Current Events/Gender/My Culture

Jesus Was a Feminist: Catholicism and Gender Equality


That’s the name of a campaign that Emma Watson heralded and the reason for a speech she gave to the UN in 2014. Her speech was to raise awareness for the problem of gender inequality in our world and to promote the #HeforShe campaign. The campaign aims to eradicate gender inequality in education, wages, and stereotypes by encouraging men to take a stand and be a “he for she” if you will. According to Emma, we need the men of the world to be on board with gender equality or else nothing will ever change for women. This #heforshe movement is the platform to mobilize men.

What does the Catholic Church think about it? I hope you ask yourself that question whenever you see or hear something thought-provoking. Looking at current events through a Catholic lens will always benefit you in your search for the truth. I can’t say that we should all jump on board with the official #HeForShe campaign, because they may support something immoral. However, the idea is worth discussing.

What is Feminism?

In her speech, Emma admits that the word feminism has a bad reputation. It has become synonymous with man-hating and people are afraid to associate with being “feminist” for fear of being dismissed as crazy.

True feminism is equality for both genders, while encouraging individuality and respect for gender differences.

It means that women should be paid a fair, equal wage for doing the same work as men. Women should be given equal opportunities in careers and leadership and should be appreciated for the uniqueness they bring to any field because of their femininity. Edith Stein (also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) wrote extensively about women and their role in the world and the Church. I love this quote from her:

“Every profession in which woman’s soul comes into its own and which can be formed by woman’s soul is an authentic woman’s profession.”

An ideal definition of gender equality also affirms that men don’t have to give in to the temptation to be aggressive, controlling, and objectify women. We can appreciate what their masculinity offers the world while not looking down on a man who knows how to communicate his feelings, or who isn’t ashamed to admit his failures and weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).

An ideal feminism incorporates the virtue of humility. It’s saying we all have something valuable to offer whether male or female but neither of us have everything, therefore we respect our differences and build each up. We need each other (Genesis 1:26-28).

Gender equality is a universal partnership of brothers and sisters.

Jesus the Feminist

I can get behind that view of gender equality; by doing so, I’m following the lead of Jesus. First of all let’s take a step back and allow our minds to be wowed by the fact that He chose to bring salvation to the world through a woman – Mary.

Did you also know that is was totally revolutionary that he allowed women to keep company with Him and His disciples (Luke 8:2-3, 23:49, Matthew 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41)?

Jesus affirmed the dignity of women by treating them the same as He treated His male disciples. They were appreciated as valuable messengers of His gospel of love, while respected for the different role they would play in evangelization from the men. Who stood at the foot of the cross? The women disciples. Who were the first people to realize Jesus had risen from the dead? It was the women.

Let’s look at John the beloved disciple versus Mary. John was anointed with the gift of the holy priesthood, as were the other apostles. As men, this was how they were called to serve the Church, their bride, using their individual strengths and masculine leadership qualities.

Mary was appointed to be the mother of the whole Church and offer her feminine gifts to serve all of mankind. Every Christian woman is called to follow in her footsteps and use their femininity to be mothers and sisters in service of the world.

Man and woman each have different roles specific to their gifts. Each is important.

Jesus and Christianity played a key role in changing the way that the world views and treats women. But there’s still work to be done. Catholicism has the answer to gender inequality but not the cure. You and I are the cure.

What We Need

We have to change our mindset about men and women and try to conform our ideals to God’s.

We need to make a commitment to not judge anyone for their choice of career and to affirm mothers that choosing to stay home with their children is just as noble as being CEO of the year.

We need to stop shaming men for having a soft side and women for standing strong.

We need to demand just wages for women who all deserve to have an equal share in the dignity of work.

We need to not look at children as a curse, a weakness, or a problem to be rid of but as a blessing that proclaims the unique power of a woman’s body.

We need to teach that abortion and contraception are not a win for feminism but a loss… an offense against the beauty and nature of a woman’s body. It teaches her that a full life is only found in controlling and manipulating her reproductive capacity.

We need to relate to each other in a way that exemplifies to the rest of the world that sexuality is a gift to treasured, not a commodity to be bought, sold, and objectified.

We need to act toward one another as Jesus would, true men and true women relating to each other out of respect and love, not competition and resentment. If our actions were measured up against God’s ruler, how different the gender equality battle would be today.

I’ll end with this amazing quote by Edith Stein:

“Christ embodies the ideal of human perfection: in Him all bias and defects are removed, and the masculine and feminine virtues are united and their weaknesses redeemed; therefore, His true followers will be progressively exalted over their natural limitations. That is why we see in holy men a tenderness and a truly maternal solicitude for the souls entrusted to them while in holy women there is manly boldness, proficiency, and determination.”

Catholicism has the answer. And you are I are the cure.

I’m praying for you.

About the Author

Christina Mead

I'm just striving for sainthood through lots of imperfect ways. I daydream about heaven, where I want to be the patron saint of lifeguards. I think I might paint my nails just so I can pick it off. I wrote a book about Mary and what she taught us about being a Catholic girl. It's called "That One Girl" and I think you'd like it! Follow me on Twitter @christinamead.