Sex and the Catholic Feminist
New Choices for a New Generation
By Sue Ellen Browder
Ignatius Press, 2020
134 pages; $13.56 paperback, $10.37 e-book
To order: ignatius.com or (800) 651-1531
Sue Ellen Browder’s latest book, Sex and the Catholic Feminist: New Choices for a New Generation, encourages pro-lifers to be the change for the good of women — and all — while chronically showing how a few key players took the feminst movement from demanding human rights for women to vaporizing them for the unborn. Feminists went from fighting for the dignity of women — demanding things like not getting fired from jobs for being pregnant — to contributing to the objectification of women and creating an anti-motherhood culture.
The ultimate message of her book is one of hope for the future, because the extreme and cunning pro-abortion activists are faltering while the pro-life movement is flourishing. Truth and dignity are on our side, she believes. And so is God. “Your most powerful weapons are prayer and fasting,” she writes. Faith has the power to break through the lies. Enemies masquerading as pro-women have muzzled the truth of the “authentic dignity and respect of all women and girls around the world,” she continues, “and our deeper understanding of a woman’s personhood that can purify and therefore represent the more genuine, authentic feminism of the twentieth-first century.”
Browder revealed in her first highly-acclaimed book, Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women's Movement, how women’s magazines sold young and naive women on sex outside of marriage while promoting contraception and abortion. In her new book, she reveals that men were actually the most powerful forces behind the movement that pushed for sexual license under the guise of feminism. The movement was then fueled by media propaganda, “to self-justify the painful anti-woman choices they made in their lives.”
The #MeToo movement is evidence, Browder points out, that pushing women to always say Yes to sex has eroded their right to say No. “On the contrary, the painfully outdated sort of feminism I once believed in and actively promoted has gone hand in hand, not with a feminine utopia but with a contemporary turmoil, including a divorce epidemic, millions of aborted babies, a multibillion-dollar porn industry, widespread gender confusion and a free-for-all sexual culture on high school and college campuses that makes it easy for a woman to say yes but almost impossible for her to say no.”
In the Beginning
At the start of the suffragette movement, Browder explained, were Christian women who valued their role at the heart of the family as wife and mother. An early pro-life Christian feminist, Alice Paul, spearheaded the campaign for women’s right to vote. She was a Quaker who was taught that men and women have equal dignity in the eyes of God. In 1916, Paul and her friend, Lucy Burns, a Vassar-educated Irish Catholic, worked together to form the National Woman’s Party.
“When Alice, Lucy and their ‘silent sentinels’ picketed the White House for months to demand that President Woodrow Wilson (a Democrat) speak up for women’s right to vote, they and forty other women were illegally arrested and thrown into a disease-infested women’s prison workhouse where they were obliged to strip naked, given ‘hideous prison clothes’ of bluish-gray ticking and fed bowls of rancid soup in which worms were floating. … The tubs in which the suffragists were forced to bathe were located in a room housing a syphilitic female inmate with one leg, the other having been cut off when it was so rotted with maggots. Yet refusing to despair, these indomitable women kept their spiritus up with evening songs and prayers.”
Despite all this hardship, according to Browder, the women began fasting — but then were force fed with pipes down their throats to their stomachs, causing them to faint and vomit. Alice was also threatened with confinement to an insane asylum, although the doctor examining her observed in his notes, “I felt myself in the presence of an unusually gifted personality.” Not all early suffragists were Christian, but the example and fortitude of many showed that biblical meekness was not weakness, and neither was the Christian faith opposed to the goals of the first wave of feminists.
Betty Friedan stepped into the second wave with her 1963 book, Feminine Mystique. She was a co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and became their president. Although Friedan had an unhappy marriage, she adored her three children. Her advocacy centered around equal opportunity for education and work, while she disdained any view of freedom for women that turned them into a sex object, such as Cosmopolitan magazine did, calling it “nothing but contempt for women.”
“The intellectual trap into which Betty fell was set by two upper-class white men who had previously joined forces in the 1960s to repeal all anti-abortion laws,” Browder explains. They were New York City obstetrician-gynecologist Bernard Nathanson, who later claimed responsibility for 75,000 abortions (he later became a pro-life Catholic and wrote: The Hand of God: A Journey From Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind) and New York City pro-abortion activist Lawrence (Larry) Ladar, a Harvard graduate, extreme sexual revolutionist and magazine writer, who together co-founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, the forerunner of what is now NARAL Pro-Choice America. The two men persuaded Friedan to insert the demand for legalized abortion into NOW’s political “Bill of Rights.”
“The abortion vote that changed the world happened on November 18, 1967, at NOW’s second annual conference with just 105 members voting,” Browder writes. “At that very hour, shortly before midnight on November 18, 1967, the once-united women’s movement split into two factions: feminists for abortion and feminists against abortion.” One-third of the women who had been fervent feminists walked out and resigned from NOW in protest over abortion. Scores of women are still fighting against abortion in our country today.
It is a fight, however, growing ever stronger, rooted in an authentic feminism in union with Christian teaching, according to Browder. She pointed out that the false idols of political activism apart from God has done little good; for as Jesus told us, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
“The old feminism was all about sex, politics and power,” Browder writes. “The new feminism transcends politics and is about the self-giving love that transfigures the world.” She calls it “new pro-life Catholic feminism.” The core concepts of respect for the dignity of all women grew out of a Christian worldview, but along the way it became subverted and corrupted, Browder explains. “It is time,” she says, “to take back our story.”
Patti Armstrong writes from North Dakota.