Marjorie Dannenfelser says women’s contributions to the Church are profound . . .
It may be that Margaret Thatcher’s quip “if you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman” is true. However, some women in politics excel at getting the wrong things done.
Consider how an entire movement of women managed to turn women in upon themselves and their children, selling abortion as the great liberator, necessary for equality, even a Constitutional right. In the United States alone, nearly 4,000 women and children per day suffer for that false promise. Fathers, husbands and communities suffer with them. Those women “doers” dominated the political arena for decades. The consequent human suffering is staggering.
However, out of this suffering has come unexpected hope of many types. One is a new breed of woman in politics. She has sharpened vision, spiritual depth, and a passion for fixing what some women broke. She embraces the cross of political life and is making an enormous difference by gluing the broken pieces back together. The Church has unique gifts to support her.
In his Letter to Women (1995), Blessed Pope John Paul II noted that through their “genius,” women “reveal their gift of womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives” (#12). I regularly witness this powerful grace in action — in women’s leadership in the public square and in their private acts of self-donation.
An NBC reporter recently asked me about Rep. Michele Bachmann’s retirement and the ramifications of her announcement. I found myself explaining how easy it is as women to feel isolated and alone, especially at an executive level where there is little to no institutional support for one’s work in their vocations.
Women in leadership positions are answering a call that requires them to embrace a different model of family life. They work tirelessly to serve their husbands, children, communities and churches. They often find themselves alone, discouraged and burnt out in their effort to lead and be a voice for the voiceless.
Conservative women in particular are often viciously attacked, usually for petty differences rather than for the substance of their arguments. They get caricatured beyond recognition by those in politics and the media. Bachmann and Gov. Sarah Palin are two such women. While they have both become lightning rods for controversy, they didn’t begin that way.
The day that Bachmann was sworn in, I sat with her in her office. She was already the object of vile personal attacks in the media. The substance of the attack was not about a statement she released or a comment to the press, but the outfit she wore that day. Throughout her tenure in Congress and in her presidential campaign, she was critiqued for her hair, nails, makeup and clothing. Chris Wallace asked her what she made of the fact that people thought she was stupid. A brilliant tax attorney, mother of five and foster mother of 23, she was stunned. So was I.
Palin, another strong, pro-life woman I’ve worked with, didn’t start out as a “radical” but as a mother taking stands on substantive issues. The mother of five children, including a child with Down syndrome, fought hard and strong. This led her from her home in Wasilla to the Governor’s Mansion and eventually to national prominence as the 2008 vice presidential nominee.
When the Susan B. Anthony List endorsed her bid and started TeamSarah, we saw firsthand how hateful opponents of such women can be. Palin was a direct threat to pro-abortion feminism and those who seek to exclude believers from the public square. They spent months working to smear her in every possible way. Her church was a target of arson at the height of the attacks. The media ignored it. She was stunned. So was I.
In his Letter to Women, John Paul also wrote that women have a unique capacity to see individuals beyond the institutions in which they live and work and worship. We can serve them and support them individually through our own beloved institution, our Mother Church. Without support systems constructed within institutions and externally in the public square, women leaders can feel isolated and alone. This is why the Susan B. Anthony List began and why we formed the Pro-Life Women’s Caucus on the federal and state levels. It’s a privilege to give these women the support and resources necessary for them to defend mothers and unborn children.
Women have a unique ability to lead strongly in the right or wrong direction. Women leaders who answer the call to right wrongs and advance justice publicly need and deserve our praise. Thank you, Mrs. Thatcher, for helping pave their way!
MARJORIE DANNENFELSER is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List and a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter.