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What Guys Need to Know about Women

Some months back, my sister came to visit, and we had an interesting chat. Chris lives in New York and is a vice president at a very large and internationally-known corporation. She’s at the top of the corporate world, and at the forefront of women making their way in a “man’s world.” We were talking about the need for spiritual mothers and for women to, not only recognize, but to foster their spiritual motherhood. I was lamenting what I saw as the tendency for women to tamp down their mothering instincts and spiritual inclinations in order to hold their own in business.

Having been a public relations consultant for a number of years, I’d see some of that myself.

“I’ll bet,” I said, tapping my pointed finger on the table. “That the women who are the snittiest and snootiest are the ones who exhibit the least feminine qualities at work.”

Chris knitted her eyebrows and thought for a minute. “I think you’re right,” she replied.

“Do you know why?” I continued. “Because they’re miserable, that’s why. They stifle their femininity and try to be more like their male counterparts and it makes them turn nasty.”

“Wow. I never saw it that way before,” Chris agreed.

“What’s more,” I rounded up my ranting. “If they were allowed to appreciate and use their feminine genius in the workplace, not only would they be happier, but everyone else in the office would prosper, too.”

Women should not be expected to deny their femininity in the workplace – or anywhere else, for that matter. What we can bring to the office, organization, neighborhood, school, parish, and home is invaluable. Men usually think in a linear pattern: first this, then that, then the next, and so on. They conceptualize and manage one thing at a time. Women, on the other hand, tend to see the whole picture at once, with all the details and implications involved. They can sense what needs to be done (even when that’s everything at once) and how people are coping in doing it. They can “feel” out a situation and can perceive the person as a whole.

Women have beautiful, essential qualities that add to – not detract from – progress, development, and success. We’re intuitive, creative, and sympathetic to the needs of others, which enables us to foster cooperation and caring. We have an innate need to nurture, which can show itself in countless ways that can be productive, uplifting, and motivating. We’re motherly (whether or not we’ve given birth), which gives us an aura of dependability, understanding, and trustworthiness. All women have these qualities at the core of their being. If any of us seem not to, it’s because it’s been neglected or inhibited.

It makes me both sad and angry when I think about how our culture has curtailed women’s dignity. We’re made to believe that we can only achieve in an occupation if we abandon or skew our femininity. We’re taught to be ashamed of motherhood by a society that loathes children unless they can be turned into a useful commodity. We should be embarrassed by our motherliness, and hide it at all costs.

What we’re missing is that the way women are made is no accident. It’s not a regrettable handicap or awful inadequacy with which we’re forced to live. No, women are made exactly as God intended them to be made, with all their lovely qualities and abilities (and, yes, shortcomings, too).

The words of the Psalmist are not meant only for men; they’re also meant for women:

You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb,
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.
(Ps 139:13-14)

If you want more proof, think of the Incarnation. God could have chosen any of a plethora of means by which Jesus would come into the world. Yet, he chose that our Lord would be born of a Woman – brought into the world through her womb, cared for through her motherhood, and prepared for his mission through her motherliness and devotion. Mary was chosen for her feminine gifts – intuition, creativity, sympathy, nurturing, dependability, understanding, and trustworthiness, among so many others – not in spite of them. Tell me, please, what greater compliment can there be for women and their dignity than Christ coming through the body of a Woman?

God’s choice of Mary as Mother of his Son reflects on the exquisite value of all women. We women need to know this, but even more critically, we need to believe and be proud of it. Men need to accept and internalize it. When true femininity is allowed to flourish, women will regain their dignity. And from that, we’ll all benefit.


Marge Fenelon is a Catholic wife, mother, author, columnist, and speaker. She’s a frequent contributor to a number of Catholic publications and websites and is a regular guest on Catholic radio. She’s written several books about Marian devotion and Catholic family life and has touched the hearts of audiences in a variety of venues. Her latest book is Imitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom (Ave Maria Press, 2013).
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  • Genevieve Kineke

    Hmmm, I don’t dispute what you outline as feminine qualities, but I don’t think it follows that those gifts are needed everywhere. You mention “the office, organization, neighborhood, school, parish, and home,” but these each operate differently, and just because a woman’s gifts would enhance a school or a parish, it doesn’t mean that the boardroom of a Fortune 500 company would benefit as well. Sometimes a company simply benefits by shrewd business acumen. The question is rather should a woman enter a scenario where she will have to shred her essence — and perhaps prudence would help her discern the answer.

    To be sure, I don’t want to suggest there are “boy jobs” and “girl jobs,” but women should recognise that it’s more difficult for them to compartmentalise themselves than for men to do so. If scrabbling her way to the that boardroom would make her inherently unhappy (and that’s different for each woman) then perhaps she should pursue a different metier.

    Ultimately, I’m just not comfortable in saying that every situation would be enhanced by the feminine genius. Sometimes femininising one’s workplace is a distraction, and undermines the overall mission.

  • Hi, Genevieve.
    Thank you for do closely considering my column. You bring up some valid points in regard to the differences between men and women and how they might manage a business. Perhaps it helps if I explain that the real point of my column is not whether a woman should be allowed to work at this or that company, but rather that women should be allowed and encouraged to exercise (instead of stifle) their true feminine genius wherever they are. Doing that could make this a much more humane and balanced world.

    • Mary Kochan

      What could be better than two of my favorite feminine geniuses discussing the feminine genius!

  • CatholicJim

    Great article Marge. I work as an executive in a large multinational company and agree with your observations. I’ve seen this many times over the years in my career. Unfortunately, some of the worst pressure to take on some of the negative traits of male behavior (win-at-all cost aggressiveness… even if it means stepping on others), comes from other women higher up in our organizational ladder. I’ve had many female employees tell me I’m much more humane and understanding than my female predecessor in recognizing the need to balance all aspects of our professional and personal lives. I’m not saying it’s just female leaders that put this pressure on their peers, but it is something that both men and women in the workplace need to improve on… how to be fully human with each other while being fully professional.

  • Genevieve Kineke

    I think that premise is more valuable, Marge. I believe it follows that if a woman knows the scope and worth of her feminine genius, she will also have the prudence to know where it can flourish and where it would be stifled. Then, as she assesses those places that operate without the feminine genius, it remains to assess if those places would be better with it or remain as they are. Some places need a little more love, and some simply don’t. People always benefit by love, but some tasks rely on such a singular focus that to change the existing environment would cause more harm than good.

    Just thoughts.

  • Bounty

    I probably missed the boat since this was published last week, but this piece considers the subject from a secular perspective :
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/

    It’s good food for thought. I tend to agree with Genevieve’s last comment.

  • jlantro

    What a bunch of female propaganda hogwash! The average woman — including and especially self-proclaimed Catholic woman — is a self-centered, hypocritical snipe. Just visit some coffee clutch and watch them passive-aggressively eat each other alive!

    The average woman is a vicious, self-interested liar in dealing with men, too. She will be
    – a selfish, entitled daddy’s girl in her teens
    – an immodest, immoral user of men revealing copious flesh when she wants to snag a man.
    – a holly-hobby dressed shrew once she bags him, proving that all her stated promises of love, passion, and fidelity were complete self-serving lies to get a man for his wallet and to create a few hostages to ensure he can’t afford to dump her once she proves how awful she really is.

    Your column is filled with falsehoods and is just a bunch of tripe slinging the same false fictions of the idea of “womanhood”.

  • jlantro

    “God’s choice of Mary as Mother of his Son reflects on the exquisite value of all women.”

    And what exactly were God’s other options than a woman’s body? Instead of Mary, could it have been “Larry”? The choice of a woman was physical plumbing and that’s it.

    All honor to Mary for her obedience. But if it had been Joseph who had the biological structurse to birth a child, we’d be praising him instead. Child birth is not an act of female genius…it’s an act of biology on auto pilot.

  • Bounty,
    Thanks for the link – interesting article. It’s great to hear a similar message from the secular world. I agree With Genevieve that women aren’t well-suited for all jobs, just as men aren’t well-suited for all jobs. I think it would be easier to make those determinations if women didn’t feel such pressure to deny or hide their feminine genius into order to achieve a society-dictated status. If we all truly believed the worth, dignity, and purpose of both women and men as God created us, we’d be a lot closer to living our Baptismal covenant and building the Kingdom. Don’t you think?

  • jlantro,
    I agree with you that there regrettably are some women who exhibit the traits you mentioned. But that is just some, not all women. Such degrading and generalized statements about the lack of worth of all women is an insult to those women striving to live holy, virtuous lives, of which there are a vast number. Our Lord himself demonstrated the great worth of women, and a close reading of the Gospels will give you many examples. It seems to me that the women you’ve observed are the very ones who need to read my column – the ones who do not recognize their true genius and dignity and act accordingly.

    Your crude and demeaning reference to the Mother of God is unacceptable. God did not have to send his Son through any human body at all – Mary’s nor Joseph’s. Jesus didn’t have to be born of anybody. In fact, eh didn’t have to be born at all. God could have sent him by any other means, yet he chose the most noble blossom of all creation to effect his plan of salvation. Furthermore, he bestowed on her the privilege and responsibility of being the Helpmate of Christ, his Co-Redemptrix, and Mediatrix of God’s graces for all mankind – even you. For none of his did God meed Mary’s “plumbing.”

    I wish that you would take the time to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church (The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori also is remarkable) so that you could understand and appreciate the magnificence of God’s plan for our salvation, of which Mary plays a primary role.