Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. “Being man” or “being woman” is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator. Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity “in the image of God”. In their “being-man” and “being-woman”, they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 369)
In my first religion class as a freshman at Knoxville Catholic High School, I was introduced to the concepts of literalism and contextualism in interpreting the Bible. I was excited to learn about all the symbolism in the Genesis creation stories, some of which directly relates to the passage above.
Our textbook said when the Biblical writer said that Eve was created from Adam’s rib, he wanted to express that she was equal in dignity with Adam–not from his head to rule over him, not from his feet to be trampled on. And while some might be tempted to claim primacy for man because Adam came first, let’s not forget that there are two creation stories in Genesis, and that the first one draws no such distinction:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . . God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
So manhood and womanhood are divinely ordained from the beginning, and both share equally in the image of God.
In just a couple of generations, the societal conception of womanhood has evolved rapidly from a one largely defined by rearing children and taking care of a family to one anchored by a you-can-have-it-all mindset. This “new” womanhood was meant to be liberating but has in many cases made women feel more trapped than ever before by societal (and internalized) expectations to meet all the original criteria of womanhood while also taking on the modern ones of excelling in career and personal development.
Just for today I want you to remember that womanhood was not meant to be defined by society. It is not some ideal that you have to live up to. It is written in your very nature by the finger of God. Just as you are, you reflect the Creator’s “wisdom and goodness.” And He sees that You are good.