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A reading list for women struggling to talk about the gender wars

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Sometimes all it takes for a woman’s heart to change is for someone trustworthy to offer a different point of view. Photo: Unsplash.com
Sometimes all it takes for a woman’s heart to change is for someone trustworthy to offer a different point of view. Photo: Unsplash.com

We know that younger women in Australia are feeling the full brunt of the fallout from the sexual revolution. Recent studies show that they’re in flight from biological femaleness in troubling numbers.

Who can blame them? But also, who is going to help them?

Younger Catholic women can, if they are willing, build trusting and respectful relationships with women in crisis who are perhaps not Catholics, or poorly formed ones.

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As Catholics we tend to stick with our own, because it’s easier and more comfortable to be with people who you don’t have to explain everything to, all the time. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it also means that we tend to outsource evangelisation to people who we see as “the professionals.”

In case you missed it, Vatican II told us all to get back on the mission track and change the world. If we’re going to do this, we need to engage with the world and find a common vocabulary about issues like the gender wars.

But how does a younger Catholic woman get the words and concepts she needs to connect with another younger non-Catholic woman—maybe in the workplace, at university, or at your child’s school—who is struggling with all this stuff?

You won’t convince her or anyone else by simply hitting her on the head with “zingers.” But if you ask questions and listen, you might be able to understand her better, and develop trust with her.

Sometimes all it takes for a woman’s heart to change is for someone trustworthy to offer a different point of view. That someone can be you if you’re willing to do a bit of homework first.

The good news is that you have some new allies among feminist writers. The bad news is that you’re going to have to do some reading.

I have three writers for you. The first is Mary Harrington, who I mentioned last week. Harrington’s book Feminism Against Progress caused a huge stir when it was published last year.

Harrington is a non-religious writer and has some hard words to say about capitalism, which you don’t have to accept if you don’t want to. But she’s very good on the reality of biological femaleness and has plenty to say about the impact of contraception and porn culture on both young men and women.

Then there’s Louise Perry, UK journalist and committed enemy of porn culture. She didn’t start that way. When she left university, she believed that porn and sex work were fine. After working for a few harrowing years in a rape crisis centre, she realised something was wrong.

Her 2022 book The Case Against the Sexual Revolution—again, written from a non-religious point of view—exposed the horrors of porn culture and the damage that widespread use of contraception had done to women.

The book takes apart consent classes, rape prevention, prostitution, paedophilia, and much more. It takes the reader on a very logical journey to her conclusions: sexual self-containment is actually good for both men and women, and monogamy is very good for both women and children.

And finally, Abigail Favale should be on your radar. She converted to Catholicism in 2014 after being raised as an evangelical Protestant and then embracing post-modern feminism. Like Harrington, she underwent a huge change when she had a baby.

“It really upended a lot of my tidy feminist beliefs, such as the idea that gender is primarily socially constructed,” Favale told the National Catholic Register in 2023.

“I think the reality of femaleness hit me in a way that I had not experienced before, so I began to question the simple narrative about the social construction of reality.”

I have found that practically anything by Favale is worth reading—intelligent, lucid, and well-argued. You can easily find her articles online.

I know that it might seem easier to opt out, to restrict your world to other young Catholic women who you like and trust. That way, you don’t have to have any awkward conversations.

But a little investment in some new ideas can help you to better understand the world you live in. It will also help you to better understand women who aren’t Catholics (and that’s most women in Australia today).

It will give you a common vocabulary and ways to start talking with non-Catholic women about a whole range of issues when you meet them.

You can be salt and light and yeast in the world, right where God has planted you.

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