In Mulieris Dignitatem, St. John Paul II teaches that God endows to women a certain dignity that is not given to men. This beauty He gives them does not come from the physical body, but rather the awareness of her strengths and moral character.
“Your adornment should not be an external one…but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious to the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:3-5)
Femininity and, specifically, the feminine genius are not about the physical appearance. It’s not about the clothes worn or the attention gained by revealing dress. Reaching full womanhood is about embracing virtue, especially through the act of modesty.
Modesty And The Feminine Genius
Modesty certainly entails more than physical appearance and applies to more than just women. Both men and women are called to be modest in appearance, thoughts, speech, and action. We are called as sons and daughters of God to be modest in our hearts. We need to have a genuine respect for the human person, treating each person with the dignity given to them by their Creator.
For women in particular, to live out the feminine genius means living a life of virtue in a world
plagued with the violation of human dignity. Our culture constantly attacks the virtues of chastity and temperance. However, in order to come into fullness of womanhood, the fullness that God intended at our creation, women must respect themselves through virtuous living.
Although it does not fall solely upon the woman to fix our current culture, women have a special role in creating a modest and virtuous society. Women can say no to immodest dress and unchaste actions. They can stop partaking in actions that disrespect the human person, such as pornography, sexually explicit media, and suggestive modeling or becoming an audience of such. This means embracing the femininity and feminine genius is such a way that allows virtue and dignity to flow out.
Embracing True Femininity In Modern Culture
It can’t be denied that embracing true femininity is difficult in today’s culture, which is hostile to
virtuous living. Today, to be feminine means to put women beneath men. Our society currently
believes that in order to be “equal” to men, women must give up their true femininity and accept either a more masculine identity or, at the very least, ambiguity. It even means embracing a “femininity” that degrades woman, as is the case with the objectification of girls and women.
According to societal norms, if a woman gives up modesty, chastity, and virtue she is more
feminine. Alternatively, if a woman gives up motherhood to chase a career to be “equal” to a man, she is also more feminine.
To be a woman today means to give up true femininity and accept masculinity; to give up
motherhood and accept a career; and to give up virtue and modesty to be pleasing to men.
However, God did not create women to be objectified bodies and careerists trying to emulate
masculine traits. He created woman to be the glue of the human family through her gifts and
strengths of virtue.
To embrace true femininity today is no doubt difficult. It requires putting Christ on in place of
cultural trends. It requires choosing chastity over temptation and modesty over revealing clothing.
Woman’s dignity does not come from her comparison to man nor how sexy or attractive she can make herself. Rather, her dignity comes from God, who makes her strong through modesty and feminine virtue.