Wednesday, 12 December 2012

NCBs Off Their Rocker

My right hand is still hurting despite the rest, so I may have to keep this short.

I was struck forceably by the testimony of a reader that she received angry emails from Catholic men excoriating her for being at university, where she represented a distraction to them. I'm presuming that this was not in Afghanistan or Pakistan but in the good old U.S. of A., whence 60% of my readers log on, so I was sore amazed.

The reader mentioned also that she was not asked out on dates or even seemingly noticed by non-Catholic undergraduates during her undergraduate career. The date part does not surprise me, as dating--sadly--is much more common to working adults than to students, now, students being more likely to just "hang out" or "hook up" or snog meaninglessly at parties. The "not noticed" part I chalk up to modesty and paying more attention to her work than to the men around and not having read the fascinating book on male body language I have on my shelves. (And very amusing it is, too!)

Incidentally a single NCB friend recently mentioned to me a meaningless snog he had had, and I felt rather indignant. What if the poor girl didn't think it was meaningless? And surely this is not the sort of thing Nice Catholic Married Ladies are supposed to be told? We may suspect that our single male friends might indulge in meaningless snogs, and we may even enjoy hearing about them through third parties ("No! He didn't! Really? What did she look like?"), but surely they themselves are supposed to be prudently silent about such carryings on.

Anyway, the comment left me wondering what I would do if I were twenty and, on the one hand, no men at university tried to get to know me and, on the other, my brothers in Christ were sending me lunatic emails about how I was a temptation to their purity, woe.

Oh, how tempted I would be to forward the lunatic emails to the Catholic chaplain. Ah ha ha ha! "Dear Father Pete, I was so upset by this email. It flies in the face of everything I read in Mulieris Dignitatem. Is this what Catholic men are all secretly thinking? Could it be true that the Church is anti-woman? I feel so discouraged; perhaps I should drop out."

However, that would be passive-aggressive, and there's no point in adding to Father Peter's grey hairs. The adult thing to do, I think, would be to address the lunatic emails head on with a short and concerned reply. "Dear Scooter, I was very surprised to read your email, especially in light of the following quotations from Mulieris Dignitatem and when we both have the example of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross before us: [fully documented quotations]. I have done a thorough examination of conscience, and I honestly cannot recall any conscious effort on my part to lead you astray from the straight and narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14).

"I am confused by what you have written about my denim jeans. American women have worn denim jeans for at least the past sixty years, and trousers since the 1930s. Speaking as a Catholic, I am distressed that one of my Catholic brothers may have been influenced by an Evangelical Protestant or even Islamic obsession with women's dress. There is no Catholic doctrine on women's dress. Perhaps you could read your email to me to your confessor or spiritual director, so that he could advise you. In Christ, etc."

Now, you may have objections to this email. First, it has come to my ears that the mere mention of John Paul II or his writings is not enough to check the excesses of wound-up Catholic male undergrads anymore. That's too bad because it sure was when I was an undergrad. So instead you may want to do a bit more digging and find something encouraging Benedict XVI or a pre-Vatican II pontiff has said about women or women's education. Second, this email has a very intellectual tone, and therefore may enrage Scooter, who probably thinks that women ought not to be intellectual. Still, it is a lot more dignified than saying, as I remember saying once myself, "No woman will ever want to marry you, for fear that she might have sons like you!"

Actually, though, the guy I said that to later asked my ex-boyfriend if he would mind if the guy asked me out. Still, I said that in person, not by email. We didn't send impassioned emails in those days. It took so long for the modem to connect, you were mad at nothing but the computer by the time you could put fingers to keys.

As for not being asked out on dates, my advice is to get beyond the whole idea that strangers will just ask you out as you sit in the library, working away. The thing to do, I seem to recall, is to join groups, and meet the friends of friends you have already, and to collar men after class to say, "I really liked the point you made about Spinoza" or "Sorry the prof was such an ass. I understood exactly what you meant."

Having taken a night school class this past term, I am struck by how many men I have met and had to do group work with. Of course, I am married and they are married, too, or at least have Polish girlfriends, which is why they are in my Polish night school class, but it strikes me now what an opportunity I squandered as an undergrad to make lots of male friends. And considering my terrible grades for the first two years (really: terrible), I might as well have been doing that, since I certainly wasn't doing much work.


Withmycupoftea said...

What is the fascinating book on male body language?

sciencegirl said...

I recommend NOT emailing back at all.

Way too many undergraduates think the Internet is a place where there is no consequence. They can send whatever emails, post whatever comments, and as long as it's in cyberspace, no one has any business getting mad or hurt.

A flame war with the girl being serious, pious and reasonable is exactly what he expects -- and not what he deserves for being ridiculous, uncharitable, and unreasonable.

Delete the email or archive it, and never speak to him again. Don't feed the trolls. Give him the cold shoulder wherever you see him, and never be in the same room alone with him.

NS said...

@sciencegirl: hear hear! Speaking as a Computer Professional (tm) who had to deal with flame war fall-outs at a university, one of which escalated to a case of impersonation, I agree: Do Not Feed The Troll. Rule of thumb for business and (probably) personal is: praise by email, conflict in person.

Nothing said about conflict in person armed with a 6ft 200lb sponsor, mind.

Seraphic said...

Oh dear. I guess I just felt sorry for the freaked out NCBs who simply didn't realize that the problem wasn't with Lucy, but with them. Of course, it goes without saying that Lucy did not invite or deserve such stupid emails, but one thinks of the spiritual work of mercy, "Instruct the ignorant."

I bow to the expert advice on email. However, surely there must be some way to explain to men who might behave like this that their behaviour is inappropriate and their beliefs heterodox.

Seraphic said...

The body language book is called "Super Flirt", and I found it in a charity shop, and I am not recommending it for unmarried women or any men because it is VERY WORLDLY. I have to skip some pages, and the tone is generally louche. There are probably more respectable books about reading body language out there, especially in the USA.

Lena said...

I love the fact that the young lad is named Scooter.

I like the practice of praise by email, and conflict (confront) in person.

sciencegirl said...

The time for conversation instructing the ignorant on how not to insult their fellow classmates through emails would be in real life, at the man's apologetic, or at least non-aggressive, initiation. Most other moves just 1) feed the troll or 2) gossip to friends. I would be appalled if she did something like post the email on facebook to get sympathy,for instance. If the email sounded at all threatening, she could send it to a trusted authority figure, like a priest or professor or someone like that, but really? Crazy dudes who think women whose butts they like should drop out of college? They aren't going to take fraternal correction coming from a girl, so why bother?

Seraphic said...

Well, I certainly do not believe in publishing private correspondence on Facebook. But what concerns me is that Lucy did not say it was one Catholic guy, but suggested these were plural Catholic guys, and since both I and a friend have heard other Catholic guys suggest that women should not be in university, I am beginning to wonder if there might not be a trend that needs vigorous correcting--not just for the sake of Catholic women, for the sake of the Catholic men, whose views must be making them almost as unhappy as the women they upbraid. It might not be that these men are wicked or lunatics but that among current trends towards reclaiming tradition are some odd offshoots. As a fan of reclaiming tradition myself, I have a vested interest in sitting down with Catholic men with such views and saying "No." Of course, it is easier for me to see these men as relatively harmless children, as I am 39++. It is quite another thing if they are your peers. However, I think it helpful to remember that they are your peers, not your superiors in age or anything else. If any woman does feel up to a face-to-face conversation with a man about his hurtful email, then perhaps avoiding him is the best solution. In that case, though, I would definitely recommending talking to one's spiritual director or chaplain.

Lucy said...

Seraphic, thanks for writing about this! (And the comments are spot-on; feeding the troll was a big mistake). Alas, it didn't happen in America, there was no university chaplain, and St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross didn't count as an authority, because she was female. Happily, however, it was before Facebook, and no one else ever saw the emails. Once the guys started dating and got jobs they liked, it stopped. (There's food for thought!) So I learned the hard way that this kind of behaviour can be a phase! Seraphic's previous post helped me understand what generated the phase in the first place.

Seraphic said...

All across the world, Seraphic Singles readers are banging their heads on their desks. I don't want to over-react, as this was some time ago, but I didn't realize these guys had a kind of ongoing campaign going on.`How really very lousy. And yet they convinced girls to date them...

At my university, that could have landed these guys in hot want with the Sexual Harrassment Office--big time!

I stand by my thoughts about potential reasons for such behaviour, but they are just reasons. There are certainly not excuses!