Blog Post

International Women’s Day: We Need More than Just "Gender Parity"

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Today is International Women’s Day, a day aimed at celebrating mostly “progressive” ideas about the nature and worth of women, but that doesn’t mean this day has to be spent focusing on “gender parity.” Why not spend it on much deeper issues such as how we can change the sexual norms that are so disrespectful and disadvantageous to women?

Writing for the Women Speak For Themselves blog, Katherine Blakeman, Director of Communications at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, believes that the #MeToo movement – with its sordid tales of sexual harassment and assault of women – proves that Americans are looking to change sexual norms.

“It is good that the #MeToo movement has as its mission eradicating sexual harassment and assault. But what needs to happen for a new era of respect, sexual integrity, and healthier sexual relationships to take root?” Blakeman asks.

“Real change begins by understanding that sex has meaning. While sexuality is not the entirety of our human experience, nor is it the pinnacle of the human experience, our sexuality is central to the human experience. We need to remind the world that all human beings have great worth, and that as sexual beings, we must always respect both our own sexuality and the sexuality of other people.”

In order to achieve these new and more respectful sexual norms, we must recognize that all forms of sexual exploitation – not just assault and harassment – are an attack on human beings. Pornography, sexual objectification, prostitution, violence against women, child sexual abuse – are all unacceptable.

“We cannot condone one form of sexual exploitation (i.e. pornography or prostitution) while simultaneously condemning another (i.e. sexual assault or child sexual abuse). All forms of sexual exploitation stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the truth that all people are worthy of respect. Moreover, all forms of sexual exploitation are connected and fuel each other, whether directly or indirectly,” Blakeman writes.

If women really want to create a better world for ourselves, we have to get beyond the slogans. “Gender parity” – which measures indicators such as average income for women and compares them to the same indicate among men – might be important, but it will never be achieved in a culture that insists upon treating women as objects. If we want to create a better world for ourselves, we need to go much deeper than this.

And women of faith can and should lead the way!

First, because we have the confidence of knowing that we were created in the image of God and thereby measure our self-worth by His standards, and not the superficial standards of the world. This lends us the strength and the perseverance we need to keep fighting even in discouraging moments.

Second, we have been awakened to our feminine genius and not only celebrate it, but use it to bring a natural, receptive, and nurturing love into a world that desperately needs it.

Third, instead of aligning ourselves with movements that promote violence against the unborn and the “reproductive rights” that have broken the hearts of so many women, we stand for life and the dignity of every human being. There is no feeling of empowerment quite like that of standing for what one knows to be morally right.

For those who want to get more involved in spreading the message about the need for more respectful sexual norms in our culture, Blakeman suggests women attend the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Global Summit to be held in Washington, DC on April 4-7, 2018. This conference will provide women with all the information and resources they need to fight exploitation wherever they are in life.

Another way to work toward this goal is to host a Women of Grace or Young Women of Grace study in your parish or community to empower women and teens through discovery of what it means to be authentically feminine.

Devote this day to prayer for the cause of women around the world and for an end to the exploitation that has ruined so many lives.

Regardless of what God puts on your heart to do today, let us seize this moment and make it our own.

As Women Speak for Themselves implores, let us all “continue to advance a holistic view of sex that supports women’s authentic health and happiness—namely, reconnecting sex with marriage and kids for the good of all people!”

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