together with sexual license and a nonexistent “right” to kill the child in the womb. However, it is hard to tell the intent due to comments such as “women are offended by the idea of dependency…they are equally horrified at the prospect of offspring…” I understand that some women may be represented here, but the flavor of this part of the article is bitter, to say the least. It ignores the very real suffering that “dependency” brings to women when a man abandons his vow to love and stay together for a lifetime.

    • What thou see, that thou be…I do not detect a smidgen of bitterness in the article. It was beautifully laid out to express what happened when modern feminism took precedence in the hearts and minds of women (and men). The antidote, to live as the Church teaches regarding man and womanhood and marriage, is also presented beautifully. I’m not sure where you live or who you interact with, but I am comfortable saying the majority of American women today are offended by the idea of dependency. I am in a position to see that offense played out almost daily in our court system when divorced women are ordered to pay child support. The courts almost universally expect women to provide 50% of the support of their children. This, of course, hurts poor women the most, those who have low paying jobs and little education. I also see women who willingly give up their children to ex spouses or parents so they can continue to live a life of abandon. This is not uncommon today, unfortunately. The stats on abortion support the statement that women are often also “horrified at the prospect of offspring…” Also, the article was clear in stating that men have “benefited” most from the disorder in society.

      • “What thou see, that thou be”? Not at all, but I am not surprised that you would preface your comment with that. The bitterness is the whiff of misogyny in the article, where bias against women is portrayed as a critique against modern feminism. You don’t know me. I am a “dependent” woman, and grateful to have my spouse support me and our children. The greatest blessing God has given me is my family. I am also a prolife catholic, spending time praying in front of abortion clinics when possible, getting heckled by the horrid modern culture made up of both men and women. Actually it’s been more often the men who give the gesture and profanity, come to think of it. I recognize the sorry state we are in in the world with regard to sexual impurity and its casual acceptance in society. But this article has portions which describe the female sex in a biased manner, attributing the immorality of our culture mostly to “modern women” and feminism. God gives us freedom, the freedom to help our spouse if he is unable to work to support the family, the freedom to follow God as a celibate nun and spiritual mother, the freedom to speak up when bias is obvious. For example, though there exist some women who are horrified at the prospect of offspring, why portray all women so? I’m glad St. Joan of Arc didn’t pay attention to those who dismissed her calling as, among other things, inappropriate for her sex! St. Joan of Arc, please intercede for us women.

        • I made no assumption of your sex. It did not come into my thoughts at all while I wrote. Your replies would seem to indicate a projection of some type of anger. Nothing of which you write is apparent in the article, including the elusive “whiff of misogyny.” I also happen to be a woman.

          • I don’t see how there is projection of anger in speaking up against bias towards women wherever it is to be found. It is a matter of justice. And yes I do feel there is a distorted and biased, or misogynistic element to portions of this article. I wouldn’t, however, be of a nature to make comments like “what thou see, that thou be” or something like that, in which the person is criticized for stating an opinion about the article. It’s revealing.

          • Please provide quotes from the article in which there is a distorted, biased, or misogynistic element to the article. I think it is important to be clear about it and not toss out accusations. That too, is revealing. You are accusing the author of these things. I do not see it. I ask you to back up what you say.

          • I will provide minimal quotes to identify the passages I find troubling. “Since women are offended by the idea of dependency, they will bring in extra money; since they are equally horrified at the prospect of offspring…” Here are my thoughts on this passage: Since when are a majority of women or all women offended by the idea of dependency, and since when is it wrong to help the income of the family with extra money? Shall the woman lay down in poverty and dependence if her husband should become disabled? Are a majority of women horrified at the prospect of offspring such that one should declare all women to be?
            No, this is bias by omission, as clearly this could be said of any number of men regarding offspring. Also, why is it that a woman’s education out of dependency is implied to be discordant to a happy marriage instead of an aid to supporting the family as necessary to survive? This is what I mean by bias. Here’s another passage, “The very behavior (not to mention dress) of many contemporary women…has the result of frankly encouraging men…” “On the assumption that such women actually want their husbands to remain faithful to them one cannot help but marvel at their nearsightedness. (!) Here are my thoughts on this: How does one blame women’s provocative clothing for men’s inconstancy and lack of control?! There are women who may dress immodestly, but again, there are reasons besides wantonness for some lapses in daily clothing, but here the woman doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. There is a little further along this same train of thought before the woman is blamed for her own rape, but it isn’t far along.
            Let’s see, how about women contributing to the unfaithfulness of their husbands by their behavior and clothing choices? I wonder if a man would dare to use such reasoning in the confessional to explain infidelity… Men are responsible for their own behavior, and to present modern women in this one-sided fashion is a form of…bias. Perhaps the woman should wear a burkha so as not to provoke the male libido?! I could say more. Thanks be to God for freedom!

          • You sound as if women have no responsibility for the state of our culture. Are women, by the nature of their sex, to be absolved of any responsibility for dressing immodestly, for having abortions, for leaving the raising of their children to daycare workers in order to have a second or third car, vacations, and so on? Oh, you don’t like me making blanket statements about women? Then you ought not to do it, either. Implying that the only reason women work is for disabled husbands or for survival is disingenuous, just as implying they only work for jewelry or cars.

            The author did not say “all” women dress immodestly or are horrified at the thought of offspring. You are implying things that are not there and then attacking the author for the falsity you set up.

            It is self-evident that abortion is rampant in society. It is 100% women who are having them. Of necessity, that implicates the state of women’s moral compass.

            Regarding immodest dress, I suggest talking to a holy priest about the individual responsibility of how women dress in public. Women who objective themselves through inappropriate clothing (and they are by no means a minority in society) are harming themselves, as well as tempting men. Do you believe that women have particular weaknesses and tendencies peculiar to their sex? In general, of course. Let us not continue setting up a straw man. You certainly imply that men have a general tendency to “inconstancy and lack of control.”

            Indeed, as you, I am grateful for the freedom to express our opinions.

          • Perhaps you just don’t like a cogent discussion against your perspective, especially from another woman.

          • No, I just realized that the simple meaning of whatever I say is twisted to another meaning in your reply/understanding so its pointless. For example above you have said something about disingenuousness about women working. My simple point was about the right of women to be able to have an education and work, if need be, and nothing to do with whether they should buy jewelry or frivolous stuff. And it wasn’t disingenuous as I was referencing my own experience growing up with the breadwinner of the family, my father, becoming disabled from ALS and dying, during and after which my mother and I were in bad financial situation for some years. That was the basis of my comment, as I think there are not insignificant number of families who can end up this way. And regarding the overall point of my comments was simply that there are points brought up by the author which seem unfair to women, from my reading of the article. It isn’t that there aren’t subsets of women who do these wrongful things, but the tone in the article doesn’t sound fair to me, and I already referenced where those problematic statements were. Not sure what you mean by setting up straw men, as I simply referenced the points in the article that seemed unfair to me.

          • You attacked the author from a certain viewpoint. You made statements critical of and judgmental of the author’s supposed standpoint. In other words, perhaps you “twisted” them to “another meaning.” I disagreed with you and said why, asking several questions (this was a discussion, right?) to which you did not reply. I am comfortable with my statements and do not believe I twisted your intent, as you aver.

    • There’s not a significant difference between the two feminisms you distinguish. It’s always been about removing restrictions on women’s desires, and undermining their husband’s authority over them. That’s the vote, that’s the destruction of coverture, that’s the autonomy, the divorce, the family courts, the contraception, the abortion. They’re unnatural, evil. Some are worse than the others, but each one opens the way to the next one. They are all in the same spirit, which is the rebellious spirit of Eve.

      Feminists can’t handle the simple words of St. Paul. “Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord.”

        • Not really. It’s the fault of men failing to maintain the structures that restrained women. Men encouraging women’s emancipation. The results of that indulgence were inevitable. The original choices by men to tear down traditional society were not inevitable.

          • Better stated that it’s a collaboration in evil/foolishness by both men and women in tandem, no? There is a certain immediate gratification one receives, whether man or woman, from bypassing any thought of what God has ordained in the matter and doing what we feel is better in regards to a woman’s disposition in the world particularly.

            Therefore via feminism a woman is perennially allowed to play the righteous victim, when she is not; and the man is allowed to fancy himself a champion and hero, when he is not.

  4. Good article Mr. K. Ladies, how’s this modern woman thing working for you? When God asks you at the pearly gates what you brought to the party what are you going to say? How is independence staking up for you? This whole modern woman thing is an exercise in selfishness and it is stupid, self defeating and self destructive. Women have the best opportunity for happiness in this life and they are giving it up–for what, to support themselves versus being supported by a husband. They have the best opportunity for love and generosity by having children and they are giving it up–for what, to have lots of boyfriends, a better wardrobe, money in the bank? Not smart ladies. Get with the program God has laid out for you. Doing it His way will bring you much more happiness than doing it your way.

    • Quite well, actually. We are more educated, wealthier, live longer and healthier lives, start more businesses and generally have a far better physical and intellectual existence than we ever did under your system. We no longer have to endure being beaten or cheated on routinely because we can support ourselves. So, what actual evidence do,you have that being helplessly dependent on a man is better?

      • Yes, I know. My comments were, perhaps, somewhat overwrought. Sorry about that. My very successful daughters would certainly agree with you. I didn’t mean to suggest that women should be helplessly dependent on a man. My idea was that women are more fulfilled by making a good home, with a good husband and several kids. After all that’s what God meant them to do.

        • Yeah, I got that part. The fact is that women don’t choose to do that when we have any options at all. In ever society that has ever existed the birth rate falls in perfect inverse proportion to the rise in women’s literacy. If you want a world of housewives then you need to quit teaching us to read.

          • That’s odd. My wife is very successful, and very good at what she does. When she is working full time, she earns more money than any male friend or family member I know.

            She also chooses to be a mother, and to have children. In fact, we’re expecting number seven.

            It’s not literacy that’s the problem. It’s selfishness.

          • My wife and I have 11 kids. She graduated from college at the age of 20 magna cum laude and was a school teacher. She quit working just before we married in 1957 a move I don’t think she ever regretted.

          • “…any options at all.” Oh please. It is excruciating to hear that kind of feminist bitterness in this Year of Our Lord 2015.

      • Your claims are absurd on their face. Are you seriously suggesting feminism legitimately claims credit for an increase in lifespan and improvement in health?

        Even in education – excepting the so-called advances of Title IX – women were already going to college in significant numbers before second wave feminism hit the beaches with any effective political achievements.

        Feminism has opened the doors for an explosion of pornography, where so-called equality has reared its ugly head in the 40% of women addicted to that scourge.

        As for business ownership, the irony in women’s health has been a sharp upswing in diseases and ailments previously seen in men, and associated with the varied stresses of business leadership. This has been long observed.

  5. Maybe christ insanity shouldn’t have depreciated White people’s point of view with universalism which has led directly to der jude taking over the world with finance and then only cried about it when their “church” they supplanted our tribes with was inconvenienced. White Tradition has been ruined by tying the Folkways to a book from the middle east. Europe as a bloodline has been degraded under a six-pointed star to a six-pointed god.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popular on OnePeterFive

Share to...