Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Don't Be a Doormat

I loathe the phrase "female empowerment" because it is so often used as an excuse to do something anti-social, like wear grossly inappropriate clothing in public, treat a man like a sex toy or punch people in the face. The word "empowerment" merely cloaks a cheap and nasty thrill. I've even heard it seriously used to justify taking all one's clothes off on stage in a sleazy strip joint. The Empress not only has no clothes, she has no empowerment, either.

So let us dispense with that stupid phrase. Let's talk about dignity instead. Or if you don't like the word dignity, let's use the word self-worth. How much do you think you're worth?

This question may confuse you, for we tend to confuse worth with price. Flipping through a British literary magazine, I came across an article that reduced the human body to its chemical ingredients and then estimated their selling price. Goodness me, who knew that the dollar (or rupee) value of Mother Teresa, for example, was so little?

I hope I haven't ruined your morning with that soggy little materialist-extremist anecdote. I will cheer you up by pointing to the Christian economic metaphor at the heart of most of your lives: that Christ paid for you with His own blood. That's how much you're worth.

And if you can't quite get your mind around Christ's love for you (a love symbolized and celebrated as the Sacred Heart), you might be able to get your mind around your family's or friends' love for you. Perhaps even today your mother, if she still lives, or your old auntie might shove her own body between you and a speeding truck. If you cast your mind back over your life, you may notice many sacrifices someone has made on your behalf. My grandmothers and parents, for example, put aside their grief over my uncle's untimely Advent death to make sure the children of the family had a happy Christmas.

Now that I have hopefully convinced you of your worth to God and some of your fellow creatures, I would like to point out that it would be churlish to put a lower value on yourself than they do. You might think that effacing yourself is appropriately humble and simply good manners. And, yes, it is good manners to give up your seat on the bus to an old or pregnant lady, and to offer someone else the bigger slice of cake. But it is neither appropriate or good manners to allow someone to treat you like crap.

I want to proceed carefully, for I witnessed a disgusting brawl on an Edinburgh bus the other day. Two drunken women about my age, who possibly thought getting drunk "like men" and being loud "like men" was empowering, stumbled up to the upper deck and began to harass the passengers "like men". As we ignored and then upbraided them, it occurred to the two harpies that they were being treated like crap. This they could not allow and so one began to beat a much younger woman, and when another young woman tried to restrain her, along came the other old harpy to protect her pal with violence.

Thus, when I talk about people treating you like crap, I mean people actually doing sober, well-behaved you real harm. Real harm includes behaving inappropriately, leaving you miserable. It includes taking advantage of your generous nature while giving you nothing in return. It includes being friendly to you one moment, and then turning on you the next.

If you laugh along in misery when people make cruel fun of you in the hopes that this will make them relent, you are complicit in your own abuse. If you return constantly to people who are mean or indifferent to you in the hope of winning them over, you are complicit in your own abuse. If you lay out your time, money and/or body to an attractive man expecting nothing in return, you are complicit in your own abuse. You are behaving, in fact, like a doormat.

"Welcome" says the doormat. "Walk on me."

Allowing people to walk on you like that is not a virtue. It is a sin. However, if you don't know that, don't beat yourself up. You didn't know any better, and for a sin to be dead serious, you have to have known it was a sin. But from now on, the next time you let a man or false friend walk all over you, to confession you go.

Would you allow someone to deliberately spill the Precious Blood on the floor, or spit on the Holy Eucharist? No, you would not. And yet Christ allowed His Body to be spat on, and His Precious Blood to be spilled for you. I hope that makes you think about your value to God and how repeatedly allowing yourself to be abused and/or used is thus a form of sacrilege.


BurgoFitzgerald said...

When I hear that women starting their own pornography production companies is a sign of empowerment or becoming high-priced escorts to pay for their university tuition is a sign of empowerment or unabashedly deciding to use abortion as a legitimate form of contraceptive is a sign of empowerment, I feel ill. I have no idea how any of these is empowering in any way. I see them as soul stripping and dehumanizing, not only for the woman in question but for the other people who are more assuredly affected by such actions and decisions.

Mary said...

Hi Seraphic,

I have a question completely unrelated to this post (although I like it! a lot!):

Should dating (or being in a serious committed relationship that will probably end in engagement) be considered practice for marriage?

For instance, you say that wives must necessarily value their husbands above others. Should one practice doing that with a fiance or serious boyfriend? (not totally, of course, but in smaller ways -- like, "i could hang out iwth my girlfriend, but i'll hang out with you instead."

Or to practice self-sacrifice "this one thing about you annoys me sometimes, but i'll suck it up because i love you and should get used to not being satisfied every second as i will not be in marriage, rather than dump you."

or being an emotional support for an SO("you're really emotional or upset about this thing, and i will take time to talk you through it and reassure you even though it isn't my favorite activity to do so, because sometimes that is what you will need to do in a marriage")

I don't know if these examples make sense, but maybe you understand what i'm getting at? Should you treat relationships as practice trials for acting out what you would do in a marriage? (not the physical part, of course). Shouldn't this be something that helps you discern? (i.e. if i really don't want to do these things for him, maybe i shouldn't marry him?)


Seraphic said...

Mary, my hair is standing on end.

Short answer, yes, you should give your fiance pride of place in your thoughts and actions, but not a mere boyfriend.

More that than I am unwilling to say at 11:57 PM after returning from a rock concert in Glasgow.

Maggie said...

A rock concert in Glasgow? How exciting! Hoping a full report will appear on S.G.t.S. tomorrow!