Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dr. Maria Montessori: The anti-feminist, feminist


Today, everything  seems to be a war of extremes. We paint our world in black and white, adjusting the shades of gray along the way.

Such is the case with feminism vs. anti-feminism. Feminists seem to think that all women who do not agree with them are 50's era wanna-be's who spend their days cleaning and hosting dinner parties. Likewise, many anti-feminists are under the impression that all feminists burn their bras and cut their hair short.

In the past , social change had a different tone—at least the way the history books paint it. People saw the problems of their time and advocated for changes that would make the world a better place for everyone—at least as far as they could see. It seems that their efforts were focused on creating real, measurable changes that could be implemented by most people.

Name-calling and generalizing is not what ended western child labor or gave women the right to vote. Getting involved and helping the underprivileged gave those people the strength to fight back.

In that time, women's rights had purpose: To allow women to reach their full potential without being told to stay in one box that dictates the same talents for all women. Thank God there were people in the world who fought for those rights! It is what allows me to write my thoughts, wear these pants, pursue my education, and vote for someone who can help facilitate the changes I want to see (if such a person ever decides to run). It allows me to explore all of my potential in contributing to my family through my uniquely designed talents.

BUT, it does not give me the right to neglect my civil and family duties to pursue whatever I want. Many women today have rejected the idea of family and service to others, especially the men in their lives, in favor of their individual pursuits.

This is alarming because women were not designed to be alone and on top of the world. We were designed to participate in a partnership that raised up the next generation to be better than their own. How are we to do that if we are too busy chasing all of the things we don't have?

I believe that feminism was originally intended to strengthen the natural role of women rather than reject it.

On the other side of the coin, many women are so insulted by the idea of rejecting their natural design, that they try to stuff themselves back into that one-woman, perfectly manicured box. They chant Proverbs 31 as if it were the only scripture to live by. (I have news for you ladies. That scripture doesn't mean what you think it does. In fact it is far more feminist then you might like to think. Go back and read it again. Chew on that for a while and stay tuned, because I will be addressing this verse in one of my upcoming posts.)

By polarizing ourselves like this, we are taking everything those women fought for and destroying it! They were fighting to unite women and give them a voice to make change. Instead, we spend our time bickering and trying to elevate ourselves above one another.

Both sides need to draw inspiration from the pioneers of the past to unite us once again. There have been so many amazing women. But, the one who has impacted me more than any other, is Dr. Maria Montessori.

Not only was she a strong woman who pioneered the fields of medicine and psychology at a time when it was dominated by men, but, she went on to dedicate her life to the service of children. She did both with a sense of wonder and grace.

Her compassion and desire for peace was the foundation of her being. It motivated every decision she made. No obstacle was too much for her to overcome. She worked tirelessly to improve the lives of others. It is beautiful to read about and to see revealed in her legacy. She is truly an inspiration to all women and caregivers as to the power of investing in the souls of our young.

Yet, her work did not come without a price. Although she was very privet about the circumstances surrounding the birth of her son, Mario, I believe that it brought her great pain. I think that she fell victim to vulnerability through her natural desire as a woman to feel loved. No matter how much of herself she gave to the world, she still longed to be loved. So, foolishly, she entered an unwed relationship that led to the birth of a beautiful baby boy. I imagine, given her love for children, that there was nothing more she wanted than to watch and observe her own son as he progressed through his young life. Alas, she was deceived again. She bought into the lie that focusing on her work was her best service to the world. So, she left him in the care of others. When she was finally reunited with her son, she spent the rest of her life working to repair that relationship and prevent other women from having to do the same.

Her ambition clouded her judgment. To begin with, it put her in a state of desperation to seek out that expression of love. Beyond that, it caused her to miss out on valuable moments bonding with her own son.  This is the danger of ambition if it is not tempered with the knowledge that women have a naturally designed  purpose. If we deny that design, then we will seek it in unhealthy relationships or miss the tremendous joy that only a mother knows.

Thankfully, Dr. Montessori had an opportunity to redeem those lost moments when her son reached out to her. Although it was an awkward adjustment, she grew deeply close to her son and used her experiences to influence the lives of women around the world as they carried out their most important task—mothering.

Why do I focus on the shades of gray in the story of an amazing woman like Dr. Montessori? It is the shades of gray truly inspire me. She used every experience to grow and to pour herself out into the world. How much can we learn from that example!

So, today, instead of trying to be the perfect wife and mother or the most successful woman in a man's world, stop and acknowledge yourself. ALL of you: the caregiver and nurturer, the world-changer, the gentle spirit, and the explorer. Look at the women around you. Acknowledge and appreciate them for their unique gifts. Finally, learn from your mistakes. Don't force everything to be black and white. Let them bleed into the gray and adjust what you can to make yourself and the world a better place.

Together, we can honor God and the legacies of women like Dr. Montessori by devoting our gifts to each other and the world. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a wall street executive, let your work give meaning and focus to the world. Don't be "a resounding gong." (1 Cor. 13:1)


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