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Jamie Ruiz
English 113B
Professor Ditch
18 February 2015
The Catholic Feminist
How would you define culture? Oftentimes, when people think of culture, their initial
thought is "ethnicity", however, culture is much more than that. In her book, Inter/Cultural
Communication, Anastacia Kurylo defines a culture as "any group of people that share a way of
life"(Kurylo 1). Culture has a lot more to do with one's identity than their ethnic background, it is
connected to our personality and thoughts. With this said, cultural identity can then be defined as
how cultural groups impact one's thoughts and behaviors. Reading Kurylo's definition of culture
has allowed me to become reflective of the cultural groups I consider myself to be a part of and
how that constructs the person that I am. Being a part of the feminist community allows me to
value education and the empowerment that comes along with it, while being apart of the Catholic
community allows me to value my faith. The feminist community empowers women to think for
themselves and formulate their own ideas in regards to a wide range of topics, including
reproductive freedom, while the catholic community does not approve of a women's choice to
receive an abortion. I am torn between two cultural worlds as I find myself shifting my cultural
identity to fit the social norm I am faced with at the moment.
Growing up, I never really understood what feminism was. It wasn't until my freshman
year of college, in my Gender Women's Studies class, when I was exposed to the true definition
of feminism and feminist ideals. Something that feminist have fought for throughout the years,

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and continue to fight for today is reproductive freedom, which emphasizes women's rights to
control their own bodies, whether it be the decision to use birth control, the decision to receive
an abortion, or the decision to experience pregnancy. The idea of reproductive freedom is one
example of how my cultural identity operates differently from when I'm conversing with other
members of the feminist community in contrast to when I am at church. While I consider myself
to be "pro-choice", it is not something I feel comfortable bringing up around the members of my
church or my Uncles and Aunts who I would consider to be old fashioned, this is because in the
catholic church, both receiving an abortion and premarital sex is considered a sin. Due to the
difference in opinion between these two communities, my environment plays an important role
on my willingness to express my thoughts and opinions.
In her article, "My Hips, My Caderas", Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez explains how she "[shifts]
different halves of [her] soul daily to match whichever cultural backdrop [she] happen[s] to face .
. ."(Valdes-Rodriguez 2). I found this quote to be relatable to the idea of altering my opinions
depending on the people that I am around, or the setting that I am in. As far as settings, I believe
that school is the place where I feel most comfortable sharing my feminist beliefs. Outside of
school, if there were ever a point when I would say something in regards to feminism or openly
consider myself to be a feminist, people would either be confused about what I was saying or
disagree entirely. On the other hand, at school, there are more people who I can share a
conversation about feminism with. If I speak of feminist beliefs in my church, specifically the
idea of considering myself to be pro-choice, I feel as though I would be judged. I think that this
is problematic because although I do support reproductive freedom, I do not think that this makes
me any "less" catholic or that it detaches me from my faith. Some feminists may say that

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religious institutions are restrictive towards women and this is something that I am not a fan of.
Both of my critiques towards feminism and catholic culture is an example of how I constantly
find myself moving between the two.
I have been apart of the catholic community since the age of five, when I was baptized.
To be baptized is when an individual is anointed with holy water as an initiation into the church.
After being baptized, I would actively attend church with my parents on Sunday mornings. As a
child, I thought the importance of church was to pray, but as I grew older I understood that every
Sunday the priest was reading parts from the bible and would discuss the moral behind each of
the readings. I remember hearing the word "abortion" being said and it usually followed a long
speech about how receiving an abortion is "immoral" and a "sin", and this is something that I
continue to hear as I attend church presently. Pope Francis of the catholic church in a apostolic
visit to Korea on August 16, 2014 says that " life once conceived must be protected with the
utmost care; abortion[s]. . .are abominable crimes". This statement conveys the idea that
abortions are unacceptable in the catholic community. For Pope Francis, who is representative of
the catholic community, to feel so strongly against abortion that he would consider it to be a
crime, makes me feel uneasy about expressing my position as a pro-choice feminist. I continue to
attend church every Sunday, and I would consider catholicism to be the foundation of my
upbringing, but there are still aspects of it that challenge the feminist within me.
Feminism, as I stated before, was recently introduced to me this year during my Gender
Women's Studies class. I walked into the class not having an official option towards abortion, the
only side I heard was that it was "wrong", and this was based off of what I had grew up hearing
within the catholic community, but I found myself agreeing entirely with the idea of reproductive

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freedom, the idea that women have a choice to use birth control, receive an abortion, or have a
child. An issue I have is that oftentimes people assume that because you are catholic, that you
must believe that abortion is a sin, that's why my identity as a catholic feminist can be seen as
confusing to some people. Margaret Anderson in Thinking about Women: Sociological
Perspectives on Sex and Gender, says that "the issues of abortion, birth control, and pregnancy
are at the heart of feminist politics and are core issues around which feminist analysis has been
built"(Anderson 215). This quote emphasizes not only how important reproductive freedom is to
the feminist community, but how that very aspect of my feminist culture is the same reason I find
I am struggling to navigate between the feminist and the catholic community.
According to Ronald L. Jackson, Cerise L. Glenn, and Kesha Morant Williams in their
article "Self Identity and Culture", "people learn to adjust their notions of self based on the new
social roles they take on as they grow older and interact with new people"(Ronald, Jackson,
Williams 126). My church and the members of it have allowed me to recognize my place in the
catholic community at a young age, while now, as a freshman in college, my academia has
allowed me to realize my place in the feminist community. During my examination of self, I
have realized that both feminist and Catholic cultures share an important role in constructing the
person that I am today. I struggle between two cultural worlds by shifting my cultural identity to
match the social norm of either the feminist or the catholic community. Although Catholicism
has been apart of my life much longer than feminism, they are both important to me. I realize
that I am an adult, and as a college student, I will come across a multitude of new information
and ideas that challenge the cultural groups I consider myself to be apart of right now. Yes, I am
a feminist, but this does not disengage me from my catholic faith and yes, I am a catholic, but I

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do not believe that abortion is wrong or immoral. I hope that's here will come a point in my life
when I am comfortable with openly considering myself to be a pro-choice feminist, who is also a
devoted catholic.

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Works Cited
Anderson, Margaret L. Thinking about Women: Sociological Perspectives
on Sex and Gender. New York: Macmillan, 1988. Print.
Jackson, Ronald L., Cerise L. Glenn, and Kesha Morant Williams. "Self
Identity and Culture." N.p.: n.p., n.d. 117-39. Print.
Kurylo, Anastacia. Inter/cultural Communication: Representation and
Construction of Culture. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2013. Print.
Valdes-Rodriguez, Alisa. "My Hips, My Caderas." N.p.: n.p., n.d. 73-75. Print
"What Pope Francis Said to Make Millions Think Again about Abortion Living Faith - Home & Family- News - Catholic Online." What Pope
Francis Said To make Millions Think Again about Abortion - Livimg Faith Home & Family - News - Catholic Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.