On March 11th, a few days before the papal election, one of the Catholic world’s most eminent philosophers, Alice Von Hildebrand, celebrated her 90th birthday. Von Hildebrand taught philosophy at a private, secular college in the US for 37 years, but is today perhaps best known as one of the leading proponents of the “New Feminism” that was brought to the fore under the papacy of John Paul II.
New Feminism, promotes the concept of the natural biological and complementarity of men and women, and opposes the “gender” ideology – along with abortion, contraception and sterilisation – of Second and Third Wave academic feminism. It is this type of feminism that von Hildebrand identified in an extensive 2003 interview as “the worst attack on femininity that has ever taken place in the history of the world”.
The anniversary of von Hildebrand’s birth is contrasted with the 50th anniversary, on March 14th, of the publication of the book The Feminine Mystique, by the late Betty Friedan, a work that became the manifesto for “second-wave feminism” that has become the leading force in political life around the western world. The struggle between these two faces of feminism is going to be of critical importance to Pope Francis.