Thursday, February 17, 2011

Feminine Genius

Today I went to a fascinating event called "A Divided Life" given by Dr. Deborah Savage at a Faith & Work breakfast downtown at St. Olaf's Church. You can go to this link to see future speakers and sign-up for a breakfast in the coming months:

Dr. Savage is a professor at the St. Paul School of Divinity and teaches philosophy and theology courses. She is the mother of one adopted daughter, has worked in the corporate world for 25 years, and earned her doctorate studying the nature of faith and work. She had a lot of fantastic points about women's work, the feminine genius, and what our approach ought to be to work.

Although she said a lot, instead of completely just typing up my notes (which I am prone to do at times!), I would rather like to bring three points out specifically that really struck me, and then ask for your comments!

-The feminine genius is necessary in all realms of society.
-Work includes a much broader scope than we think and can help us transcend ourselves.
-The value and dignity of work is not based on the object of the work, but rather of the dignity of the person doing it.

JPII refers to the feminine genius in many of his exhortations pertaining to women and the language of the body. Women are distinct, essential, irrepeatable. Women have a unique contribution to make that needs to be present in the courtroom, the home, the Church, the classroom, the business, the enterprise, the senate, and the list goes on... Each woman is called to do work, and to make her contribution as a woman. Women bring something different, but completely equal to the table as men do, whether that is a broader vision, a care for detail, care for the significance of relationships, and you can probably think of so many more aspects of femininity that can manifest themselves as gift for the good of all of society.
To quote from the Compendium of the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church:
"The feminine genius is needed in all aspects of society and therefore the presence of women in the workplace must be guaranteed."

Dr. Savage insisted that we have a way too narrow definition of work. It includes those things that we do for pay, those we don't, when we volunteer, when we mow the lawn, when we nurse a baby, when we take out the trash, when we write a letter to a friend, etc. The question to ask is: What can I turn to with my whole heart?

Savage quoted from a Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World by Linda R. Hirshman. In her book, Hirshman calls stay at home mothers "parasites" that feed off their husbands to support them as they choose to withhold their talents to stay in the home....this could be nothing further from the truth! I blogged back in 2008 about stay at home mothers and how much I admire women who choose to devote their lives to this. Certainly, it is not the only admirable calling, but staying at home is a critical type of work that need not be undermined.

Work ought to cause us to transcend ourselves, which means to go beyond our own abilities with the help of God. Gaudium et Spes says, "Man finds himself through a sincere gift of self." A "gift of self" which George Weigel calls "the law of the gift" is the antidote to the effects of original sin.

To quote Dr. Savage, "When I am united to another person, I am enhanced by my bein in interaction with that person."

Finally, the dignity of our work comes from our personal dignity, not just from the work itself. How can it? Physical things, corporations, even institutions do not have inherant dignity, but rather, it is the persons within them that bring dignity to those places and organizations. Thus, the dignity of work coincides with dignity of the person.

Some questions that remain:

Dr. Savage mentioned that even if a woman has a job and has a family, she will always have to work to achieve balance, and sacrifices will have to be made, at times, favoring one over the other. In those cases, what is the appropriate balance? What does that look like realistically/practically?

What are some examples from your life that illustrate the "feminine genius" either of yourself or of women you know?

Finally, I'd like to challenge some of my male followers to make comments or if you have a blog to make a blog posting on the "male genius" because I know that there is one, and I think women can only authentically realize our genius by an awareness of our complementarity to the male genius.

Well I am going to go eat my delicious (I hope!) lasagna that I just cooked up (new recipe taken from the recent Martha Stewart Living has chicken summer sausage, chard, lemons, and lots of parmesan in it....can't wait to taste it! Yum....

John Paul II the great, pray for us! St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!


Isabel said...

Every women has a vital role to play in society.:-)
I love that the question of work must be- what can i turn to with my whole heart?
I think I look forward to work when I devote myself to it because I see it as an offering, a labor, for the kingdom of God on earth.
As far as balancing the sacrifices, I would probably use the first and second commandments to guide me- to make sure that I am not compromising my priorities in the sacrifices I make.And that in those sacrifices, I remember that God will always provide when I put His kingdom first.
God Bless!

Liz said...

Isa- good points!

I do think the Ten Commandments is one good approach to balancing priorities, however perhaps we should also remember the 4th Commandment which is "Honor the Sabbath" so that we remember that there is a time/place for work, and also a time/place for leisure, family, prayer, and relaxation. Not just on Sunday (but perhaps especially Sunday) but every day God gives us.

How particularly would you use the first 2 commandments to guide you? I sort of understand, but maybe it might help to clarify for other readers out there?

Isabel said...

Oops sorry I meant the two most important commandments Jesus proclaims in the gospel. The first to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and the second to love your neighbor as yourself.
This would help me in personal discernment of weekly activities. I find that if my relationship with God is being properly nourished, I can make better decisions about how to balance out other things in life.

Liz said...

Oh, I got it! That makes complete sense. The Golden Rule...of course!

Isa, will I see you while I'm in Miami in a few weeks? I hope so...!!

Isabel said...

yes! r u coming next week for his birthday weekend?
God Bless!

Liz said...

Of course! Wouldn't miss it for the world. :-)