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Catholic School's 'You Are Not A Princess' Adverts Reignite Debate Over Feminism And Religion

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Teaching any young person the value of education and hard work is important. But this lesson is particularly vital among young women, who are brought up in a society which values their appearance above all else.

So when adverts from the "prepare for real life" campaign encourage young women to think outside the jewellery box - "you're not a princess", "life's not a fairytale" and "don't wait for a prince" - we should give it out full support.

The waters have been somewhat muddied, however. The problem? The messages come from a Catholic all-girls school - and for many, Catholicism and feminism have never been happy bedfellows.

The Mercy Academy in Kentucky's focus on female-empowerment has been commended as "refreshing" for a Catholic institution - and, as such, the tricky debate about the relationship between faith and feminism has been reignited. (Not that the flame ever really went out.)

princess ad

"What's most remarkable is that a Catholic preparatory school is taking a view of women's education that doesn't end in a prince," Rebecca Cullers writes for AdWeek. "Lord have mercy, but Mercy Academy has a progressive view on women's role in the world."

But is the dominant belief that catholicism has an outdated attitude to women, somewhat outdated in itself?

mercy academy

"I think the ads are both refreshing and depressing," says Vicky Beeching, academic researcher, writer and broadcaster specialising in technology, religion and feminism.

"Refreshing as the message of women's equal worth is often deeply lacking and a clarion call of feminist values is much needed, especially within American church culture. Yet it's also deeply depressing that such basic statements about female identity and value are causing shock waves when they should be considered a 'given'."

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Mercy Academy principal Amy Elstone says that empowering young women is a key part of the school's tradition.

"As a Catholic institution, our foundress, Catherine McAuley, focused on education as a way of empowerment, self-sustainability, and independence," she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle. "We believe in empowering young women to chart their own course in life."

mercy academy

For Vicky - a proud feminist and believer in Christianity - Christian feminism is not as oxymoronic as many would believe.

"Feminism and Christianity are often seen as somewhat incompatible," she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle. "As a Christian myself, my feminist friends often tease me for subscribing to a 'patriarchal religion' and in more serious moments they say that I really should make my choice between one or the other."

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She explains: "Within Protestant or catholic theology there is much that is innately feminist; the radical way Jesus engaged with women, the honour given to the Virgin Mary, the women praised by St Paul. But I also feel deep empathy with those who find the Bible and Christian tradition to be deeply male & rather misogynistic; I've struggled with that a lot, but have concluded that it's the way we interpret the texts & the era in which they were written that creates that bias. I would go as far as to say, as I have for the past decade, that Jesus is a feminist."

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