Rad Women Worldwide is pretty radical!

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I read this book in one morning while waiting for my van at the repair shop. It was a good use of my time.

Rad Women Worldwide is a book of short, exciting, interesting profiles of women from all over the world who made history in a large variety of fields (sports, politics, education, the arts, the environment, exploration…). It made a point of not being European or American-centric, although it didn’t completely ignore contributions from those parts of the world either. It was written in a textbook style. The simple language seems to indicate that the intended audience for this book is around middle school. In fact, it has been approved to be used in schools as part of the Common Core curriculum around the 6-8 grades.

The profiles were, at most, 4 pages long each. The authors say that a lot of research went into all of the profiles. From what I know, all of the profiles were accurate, even if I don’t completely agree with what they chose to emphasize in all cases (most notably Emma Goldman). In situations in which the woman profiled is still living, the woman herself was asked to approve it. The creators of this book did a great job of highlighting a good mix of stories, many of which are rarely told.

This book illustrates the famous Margaret Mead quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I dare any woman to read this book and not be encouraged in their own journey.

I really hope that my more conservative followers don’t throw the baby out with the bath water in regards to this book. Yes, it does feature one LGBT activist and highlights Emma Goldman’s work for birth control, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better book celebrating historical contributions by women around the globe. There were tons of women in this book I had never heard of from Africa, Central America, and Asia because my history classes growing up were so American and European-centric. They are fascinating stories of different cultures that I had never heard before. Instead of shying away from the book because of those two particular articles (two of 40 total), I would challenge you to use it as a spring board into discussion of what the Church teaches and why.

I got the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in Blogging for Books. Thank you! It is available at your favorite bookseller now.

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Women Against Abortion: The Most Biased Book I’ve Ever Read

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I picked this book up as a pro-life feminist curious what this book would say about other women in the cause. Would it mention Feminists for Life of America? Would it mention more recent groups such as New Wave Feminists? How would it depict the pro-life movement as a whole? I was greatly disappointed on all fronts. It was a struggle to finish the book, but I figured I needed to in order to give it a fair hearing.

This book profiles several pro-life women who were most active in the 70’s and 80’s. It does seem to try to give a fair depiction of the women’s motives. The author does seem to have a slight admiration (maybe?) for pro-life liberal activists such as Juli Loesch. But that’s about the only nice things I can say about her tone. Frankly, I think it’s a joke that so many Amazon reviewers called this book unbiased. I’m not sure if we all read the same book. I’m not surprised to find connections between this author and Planned Parenthood.

The book concentrates on two parts of the pro-life movement in which she says women were most influential: the growth of crisis pregnancy centers and anti-abortion vandalism and terrorism. She has nothing positive to say about crisis pregnancy centers. She depicts crisis pregnancy centers as manipulative liars. She depicts those who worked to interfere with abortion clinics’ operations as vandals, trespassers, and criminals. A large part of this book is a profile of Shelley Shannon, the woman who attempted to kill late-term abortionist George Tiller in 1993.

Feminists for Life of America is only mentioned in a couple of sentences. Almost all she says about them is that the aforementioned Juli Loesch was a founding member. Feminists for Life, a pro-woman, pro-life organization that pre-dates Roe v. Wade really deserved to have a more prominent place in a historical work discussing the role of women in the pro-life movement.

The only other compliment I can give to this book is that I did learn some things I didn’t know about the women who were involved in the movement before me. The depiction of events is accurate, even if her biased interpretation leaves much to be desired. If you can get past the tone and language, the substance of the book is pretty factual. She clearly did her research, but she failed to leave her strong pro-choice opinions at the door. I would love to see a book like this that is truly unbiased. I would love to see a book that talks about helping women in addition to some of the darker stuff.

I got the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in Netgalley. Thank you University of Illinois Press! I wish I had more positive things to say.

Mothers of the Church: A Book Review

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I ❤️ this book. It was over far too soon, but it will encourage you to read more about these awesome women.

You hear about the Fathers of the Church, the early leaders and scholars who contributed so much to our understanding of God and His Son. But you don’t hear much about the Mothers of the Church. These are the women who were scholars also in their own right who lived the faith in their actions. They often inspired and supported the Fathers and the early Church. 

In today’s environment where you hear people frequently complain about the role of women in the Church, it is ever more important to hear these women’s stories and to understand that in the pagan Roman Empire, Christianity was truly a liberating force for all women. In a society where baby girls were left to die and women were the property of their husbands, Christianity brought with it the radical idea that women and children were people, too. This is still a radical idea needed in the world today.

This book is a reader and would definitely be a great addition for a Church history class. By “reader” I mean that it principally contains samples of early writings by and about the women featured. These writings have been cleaned up to be easily read by modern readers. 

It definitely is not limited to an academic audience, however. With short, easily digestible historical bites and entertaining background information, this book is really for anyone wanting to learn more about the Mothers of the Christian faith.

It is available at your favorite booksellers now. I got mine a year ago at Catholic Supply of St. Louis. It is among my favorite purchases there and it now has a well-earned place on my reference bookshelf.

Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Scholars Take On Feminism and Complimentarity

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Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity, and The Church. Kinda says it all, doesn’t it? In this book a group of distinguished, faithful, Catholic women scholars take Pope Francis’ call for a deeper theology of women and run with it. They reflect on what such a theology would look like and where is the feminine genius needed in the Church today.

They go some surprising directions. A couple of essays tackle the question of a “theology of men” arguing that a theology of women demands a corresponding look at men. One can only be as good and thorough as the other. We are complimentary sexes after all. My favorite essay seeks to translate Church teaching on sexuality in terms that a stereotypical radical second-wave feminist would understand, framing it largely in terms of social justice.

If you’re a theology and women’s issues nerd like I am, this is definitely a book to be read and then placed in your reference pile. Quotes from this book will be found on this blog and on the John Paul II Center for Women’s FB and Twitter pages in coming months.

If you are one who wonders how the heck an intelligent, successful woman can stand by the Catholic Church in 2016, this book could help you with some answers if you approach it with an open mind.

This book is available now at your favorite bookseller. I got it a month ago at my semi-annual trip to Catholic Supply of St. Louis. (Just a shout out to home! I miss you guys!)

Theology of the Body Thursday #35: What is a relationship?

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“We started out just hooking up but then it got serious and that was weird so we stopped dating for awhile, but then we realized it’s OK so we started dating again and now it’s great. I hope that doesn’t sound bad. That sounded bad. I mean, it was the correct information but I presented it in the wrong way. This is weird. I look like a dick. Ask him a question now.”  – The young woman in the above picture

This quote gave me pause when I saw it on my news feed the other day. She’s obviously uncomfortable talking about her relationship. She’s embarrassed to be talking about something so private. She’s confused and she’s not sure how to even appropriately talk about it. Maybe she knows who Humans of New York is and she’s worried about having her face and quote plastered across the internet. But enough speculating, let’s just take the quote at face value.

For those of you unfamiliar with the lingo, more often than not, “hooking up” means having sex with “no strings attached.” So to translate the first sentence, they were having sex, but then it got serious, so they stopped. Do we really look down on sex, on our own bodies, that much? We can have sex without it being serious?

And then, serious just seems weird? I’m not sure how to even contemplate that. Maybe it is weird because we are all so naturally stuck in ourselves and then someone else comes on the scene and takes our affections. Maybe it is weird because change is weird.

As flawed as this quote is about sex, it says even more about womanhood. In a society so saturated with sex, women’s bodies being used to sell everything from cars to cheeseburgers to cable TV, this woman and many like her don’t feel comfortable talking publicly about their sex lives. She thinks she “looks like a dick” for telling the truth of her experience while he just sheepishly smiles.

Is this what we have come down to? Women ashamed of admitting their sexuality while their sexuality is used and abused. “Relationships” being so without rules, without strings, that no one can define them, even the people involved. As I’ve said before, in placing sex outside of marriage we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and left future generations hurt, confused, and feeling just “weird.”

Here is the sexual revolution, summed up in a Humans of New York picture and quote.

 

My Badass Book of Saints- The Review

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Are people so offended by the title of this book the only picture I can find of the cover online is from Amazon with “copyrighted image” printed across the top? Seriously, you can find worse language on daytime network TV. But anyway…

If you’re offended by the title of this book, get over it and buy it. You’ll be glad you did.

There has been several books out in recent years by women reflecting on the role of the saints in their lives. My Badass Book of Saints is definitely my favorite of the group.

Like other books in this category, it’s part memoir, part hagiography, and part spiritual reflection. Unlike the other books in this category, it’s relatively light on the memoir, which I like. Her writing is always spunky and engaging. It’s full of fun and inspiring facts. She makes all of the (official and unofficial) saints in her book relatable and interesting. You’re guaranteed to learn something and enjoy yourself while you’re doing it.

A couple of her choices of saints mystify me. She lists Christina the Astonishing, a woman who practically came back from the dead and then spent the rest of her life doing strange and dangerous acts of penance. The lesson Ms. Johnson gets out of it is how inspirational Christina is to come back from the dead and go through all these trials for the souls in purgatory. What I get out of it is that even the mentally ill can become canonized saints. I guess you can say “potAYto, potAHto.” Part of the beauty of the saints is that different Catholics can get different ideas from the same figure.

Other saint stories include little-known facts about well-known figures such as Audrey Hepburn and other inspirational people you may have never heard of such as Nancy Wake.

Overall, very fun read. It’s currently available at your favorite book seller. Get it!

 

Today is the Birthday of Pro-Life Feminist Warrior, Susan B. Anthony

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One hundred and ninety-five years ago today, suffragist and feminist Susan B. Anthony was born in Adams, MA. This most awesome woman was born into a politically active Quaker family. She was still a child when she started work in the anti-slavery movement. She dedicated the majority of her life to fighting for women’s rights including equal pay for equal work, the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to sign petitions and speak publicly. Like many women suffragists, she was also active in the temperance movement.

She was the more active half of a famous example of true friendship. Her partner-in-crime, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was married with 7 children, so she mainly stayed home, wrote, edited and womanned the fort while the unmarried, childless Anthony traveled across the US and spoke out for women.

 

Although abortion now is quite different than abortion in 1800’s, her views on the procedure are beyond debate. She refused to advertise abortion providers and abortifacient drugs in her publication The Revolution. The Revolution did publish, however, an anonymous essay containing the following quote:

Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! Thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impels her to the crime.

Anthony herself said this in response to a man who complimented her saying she would have made a good mother:

I thank you, sir… but sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so that their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.

In speaking about the evils of society perpetuated by men, Anthony lists abortion.

The prosecutions on our courts for breach of promise, divorce, adultery, bigamy, seduction, rape; the newspaper reports every day of every year of scandals and outrages, of wife murders and paramour shooting, of abortions and infanticides, are perpetual reminders of men’s incapacity to cope successfully with this monster evil of society.

We also have found in her diary a couple passages in which she mourns her sister-in-law’s abortion.

While it is unclear whether she would be for criminalizing abortion, she clearly saw it as murder and fought for a better life for both mother and child. If she were alive today, she would speak out against abortion. She would agree with pro-life feminist Sidney Callahan who says, “Women will never climb to equality and social empowerment over mounds of dead fetuses.” (By the way, fetus is just Latin for ‘baby.’)