New York Magazine ran a feature this past weekend of a liberal family that has embraced traditional roles as a sort of counter-counter-cultural reversal of the feminist program. It is perhaps ironic then that today is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the humble carpenter, foster father of our Lord, and chaste guardian of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In him we have the example of true masculinity and what it takes to build a family.
In our modern age, St. Joseph’s virtues of humility and chastity are confused for weakness. Our society is obsessed with power. Our political discourse is focused on making decisions for others instead of allowing people to make decisions for themselves. Every politician is a dictator in his own mind—although they would never admit it. Therefore, it should not surprise us that the liberal feminist program places men and women in competition with one another. Wealth, ambition, and violence are powerful forces, but they do not build families.
The New York Magazine article is part of a larger conversation in the media about the role of women and increasingly, it seems that the epitaph of radical feminism is being written as a Dickensian serial novel with many plot twists and no doubt a surprise ending where the long-lost rich uncle arrives to save the day. Commentators on both the left and the right are starting to agree that men and women might actually be different and that men and women are complementary pieces of a family that together form a greater and stronger whole.Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, by Guido Reni, c.1635
However, there is much work to be done. The increasing rate of single motherhood is ample proof that true manliness is in a very sorry state indeed. Accordingly, the biggest problem with the New York Magazine piece is that it approaches the family from the viewpoint that men are largely passive and disinterested observers and that they feign interest in domestic matters, as though having children is like picking out curtains or matching throw pillows.
St. Joseph is described in the Gospel as a righteous man and a man of principle, but also merciful. Before he could carry out his obligations under the Law of Moses, he instead obeys the direct commandment of God to bring Mary and Jesus into his home and care for them. Even though it means he would never have children of his own, Joseph understood that the first responsibility of all men is to protect women, children, and the helpless.
On the other hand, radical feminism is based on the premise that women need to behave more like men in order to have equality, but instead of trying to reverse the entire history of mankind, why don’t we start by demanding that men behave more like men for a change? Instead of blaming women for wanting to have children and making them the victims, we should pray to St. Joseph that our society will hold men to the same standards that he did for himself.