Wednesday, February 28, 2007
For the third year in a row, a group of undergraduate students at Notre Dame planned and organized a major conference (a list of great speakers and over 200 registered attendees) promoting the development of the new feminism. This year’s theme was “Toward Integral Healing for Women and Culture.” In their Mission Statement for this year’s conference (which was held last weekend), the organizers say:
“We all live in a world where women have been hurt by practices, attitudes and cultural norms that are often taken for granted. Healing is needed on an individual level for those who have been victimized by real violence, and on a cultural level for all who are negatively impacted by a society where eating disorders, pornography, sexual assault, and attacks on women’s sexual health are common concerns. These issues directly affect men and women, and we believe that their involvement in these types of healing and change is essential.
“In celebrating women’s unique gift to be an instrument of empathy and healing, the conference will focus on the specific problem issues that require healing, as well as seek to provide a forum for discussing means to achieve this healing.
“Edith Stein, our patron saint, writes, ‘the capacity for empathy with others and their needs and the capacity and docility for adaptation are more developed in the nature of woman. She (woman) has a profound need to share her life with another and, consequently, a capacity for unselfish love, for commitment, a capacity to transcend the self. Furthermore, her inclination towards maternity draws her to all living and personal things and to a type of more specific, contemplative knowledge. Her nature as mother and companion illuminates the essence of personal relationship. Gifted with the capacity for carrying life, as the continuation of Eve called ‘mother of all living,’ she is also responsible for preparing ‘the restoration of life.’”
The mission statement then sets out the specific goals of the conference, and I am here to testify that they met and exceeded what they set out to do.
Unique in an academic setting, the conference included academic presentations, personal testimony, and reports on direct action. The line-up included:
- Wendy Shalit, author of “A Return to Modesty” and the forthcoming “Girls Gone Mild” opened the conference with a talk entitled “Modesty: The Last Taboo.”
- Economist Jennifer Roback Morse spoke on her book, “Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-Up World.”
- Theologian Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, O.P., spoke on “Women, Imagination, and the Cultivation of the Feminine Spirit in the Works of Cervantes and Edith Stein.”
- MOJ friend and alum, Paolo Carrozza, used examples from his work on the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in his lecture entitled “Human Rights, Violence against Women and Reflections on Deus Caritas Est.
- Kathleen Gibney, formerly of the Notre Dame psychology department, spoke on “Awakening the Spirit of Women: Gifts of Personal Reflection and Social
- Economist Catherine Ruth Pakaluk spoke “Splitting the Baby: Creative Solutions for Mothers in a Second-Best Economy.”
- Ethics professor Janet Smith talked on “Contraception: A Women’s Friend or Foe.”
- Theologian Pia de Solenni spoke on “Renewing the Feminine Image.”
- Philosopher Maria Fedoryka spoke on “Edith Stein and the Vocation to Love”
- Deirdre MacQuade, the U.S.bishops spokesperson on pro-life issues tied the conference together in her banquet speech, which reminded all of the call to prayer.
All of these talks were excellent, giving us fruitful information, ideas to chew on, and a basis for grounding human dignity and the new feminism in our nature as creatures created in God’s image. The conference would have been worth it just to feast on the wisdom and knowledge of these thoughtful women (and man). But, the conference was so much more than this. Students addressed real life problems of sexual assault, eating disorders, and sexual addiction. And, other speakers, from magazine publishers to direct service providers spoke about their work in healing a wounded culture.
My next post will reflect on these aspects of the conference.
Also, I invite other attendees to email me their reflections on the conference, which I will attempt to post.