The Mother of God And Womanhood

Henry Karlson

The Augusta Pulcheria, accustomed to receiving communion in the sanctuary of the cathedral, was shocked when the newly appointed Patriarch, Nestorius, forbade her entry to receive as she normally did. It was Easter and the doors in front of the sanctuary were shut in front of her. What did this new upstart think he was doing? Who did he think he was to say that she, the sister of the Emperor and a major benefactor of the church, was forbidden entry to the sanctuary?

Nestorius wanted his notions of piety to be enforced. Just like in the temple, he believed that the sanctuary was to be only for clergy and men of rank like the emperor. Pulcheria thought too highly of herself. She had given gifts to the church, but many of them were not proper for a church to have. Why did she think her own robe should be used as an altar cloth? Why was her image put up for all to see? She should know her place. He thought the authority given to him by God was to be used to make sure the church was purified. All heretics were to be denounced. All those who were acting out of fashion would be corrected.

Pulcheria was not one to be trifled with. Instead of just going back and obeying the patriarch, she gave a response which she believed was backed by tradition: “Why? Haven’t I given birth to God?” Pulcheria, at this point a dedicated virgin, saw a link between herself and Christ’s mother. If a woman, if Mary, could give birth to God, why could women not enter the sanctuary? Pulcheria’s acclamation was to point to Mary, the Theotokos, the Birth-Giver of God, and to show that God had elevated women through her. If God elevated women, who was Nestorius to act as he did?

This was a foundation for one of the early doctrinal debate in Christian history. Nestorius rejected the term Theotokos, believing it was heresy to say God had been given birth by a woman. It is difficult to know whether or not he would have been so insistent on this point if he did not face the practical ramifications of the term in the person of Pulcheria. But the Augusta had made the point and a contest of wills ensued. Pulcheria was to have Nestorius’s teachings condemned at the Council of Ephesus (431 CE).

Christian theology, however strange the debates might be for outsiders, often developed out of the practices of the people. Here we see the vindication of the dignity of women as being a reason for and an end product of a doctrinal debate. The promotion of women in the church faced a great challenge, and if the Nestorian contention had succeeded, could have found itself lost in history. Pulcheria spoke of herself in the place of Mary, and through Mary, as everywoman. Jesus was born of a woman, and so motherhood was dignified and blessed by God. Because Mary was believed to be both virgin and mother, God not only blessed motherhood, raising the feminine principle, God also raised and dignified women who wanted to live in the world free from the burdens of marriage. One did not have to be married to be dignified, though marriage and motherhood had to be understood as goods one could accept. In the ancient world, where women often were dependent upon others for status, this was something new. The virgins, those who planned to live apart from marriage, needed help and were given it from fellow Christians. But that demonstrates how Christianity freed women from the burdens society had placed upon them.

For any humanistic enterprise to be promoted, the human condition must be accepted. This means gender is important. A rejection of the uniqueness of the masculine or the feminine is a rejection of what it means to be human. Nestorius would have turned Christianity way from its humanistic background. We see, in the present age, a similar denial by “radical feminists” who fear or hate motherhood. If we do not appreciate the gift of motherhood, how can we continue to exist? Can we really say we are respecting humanity when we deny the good of motherhood? Are we not telling women to hate themselves? How is that good? Let us, like Pulcheria, point to the universal feminine and say, “Who is to deny this?” If one is to promote women, the answer cannot be “me.”

Speaking for Myself

Marjorie Murphy Campbell


Speaking for myself, I was thrilled to receive an email last Friday morning asking me to consider signing:



I read the short text in support of the Catholic Church’s position in its recent controversy over government-mandated contraception coverage.  Then, like 750 other women over the next 72 hours, I authorized my signature.  In this post, I address “Why?” Why was this letter written in the first place?  Why did I sign it?  And why might you consider signing it and/or asking the women in your life to consider both the viewpoint of the letter and signing this unique letter on matters at the heart of femaleness and religious beliefs.

The letter was drafted by Helen Alvare, a lawyer and an associate professor of law at George Mason University.  I asked Professor Alvare – an already overloaded full-time professor and mother – why she launched this effort.  Here is what she told me:

[I had this] idea while cooking dinner.  [There are] too many smart women, of too many faiths, happy that the Catholic Church refuses to stand down against the contraception and abortion lobbies and the “received wisdom” that sex divorced from children and even from a relationship with a person of the opposite sex is an unmitigated good.  You would have to be willfully blind to ignore the scholarly evidence pointing to difficulties for women in the current environment made possible in some part by the government’s large scale contraception and abortion promotion.


Professor Alvare decided to give voice so that the experiences, concerns and perspective of all women might be heard in this controversy.  Working with attorney Kim Daniels, the Open Letter circulated to broad support and is now posted for review and further signatures at

Who has and is signing this letter?  Who are these women who are taking the time and braving backlash in their personal and professional lives? They are:  “Doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, mothers, business owners, community volunteers, scholars — women from all walks of life [who] are proud to stand together with the Catholic Church and its invaluable witness.”

I am one of the lawyers.  I signed the letter for three reasons.

  1. No matter whether you agree or not with the widespread use and subsidies of contraception, there are serious – very serious – downsides to the female-targeted, commercially lucrative practice of hormonal birth control.  It has hurt and will continue to hurt MANY women, in their bodies, in their relationships, in their fertility and in their emotional well-being.  The fact that some women support it, use it, profit by it, live off its financial proceeds even – does not change one iota the harm that is occurring within our gender.
  2. The voices of those harmed are often invalidated, shamed, ignored, ridiculed and even targeted for personal attack.  If they are people of faith, trying to voice faith based objections to being involved in contraceptive practices, they are additionally barraged with scorn toward their personal beliefs.
  3. The Roman Catholic Church – and the collective voice of the Bishops in the United States – remains the last standing, large, institution giving voice to the women who are being silenced, even by others of their own gender.  It is legally wrong and practically dangerous to allow the Roman Catholic Church to be silenced on these critical issues of conscience, belief and fact.

Professor Alvare, myself and, no doubt, every signatory to this letter asks that you share read it, share it on your blog, your Facebook page, your social networks – if it speaks for you, please sign it.  We must work “WOMAN TO WOMAN” through every outlet we have so that our voices can be heard and the Roman Catholic Church is supported in voicing a perspective and teachings which the contraceptive industries desperately seek to silence.



Going Home

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

For the past three and a half years I spent at the University of Georgia I came home almost every weekend. I moved back home after graduation, started working at the high school I attended which is five minutes away, and my fiancé and I will be living on the same street as my family when we get married in May. We will also be visiting his family, an hour away, as much as we can.

There are many people who would consider us crazy for our decisions. Staying close to home is definitely not the norm among “college-educated” young adults (neither is getting married at twenty-one.)

It is true that there are unhealthy ways to stay at or close to home, especially when such a decision is based out of fear or laziness. Sometimes staying close to home restricts the exercise of one’s own talents and purpose in life. Many must leave home to find this purpose. Some must leave home because of dangerous or detrimental situations. Many value being close to family, but don’t have that luxury, or have other priorities that justifiably outweigh being close to home.

But aside from these specific situations, in our culture there is a fundamental belief that staying close to home is inherently immature and detrimental. And they can’t understand why, if not out of an unhealthy attachment, one would choose to do so.

But the reason is simple—love—and that should be obvious. But it’s not anymore. Because nowadays many people think of home in a very different way. More importantly, they think of love in a very different way. They want love to be simple and easy. They don’t want the entanglements of longterm commitment because commitment is difficult. So they choose not to make such longterm commitments. The problem is, love requires commitment and so love is necessarily difficult. And we don’t like things that are difficult.

What we often forget is that it is the difficult things that usually bring about the most joy. It is commitment through even the hard times that bring about the fruits of true love. And this commitment is so worth it. It is the only truly worth it thing in the world.

And while we may know this, we fear it. Women especially have a tendency to believe that commitment is the end of something, a kind of death. There are so many negative connotations associated with being a stay at home mom or getting– rather, staying married. And of course there are such connotations because the truth is, well, commitment does require death. It is the death of selfishness. And it is often a slow and laborious death.  Usually the little vermin continues to revitalize himself throughout the course of our lives. But the smaller and smaller he gets– the more we submit to such a death– the more room is opened up inside of us. And then– what would be seen as a restriction of freedom becomes the gateway to a lifted and joyful soul, truly free and full of life.

We need not fear home. Perhaps it is not four walls we are avoiding– perhaps those four walls or family members don’t even exist or don’t even want us there– but even if we may feel homeless, somewhere, someone is asking for our commitment, asking for our love, asking for us to come home. Coming home does not necessarily demand that we “settle down” in a particular town or house. Neither does it necessarily mean we must “settle down” with a particular person or group of people. Each of us knows deep down the path home. We know what we run from that pulls at our heartstrings and we know whose voice we drown out with each heavy stomp of our frightened feet. As J.R.R. Tolkien says, “not all who wander are lost.” How true this is. Many of us must wander to find our home. But let us not wander so much that we wander aimlessly. For if we do this for too long, no matter how many parties we may attend, no matter how many Facebook friends we may have or how many dates we go on or how ever many places we may travel– we will end up very lonely. And we were not made to be lonely. We were made for Home. And home can be a lovely place, and it can be full of adventure– even if that adventure is only to the mailbox and back.


Komen Fails to Protect Women with the Truth

Angela Lanfranchi, M.D.


Lost in the media frenzy concerning Susan G. Komen’s grants to Planned Parenthood was the fact that Planned Parenthood is an enormous national provider of two causes of breast cancer: induced abortion and oral contraceptives.


Assumed in the many reports in the media was that Komen, as the country’s largest breast cancer advocacy group, is a wonderful icon serving the needs of breast cancer survivors and providing needed information  and money for breast cancer research.

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Up until 2005, according to Komen’s STEP Grants information published on the internet, less than 1% of the nearly billion dollars they had raised since 1984 was given to entities that did breast cancer research to find a cure. Shocking I’m sure to its many donors. 

It makes women feel great to gather in pink sweats and running shoes to raise money for a cure. The camaraderie is exhilarating. The mutual support is gratifying.  Doing something that matters to conquer that dreaded cancer that has taken so many women, mothers, sisters, and friends is empowering to women. But is all the “feel good” that the many races engender in the participants just an incredibly successful Pink Money marketing device? 

As a breast cancer surgeon, I see Komen as a purveyor of misinformation to the women who look to them as a reliable source.  Komen states on its web site that although oral contraceptives slightly raise the risk for breast cancer, a women’s risk will go back to normal after she goes off the pill for ten years, as if no harm has been done. 

The truth is that since 2005, the World Health Organization’s International Agency on Research of Cancer listed oral contraceptives as a Group 1 carcinogen for breast, cervical and liver cancer. Group 1 is also where cigarettes are listed as a cause for lung cancer. The truth is that if you are unlucky and the Pill caused a breast cancer cell to start growing in your breast, it would take about 10 years for the cancer to get big enough for your doctor to detect.  Hence, if it hasn’t shown up by 10 years, you were lucky and your risk is no longer increased. You’re normal risk again. Komen has not done anything to protect women and reduce their risk by avoiding known carcinogens. When 15 million women stopped their hormone replacement therapy in 2002 after they learned it increased their breast cancer risk, by 2007 the number of postmenopausal breast cancers decreased 11%. 

In 2010, 88% of young women take the Pill, a known carcinogen. Yet there is no awareness campaign for these women. The Pill contains the same drugs as hormone replacement therapy but in doses that are nearly 10 times higher! Imagine all the breast cancers that could be prevented in young women if half of them stopped the Pill.

Komen also denies the abortion breast cancer link.  It does this by not only citing the findings of the National Cancer Institute – which denies the link – but also by stating that the studies that show a positive correlation (there are 50) and those that are statistically significant (there are 31) are tainted by “recall bias.”  Recall bias assumes that a significant number of women will not report their abortion history accurately:  that they will not admit their abortions to researchers thereby by skewing the study’s results. This is despite the facts that 1) there are studies that have internally controlled for recall bias and have found no bias;  2) other studies state that, because induced abortion is so common in some countries, investigators report that recall bias is not an issue;  3) that a study specifically looking for recall bias by comparing computer records and interview data did not find a significant result (except that women recalled abortions that had not been recorded in the computer).

If an organization respected women, it would give them the truth so that they could make an informed choice.  For more information on risk go to the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute at

Coming from a Place of Hurt

Teresa Tomeo

They may not have had an abortion but somewhere along the way they had been deeply wounded.   The bottom line: despite our major differences concerning the life issues, we are really not that different.  

I have been covering the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. for many years now.  It is an incredibly moving experience for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, literally hundreds of thousands of people show up every year rain or shine at the end of January.  Sometimes the weather can be extremely brutal as definitely was the case this year as we marched up constitutional afternoon in bone-chilling drizzle.   Secondly, it is quite a pro-life shot in the arm to realize that we are not alone in this battle to save babies and turn the tide on the culture of death.  It’s also inspiring to see the majority of the crowd is made up of young people in their high school and college years.  These dynamic pro life activists are bright, articulate, and extremely tech savvy.  They are the future of the pro-life movement and the future is in good hands.

            There is also something else that has moved me greatly as I return each year; my own attitude toward pro-abortion advocates.  While the pro-abortion crowd numbers about two dozen on a good year for them, they always manage to get the lion’s share of the media coverage and that media coverage usually begins at the same moment post-abortive men and women are giving testimony in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The abortion supporters do their best to not only keep the cameras focused on their small but enthusiastic crowd, they also make every effort with their familiar chants of “get your Rosaries off my ovaries” to drown out the voices of the speakers taking part in the Silent No More Awareness campaign annual event.   When I first witnessed their actions, I was angry to the point of disgust.  I was particularly angry with the women who absolutely refused to listen to the voices of other women; women who discovered that ending the life of their child did not lead to the freedom and relief they expected.  Why didn’t these advocates of so called “choice” care about what they have to share?

            Year after year I would return.  Year after year I would witness the same antics from what seemed like the very same protestors.   However, the more I grew in my own faith the more I also began to notice something else. What began to speak to me even more loudly and clearly than their chilling chants or their “keep abortion legal” signs, was the pain on their faces.   These women were coming from a place of hurt. They may not have had an abortion but somewhere along the way they had been deeply wounded.   The bottom line being that in the end despite our major differences concerning the life issues, we were really not that different.   There but for the grace of God, go all of us.  Although I never had an abortion, I certainly wracked up my share of grave sins before coming back to my faith.  And only by God’s grace was I able to turn away from the messages of a damaging culture, save my marriage, and more importantly, God willing, my soul.  Now when I see the protestors, instead of getting angry I pray for them.

This weighs heavily on my mind right now given what is happening in this great country of ours.  The Catholic Church along with its core teachings is under attack and so are the religious freedoms of every American.  As if that isn’t enough, women are also under attack.  Mandating “free” contraception and sterilization for the female population will result in more bondage and greater pain.  We need to do whatever we can at every level to stop this mandate from being initiated.  At the same time, I believe we women who have been rescued from the radical feminist agenda need to reach out to those still caught in its clutches.  This way we might not only help save our country but help God save souls.

Pass the Smelling Salts, Please

Jennifer Lahl

OR . . . why do women faint when I show Eggsploitation?

The first time I screened Eggsploitation on a university campus was at Harvard Law School. During the screening, a young female student walked out of the auditorium and proceeded to faint.  I happened to be outside the auditorium meeting with a colleague (I’ve seen the film many times, so I typically step outside while the film plays). As a nurse, I immediately saw the warning signs – woozy, white as a sheet, things just didn’t look all right with this woman from my quick assessment.  I intervened:  Pulse, check.  Breathing, check.  When she came to, I asked her all the basic questions.  Are you sick? No. Do you have any medical history? No.  Did you eat today? Yes.  Why do you think you fainted?  I don’t know . . .

Then I received an email from a professor who ordered a copy of the film to show in her class.  She emailed me to say she had to stop the film halfway through because two women in her entire class of female students had fainted.  She wanted me to know of this reaction so I could warn others. She chalked it up to the fact that the week before, she had shown the film “The Coat Hanger Project” and felt this was a carryover response from that traumatic film.

Next stop: Yale Law School, where a bright, energetic female student who then headed up Women’s Law at Yale had really pulled together a phenomenal, standing room only showing.  I prepped her that “women have been known to faint,” but she assured me, “This is Yale Law School, and we are tough here.”  So, I’m outside the room, talking with my colleague from NOW, who does many screenings with me, when two women walk out of the room and proceed to go down in a heap on the floor.  Not one, but two “tough” Yale law students.  They are fine, and we get them on their feet and send them on their way.  Neither ventures back in to finish the film.

Same thing happens at University of Virginia Law School.  Two women leave the auditorium to go outside and sit down on the floor.  The nurse in me instructs them to put their heads down between their knees.  Drink some water.  Pale pasty white faces begin to regain color, and I send them on their way, back to their dorms.

Then just this past week, I was premiering my latest film, Anonymous Father’s Day, at the SoHo Gallery for Digital Art in New York City, but was also doing many showings throughout the week of Eggsploitation, too.   While I was upstairs in the gallery, the film was being shown in the theatre downstairs, and a young woman came up the stairs, looking white as a sheet.  I took one look at her and knew she was having a strong reaction to the film.  The gallery curator and staff came quickly and, fortunately, caught her before she landed hard on the floor.

So, as a nurse, my observations are these:  Young women faint.  Older women don’t faint.  Men don’t faint.  The exact women who are being targeted to “donate” their eggs faint.  And they faint because they most closely identify with the women in the film.  They need money, and they think they are helping someone while getting money that they feel they desperately need (it’s rare that I meet an altruistic egg ‘donor’). They identify with the women in the film who get so sick and feel alone.  And they are really bothered by the needles, the drugs, and the outcomes of these women’s lives.

Foundations of New Feminism: Christianity

Henry Karlson

Thomas Jefferson, although he did not consider himself anywhere near a traditional Christian in his beliefs, held a high regard for Jesus’ moral teachings.  He knew that the teachings of Christ influenced the development of political thought in the West. Indeed, he understood their importance in his own promotion of universal human rights. Even though he failed to live out the full ramifications of his ideals, it is clear that he helped promote the tradition, found in Christ’s teachings, which established the dignity of the human person.

This dignity is a fundamental position behind New Feminist teachings. We are called to respect each other’s dignity, to recognize the concrete reality of each human person and to recognize the voice this gives to them. Men and women must be willing to listen to each other, to help each other, to work together with equal dignity, even if their experiences in the world will differ as a result of their genders. We must respect those differences, because they help establish who we are, but they must not be used to diminish or devalue the value we give to anyone.  

Christians have had this presented to them not only in their Scriptures, but in the way early Christians helped create significant social changes in the Roman world. Sadly, the respect Christians are to give has not always been lived as they should. Cultural influences sometimes got the best of them, turning them away from what Christ and the early Apostles taught them.

This is especially true in regards to the treatment Christians gave to women.  We see in history the recognition of the value and dignity of women, especially the value of their intuition and ideas, waxing and waning through the centuries. Yet it is hard to deny, however much Christians failed to follow their principles, they were there for them to reflect upon, and this means those principles helped shape and influence world history for the better.  One doesn’t have to be a Christian to learn from them. Indeed, it is often non-Christians like Mahatma Gandhi who, in examining these principles, often help promote them in the world and call the Christian to task for their failure to meet the expectations of the Gospel.

As Owen Chadwick in The Early Church pointed out, Christianity had great success with women because of the way they were treated by the early Christians. Women who had no voice in society found their voice affirmed. Jesus chose women to be the first ones to proclaim his resurrection from the dead. Mary Magdalene is said to the “Apostle to the Apostles” because she was sent to the Apostles and declared to them his resurrection to them, giving her voice a priority over that of men in a society which ordinarily ignored the testimony of women.

Married women found security in the Christian faith because of the way men were told to treat them: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25 RSV). Christianity was seen as radical because it went against the social conventions of the day as it promoted the dignity of everyone. One’s race, gender, and condition in society were relativized because of everyone’s equality in Christ: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”  (Gal. 3:28 RSV). Social conventions were lost. One must not read Paul’s words to the Galatians as rejecting the concrete person. Rather, they were no longer the ultimate representation of the value of the person. This principle was and is a necessary precondition for any society in which the dignity of the human person is neglected. And this is what Christianity offered to Western history.

New Feminism can be, and is, often followed by people of the Christian faith because they see support for the principles of New Feminism coming from their own faith tradition. They can see how, in history, these principles have actually helped elevate women. The early Christians gave to women a voice which, sadly, later Christians would fight against. But that voice was there, and was to never be entirely silenced. This is one of the gifts the Christian faith gave to the world. Let us hope today Christian and non-Christian alike can build upon this gift and make sure the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

“Women Deserve Better” means Resources and Support

Serrin M. Foster

“When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society—so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.”  Mattie Brinkerhoff, The Revolution ● 1869

When I created the slogan “Women Deserve Better® than Abortion, I didn’t simply mean saying “no” to abortion, it meant saying “yes” to the resources that support pregnant women and their children—before and after birth.

Abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women. Abortion masks the unmet needs of women in the workplace, schools, home and society. Abortion hurts the most vulnerable in society—the poor, the working poor, women in difficult and often abusive relationships, and students and women in the workplace whose basic needs are ignored. 

Feminists for Life is dedicated to systematically eliminating the root causes that drive women to abortion—primarily lack of practical resources and support—through holistic, woman-centered solutions. Women deserve better than abortion. 

Women have sought real solutions since entering the workforce.  Women want—and deserve—equal opportunities for pay and position in the work place.  Flex time, job sharing, and telecommuting.  Comprehensive health care.  Maternity benefits and parental leave.  Affordable, quality child care.  Shared parental responsibility.  Child support. 

Feminists for Life has been leading a similar discussion with students, administrators, and professors on college campuses.  Both students and faculty want more resources.  Affordable housing.  Financial aid and scholarship security.  Maternity coverage in student health plans.  Accessible child care.  Flexible class scheduling. Counseling services.  Publicized policies that support pregnant women and parents. Students and staff need a central place on campus to coordinate these services. 

No woman should be forced to choose between relinquishing her education and career plans or suffering through a humiliating, invasive procedure and sacrificing her child.  We refuse to choose.®

Abortion represents a failure to listen and respond to the unmet needs of women.  Why perpetuate failure?           

Pro-life feminists recognize abortion as a symptom of, not a solution to, the continuing struggles women face in the workplace, on campus, at home, and in the world at large. 

Feminists for Life is a renaissance of the original American feminism. Like Susan B. Anthony and other early American suffragists, today’s pro-life feminists envision a better world, where no woman would be driven by desperation to abortion: 

  • A world in which pregnancy, motherhood and birthmotherhood are accepted and supported. 
  • Campuses and workplaces that support mothers in practical ways rather than forcing them to choose between their education or career plans and their children. 
  • A society that supports the role of mothers and values the role of fathers and helps fathers provide both financial and emotional support for their children. 
  • A culture where parents are respected, whether they stay at home or return to work. 

We have worked for low-income women. We have worked to prevent violence against women, including pregnant women.  We have worked to protect women from being forced into unwanted abortions. We have worked to reduce poverty among women and children, prevent coerced abortions due to threats to withhold child support, and instead encourage the active support of fathers in the lives of their children.  We have led the revolution on campus through the FFL College Outreach Program to meet the needs of college-age women who have the highest rate of abortion.  Since the College Outreach Program began in 1994, there has been a dramatic 30% decrease in abortions among college-educated women.  We believe that education is key to fighting the feminization of poverty.  Sixty-nine percent of abortions are performed on the poor, working poor and economically disadvantaged.  FFL Pregnancy Resource Forums on top campuses across the country inspired Pregnancy Assistance Fund which will, in part, help transform campuses in support of pregnant and parenting students, birthmothers.  We advocate workplace solutions that benefit both employee and employer.  And we have educated the pro-life and feminist movements about America’s rich pro-life feminist history.  

Our message that Women Deserve Better® than Abortion is redirecting the polarized debate toward holistic, woman-centered solutions. 

When I found Feminists for Life I knew I was home. I wasn’t interested in criminalizing women who had abortion. I am driven by freeing women from abortion through resources and support. 

You too can be proud to be a part of the solutions. Join us, because women don’t have to settle for less, because there is a better way. And yes, this invitation extends to men who have a right to share in the joy and responsibility of caring for our children. 

For more reasons you can be proud to be a member of Feminists for Life, FFL President Serrin M. Foster invites you to go to click on “accomplishments” and then to the “Support Us” button.   

® Women Deserve Better, Refuse to Choose, and The American Feminist are registered trademarks of Feminists for Life of America.

Failure of Feminism: Amy Winehouse

Marjorie Murphy Campbell


 Amy Winehouse.  July 23 2011: Dead at age 27,

the misadventure of alcohol poisoning.

2008 Grammy Awards:  Record of the Year, Song of the Year,

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Best New Artist.


Winehouse’s premature death and public self-abuse is a tragedy for women, a lethal role model for girls.  Her flamboyant failure to survive challenges feminists: why does a profound talent like Winehouse – described as a young Ella Fitzgerald – crash and burn despite the opportunity feminists have labored to bequeath her generation?  Have we paved the way for every success but that which matters most?    

Blame her fans for “over-demanding consumption of authenticity;” blame the schools where Amy “didn’t get a lot in class” or blame the failure of her synagogue to form her in the Jewish tradition of female prominence.  Blame her for not taking control of her addictions.  These factors play a role.   But Winehouse was a brilliant singer-song writer and she tells her own story.

Do you hear a mournful young woman as anguished over her fading dreams of love as she is unwilling to let go of her image that a man should “stronger than me?”  This was Winehouse’s debut album Frank.  Then barely 20 years old, looking healthy and full, Winehouse’s 2003 lyrics unfold a heart wrenching longing for a man, a male as healthy in his masculinity as Winehouse is prepared to be in her femininity: 

 You should be stronger than me,
But instead you’re longer than frozen turkey,
Why’d you always put me in control?

All I need is for my man to live up to his role,
Always wanna talk it through – I’m ok,
Always have to comfort you every day,
But that’s what I need you to do – are you gay?

Winehouse’s conclusion – “you should be stronger than me” – bemoans her slipping femininity, teetering about on high heels, struggling to steady a drunk posing as a man.  She takes us to the precipice of dashed dreams and overwhelming disappointment as a complete gender role reversal shifts the floor boards : 

Cause I’ve forgotten all of young love’s joy,
Feel like a lady, and you my lady boy

Three short years later, Winehouse’s lyrics transitioned from complaining “you my lady boy” to an alarming self-loathing, rawly expressed in this cut You Know I Am No Good


Here we experience a leaner, meaner, more calloused, worn and tattooed Winehouse who has turned her lyrics against herself.  Her longing remains but, now, she’s bad; she cheats sexually on someone who does not seem to care and her dreams are defeated, not by “my lady boy” but by her own behavior.  She holds herself at fault for her misery.  She is 24 years old – and will be dead soon.

I cheated myself,
Like I knew I would
I told you I was trouble,
You know that I’m no good,

These lyrics from You Know I Am No Good, like others on her 2007 Back to Black, offer “an album’s worth of heartbroken songs,” roundly agreed to reflect the deeply troubled and dysfunctional relationship and marriage she attempted with Blake Fielder-Civil, a drug-user and convict.  While Winehouse reportedly had subsequent relationships, her passion for Fielder-Civil remained the prominent narrative in her life, even as their family and friends urged that the relationship was doomed.

Despite their families’ efforts to separate the pair, Winehouse insisted that Fielder-Civil was the love of her life.  She persisted in a drug-ridden, abusive relationship that was many things, but not tender, nurturing or loving.  Fielder-Civil never approached her hope for “a man to live up to his role.”  Her lyrics and talent remained tethered to a dream of masculine love impossible to realize in a Fielder-Civil.  Somehow, despite the reordered world delivered to her by empowering feminists, she remained unequipped to distinguish her longing for manly love and the “lady man” upon whom her young emotions attached. 

Compare now a very different, very feminine Winehouse who appears to us posthumously.  This Winehouse seems a near-caricature of her own longing:  coy looks, relaxed face, liquid movements, shy but flirtatious glances – as Tony Bennett croons her to her the old fashioned way, Body and Soul.

Released after her nearly-suicidal death, we are left to savor this decidedly tragic image:  an once-in-a-decade talent melting with her deepest longings – and then vanishing.  Gone forever.  This is the tragedy of Amy Winehouse:  prepared to pursue celebrity and fame, but never equipped to find and secure the love of a good man. 

I call upon all feminists to reflect upon this story – not unlike many others being played out by young women celebrities.  Should we not spend more time helping our young women find complete fulfillment – even when that means forging a traditional male-female, committed relationship of love and loyalty?  Should we not support them in love with the same intensity we support and encourage their careers?  If we did, we might still have Amy Winehouse and her powerhouse talent to enjoy into old age.

I miss her.  I feel we failed her.  I leave you with this gritty-as-grime Youtube in which Winehouse’s shares her stunning talent – as well as her desperate pain.  Feminism certainly failed this young woman.  

In Defense of Kim Kardashian

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

Marcel Proust said, “If only for the sake of elegance, I try to remain morally pure.”

Those who abide by this creed find its worst offender in Kim Kardashian. (For those of you who haven’t heard, the promiscuous reality TV star married in August 2011 and was divorced just a short seventy-two days later—an incident which resulted in heavy criticism and ridicule.)

The ridicule usually goes something like this:

Kim Kardashian is so stupid.
Do you KNOW how much her ring cost?
That thing was doomed from the start.
It was all for the money.
Wow. Like anyone actually took that “marriage” seriously.
Ha! You know they’re trying to get an annulment. An annulment!

And it goes on.

The responses amaze me. Usually, when we hear of divorce, we pity the couple. And yet, when Kim’s story hit People magazine we did not leave room for any pity.

Many women will respond that she doesn’t deserve pity because she “knew what she was getting herself into” (do we know this?) But many will go further than denying pity. They go on directly to despising her. There is a cruel cattiness in the mindless chatter in the grocery store checkout line. And that that cruelty originates from a profound insecurity within us.

We despise Kim Kardashian because we can’t deal with the things we despise about ourselves. Deep down we know well our ignorance, our lust, our selfishness, our vanity, our pride—but we can tend to spend much of our lives trying to hide it, avoid it, or project it on to others. Kim is too clumsy and too sloppy to hide anything. She gets divorced, and it doesn’t matter if half the country is also divorced—she just doesn’t have the right timing. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the world sleeps around. Kim sleeps around just a little bit too much. It doesn’t matter if more than half of the women in the world have forgotten the concept of modesty, Kim’s shirt is just a tad bit lower and she is labeled trash. Kim lacks one of our female culture’s favorite false virtues—the ability to keep up appearances. Kim doesn’t play the game right. And so she is easily made the scapegoat. Her story riles us not because it represents the degradation of marriage—we already know about the degradation of marriage. Her story riles us because it gives us an opportunity to forget the ways in which we have failed—because her failure is so outright and obvious.

This attitude is something we women struggle with a lot. We tend to despise the “slut.” And we tend to get a sinister sort of pleasure out of that. It is ironic. For we are in the age of relativism when any sort of moral opinion is often seen as judgmental by its very nature. But often the same women who don’t ever want to be “judged” or have their moral lives challenged are those who rant about the town/school/community “slut.”

And we rant because it gives us power. Gossip, slander, all of that gives us a sense of power. If we can put down the one who is easy to put down, we feel ourselves momentarily elevated. For if I can let everyone know about how awful she is, perhaps then I won’t feel so bad about myself.

But we know that the power is fleeting. We know that Mr. Proust’s quote is quite empty. For elegance, while appealing, is only an outer garment. If there’s anything that Kim’s story should do for us, it should make us examine what is beneath that outer garment. It should make us examine our own moral purity. Rather than despise her we should wish her well and pray for her. For we do not know what Mary Magdalene we throw stones at with our words. And although we may have hid it well with our class, we often forget the many times when we were that Mary and someone reached out a loving hand.