From Paganism to Modern Values: Denigration of Woman ~ Alice von Hildebrand


Painting by Gregory Frank Harris

by Alice von Hildebrand, The Privilege of Being a Woman

From Paganism to Modern Values: Denigration of Woman

The world in which we now live is a world whose outlook is so distorted that we absolutize what is relative (money-making, power, success) and relativize what is absolute (truth, moral values, and God).

Power, riches, fame, success, and dominance are idolized; humility, chastity, modesty, self-sacrifice, and service are looked down upon as signs of weakness.

This last sentence, Nietzsche’s philosophy in a nutshell — the glorification of strength and the denigration of weakness — has become the shallow core of modern thought and feminist belief.

The gravity of their offense was such that it was impossible for our first parents to recover the priceless gift of supernatural life. God alone could do so and, in His infinite mercy and goodness, He chose to send us His only Son to effect our redemption by His death at Calvary.

As every sin brings with it its own punishment, is it surprising that today we have become so morally blind (for wickedness blinds) that we save baby whales at great cost, and murder millions of unborn children?

Man’s conscience has been so darkened by his repeated infidelities toward God that these outrageous murders are no longer registered as being crimes that cry to heaven. Baby murderers go to bed with a good conscience and the satisfaction of having been “efficient.”

Bernard Nathanson, in his gripping work The Hand of God, relates that after having performed an abortion he had the pleasant feeling of having completed a work well done and of having “liberated” pregnant women from a burden hateful to them. Babies are cheap to make. Baby whales are more costly.

Our first parents’ minds were darkened by sin, their wills were weakened, their judgment became distorted. The hierarchy of values being upset, male accomplishments became overvalued. Physical strength became glorified and weakness was looked down upon as a proof of inferiority.

This is written in the book of Wisdom, referring to the language of the ungodly: “but let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless.”

Homer’s Iliad illustrates this. The Greek heroes are strong, healthy, victorious. Those who are conquered and defeated deserve to become slaves; they are plainly inferior. It is noteworthy that the greatest cultures have often been defeated by primitive tribes that had little or no culture, but plenty of physical daring and stamina.

Hand in hand with the overestimation of strength and virility goes an overestimation of accomplishments, feats, performances, success.

In our society to be a “self-made man” calls for awe. A Bill Gates, an Oprah Winfrey, or even a Bill Clinton inspire people with a totally illegitimate feeling of admiration. But success does not guarantee authentic greatness. Many scoundrels have been incredibly successful, too successful for their own good.

Original sin blinds us to the fact that all these feats, often aided by ruthlessness, craftiness, or even plain luck, have no value in the light of eternity. We should always raise the question: Quid est hoc ad aeternitatem? (What is this in light of eternity?). In fact, it is only dust and ashes.

No one enters the gates of heaven because he is a millionaire; no one is worthy to see God because he is “famous.” Indeed, worldly “wisdom” is sheer foolishness.

This has been seen by Socrates, and emphatically repeated by Saint Paul, “for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

Against the background of the supernatural, the inanity of human praise becomes evident.

A further consequence of this broken equilibrium is that we tend to overrate “creativity.” To be successful in our contemporary world, one must be “inventive.” Creativity does have a positive ring, but the crucial question is not whether a person is “creative,” but rather “what does he create?”

To praise an innovative type of architecture without asking whether or not it is beautiful is inane. To honor someone because of the number of books and articles he has published without investigating whether or not they are true is once again to be off-track.

The lopsided view which today has gained currency inevitably leads feminists to overrate “creativity,” “novelty,” and “fashion,” changes sought for their own sake; these tickle people’s curiosity and draw them into the vortex of total metaphysical instability.

It is another way of drawing attention away from “eternal truths” and unchanging values.

The spirit of the time teaches us that today everything depends upon what is “in the air,” what people want. In this spiritual climate, tradition is doomed. The past is looked down upon as “dead, ” as having nothing to give to “modern man.”

As women are weaker than men, and as they do not bask in the limelight as much as men do, as they are less “creative” than the strong sex, they are bound to be the victims of this distorted hierarchy of values.

That women have been victimized by this distortion of the hierarchy of values is deplorable and sad indeed; but that feminists have endorsed this inversion is still more pitiful.

Imprisoned in the spiritual jail of secular categories, they fail to understand that their true mission is to swim against the tide and, with God’s grace, help restore the proper hierarchy of values.

By living up to their calling, women will succeed in guaranteeing a proper recognition of the unique value of femininity and its crucial mission in the world.

“And you, too, must stand by your convictions at the cost of things you love. An ideal is worth little if it is not worth wholehearted, honest effort. Nothing is more pitiful than a woman whose mind admires purity and right, yet whose will is too weak to choose them and whose life is blighted by sin and mire about her. Be true, be noble, aim high, and God will give you strength to keep your ideals.” – Mabel Hale, Beautiful Girlhood

Through the years our children would sometimes ask (because they knew we struggled) if we were poor? Their Dad would grin (largely) and say, “I am the wealthiest man around, look at what I have….Beautiful children, happy times, the Catholic Faith!” Their hearts would be at ease once again, knowing that, yes, wealth is not about material things…

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This is a unique book of Catholic devotions for young children. There is nothing routine and formal about these stories. They are interesting, full of warmth and dipped right out of life. These anecdotes will help children know about God, as each one unfolds a truth about the saints, the Church, the virtues, etc. These are short faith-filled stories, with a few questions and a prayer following each one, enabling the moral of each story to sink into the minds of your little ones. The stories are only a page long so tired mothers, who still want to give that “tucking in” time a special touch, or pause a brief moment during their busy day to gather her children around her, can feel good about bringing the realities of our faith to the minds of her children in a childlike, (though not childish), way. There is a small poem and a picture at the end of each story. Your children will be straining their necks to see the sweet pictures! Through these small stories, parents will sow seeds of our Holy Catholic Faith that will enrich their families all the years to come!

This revised 1922 classic offers gentle guidance for preteen and teenage girls on how to become a godly woman. Full of charm and sentiment, it will help mother and daughter establish a comfortable rapport for discussions about building character, friendships, obedience, high ideals, a cheerful spirit, modest dress, a pure heart, and a consecrated life.

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