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She didn't check herself into rehab or run for public office, nor did she gain fans until centuries after the time of her actions. She did, according to Christian beliefs, give birth to the son of God, though. No biggie.

 

Teenaged and Pregnant

Yes, we're talking about the Virgin Mary here. For those unfamiliar with the story, at the ripe old age of 14, the angel Gabriel informed the engaged Mary that she was preggers with God's kid. Say WHAT?! Never mind that she was an adolescent hearing heavenly voices- she was also now knocked up when she was supposed to be a virgin about to be married. This is where things get interesting.

Mary goes on to have Jesus, raise him, and eventually be exalted by a myriad of faiths onto a pedestal. In Islam, Judaism and Protestant Christianity, she is revered as a symbol of family values and holiness. The Catholic Church takes it a bit further by proclaiming her holy on her own, devoting shrines to her and praying to her on a regular basis. Pope John Paul II used to claim that Mother Mary brought down communism in Eastern Europe. She is almost always portrayed as passive, obedient and nurturing.

 

Don't Be Fooled by the Statues

That is, until the 1990's. During this time period, a group of nuns (go figure) . , a non-profit advocate in Britain, points out that Mary chose to have the child despite massive societal and family pressures as well as skepticism regarding the circumstances of the pregnancy. That kind of strength in a 14-year-old girl is more than admirable. She also was the only person aside from the Apostle John to stay with Jesus until the crucifixion was over. The other strong, manly apostles? They ran for the hills.

Perhaps one of the coolest things about Mary's strength was that she was one of the first historical women to display the strength every faithful feminist loves as a mother. Mary knew from the beginning that the son she was carrying would be sacrificed for mankind- that she would carry, birth, raise and love a man that would be stripped away from the earth far before his time. She knew she could not change that. Even in the face of certain grief, she devoted herself to her child, facing political and social criticism for doing so. As French writer Nicole Echivard put it, "The Mother of God is the one from whom women are created in their preference for love and for people, rather than for power or machinery. Mary is the most liberated, the most determined, the most responsible of all mothers."

 

The Definition Battle

Some people argue that Mary's portrayal as the ultimate mother is anti-feminist, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Mary wasn't forced into motherhood by society. She chose it. She chose to go along with God's plan in the face of massive opposition from every which way. She stood up for her beliefs and followed through on them. In other words, she chose the life that was right for her, despite what society might have been telling her.

Let's recap, shall we? The Virgin Mary bucked society in her decision to have a child out of wedlock. She fought for said child despite repercussions. She stood by that child when his male followers could no longer stand to do so. She chose her life based on what she believed. Sounds like a faithful feminist to me.

 

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