Some months back, my sister came to visit, and we had an interesting chat. Chris lives in New York and is a vice president at a very large and internationally-known corporation. She’s at the top of the corporate world, and at the forefront of women making their way in a “man’s world.” We were talking about the need for spiritual mothers and for women to, not only recognize, but to foster their spiritual motherhood. I was lamenting what I saw as the tendency for women to tamp down their mothering instincts and spiritual inclinations in order to hold their own in business.
Having been a public relations consultant for a number of years, I’d see some of that myself.
“I’ll bet,” I said, tapping my pointed finger on the table. “That the women who are the snittiest and snootiest are the ones who exhibit the least feminine qualities at work.”
Chris knitted her eyebrows and thought for a minute. “I think you’re right,” she replied.
“Do you know why?” I continued. “Because they’re miserable, that’s why. They stifle their femininity and try to be more like their male counterparts and it makes them turn nasty.”
“Wow. I never saw it that way before,” Chris agreed.
“What’s more,” I rounded up my ranting. “If they were allowed to appreciate and use their feminine genius in the workplace, not only would they be happier, but everyone else in the office would prosper, too.”
Women should not be expected to deny their femininity in the workplace – or anywhere else, for that matter. What we can bring to the office, organization, neighborhood, school, parish, and home is invaluable. Men usually think in a linear pattern: first this, then that, then the next, and so on. They conceptualize and manage one thing at a time. Women, on the other hand, tend to see the whole picture at once, with all the details and implications involved. They can sense what needs to be done (even when that’s everything at once) and how people are coping in doing it. They can “feel” out a situation and can perceive the person as a whole.
Women have beautiful, essential qualities that add to – not detract from – progress, development, and success. We’re intuitive, creative, and sympathetic to the needs of others, which enables us to foster cooperation and caring. We have an innate need to nurture, which can show itself in countless ways that can be productive, uplifting, and motivating. We’re motherly (whether or not we’ve given birth), which gives us an aura of dependability, understanding, and trustworthiness. All women have these qualities at the core of their being. If any of us seem not to, it’s because it’s been neglected or inhibited.
It makes me both sad and angry when I think about how our culture has curtailed women’s dignity. We’re made to believe that we can only achieve in an occupation if we abandon or skew our femininity. We’re taught to be ashamed of motherhood by a society that loathes children unless they can be turned into a useful commodity. We should be embarrassed by our motherliness, and hide it at all costs.
What we’re missing is that the way women are made is no accident. It’s not a regrettable handicap or awful inadequacy with which we’re forced to live. No, women are made exactly as God intended them to be made, with all their lovely qualities and abilities (and, yes, shortcomings, too).
The words of the Psalmist are not meant only for men; they’re also meant for women:
You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb,
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know. (Ps 139:13-14)
If you want more proof, think of the Incarnation. God could have chosen any of a plethora of means by which Jesus would come into the world. Yet, he chose that our Lord would be born of a Woman – brought into the world through her womb, cared for through her motherhood, and prepared for his mission through her motherliness and devotion. Mary was chosen for her feminine gifts – intuition, creativity, sympathy, nurturing, dependability, understanding, and trustworthiness, among so many others – not in spite of them. Tell me, please, what greater compliment can there be for women and their dignity than Christ coming through the body of a Woman?
God’s choice of Mary as Mother of his Son reflects on the exquisite value of all women. We women need to know this, but even more critically, we need to believe and be proud of it. Men need to accept and internalize it. When true femininity is allowed to flourish, women will regain their dignity. And from that, we’ll all benefit.