Monday, 2 July 2012

Generalizations

Well, guess what. I lost it a bit on Jeff myself. I have asked the moderator to take down my comment, as I wrote in anger and now don't think my comment was helpful. I do think there is a link between patriotism and how you feel about the women of your country, but suggesting Jeff is disloyal to America was not the way forward.

Neither is matching his gross generalizations about Polish women with gross generalizations of what Polish men might think about American men looting Polish women particularly helpful. I mean, what do I know? I was in Poland exactly twice. Possibly 98% wouldn't care less, and I just happen to know examples of the 2% who would throw fits.

Reading Jeff on the subject of Poland, Land of Good Wives was very annoying, and made me wonder "Is Poland the new Japan?" For a long time, Japanese-American women have written about their abject annoyance in being hit on by white men with an "Asian Fixation." I am wondering what Polish women would think of American men who assume they are all beautiful homebodies with no ambitions save to make their husbands happy and successful. However, Jeff is just one American man, just as his pal's extremely attractive (in Jeff's point of view) bride is just one Polish woman. Jeff's theories seem to be based on exactly one successful romance.

I think it would be rather funny if some besotted Scot decided that Canadian women were obviously the greatest women on earth, based on the fact that I and I alone landed his fellow Scot B.A. and seem content to stay in the house, writing for peanuts and occasionally doing housework instead of working in the Royal Bank of Scotland, let alone running it.

Saint Edith Stein was a phenomenologist and therefore hoped anyone who heard or read her thoughts on men and women would compare them to his or her own experience. I think I would add that it would be best to do this in a spirit of tranquility and charity. Saint Ignatius of Loyola stressed listening to people's arguments in a spirit of charity. "Spirit of charity" and "internet" don't really go together, however. It is just so easy to sound off from the surface of one's thoughts.

At this point y'all are going to be tired of Jeff and wonder if I have a Jeff Fixation. Jeff is just one guy, and since he seethes that women at work laugh when he shows them the work of Mrs Dale Carnegie and doesn't seem to factor in how this behaviour is inappropriate in the workplace, he's not a guy many of us would think great marriage material.

However, from what I have gathered from life and readers, there are a lot of angry men out there who spin theories about what women want and who women should be. Someone should sit down with them and same something like, "Women are who we are and not who you want us to be."

Whether men like it or not, most women are conventional. We spend our lives trying to please people whom we love or who give us rewards for pleasing them. We generally believe what we are told, and we often turn out a lot like our mothers. Therefore, if we live in societies where we are told we need to study hard and dream big and get jobs and think of our careers, that is what we are going to do. If our mothers enjoyed working outside the home, we're going to work outside the home.

Things get interesting where our faith communities clash with the dominant culture of our societies. If you're a Roman Catholic woman, you notice that the values constantly hammered home by television, especially its absolute obsession with physical pleasure (sex, eating, driving fast cars), are not the same values stressed by your faith. Your priest might not be condemning birth control from the pulpit, but he's not cracking sex jokes, either. At least, I hope not.

Given that, since 1963 in particular, there has been such an astonishing moral decline in western society (albeit with a wonderful progress in civil liberties for women and people of colour living in the west), Roman Catholics who actually live according to the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic faith have become increasingly out of step with the dominant culture. To be honest, a lot of Roman Catholics have simply caved in to this and that worldly tenet. The highest profile Catholic couple in the UK, Tony and Cherie Blair, are on record as having contracepted throughout their marriage, and Cherie has pointed out how few big Catholic families there are these days.

Thus I can see how Roman Catholics who still live according to Roman Catholicism would be tempted towards a kind of separatism and a rejection of many of the cultural currents of the post-1963 era, and even use a copy of Mrs Dale Carnegie's "How to Help Your Husband Get Ahead" as a litmus test of femininity. However, I don't see how helpful it is to come across as absolutely insane.

Let's face it. To be persuasive, we are just going to have to sound more intelligent, more amusing and more pleasant than we might usually be. And making sweeping generalizations about men and women, Americans, Poles, Japanese et alia is not particularly intelligent or pleasant, although it may be amusing.

At this stage the discerning reader will say, "But what about you, Seraphic?" And I will hold up my hands and say, "Guilty as charged." Yes, I generalize about men all the time. That's the thing about blogging: the blogger paints with wide brush strokes, hoping to at least sketch out truths. And the fact that men are not women and don't think or act or communicated just like women is a pretty basic--if widely ignored--truth.

I can only say what I think and hope you compare what I say to your own experience in a spirit of tranquility and charity. And I hope I blog in a spirit of tranquility and charity. This is why I was so mad at myself yesterday for losing it at Jeff and the way he deals with his loneliness.

I see, however, that Jeff has taken it in stride. Oh well, maybe the woman of his dreams really is awaiting him in Poland. If he's lucky, she'll be great at making Polish soups. Me, I love Polish soups. And there is a certain joy in learning how to pronounce "SZCZ" all as one sound.

26 comments:

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I was willing to give Jeff the benefit of the doubt until he declared that the vast majority of women in the 1950s would have been happy being housewives if not for a culture change. And I'm not annoyed because there's anything wrong with housewifery (there isn't), but gosh, it seems very much to not have a thing to do with women's happiness but women meeting men's expectations.

Questioning his patriotism probably wasn't the way to go, and I imagine Polish men and women have plenty to say about each other that you may not have heard. But at this point, I'm questioning his character a bit - his responses to replies were quite ridiculous. I had no idea that he was perfection and that, if I were born fifty years before I was I would have had no ideas about doing anything outside the house... except that my mom, who was born fifty years ago, and who was a stay at home mom until the last few years, always had other projects - concerts, talks, articles, even a couple books - because she's absolutely brilliant, and homemaking, while valuable and worthy of honor and respect, is never going to satisfy most people's minds - hence the proliferation of the mommy blogs and a lot of 30 year old women writing stories on the internet.

Sorry for the rant.. probably best that I did it here though and not to Jeff himself.

Seraphic Spouse said...

People have very odd ideas about the 1950s.

One thing about the 1950s is that my blue-collar Canadian grandfather could afford to pay off the mortage on his house on just his salary. His wife had a part-time job at a local shop for amusement and pin money, and she spent the years before she married him and during the Second World War, working at various jobs. Her mother (born before 1900) worked her whole adult life.

My father's middle-class mother worked in an office in the 1950s, as did her husband, to put my father and uncle through boarding school.

Many, many, MANY women--probably most--were working outside the home in the 1950s. But most of them were doing jobs the bored middle-class housewives Betty Friedan wrote for didn't want to do. Kind of like now.

Another Jeff said...

This Catholic male (and yeah, I know this blog isn't for men...) would like to note that men like Jeff seem to be far more prevalent on blog comboxes than in real life. I see guys like this ranting on the internet all the time, yet I've never heard any of the hundreds of fellow Catholic men I've interacted with say something like this in person. Even in social settings which are strictly man-to-man.

(I don't really seek out the TLM crowd, so it is possible that this stuff is more common in that circle.)

Sarah said...

"I am the true man. If only you knew, but I don't want to go into my personal and family life. Let me say that I am the faithful, hard working, intelligent, successful, loving, heroic, knight in shining armor that every little girl dreams of before their minds are brainwashed. If I was hanging around feminist women that did not respect my heroic nature, I would act like a boy also.

A coward, I am not. A realist I am, and the reality is the woman is to blame. You women control sex, you are the gatekeepers. You women want power, you got it. And what did you do with it when you got it? You destroyed the family, the home, men, everything you touched with your cheap sex!!! You women (as a gender, in general) have cheapened sex so that it costs a guy nothing or close to nothing to buy it. Men did not do that, women did that. Only women could do that. Shame on you."

I think my head just exploded. I had only read his original comment until now. I don't know how you even managed to write an articulate response. I'm limited to some angry, flabbergasted sputtering sounds.

Seraphic said...

Yeah. When I wrote "Charm" I had just read his first comment. When I wrote my angry response, I had skimmed through the rest of his comments and just gone with anger.

I don't know. I think there must be one heck of a lot of pain and loneliness under that diatribe. He sounds like an ass, but he's one of our boys, you know? Someone should help him. Maybe a really solid priest.

Seraphic said...

Oh, heavens, Other Jeff! Doooon't bring the TLM into it, I beg you.

Anonymous said...

Yeah... Women are "the gatekeepers". Women are the seductresses. Women are the tormentresses. Women are the ones to drive men to sin - but if a man is "heroic knight in shining armour", he's so on his own, underappreciated by those ungrateful and/or unworthy women. "Adam wouldn't have eaten the apple if Eve hadn't given it to him, isn't it so true?". "Girls dump us nice guys for jerks who treat them badly". Not a long way between those statements...
I suppose this particular brand of - well, I'm sorry for the bad word, but isn't it? - sexism does come from uncharitable view of others... There's a fine line between analysing cultural trends that lead to specific problems and that distort the natural, Christian view on certain subjects - and not only blaming a whole sex for all the negatives, but also deeming a whole bunch of women (like, e.g., all women of your country) unworthy of your attentions because of that... Saying that someone's unworthy is never a good approach for a Christian, let alone when it's a generalisation of this kind. People may be lost, but we should think of them as as such, as our brothers and sisters - I agree with you on that wholeheartedly.
On another note - funny thing, actually... I'm a Pole and though I am to some degree surprised and amused by this label of "there be good women", I can't say I'm flattered. (Maybe beacuse I'm vaguley suspicious of what exactly people mean by "good wife" when they say you can find one in Poland... Generalisations are personal stereotypes. They may be true or they may be insulting and it all depends on where you're coming from when you use them). I can only say one thing: men should be proud and protective about "their" women, always. Polish men seem to, if in they chivalry they managed to create this label with their praises, but let me tell you, at home they're not so appreciative every day...
Incidentally, I do happen to generalise about sexes and nationalities on various occasions, and sometimes I cry a good old "there must be no NCBs left, beacuse I'm not meeting any!" in my frustration - but sometimes I also let slip "a gril can find a gentleman only in UK nowadays!"... But when I'm "sober" again, I do realise that it's only the case of "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence" mixed with a natural attraction to the exotic (and/or maybe specific qualities that might happen to be considered national to some countries).
Not long ago I was having a conversation with my [girl]friend during which we agreed that the Indian women are so much more fascinating than us Europeans, because (inter alia) in India the natural differences between sexes are still intact, but the flipside to this is it happens to cause problems quite opposite to the Western ones. I was reminded of that conversation by something you've said a couple of posts ago - about the machismo problems in Poland and Philippines that are directly linked to the "wifeliness" or "traditional femininity" of women (I'm repeating it clumsily). It struck me that I would never see this issue this way, being a Pole, and instead I'd think in a similar way about, well, people further to East. I should think that in both these cases the statements are quite true, but what I'm trying to get across is - firstly, there are always problems, secondly, we do tend to be more forgiving or appreciative toward others and strict and sharp-sighted when it comes to our own country (probably beacuse we're concerned more directly with our own problems and trying to fix those). We should try not only to see each other in charitable light, but also realise that there are no "paradises for ...".

~Philopator

Anonymous said...

...Can't my comments ever be shorter?... Feel free to cut them out, if You should ever think it'd be for the better, Seraphic...
~Philopator

Kim Vandapool said...

Now wait a minute, when this Jeff person says, "You women control sex, you are the gatekeepers. You women want power, you got it. And what did you do with it when you got it? You destroyed the family, the home, men, everything you touched with your cheap sex!!! You women (as a gender, in general) have cheapened sex so that it costs a guy nothing or close to nothing to buy it. Men did not do that, women did that. Only women could do that. Shame on you..." I'm not so sure I see where he's mistaken on that.

Isn't that what we did in our grab for power during the sexual revolution? We told the world that, not merely due to our equality with men - but rather our sameness, we must start acting like them sexually. We must pretend that we are driven by a need for sexual variety and sexual conquest, rather than by our instinct to build nests and secure commitments. We lied to ourselves and then proceeded to offer up sex without any of the traditional parameters, i.e. marriage, or even love. At least prostitutes have the sense to charge for their services.


This is how the "hookup culture" was born - women decided that sex was essentially something they just hand out, ironically enough, as a means to demonstrate their strength and autonomy. And yet now they are more dependent than ever in so many ways, not the least of which being their reliance on a little daily pill (remember Sandra Fluke's absurd assertion that women need birth control just to get through college??). I think it's fair to say these changes in women's valuations of themselves and their consequent behaviors heralded the destruction of the family, among other things.

Proverbs 31 woman said...

Two thoughts:

1. No self-respecting woman who values herself as created in the image and likeness of God would want to marry a man who only desires her for the reasons Jeff mentions.If he values those traits as secondary qualities- fine. But he should want her for herself and the FULLNESS of what God created and called her to be. I would happily remain single forever rather than marry a man who tries to fit me into a smaller box than I am created for. American women (and all women) are called to be bountiful and abundant in life, creativity, generosity, warmth, and hospitality. That means we will often excel, and America just happens to be a greenhouse of nurturing for our opportunities.

2. To the point of the original article and the "man up" arguments: they bother me, because the only reason I want a man to ask me out is because he can't stand NOT to! He is just so into me (or intrigued)that he can't let the opportunity pass him by. If he doesn't feel that pull of attraction and connection, then I don't want other men (or women) pestering him to ask me out. The idea wouldn't be his and it would be half-hearted. Not interested. I only want the attention of a man who freely gives it to me....and comes up with the idea on his own (or prompted by the Holy Spirit!).

Jam said...

Kim -- there's a lot that's wrong with that statement. Two very basic things that stand out: (1) it takes two to tango, and two to cheapen sex and; (2) "women" didn't just get together one day and decide to revise the Big Book of Standards downward.

But to take the claims more seriously... (my caveat: I can only speak about Western Europe, but I assume the US/Canada/etc had similar forces in play albeit subject to local circumstances.)

The sexual revolution of the 1960s was the culmination of several different strands of thinking which had their origins at least several decades back, and all of which was underpinned by a general re-orientation of values and abandonment of Christian moral authority.

The first strand we can look at is contraceptives, which is tightly interconnected with a technological worldview. This is the ideology that technology can save us, that we have the right to use technology in whatever way necessary to solve whatever problems we perceive and so on. Contraceptives first came to public prominence after the first world war, but the mentality predates that, and we can note that the demographic decline and trend toward small families began in the 19th century. Contraceptives are also historically linked, of course, to eugenics; and looking at sex and marriage through a eugenic lens creates a very different worldview and set of values indeed.

Another big culprit is the rise of the ideal of companionate marriage, which arguably also came to prominence after the first world war, although I think some people date it earlier. Companionate marriage made romantic love the prerequisite for sex, and, as new research is showing, by the 1950s a sizable proportion of the British population -- probably more than half -- thought love could justify extra-marital sex. Many historians link companionate marriage and the rise in divorce, either because people were more likely to be dissatisfied compared to the companionate ideal, or because it encouraged people to consider it heinous to remain married to someone you didn't love.

There's also a generational factor: most of the most interesting work on this has been done in relation to Germany, but it seems correct to say that in some ways the extremity of the ideas and practices promoted by the sexual revolution was shaped by the particular conception of the young generation of the time of their own place in history, and specifically against their parents and grandparents. The particular form that the sexual revolution's dogmas took also cannot be separated from political and cultural theories and ideologies current at the time. Marxism and materialism are the obvious ones; but it's also worth considering ideas about privacy, and the state's role in moral enforcement.

This is obviously very rough (and I hope it makes at least a little bit of sense) -- but my point is that it is far, far too simplistic to say that Women Cheapened Sex. It is true that radical feminism of the 1960s identified sex/marriage/reproduction as a (if not the) foundation of women's inequality, and targeted traditional morality accordingly. However it is also true that many of the ways this happened in practice -- e.g.: contraceptives, abortion, no-fault divorce, less stigma on extra-marital sex, encouragement of experimentation and experience, greater emphasis on eroticism, etc -- did not come out of nowhere, and had been advocated by various men and women for some time previously.

(It is also worth stating that "traditional morality" i.e. the moral standards as understood and enforced in a particular culture historically, does not necessarily equate to "Christian morality". Personally I suspect that the gap(s) between "traditional" and "Christian" helped to weaken the defenses against the sexual revolution when it came.)

Anonymous said...

@ Kim Vandapool
I don't think that the idea that women's power lies in their sexuality and "letting the man in" or not is something that the sexual revolution brought; I think it was around for ages and I think it's always been demeaning. Sexual revolution means that women agreed to that view and started "using this power" - when in fact, using men and misusing their own bodies - believing that they're only worth as much as they are desired. (That's a simplification, but I hope my point comes across). I think the mistake here lies not only in the false idea of why double standards are bad and how to acheive equality (we're equally called to chastity, including men, not equally justified in sin, including women), but also in the very idea of what "feminine power" is. As Auntie Seraphic teaches, after Saint Edith Stein - women are especially good at being companions and at making those around them want to be better... That's complementary with (that's my embroidery on the thought) men's need to feel the necessity of fighting for their love, of overcoming themselves and the world and why "men are the head, but women are the neck". Also, there are much more feminine "powers" - as in: gifts specific to women - but they all come from wholesomeness in them, and idolized sexuality is only damaging it. In that sense, I perceive "empowering women" as a bit vague and potentially dangerous term, because it comes from Marxist ideology, assuming that there is a battle between sexes (like the communists believe there's a battle of the classes) that is about power. And the main thing about power is that it has to be power of someone over something/someone else... And Christians shouldn't perceive human relationships in that categories.
...That's only a bunch of thought on the subject.
~~ Philopator

Anonymous said...

Kim,

It's just that line of thinking that women rebelled against - the idea that it's all our fault and it's entirely our responsibility to keep sex moral.

If men want to be the heads of the house, the moral leaders, then they can act like it, which means, inter alia, not blaming women for cheapening sex.

I say this as a woman who stopped dating for several years because she was tired of being dumped for not having sex. Men own this one, too.

~theobromophile

Seraphic said...

Heartfelt thanks to Jam for her very learned tone and fascinating historical detail. It has the ring of scholarship--something comboxes need more of!

Anna said...

Jeff is a narcissist. He is looking for women to see him as he wants to be seen, "faithful, hard working, intelligent, successful, loving, heroic, knight in shining armor". He may or may not be those things; it doesn't matter. What matters to Jeff is that women hold the key to propping up his self-image. He gives them this power and then reacts with rage if women do not see him how he wants to be seen. Rage is the only acceptable emotion to feel for women.

I can just image what would happen if Jeff convinced some poor girl to marry him and she dared to criticize or nag him. Raaage!

Stephanie said...

Anna,
Your observation reminds me of a Thomas Merton quote:“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

Anna said...

Amen.

Seraphic said...

And your comments are fine, Philopater!

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

Somehow I missed the blaming women for cheapening sex comment... it's probably a good thing, haha! I agree to a certain extent that the women's lib movement largely 'freed' us by bringing us down to a lower standard, but the answer isn't that it's our collective fault that men are at a lower standard, too - it was a double standard from "boys will be boys" that let it go to begin with. That pre-exists women's lib. But others have answered it much more completely and better than I.

I agree about the 50s, Seraphic - if only people would apply a bit of common sense to earlier eras, we'd stop generalizing. We also talk a whole lot about women's repression in the middle ages, and yes, women's inherent equality and dignity was often not respected, but from practical life we can know that they weren't all sitting around with nothing to do but sew and bake. It's just silly. I love history and used to think how lovely it would be to go back, and certainly there would be some better things, but there would be not only some worse things, but people in those eras saying they missed earlier yet eras. Grass is always greener at some other season - progressives look to the future, traditionalists the past, with the latter being only a bit wiser for being able to know what it was to a certain extent (but not with certainty - "The past is not what it once was." GK Chesterton).

anonymous for this post said...

I know a Jeff. He goes around trying to tell women to convert to standars of a bygone age, and is very upset when they don't heed his call. He is angry, upset, but even more - terribly lonely.

He comes from a good Catholic family, has three NCGs as sisters, and has been exposed to countless upright young women and men, and yet he only sees failings in them. It comes, I think, from a very insecure sense of self.

I think we should all pray for Jeff. He doesn't sound completely stable emotionally and mentally; and taking his comments for more than what they are - the musings of an upset, angry, an unstable man - does not serve any purpose.

I know someone who has told and written me something alont the same lines as Jeff.

He is my mentally unstable brother.

Please, pray for him and other 'Jeffs'. Behind the ramblings you see online there is the pain of other NCGs who don't recognize their funloving, happygolucky brother in the post-adolescent upset young man.

Seraphic said...

Anonymous's post can stay. And, yes, she's right. We should pray for the Jeffs. Heaven only knows what else we can do when the Jeffs automatically see us as the enemy.

sciencegirl said...

I think all the comments on this thread are interesting, particularly the perspective on Poland.

Jeff sounds like a punk worth praying for, but I do notice we are spending lots of time talking about Jeff and not about the numerous delightful, if at times frustrating, other men. This is ok, because outrageous bad boys are always more entertaining as conversation topic, though far less date-worthy, than nice guys. Is this not the very essence of the game? To be so provocative and rude that women become obsessed with oneself -- for bad attention is better than no attention at all.

Just remember that "Feedeth Ye Not The Trolles" is the 11th Commandment.

--Sciencegirl, Cheapenin' Teh Secks since 1982! (oh wait, I haven't been)

Seraphic said...

Jeff does not appear to be a troll or a gamer but a frustrated trad Catholic guy and most unseraphic trad Catholic guy. It can often be difficult for trad Catholic women to talk about the trad Catholic guys who come across as misogynists because of anti-Catholics who accuse Catholics of being "anti-woman" in the first place. This was a problem I had when I was quite active in the pro-life movement. Some men were great, but some men really DID have a problem with women. I imagine it was the same with the opposing camp.

Seraphic said...

Sorry I meant to write "unseraphic Single" in there. I've written often about the "Badness of Bitterness".

Seraphic said...

And one last thing: a very amusing cartoon:

http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4318

okiegrl said...

Sounds like Jeff is one of those adolescents Auntie posted about a few days later. Basically, all women are wrong or dumb if they don't agree with him. I've met several men like that during university. Pretty much the only thing to do is not take them very seriously and look for guys that are past the adolescent stage. (At least I had very little luck trying to educate them!)