This week, CNA says farewell to our summer intern, Lizzy Joslyn. In her final week at CNA this summer, Lizzy offers "The Genius of Woman," a four-part series of interviews and profiles, based on Pope St. John Paul II's "Letter to Women," and interviews with seven Catholic women from very different walks of life. This is the fourth piece in that series:
A sophomore college student studying political science, Miriam Miller, 18, dreams of becoming a strong and influential advocate for humanitarian causes.
Initially, Miller felt fear and doubt when considering a career in politics. Not wanting “to be mean, argue, tear people apart” in her future career, Miller’s was encouraged when she discovered, through an exploration of the Church teachings, that she “didn’t have to” embody those qualities in order to be successful and happy in her desired field. “That’s not who I am as a person,” she added.
“I don’t want to feel like I have to be this weird little mutant of myself,” Miller said. And, thanks to the feminine genius, she doesn’t have to.
A little refresher: John Paul II, in his 1995 “Letter to Women,” used the idea of the “feminine genius” to praise women for their unique abilities socially and emotionally: “Much more important is the social and ethical dimension, which deals with human relations and spiritual values. In this area, which often develops in an inconspicuous way beginning with the daily relationships between people, especially within the family, society certainly owes much to the ‘genius of women.’"
Miller told CNA that in her experiences attending seminars and events with political leaders, she has encountered some women who seem to avoid anything that might make their femininity stand out. There was a noticeable expectation for women to almost go out of their way to “not look cute,” she said.
Women shouldn’t have to feel like they should hide their feminine qualities out of the fear of harassment, she added.
“Women have kind of lost that feminine grace, which is a good thing… and it’s sad,” Miller said.
God made women with their own unique qualities--the feminine genius--and those should be celebrated and used to further his kingdom, Pope St. John Paul II taught.
Miller said that until she learned that, there were qualities “in myself that I hadn’t allowed to grow because I was told it wasn’t good,” she said. Until Miller realized she didn’t have to hide her femininity, or her perspective, she doubted her aspirations, and her ability to have the future she hoped for.
Embracing the feminine genius gives women power to positively influence the world, John Paul II wrote.
“Perhaps more than men,” wrote John Paul II in his Letter to Women, “women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them.”
Women humanize the world--their talents socially and emotionally have the potential to create a “civilization of love,” as John Paul II said--a peaceful society that strives to imitate and exemplify God’s perfect love.
CNA’s Managing Editor Michelle La Rosa also sees the feminine genius at work in the workplace. Her interests began in political philosophy, and they translated easily to journalism when in 2011 she began working for CNA in Washington, D.C.
La Rosa, the only female editor at CNA, says she brings a unique contribution to “editorial discussions or in different viewpoints or working with people,” complementing the perspective of her male colleagues.
“There’s… this different perspective that women often bring.”
“Our editors here collaborate really well because we all have very different strengths and weaknesses and very different backgrounds. But I think part of that feminine genius is just kind of seeing the… more human side of things,” said La Rosa.
Women, as John Paul II wrote, “make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of ‘mystery’, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.”
By most modern standard, “progress,” he wrote, is “measured according to the criteria of science and technology.”
“Much more important,” the pope said, “is the social and ethical dimension, which deals with human relations and spiritual values.” This, he said, is where the feminine genius is uniquely important.
The differences between men and women“doesn’t mean we can’t do the same jobs,” Miller noted, “we just do them differently.”
“Womanhood expresses the "human" as much as manhood does, but in a different and complementary way,” wrote John Paul II. “It is only through the duality of the "masculine" and the "feminine" that the "human" finds full realization.”
“As a rational and free being, man is called to transform the face of the earth. In this task, which is essentially that of culture, man and woman alike share equal responsibility from the start,” he wrote.
“Recognizing the unique gifts and talents of what it means to be a woman is not to degrade men, but it’s to recognize that complementarity and the ways in which men and women can really build off of each other and work together to build up the church and society,” La Rosa said.
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