Women are who we are and not who men want us to be.
I write this as someone who always finds herself on the Droit of most questions. Over and over again, I find myself going with the more traditional, the more human, and the more rational approach, which puts me on the wrong side, not of history, but of the leading taste-makers of our societies. Some of the most divisive issues of our times, like ab*rtion and women's *rdination, involve women in a particular way, and so we conservative or traditional women find ourselves arguing the issues in a different way from men--or, if not in a different way, from a different and more privileged perspective.
There is a particular heartache in arguing against women when you are a woman because women love consensus and thrive on consensus. And women know how awful it is to be shut out of the women's collective, to have to go the well by ourselves because the other women don't want to be seen with us, unless to be seen mocking us. This is what we risk whenever we take a position unpopular with the majority of women in the room, no matter which side we're on.
This is why it comes as such a hideous disappointment to find ourselves in conflict with those men who agree, in the main, with our ideas, but deep down wish women would shut up and go away or at least conform to their idea of what women should be like. Such men are found all over the political spectrum, of course. No doubt there are men of the Gauche who think all women should be injected with contraceptives from age 13 and be allowed to skip our shots only if we have taken a state-approved parenting course and have not yet had two children. There are most definitely men of the Gauche who bully the women in their lives, even if that is in a sneaky, passive-aggressive way they may have learned from women.
I expect opposition from the opposite side of the river, so I don't really care what its men throw at me. In fact, I don't mind their arguments because they do not affect me on an emotional level. I don't care if they like me or not. I can argue back with verve and gusto. I once amused myself greatly by overwhelming a smug atheist I met outside a cafe with Lonergan's cognitional theory. (He was one of those unusually naive cafe habitues who think Catholic students of theology must necessarily be stupid.) He was as meek as a mouse when I was done.
However, to this day I do not know how to cope with the knife in the back--the insults and insinuations of male ideological allies, from the weirdos who complain about women's trousers to the hotheads who think femininity is incompatible with intellectual discourse.
Simcha Fischer's solution to the "pants" (always trousers in the UK, girls) problem, was to whip out a card ("pants pass") with one's husband's (or presumably father's) signature, saying the wearer had his permission to wear them. Today I think a better solution is to look angrily at the speaker and demand "Who are you? How DARE you make such personal remarks to me?"
I hope I would remember to do that. Like most women, I don't like confrontation. It just does not come that easily. This is one reason why men should not simply march up to women and start a fight. We're at a terrible psychological disadvantage; it's simply unfair.
As a matter of fact, I understand the "pants (TROUSERS) problem" because I used to sit in the back choir stalls at Mass, and when all the other women at Mass are wearing coats or skirts, the one female rump lovingly outlined by tightly-clinging denim, lycra or cotton shines out like a red lamp on a dark street. It at least momentarily distracts everybody, me, the choir, the tea ladies--everyone, not just angry old men. So, in such situations, wear something over it. Elsewhere, however, where trousers are rather more the rule than the exception, anyone who is angered by your rump in particular has a personality problem, and if he says something, get in his face. "Who are YOU? How DARE you?" Channel your best mother/teacher voice.
But as for the hotheads who think femininity is incompatible with intellectual discourse, I simply do not know what to do.
Dear Auntie Seraphic,
There are these guys at Cath Soc who are pretty great. I get along with them most of the time, and we all go to the TLM, and I admire the way they take their (our) ideological/theological opponents' arguments to pieces. But I don't like it when they take my ideas to pieces in a way that seems to be more ad hominem than anything else, particularly when their response is "Oh, how just like a woman."
When I point that out, they say if I'm going to argue like a man, I should take my lumps like a man. However, I am not conscious of arguing like a man, per se, but like a rational being.
Then there are other guys who hold the same ideological/theological positions I hold who talk about educated/pretentious women, as if education and pretension were the same thing. However, if I were to stop talking altogether, or consciously dumb down everything I say or write, wouldn't that make me really pretentious? Sometimes I am tempted to do that, though, because these guys are so nice to the girls who are constantly running down their own intellectual gifts, e.g. "I'm not an intellectual; really, I just want to get married and have babies. Isn't that AW-ful? Hee hee hee!" However, it's too late. They know I'm smart--or that I think I'm smart, anyway. Sorry.
What am I supposed to do? And please don't tell me just to ignore these guys or have nothing to do with them. These are my theological/ideological allies, and I like them 75% of the time, and if they would just adjust their thinking about women and intellect they would be perfectly perfect.
Tearing My Hair Out
Dear Tearing My Hair Out,
I don't know. In the end, I've always just given up--long after many other women would--and walked away.
The only thing I can suggest is that, since they expect women to be emotional anyway, is to cut either one off the next time he says "Just like a woman" and tell him you don't think he knows as much about women as he thinks he does.
If he suggests that you are not a "real woman" because you reason "like a man," tell him that powers of reasoning are neither masculine or feminine. What is feminine is a susceptibility to being more badly wounded than men are (if men are) in ad hominem attacks by men one likes.
I'm sorry not to be more helpful.
Grace and peace,