On the exer board, a discussion was started about head coverings. A couple women reacted with a kind of instinctive cringe which I think is common today. I don't blame them, and I do understand the reaction, but I think it is one that is because of the time we live in, and I think it is one that comes from a place of misunderstanding and reactionism based in the feminism of our day.
I think true feminism is a good thing, and I'm so thankful for all the good stuff that women have fought for...but I think in many ways the movement has made women uncomfortable with expressing what have traditionally been very feminine attributes at all.
It seems some sections of feminism strove to be man-like. Since men were in charge, many traditionally feminine characteristics were things to be avoided if women wanted to be equals with men. In the process they, certainly inadvertantly, ended up actually furthering the idea that femininity itself is inherently "less than". In my opinion, because of this error many ended up sacrificing true femininity rather than encouraging people to respect true femininity. The result is, many women now cringe at the sight of thoroughly feminine characteristics...including modesty, purity, humility, etc. (All of the things so thoroughly embodied in Our Lady.)
And so we're leftover with knee-jerk reactions to feminine signs of humility and submission (even to God), because we were supposed to get rid of all that, because obviously no woman would ever want to be those things, it was assumed that she was always forced to be those things. I think that's where they went wrong in their assumptions.
Now, it goes without saying, a woman should never be oppressed or forced to do something she is not willing to do simply because she is a woman. But that shouldn't mean that women (or men, of course, but there doesn't seem to be a problem there) can't choose to perform acts of humility or submission willingly, especially before God.
According to the Christian tradition, humility and mutual submission (from both men AND women) is a good thing.
He who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.
I think we're so used to crying "OPPRESSION!!" at any sight of women showing some kind of external sign of humility (because of the assumption that it was always by force and never by choice) that we're starting to oppress them ourselves in the opposite manner...they are no longer even allowed to show any kind of external sign of traditionally feminine humility or submission before God for fear of being told they are not "progressive" enough, and they're insulting all those who broke free from their bonds by returning to them.
But I thought true progress meant allowing people the choice. And yet, I find it interesting that those who are the loudest to run to the battle cry of "choice" often seem to actually be trying to push one particular choice above all others.
Some claim that veiling is just an oppressive rule required by men and promoted by men, but personally, most of the people I've talked to who support someone wearing it (should they want to) have been women who felt called to wear one as a sign of devotion. It was humbling for them, because in this day a lot of people tend to look down on them for wearing it, and they're doing it despite that (and the women I know are not doing it as a "holier than thou" thing, although I certainly know those types exist.)
Some say, well it's not necessary so what's the point, other than some kind of forced submission?
In my opinion, It is an expression of faith in and reverence for the Euacharist. There are many things we do that aren't, strictly speaking, "necessary." In the Catholic faith, we believe in an incarnational faith...which means, spiritual things are expressed through physical things. That doesn't mean they have to be, but it means they often are, and this is good and fine. (As opposed to gnostics who thought matter was bad, etc.)
Likewise, our actions and such tend to affect our inward thoughts...not only does blessing myself with holy water upon entering the Church express respect for the Eucharist, it also helps me call to mind my baptism and entrance into the Church, and to remind me physically that I'm entering a holy place. It works both ways, it is both a physical expression of a spiritual reality, and a physical reminder of the spiritual reality.
Such can be the case for some using a head covering too...for some, it is a physical reminder that they are entering a holy place. And there is nothing wrong with that, is there? To assume someone is being "holier than thou" or has been brainwashed into oppression just because of a veil on the head is, to use the favorite accusation of our modern day, judgemental. It isn't right to judge anyone's intentions when we don't know them, charity necessitates that we avoid assuming the worst about people and their intentions.
To be clear, I'm not trying to insist that everyone should be wearing a veil, I don't wear one myself! But I do think it's just as unfair to insist that everyone should as it is to insist that everyone shouldn't (because it's archaic/because it's seen as holier-than-thou/because it's just symbolic and isn't necessary/fill in the blank). I think the gut reactions instilled in most modern women is a sad testament to the errors made by some of the early feminists in denouncing femininity itself.
I'm simply asking for the freedom to let those who want to wear one to do so without reproach or ugly looks or uncharitable thoughts, and for those who don't want to wear one to do so without reproach or ugly looks or uncharitable thoughts. When we get to a place where people can respect others' choices and avoid uncharitable thoughts about them, then we'll be making true progress. Until then, we're just trading one form of oppression for another.