My middle child and youngest daughter received what may be called a Liberal Education at a very fine college. It was a traditional Liberal Education, in that the Great Books of Western Civilization comprised the course of study, and the primary teaching method was the seminar. One thing I have learned from this daughter of mine is that one must define one's terms in a discussion, in order that any good fruit may come from said discussion. So, when pondering a couple of the responses to my last post, I have decided to reflect today on: What do I mean when I say "Progressive Woman"? -- and -- What can a relatively conservative housewife and mom like me learn from such a woman?
I suppose I generally think of the Progressive Woman as today's version of the Women's Libber from my youth, but with Power Breasts and an expanded field of interest. When I was young, the Liberated Woman was the Bra-less Woman. Bonfires were being set in all areas of the country, fueled by these detestable undergarments. Of course, I was a little girl when this was happening and too young to own a bra which could be burned, but I do remember this phenomenon and I found it to be quite fascinating. Today, though, the modern Progressive Woman seems to shop at places such as Victoria's Secret and revels in demonstrating her sexual confidence by allowing bits (or more than bits) of her lacy, satiny bra to peek out from around or under her outerwear. These modern bras also defy gravity in a dramatic fashion. "Oppose these Power Breasts at your own risk!" seems to be the message of the modern Progressive Woman in her modern lingerie. And I say: You go, girl!!!
Now, if I have not totally pissed you off with my strange sense of humor, let us explore together the more serious side of the Progressive Woman. My view of this type of woman is that she espouses the modern idea of women's rights: access to educational and career opportunities and advancement, sexual freedom (viewing women's sexual desire and the fulfillment of that desire as equally important to that of men), access to contraception, and abortion rights. Beyond that, though, I believe that the Progressive Woman supports "gay rights" (by that I mean the right to have jobs, housing, marriage, and family life free from discrimination). She is also probably "anti-war"; supports some form of government healthcare for all; is in favor of government support for the poor; and is an advocate for caring for the needs of the illegal immigrant. Support for public education, from elementary school through university, is also probably high on her list.
This is my definition of the Progressive Woman. It may not be entirely accurate, but it is the portrait from which my discussion proceeds.
Now, as I said, I am a relatively conservative housewife and mom. I am a Catholic, and I believe in the teachings of my Church (many of which are misunderstood and misrepresented, but that is another post). I also believe that there is a lot to be gained by having relationships and even friendships with Progressive women. After all, even though there is a lot we may disagree on, there is also a lot of common ground. Traditional Catholic women and Progressive women both believe that women have an inherent dignity; we both believe in the dignity of the poor and the immigrant, and that the poor and the immigrant must be aided; we both believe that war is a very undesirable thing; we both believe all human beings (including gay human beings) have the right to live life unmolested; we both treasure education; and we both believe children have a right to be raised in a loving, caring fashion. Our views as to how these aims should be achieved may differ, but we could start by at least defining and acknowledging our common values. And, though our views on solutions do differ, we could start by trying to understand and have compassion for the position of The Other, even if we don't agree with that position. Let us try walking in "the other lady's moccasins", at least a little bit.
One last point I would like to discuss is this. Some feel that the Progressive Woman, because she seems to be angry with men, or because she may not be married (at least to a man), or because she might be gay, or because she may not want children (at least not more than a couple of them or at least not right now) is not a feminine person, is in denial of her true motherly nature, and may lack compassion. Now, I am no philosopher or theologian -- just ask my husband or daughter. But, these accusations do not really seem fair to me. I have known Progressive women, and I have known them to be feminine, nurturing, and compassionate people. And I am pretty sure that when one group of women starts accusing another group of women of unpleasant things, no good will come of it. So, let us be charitable in our attitudes and our remarks -- at least if we want to move forward and have peace in our pluralistic society.