I’m a Pro-Life Feminist

“Feminism” is a divisive and controversial word in the world today.

When it comes to feminism, there are those who align themselves with vocal feminists like Gloria Steinem, Lena Dunham, or Jill Filipovic and those who simply don’t want to consider themselves feminists.

But then there are women like me — and there are many of us — who don’t fit neatly into either of those sides. We are the women who consider ourselves feminists, but also have respect for all human life from conception.

My journey with feminism began at a very young age. I come from a strong family, filled with powerful, tenacious women. They taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to, that as a woman I had the power to change the world.

My mother was the poster child for feminism. She worked her way up from a telephone operator at Michigan Bell (now AT&T) and became one of the first female telephone installers in Michigan, a job that was long considered for “men only.” She had a great career, traveled the world, got married at 34 and had four kids. My mom exemplifies the idea that women really can have it all.

Although my mom was a feminist raised in the ’60s and ’70s amid the sexual revolution and the legalization of abortion, she always believed that women deserved better than abortion, that every life was precious, no matter how small.

My parents instilled that same mindset within my siblings and me, which is how I came to see myself as a pro-life feminist.

Growing up, I saw feminism and being pro-life as inseparable. That women can create, grow and birth children is incredible and never understood how abortion could be seen as empowering to any woman.

As I got older and became involved in politics as a teenager, I began to see that not every feminist saw things the same as me. I started to feel like an outlier.

I became interested in politics because I had a passion for people and wanted to promote the protection of all human life regardless of age, sex, race or religion. I saw issues like immigration, the economy, and education through the pro-life lens. I wanted to do everything in my power to promote the dignity of every human life.

Many feminists appreciated that I was involved in other issues, but the second that abortion came up, I became an outcast. I’ve had friends break off friendships because of my beliefs and have been segregated at family parties. That may seem trivial, but as a young woman finding her voice and place, there were times these interactions were devastating.

The more I invested myself in politics, the more I found myself in situations like this. Looking back, I now see these were the instances that made me stronger and led me to where I am today. There are many women who have felt the same way, and it’s time for this to change.

A few months ago, my friends and I experienced the type of public discrimination that we never expected. When the plans started coming together for the Women’s March on Washington, a few friends and I decided we were going to bring the issue that we care most about to Washington, D.C.: life.

As pro-life feminists, we were launched into the forefront after The Atlantic ran a story about our plans to join the Women’s March. Shortly after the story, we were publicly “unwelcomed” by the Women’s March that had so strongly said “all are welcome” and claimed “inclusivity.”

 

We were told that we couldn’t join, that we aren’t feminists simply because we are pro-life. We marched anyway.

This was a huge missed opportunity and has unfortunately become a regular occurrence. You either follow the crowd, or you’re publicly shamed and segregated.

The Women’s March is case in point. Can you imagine how historic and powerful it would have been if the Women’s March had remained steadfast in their claim that “all are welcome” and allowed all women to participate?

In the current political climate, we don’t need more division or vitriol, we need more honest dialogue and understanding. We have the power to change that.

Women often don’t recognize their value and the power we have, individually or together. Every woman is a one-girl revolution and has the power to change the world.

If we stood together, it would be a real revolution.

Originally published at WaPo’s The Lily.

 

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WaPo: I’m a 32-year-old virgin, and I’m living the feminist dream

My name is Kate. I’m 32 years old. I’ve never had sex.

When I was young, I always imagined I would be married by 25 and have a brood of kids. Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew to “make disciples,” and I thought it would be cool to take that verse literally and have 12 kids. I wanted enough kids to fill a baseball team, a hockey bench and a big house full of love.

That obviously didn’t happen. Or it hasn’t happened yet. But I love my life. I spent last weekend learning how to scull on the Potomac River. I have good friends, a great family, hobbies and one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

Do I feel a void because I’m not married and I don’t have children yet? Sure. Do I wish I were having sex? Of course.

But I believe that I’m living a fuller, better life because of my commitment to sexual integrity. I spend all day, every day doing the things that I want to do, because I’m not wasting my time worrying about waking up next to a stranger, contracting a sexually transmitted infection or missing a period.

The truth is, I am able to live the feminist dream because I’m not stressing over the things that sex outside of marriage often brings. And I’m not alone.

A recent study in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior showed that young people — specifically millennials – are now more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive than the previous generation. Although there are many possible causes for this shift, it’s quite reasonable to believe that this generation doesn’t want the stresses that sex outside of marriage brings — unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, to name a few.

Maybe they realize that a condom doesn’t protect the heart, and that true love is something worth waiting for and fighting for.

Celibacy and chastity, as I have come to understand as a Catholic, are virtues that are practiced with a purpose. Chastity isn’t simply the restraining of one’s desires, nor is it something you just practice before marriage and then disregard after the wedding. Chastity is a lifestyle, centered on freedom and love, that challenges all people to love themselves and to love others in the most perfect way possible.

As a teenager, I read Joshua Harris’s book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” I was enthralled by the view of purity that Harris proposed and decided I would save every act of affection, including kissing, until my wedding day.

My thesis was based on the book “Love and Responsibility” by Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Saint John Paul II. In this book, Wojtyla explained that every human being is a sexual being, but that we’re also rational — which means we don’t have to be mastered by our physical desires.

In the case of the single person, chastity does mean not having sex before marriage, but it also means striving toward the perfection of love. We must all aim to love ourselves and to love others in the most perfect way possible — this is chastity in its fullness.

With chastity, there are days you will struggle and fail. Some days, it will seem simply impossible. But you must always remain faithful and persevere, especially in the difficult moments.

As a Christian, I believe that all things are possible with God, and that has been the bedrock of my journey with chastity. I’ve also surrounded myself with good friends who support me and my beliefs, which has made my journey easier.

While I didn’t get my early marriage or my 12 kids or my big house with a white picket fence, my commitment to sexual integrity has allowed me the freedom to live the life that I want. I am living the life that feminists throughout history fought for.

Through the virtue of chastity — true freedom and the perfection of love — I am living the feminist dream.

Kate Bryan is a writer in Washington, D.C., who has worked for conservative and anti-abortion organizations. Follow her on Twitter @katembryan.

Originally published on Acts of Faith – Washington Post.