One of my favorite memories from college was taking an acting class. I did some theatre in high school and decided that acting would help fulfill one of my fine arts credits. As part of my theatre class, I memorized monologues and acted out scenes with my classmates. One character I played was Joan of Arc from The Lark. I memorized a monologue from that play as part of my acting final. In this monologue, Joan was testifying about the first time she saw Saint Michael. She was given a great responsibility at an early age: to go to the king of France and lead the armies in the Hundred Years War. In the monologue, she begged Michael to have pity on her, but instead, she was left with the weight of the world on her shoulders.
While not all of us will lead armies the way that Joan did, we can look to Joan as an example of courage and leadership. I think she's also a great example of what Catholic Feminism should be like.
Now I know not all of us like the label of “Feminist.” It’s been used and misused by women who want to forward agendas that aren’t compatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church. However, it’s my opinion that the feminism movement just needs a long overdue makeover. At its core, true feminism stands for equality for all human beings (which includes the unborn and refugees), nondiscrimination (which means treating all human beings with the dignity of being God’s unique creation), and nonviolence (which means turning the other cheek and standing your ground without retaliating with anger or retreating in fear).
So with that being said, how is Joan of Arc a model of what feminism should be like?
She treated men like equals.
I think the biggest problem with gender politics is that it always feels like a war. A majority of feminists don’t like to consider men as part of the equation and the most extreme ones see men as hostile. Men’s Rights Activists or “meninists” see feminists as extreme as well, and many countries in the Middle East have some really horrible perspectives on women, to say the least.
We cannot see men as the enemy. Nor should we be competitive with other women over things like jobs and men. Instead, we need to cooperate with them and treat them as, you know, people. Men are human beings which means like every other human being out there, they won’t be perfect and will have flaws and are capable of hurting women. We gotta love them anyway, sisters in Christ, because God created men which means that men are essentially good. On the flip side, we can’t treat men like we’re entitled to have a relationship with them or use them as a way to fix something that only God can really help us out with.
She knew where her true value lied.
Joan always knew what she was fighting for. A great modern day example of this can be seen in the Season 1 finale of the show Agent Carter, in which the main character, Peggy, does not pursue taking the credit for New York from post-WWII terrorists. When one of her friends gets mad over her co-worker taking all the credit, Peggy says, “I don’t need a congressional honor. I don’t need his approval or the president’s. I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”
Do we see ourselves as the fearfully and wonderfully made women that we are, or do we put our value in the opinions of other men and women? One aspect of feminism is to love ourselves as the way that God made us. We are infinitely valuable the way that we are. That doesn’t mean that we are entitled to anything, though. It just means that no matter what people say about us, we will find our delight in knowing that God will always love us.
She choose the right battles and the right ways to fight
Sometimes, the greatest victory is the battle not fought. I’m an advocate in fighting for self-defense. Never seek out fights or act aggressively. Fight to protect yourself, the ones you love, and what you stand for. Extreme comments on social media and people who will never change their minds aren’t worth attacking. Instead, pray for them. Don’t ever think you have to battle alone, either. Find people who will support you, from both men and women. And always remember that the God of angel armies is always by your side.
Joan of Arc is still one of my favorite saints because I love her courage. She taught me what it means to be fearless. In spite of the fact that college wasn’t all fun and games, getting to know the Saint of Orleans is still one of the highlights of my college days. I hope that Joan can teach you how to have courage and be kind as well.
Reflect: Where do you place your value? Whose opinions do you value most? Why?
Reflect: Think of a time when a situation called you to be courageous. What did you do?
Act: If you’re facing a difficult situation that requires courage, ask Joan of Arc for her intercession.