I can remember when I had first heard the term “MRS” degree. It was the late 70’s and the term seemed archaic and absurd. The feminist movement had opened so many doors it seemed a bit ridiculous that a woman would opt for that particular one.
Feminism was providing the quintessential answers to the ways females had been treated unfairly and all young women were being encouraged to beat a new path. No longer would we be subjected to sexual objectification and unfair treatment! We were equal to men and wanted everyone to know it.
But in an effort to achieve equality, the differences between men and women quickly became ignored. Female traits became less valuable than male traits. Sadly, the denial and repression of these differences surely didn’t liberate women.
Women tend to be more intuitive, more emotional, and, yes, sometimes less level-headed than their male counterparts. Additionally, they are also known for their strength and resolve when it comes to protecting their families. A woman is a feminist by her very nature as she is diligent, caring, and productive in just about any situation in which she finds herself — inside or outside of the home. It seems to make sense that a true feminist would value and uphold the one critical difference between male and female — the ability to carry life –- in a way that makes this the trump of all else.
Sadly, in our current political climate, being “a feminist” is so closely associated with women who are pro-abortion — and who have an entire agenda that undermines the family as a unit — that there are organizations such as “Feminists for Life ” in which the members have to differentiate themselves as strong, active women who are pro-life. This particular organization has the motto “Women deserve better than abortion” and its members are working day and night to uphold women as givers-of-life as well as energetic and concerned citizens. Organizations such as this recognize that women always impact the world through their work in the home and their work outside of the home.
A feminist, on the other hand, still sees a woman who stays home to raise her family as a woman who has “wasted” her education and her career opportunities. A feminist does not see clearly the value of a woman as the heart and soul of home and hearth — even when she works outside of the home — like a Sarah Palin or a Vicky Thorn or a Phyllis Schlafly. In fact, many women who label themselves “stay-at-home” moms are busy and often earning a living from the comforts of home. They are networking, blogging, and homeschooling and interested in contributing to the world through the very children who will become the next generation of concerned citizens.
Women are busy, active, involved, and productive — everything that a “feminist” should value, respect, and uphold.
So why does it seem, in retrospect, that a “MRS” degree is a better solution than the feminist movement? The most succinct way to understand why one choice may very well be better for women than the other is to read Humanae Vitae, written in 1968 just as the feminist movement really began to take root. In Humanae Vitae we read, quite prophetically, that a woman who chooses “reproductive freedom” becomes more of an object, not less. A woman who does not see her unique ability to bear children as infinitely sacred loses such an integral part of who she is as a co-creator of God that nothing else — and certainly nothing put forth in the anti-life feminist world — will fill the void.
Of course these simplified statements hinge on the belief that Catholics are called to discern their vocations — whether to marriage or a consecrated life. Discernment is a process that takes place over time so that as a young Catholic woman enters college — if she chooses college — she has already availed herself of the reality that she does have a vocation to fill. If that vocation is one of marriage and subsequently being open to life, it makes perfect sense that pursuing an “MRS” degree is a real choice. It is not cold or calculating but is a response to God’s will.
Admittedly there is no magic formula that shows when the acceptable maturity level for marriage has been attained or to know if someone will choose to remain faithful until death. But if we’ve raised our children to view maturity, commitment, joy, challenge, and growth as part of their earthly journeys, isn’t it fair to say that doing so with a spouse will have greater reward? Those times where the young married couple has faced and overcome challenges will bear greater fruit than those who purposefully chose to wait until they were “financially secure” or have dated “enough” or had travelled to Europe — or whatever is seen as needing to get “out of the way” before marriage could take place.
Catholic marriage is an avenue to heaven. We are taught, and should understand, that a significant part of our purpose as a spouse is to help the other attain heaven. Two imperfect young adults entering into marriage have a chance to positively affect one another and enjoy building a bond unlike anything that might take place if each waits until all his or her ducks are in a row. What a beautiful truth to give our children who have discerned the vocation of marriage!
When we encourage our kids to pursue a secular agenda in the belief that it is a better goal than the vocation of marriage, we are risking far too much on their behalf. As parents we ought to be well aware of the ways in which the vocation of marriage is a call to be heeded more than avoided and a young answer to that call can be a wise and beautiful choice.