March 28, 2019

Book Review: The Anti-Mary Exposed

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer *
Photo courtesy of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Photo courtesy of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Why are so many women so angry today?
 
Don’t get me wrong, confronting abuse, harassment, and unfair treatment demands a certain toughness and righteous anger. But more than the injustices of the day seem to be making women really angry. Dr. Carrie Gress’ thought-provoking new book, The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Femininity, offers a convincing explanation: We live in an age of the Anti-Mary.
 
It is well-accepted, at least in Catholic circles, that Mary brought a unique spirit into the world as the Mother of God. She is the anti-Eve, the New Eve. Gress builds upon this understanding and argues that “[i]f Christ is the New Adam and Mary the New Eve, it makes sense to consider that an antichrist could have a female complement.” This complement is an anti-Marian spirit that “animates an entire movement and the individuals engaged in it.” That movement is what passes for feminism today.
 
What does this “anti-Marian spirit” look like?
[A] woman in its grip would not value children. She would be bawdy, vulgar, and angry. She would rage against the idea of anything resembling humble obedience or self-sacrifice for others. She would be petulant, shallow, catty and over sensuous. She would also be self-absorbed, manipulative, gossipy, anxious, and self-servingly ambitious. In short, she would be everything that Mary is not. She would bristle especially at the idea of being a virgin or a mother.     
 
The description is bracing and familiar. I know this spirit. At my best, I struggle against it. At my worst, I am overtaken by aspects of it. We probably all are, women and men, as individuals. Gress, however, is arguing that this unattractive “anti-Marian spirit” has become something of a spirit of the age for far too many women today. The result is a prevailing anger. And a prevailing discontent.  
 
Gress finds the roots of the anti-Marian spirit in the early feminist movement of the 1960s. She recounts the movement's founding and the dramatic influence it has had on how women think about themselves today. Her history lesson is not glamorous.  It is not chic. It is downright ugly and reveals how "feminism" from its infancy indulged in the vice of envy.
 
Today, proponents of unfettered abortion have taken up the baton once carried by early radical feminists. They peddle the idea that a woman's developing child is a threat to her advancement, success, and happiness. Adherents of a toxic feminism do not “embrace the goodness that men have to offer society but view it as an evil that must be eliminated.” This anti-Marian spirit has rebranded and exalted as role models the “woman of folly,” Jezebel, and Lilith – characters referred to in cautionary tales found in Scripture and literature. Women under the spirit’s grip embrace the Marxist idea that divorces motherhood from the reality of being a woman. While rejecting the general idea of “goodness,” slaves of the anti-Marian spirit are encouraged to "find the goddess within."   
 
Fortunately, Gress’ The Anti-Mary Exposed is not mere commentary on our ailing culture. Rather, it is a self-help book for rescuing womanhood. So, what can modern woman do? How can we pull ourselves away from the “anti-Marian spirit” before being completely consumed?  
 
The antidote Dr. Gress prescribes is Mary -- our perfect model of Christian femininity. In Mary, we find a woman, not a goddess. She is sinless and perfect. She is not enslaved by vice. Her power is in her complete surrender to God. Mary’s meekness does not make her a doormat. As Saint Pope John Paul II observed, Mary “participated maternally in the tough fight against the powers of darkness that unfold during the whole of human history.”  
 
In short, she fights like a mom.  
 
The desires of women's hearts, Gress observes, "are to be beautiful, to be fruitful, to have their dignity respected, and most essentially, to be known and loved." Imitating Mary -- the perfect model of one who is "loved by God and who has an authentic relationship with Him" -- will satisfy these desires.  
 
The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Femininity is a powerful read. Gress cogently explores how radical feminism has unleashed a malicious "anti-Marian spirit," but leaves women and our culture a way out. Our embrace and imitation of Mary can rescue our culture, our womanhood. As Gress makes clear in this gem of a book, "[Mary] offers us the key to unlock the confusion about what it means to be women and what we need to do to find the true happiness that our souls crave." 

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation. Her legal career has been dedicated to civil rights advocacy.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.