Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Women are Who We Are

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,

Hmm...... Hmm.....

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,


Sarah said...

*tears out hair* Okay, this is not *so* much related, because my gender never really came up, though I did make some gender-related observations.

I had a very, very heated discussion about Catholic apologetics with a good (fellow Trad Catholic) male friend of mine over dinner. There were two other friends there, but one was this man's girlfriend who sat mostly wordless except when she interjected simply to echo her boyfriend. That annoyed me. But instead of tearing into her the way I was tearing into him, I more or less nodded quietly until she stopped talking so I could go back to telling him he was letting his emotions get in the way of reason-- something I can't see myself saying to a woman unless she and I were close enough that I knew that kind of honesty wouldn't have permanent repercussions.

Is that sexist of me against my own gender that I considered her boyfriend more able to "take it" when I said he was dead wrong than I thought she was?

The argument didn't end well. He started building such obvious straw men that I finally got up and walked away from the discussion to do dishes. And then he didn't speak to me for the rest of the evening and half the next day, though eventually things warmed back up on their own.

That's the nice thing about men though-- which I have experienced time and time again as I've had arguments with my male friends-- is that I know we don't have to make some big deal about apologizing and the whole thing will just blow over and we will be friends again without having to "talk about it." I have a feeling if it were another woman I'd been arguing with, the rift might have been deeper and harder to repair and more ceremonious in its amends-making.

Sarah said...

But your letter-writer speaks the truth-- men are generally nicer and more gentle with girls who dumb themselves down. And no matter what they might SAY about wanting "A Girl With A Brain," the girls who get the guys are the girls who sit back quietly and let the men do the intellectual legwork and NEVER lose their temper to the point that they have to leave the room to recover. I suppose I am really asking for it, though, when I choose the be a man's verbal sparring partner.

"I'm not an intellectual; really, I just want to get married and have babies. Isn't that AW-ful? Hee hee hee!"


MaryJane said...

Oh. Yes. What is there to say? I don't know how old the reader is, but I can say that it gets better as you get older. At least, it did for me. Some of those men grow out of it. Some of them don't. But I found myself slightly less aghast over the years... and have managed to adopt more of a "what a loser. Who cares?" attitude. Not all the time, but more than I used to.

Also, as I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate my female friends more and more, be they intellectuals or not. (I used to be SO annoyed by the girls who ran down their gifts, or celebrated not having many in this area... which oddly enough put me more in the "men's camp" but then I realized that these girls had different priorities than I did, but could still make great friends.)

These men need a man they respect - a priest or a father or a Latin Mass idol - telling them that such an attitude is decidedly unChristian and also not "manly." If the priest in charge is sympathetic, the reader could mention it to him (... as long as he wouldn't view it as an emotional plea from a woman.)

There are two books I simply must suggest here: the first, a very short collection of (2?) essays by Dorothy Sayers, satirically entitled, "Are Women Human?" And the second is her novel Gaudy Night. I always feel so comforted reading them in situations like this.

c'est la vie said...

I've experienced this too, and often I find the men in question are insecure / not quite grown up, since they clearly feel threatened by a girl who can think. I find that smiling indulgently at the ad hominem arguments and continuing to make devastating points works out well.
Summarizing his (ad hominem) point and saying it back to him helps too. Usually he will get it at this point, unless he really is an idiot, in which case you should take pleasure in being sweetly sarcastic.

ex: Insecure Boy: "Well, you're a woman, so obviously that's what you think."

Intelligent Woman, sweetly, dripping with sarcasm: "Of course, I understand your point, being a woman, I'm not very smart. But could you explain to me how it is that (fill in blank with obviously ridiculous argument of Boy's)?"

In the case of insecure boys, I do think we should treat them with kind indulgence since their frail egos need to be formed, not beaten down, and kind indulgence helps us save face too.

Lauren said...

Ah, Mary Jane, I think you're a kindred spirit. Reading Gaudy Night is like spending time with my best friend. Also, I think it does get easier as one gets older. I care far less about that sort of opposition now than I used to. I can now raise an eyebrow expressively, mentally think, "What an idiot," and change the topic of conversation to the weather.

Also -- and this is an idea from Gaudy Night, I think -- "as one gets older one gains a new delight in formality," and I've found that to be true. I find the intellectual baiting and bossiness simply terribly rude. And I find that I am less and less inclined to spend time with people who are that rude.

sciencegirl said...


If someone keeps making personal, ad hominem attacks during a debate, how exactly is he your intellectual equal, again?

Don't bother arguing with boys who are not as smart as you just because they are men and like intellectual things and like arguing. Not everyone who likes arguing is good at debate.

There are men out there who do not despise intellectual women, or indeed, women in general. There are women there who also enjoy an intellectual conversation, but not around obnoxious, know-it-all men.

I've seen WAY too many men who didn't even have the basic facts right, but who had the veneer of nerdiness and a brash attitude, and so would "win" arguments. The women arguing with them would realize, "This man is arguing based on an incorrect historical fact (let's say he's citing something from Caesar when it's actually from Poe), which he refuses to correct. He will not back down. This is pointless."

Such men are NOT really interested in a great intellectual debate. They are interested in showing off. You sound like you're getting in the way of that, but not having a ton of fun doing so. Quit wasting your time.

Other men just like to troll! They love saying rude things about women to watch their smart women friends swell up and start squawking (their view, not mine). Again, they shouldn't be allowed to waste your party time. You have got together to have fun, and it sounds like you are having the opposite of fun. How are you impressed enough by these goofballs to want to argue with them, exactly?

It sounds like what you DO want is a Parisian-style salon where witty men and women debate the books and ideas of the day or the past in a convivial atmosphere. To achieve this, you must host it. You have the wit and knowledge, now you must find the charming guests. Some guests may be less bright, but funny and broadly read. Others may be shy geniuses who work on particle accelerators.

You must learn the concept of "boor" and "wit," rather than "intellectual" and "frivolous." The provacateur who is genuinely droll and affable MAY receive an invitation, whereas the pompous will simply ... not. They will, of course, accuse you of being pretentious, which, as a woman hosting a party in the style of an 1890s French socialite, you technically will be. But you will be having delightful parties, and they will still be boors.

MaryJane said...

Lauren, your blog looks like you are most definitely a kindred spirit, academia and all! :) Do send an email and maybe we can chat?

Also, I wish Seraphic could host a salon-style socialite party... what a setting Historical House would make! (Even if from the wrong era.)

Seraphic said...

Actually, the Historical House would have seen the right era. It is more than likely that Samuel Johnston and David Hume both visited here. James Boswell almost certainly did. The Historical House is rather an important artifact of the Scottish Enlightenment! (Season Good Friday to October. Tickets for sale in the stable block.)

However, this also means I cannot have a salon in the...er... salon, but am confined to what used to be the nurseries and servant quarters, and as nobody owns a carriage, it is difficult to get here from the heart of Edinburgh.

Maria said...

I like your style, sciencegirl.

I also think period costumes would be must.

Jam said...

Young fools. I don't know whether it's better or worse for them to be as subtle as the quoted example ("pretentious" as code word, rather than just spouting the nonsense straight out).

I do think it's important to contradict it, if you have the stomach to do so, although maybe not so much in deadly earnest. After all, I'd guess that at least 50% of these opinions is an attempt to prove what Tradly Trads they are. It is absolute patent nonsense to claim that women aren't rational, women can't use their intellect, etc. Personally I can't imagine expending much energy trying to "debate" it. (What really gets my goat is misuse of history, whether in "gay marriage is the future, get on board" or in "it's against tradition for women to work outside the home".) Vague things like accusing smart girls of being "pretentious" can't be argued against the way a statement can. It's an insult, meant to be derogatory, and it's better to treat it as such. "Listen, you know as well as I do that that's nonsense. Kaitlyn has a God-given intellect like any other son or daughter of God and I think she's making perfectly valid points. If you can't show some respect -- if you insist on insulting her because she's a woman rather than engaging her arguments -- then I don't think I want to be around you any more." And follow through.

To be fair, though, I haven't really been in this situation (I usually avoid this kind of thing). But when I find myself thinking "he'd be perfect if not for ___" it's probably a good idea to start building some distance. "This guy's out of the running. No husband here." Obviously, if someone changes they've changed, and clearly I don't mean it as some kind of categorical pronouncement on the essence of that particular dude. But personally I think it's a helpful thought to cultivate so I don't feel like I'm on audition and need to pick a better monologue, or like the universe requires that that "one thing" be fixed.

Alisha said...

"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."
I think this would be a great tactic of the new evangelization. Female Catholic theologians and philosophers sit innocently in cafes and strike up conversations in a charming way and argue devastatingly well. I think women of our generation should make it our business to be the smartest apologists possible...that way we have some hope of uber modern feminists listening to the Catholic perspective from us instead of Christian men with a misogynistic bent.
I also think they should be corrected...yes, it's tempting to say "Why bother?" but we should bother so that these attitudes have some hope of stopping...and men with clout should also step up to the plate (priests, laymen, bloggers, anyone with a influence and a voice) and and correct them.
Those men may be our theological allies but if they are not going to be listened to at all because they are jerks then it doesn't make any difference. You're better off making friends with those in the secular world with opposing opinions and becoming known as a voice of intelligence and reason there rather than become exasperated and resentful of fellow believers.
Meanwhile, echoing Seraphic's advice from an earlier post, pointedly telling them that their behaviour doesn't resemble at all how Jesus treated women should give someone pause if they really are a Christian.

MaryJane said...

I think everyone agrees that these men need to be corrected... the question is, by whom and at what cost? Sometimes I have found it's better to realize that it is not My Job to convince these kinds of guys that Women Are Not Dumb. It's not always a matter of giving up, it's often a matter of utilizing resources effectively: in other words, my energy is better spent elsewhere, and the men will be more likely to change if someone else deals with them, anyway. I'm not advocating for supporting boorishness: it's just that direct confrontation is not always the best or most effective policy- for both sides involved.

(Incidentally, if someone had said this to me in my university years I would have secretly thought her slightly pathetic or Unable To Stand Up for What Is Important. Now I realize there are only so many hours in a day and I would rather spend time on other things.)

Seraphic, too bad about historical house. If only we could all arrive in historical carriages!

Alisha said...

Of course, one has to make a judgment about what one is called to do, but I think more often than not we think "This is not my job" which really means "I don't want to be responsible for this." In that case, whose job is it then? Are those people whose job it is doing it? There are many saints whose lives were based on doing something that wasn't "their" job. Moreover, I would posit that if the moment is being presented to you, then the opportunity and the fact that you are there makes it your job to do something. You can choose silence of course and sometimes that is best...but more often than not it just results in group complaining about a person or certain attitudes, asking "why does this exist?" yet at no point is it directly addressed. I would love someone well versed in feminist thought and orthodox theology or philosophy to write an article or do a video of some sort that trot out the common annoyances, errors (in truth and charity) etc committed by over zealous or simply misogynistic young men who also happen to profess belief in Christ and address and correct each one. Then it could be used as a sort of how to guide when this nonsense comes up.
The reason I feel strongly about this is because I am reading more and more about the mistake of placing the onus on "victims" of some kind of abuse to change their behaviour (ie. go away, don't hang out with those kind of people, etc.) rather than place the responsibility with those being rude, boorish etc. The responsibility to stop unacceptable behaviour lies primarily with the one committing it but it needs to be pointed out by everyone as unacceptable. We need to be smart, and practise a certain amount of self preservation but in the end that does nothing about the problem. We could all be happy having our sophisticated dinner parties (probably unattended by people who don't share our religious views), while the boors remain in the public eye, further entrenching the public's belief that Christianity wants to control women because the voices they most often hear are people who go unchecked.

Seraphic said...

Thanks for the reasonable and insightful responses, girls! Men suddenly making irrational remarks about women has always been my kryptonite. I am a negger's dream because once I get the impression the universe has tilted, I cannot rest until it is set right.

Seraphic: Of course, Lonergan observed that the world of common sense thinking gives rise to questions that can only be answered by the more abstract world of theory.

Up To This Minute a Perfectly Reasonable Man: Of course, women cannot think in the abstract.

Seraphic: Umm... (Completely and totally forgets that she has just made what could be construed as an abstract remark) What? I realize that there certainly aren't many women in graduate analytical philosophy or mathematics, for reasons that may be cultural or sociological, but certainly many or most, probably most, women are capable of abstract thought.

Man: Women cannot think in the abstract! They get completely bogged down in trivialities and, by the way, do not show much common sense quite a lot of the time!

Seraphic (confused, wonders why Man is referring to women as "they" for she is pretty sure she was a woman when she got up that morning): Umm... Er.... What you mean by common sense is not what Lonergan means by common sense.

Man: Bargle! Bargle! Blah!

Seraphic: (feels vaguely unhappy, massively disrespected and completely incapable of saying "You're wrong" until 24 hours later when Man has completely forgotten this conversation ever took place.)

Kryptonite. Real kryptonite.

Seraphic said...

Alisha, feminist thought very unfortunately has an orthodoxy of its own that has set itself up against Catholic orthodoxy, so your chances of finding a woman who is both thoroughly versed in feminist thought and in Catholic orthodoxy are slight indeed.

I do not think it the responsibility of all Catholic women to slap down boys playing dumb intellectual (or pseudo-intellectual) one-up-manship games at social events. I'd leave that to those women who enjoy doing so and are willing to pay the social
price because there will indeed be a price to pay if the encounter happens in public. Men talk a lot of crap to each other and then forget it in the morning, whereas women have a tendency to brood on the crap overmuch and let it get us down.

The people responsible for whipping men into presentable shape are, first and foremost, their parents and teachers, their professors, priests and heroes. And in many, MANY cases, they are more likely to pay attention to what men say then to what women say. Men who have issues with women already do not like being yelled at by women, unless making a woman mad was their plan all along.

Jessica said...

I think the key in any argument is to focus on the concrete, real-life examples. So we don't have to prove "Women Are Not Dumb" as much as, "It's hurtful/un-Christian/unethical/whatever to imply that woman are dumb, unless you really think I'm dumb???"
Two examples from my own life come to mind:
- My first week of graduate school we were discussing religion (in class) and someone (a man) said, "I used to be Catholic, until I went to college!" The rest of the class laughed. I did not. I talked to him after class, and told him that I was confused/hurt by his statement because *I* went to college, and I'm still Catholic...he immediately back-tracked, said he respected religion and still found some comfort in it, he was just joking, etc. etc. etc. We chatted about other things for a little while until we went our separate ways, and hopefully in the future he'll think twice about making a joke about religion and intellectualism being incompatible.
- Yesterday a facebook friend of mine posted a status that, frankly, I found racist. The status was a quote from a man of a different cultural group than my friend and I, criticizing the parenting styles and behaviors of that culture. I didn't try to argue against the content of the quote, but I did send him a private message saying that if his friend list was anything like mine, he probably didn't have any adult facebook friends of that particular culture (it's not a common one in our area). I pointed out that "fraternal correction" is supposed to be personal and private, and that if his goal was improving this other culture, he probably wasn't accomplishing that goal by sharing the quote publicly. He replied that he was intending to show honor for the man he quoted, because he admired his courage in being "a prophet in his own land." I didn't reply because I didn't want to start discussing racism/white privilege/etc., but again, I hope he at least thinks about the intent and perception of his statuses before posting something like that.

Of course, I've had tons more conversations where I've gotten upset/angry/flustered and not communicated well, but I think those two interactions were pretty successful. It might not be "our job" to convince people (esp men) to change their thoughts, but we can ask them to be careful what they say. I think keeping that in mind helps change the tone of the conversation.

I think Jam's approach is great too: direct, to the point, not trying to argue. c'est la vie, personally I would stay away from sarcasm. If the person you're arguing with is so stuck in his ways, his argument will not appear ridiculous to him, so the sarcasm will be totally lost.

Jessica said...

To summarize my last post (it's so hard to see what you've written in this tiny comment box!):
We can't control what people think, but we can control what's acceptable to say in public discourse around us. Focusing on what was said, and not the underlying beliefs, will keep us cooler and calmer, and might also more effective at changing thoughts in the long run.

MaryJane said...

Alisha, I think maybe we mean the same thing. You said, "The reason I feel strongly about this is because I am reading more and more about the mistake of placing the onus on "victims" of some kind of abuse to change their behaviour (ie. go away, don't hang out with those kind of people, etc.) rather than place the responsibility with those being rude, boorish etc." -- that is my point exactly! In this case, the lady who is the "victim" of this boorish behavior does not necessarily have the responsibility for correcting them! I was trying to point out that it is not her fault that they act like it, and probably someone else (priest, teacher, older men) should handle it.

Of course, if she feels up to it, that's fine and completely her call - but she shouldn't be made to feel like she is the one who needs to fix the obnoxious guys. Her time and energy might be more valuably used elsewhere.

{And of course, we are not talking about abuse which is a different thing and about which Seraphic always gives good advice.}

Jam said...

Lots of good comments! I would just add that it matters a lot how well you know the guy(s) whether it would be giving up not to try and set him straight.If you only just met the guy, it's unlikely that getting into it with him is going to accomplish anything. And then there's the setting: whether there is another conversation you can go to, eg at a party, or if you're more or less carrying on a one-on-one conversation. Sometimes it might be cowardly not to call a blowhard out, but other times it would be counterproductive.

Seraphic said...

A university classroom is akin to a workplace--and is a workplace to lecturers and grad students--and there is no excuse for anyone in a workplace to proclaim at large that an identifiable group of people, like Catholics, are stupid--or to leave such a proclamation unchallenged.

Ex-Catholics (or, rather, lapsed Catholics) think they can get away with it because they think "Catholic" is their ethnic group, and it is socially permissible for them to say bad things about Catholics. I think you did the right thing by talking to him after class. The professor would have done the right thing by pointing out bigoted remarks have no place in the classroom and asking, oh by the way, any Catholics in the class wish to protest?

I was astonished, as an undergrad, by all the ignorant comments people made about Roman Catholics while discussing a poem or play (about Montreal, for example). I approached one woman who voiced her horror at something about Catholicism (which she completely misunderstood), and she was so embarrassed, she looked like she might sink into the floor.

In workplaces and universities (especially universities), people must understand that Christians still can be found there-- Catholics, evangelicals, all of us--and we are not the dummies of the Western world.

Alisha said...

Mary Jane: hello!

We are saying things that are similar but it's not exactly the same. What I was saying was that it shouldn't be up to women to adjust to the behaviour in order to deal with it - ie. to work around it. Men are responsible for changing their attitudes and behaviour; however, I do believe we are responsible for making them aware of it, for if we, the ones who are offended, do not, who will?

Sure, it may be primarily the parents job (if the men are still young enough and most of the examples here seem to be men who no longer live at home) or priests or whomever, but if these men are already making objectionable comments it means either a) their parents etc. have been woefully remiss in their duties, b) the priests, parents etc did their job and the men didn't get it or c) none of those men have any respect for their priests and other superiors, in which case, that leaves whoever is left...frequently, it's just women. No matter the situation, if someone is making those comments in a public social setting any later than adolescence, some boat has been missed. If we say something they may stop. If we say nothing, they surely won't. If we say something and they continue on as they have been doing, there is still good that has been done because they can't claim ignorance anymore that their views are questionable and we can be sure we haven't missed an opportunity to possibly remedy a situation. (This is presuming that some basic discernment has been done ahead of time.) If we say something and the guy continues to act like an idiot, we've earned a right to complain because we did our part to try to fix the situation.

"I do not think it the responsibility of all Catholic women to slap down boys playing dumb intellectual (or pseudo-intellectual) one-up-manship games at social events. I'd leave that to those women who enjoy doing so and are willing to pay the social
price because there will indeed be a price to pay if the encounter happens in public."

I think we have to disagree here. While I am completely in agreement about choosing one's battles and making an effort to choose the most appropriate tactics of handling it, I do think it's not just women's responsibility but anyone capable of answering the objectionable points of view. There are a couple of other things to consider:
1) I don't think women who "slap down" boys (and my point was not necessarily to slap them down but to respond vigorously using reason) necessarily enjoy it but do it because they feel strongly about it and to be silent would to be to betray what they believe and to allow an injustice of sorts.
I don't enjoy doing it. I do it because frequently no one else speaks up BUT everyone is annoyed...which brings me to 2) The reason the social price is paid and is so high is precisely because people are uncomfortable speaking up. If everyone spoke up, the person paying the social price would be the person who deserves to - the man in error, not the woman or man who is correcting him. The goal should be able to make this kind of behaviour easily recognizable and eliminate it...the same way that you cannot use the n word to refer to African Americans without an immediate association of racism.
As for the lack of someone versed in feminist theory and Catholic orthodoxy, I know...but I think it's important and it would be great if someone was there separating the wheat from the chaff, someone who could show the common ground of feminism and Church teaching and be tough on feminism gone awry and traditionalism gone awry. I don't think it's my particular calling, not being versed in either subject, but I would love to see it done.

Seraphic said...

Well, you could start with Saint Edith Stein and John Paul II for Catholic theology that discusses women in the modern world in a helpful and hopeful way.

MaryJane said...

Alisha, hilarious - "someone who could show the common ground of feminism and Church teaching and be tough on feminism gone awry and traditionalism gone awry" basically describes my work exactly. It was just too funny not to mention!

I'm all for calling out rude behavior for what it is, I just think engaging in discussions with people who have not one ounce of interest or openness can be a waste of time, and nice girls everywhere should feel free to not waste their time, *particularly* on priggish boors. And, there are times, (I would argue) when walking away actually says a whole lot more than engaging. Obviously, it's a matter of prudential judgment, as each situation, and each woman, is different. I think Jam said it best - "Sometimes it might be cowardly not to call a blowhard out, but other times it would be counterproductive."

c'est la vie said...

I agree with Mary Jane.

Alisha said...

Mary Jane: that is so cool! (And very convenient because I have a lot of questions - I'm currently doing a lot of reading on r*pe culture and I was wondering if any Catholic commentary had been done on it. In a way, all of Catholic teaching runs counter to r*pe culture but I've recognized even in myself the tendency adjust or smooth over situations by letting jokes slide because I don't want to upset a convivial atmosphere...I'm far less likely to do this in an actual debate.) And I understand what you all are saying. No one should feel forced to engage with someone who has no openness...but I think it would help to keep in mind that if we don't want to deal with it, someone else will be and that someone may be more hurt than we are.

MaryJane said...

I can't think of any particular Catholic commentary on r*pe culture, probably b/c as you noted, all of Catholic teaching is opposed to it. Which isn't to say that something can't be written on it more specifically. Actually, now that I think of it, I heard a paper given at the Edith Stein conference in 2012 that might be of interest. It was called "To Hold, Care, Challenge and Affirm: Entering into Vulnerability and Imaging God’s Love for Victims of Violence". I don't know if there are copies available, but you can contact them. Here's the link to last year's conference: http://conferences.nd.edu/events/2012-edith-stein-conference-encountering-vulnerability-courage-hope-and-trust-in-the-21st

Urszula said...

I was reading through the comments and was about to chime in, but Mary Jane succinctly said what I wanted to point out: "In this case, the lady who is the "victim" of this boorish behavior does not necessarily have the responsibility for correcting them! I was trying to point out that it is not her fault that they act like it, and probably someone else (priest, teacher, older men) should handle it."

That was exactly my point... isn't it buying into the 'victim' mentality that the 'victim', in this case a woman, has the obligation to correct the man spouting outlandish theories? I honestly don't see any such obligation - boors are unlikely to change their attitudes, and walking away from them may give them something to think about in a way that treating their opinions as worthy of debate will not. Of course, it depends on each situation (how many people were there, how well do you know the guy, your personality, his personality) but I honestly find such situations more trouble then they're worth. Fraternal correction is hard to implement in charity, and hard to receive. I could see the place for it in individual conversations, but in a group setting I would probably roll my eyes because some comments do not even deserve to be acknowledged - or countered.

This is of course my private opinion, and I've simply sound my personality does not do well in these types of situations. Which is why I shun the 'American trid/trad' circle entirely - I can't deal with any form of misogyny, and I've unfortunately found that to be prevalent.

okiegrl said...

Sciencegirl, I loved your comment.

I've dealt with guys like that before. I don't think it's any woman's obligation to correct the opinion's of men at large. I've found that it is helpful to assess what your relationship is to the guy. Good friend/colleague? It's probably worth talking about. As one college guy said (years!) later, "Yeah, you won most of our debates." Is the guy an acquaintance/total stranger? Don't waste the pretty.

For what it is worth, I don't think women should downplay their talents. If you're the type that likes intellectual debate, don't deny it. If you're not really the intellectual type, it's fine to say so. Being inauthentic doesn't do anyone a service.

Alisha said...

It's not buying into a victim mentality at all to comment on and correct unwanted behaviour...the correction doesn't effect the change directly, the man does. Buying into the victim mentality is if we act differently in order to avoid the unwanted behaviour - ie. avoiding, remaining silent etc...then we are giving it room to exist and grow. By speaking up, we aren't adjusting our own regular behaviour; we are saying that theirs is not acceptable.
I think there is a happy medium to this. One can simply say "Your comments are misogynistic on the basis of such and such and I find them offensive and indefensible. Unfortunately, I don't think I can discuss it with you without some indication of genuine care on your part for something other than your opinion." Then the person knows you do not approve, you have done your duty and don't have to engage any further...but overall, I disagree - walking away from them won't change anything unless they know WHY you are walking away. They may easily conclude your silence was acquiescence. I also think it's wrong to say "Boors are unlikely to change their attitudes". It's a variation on "boys will be boys" or some other statement that encompasses the attitude of "why bother?". Imagine if Martin Luther King and others fighting for rights of the oppressed and just at some point said "Why bother? The Nazis/communists/white supremacists etc are going to be crazy anyway...let them be crazy."

Seraphic said...

I think tearing into guys who actually go to Mass and actually ponder their sexual sins because you are angry about r*pe culture is a bad idea. Faithful Catholic men are already under seige for their non-conformism, so any kind of fraternal correction must be handled very deftly.

Although I am not good at confrontation, I think a mild "how rude" or "what a shocking thing to say" or even the uber-feminine "Okay, I'm uncomfortable with that" are better than three sentences. Short and sweet is the way to go. Talk to even an innocent, mild-mannered, left-wing Jesuit scholastic who has been to three mandatory seminars on clerical sexual misconduct about how he feels about going to a fourth.

Actually, a huge-eyed stare and a heart-rending "Oh, Scooter, you don't really believe that, do you?" as if Superman has just been caught robbing a bank is a technique that might work for some girls.

Contemporary r*pe culture, such as that of the Chicago street described by the writer you recently linked to on facebook, can be laid at the door of contemporary popular music, particularly rap and hip-hop. As long as sharp, jerky hip-thrusting is a standard hip-hop move, I despair of hip-hop ever not contributing to r*pe culture. I have met trad Catholics who will opine on what women ought to be, but I doubt I have ever met one who would r*pe a woman if he could get away with it. I doubt anyone could say the same of hardcore male hip-hop fans.

Seraphic said...

Something else to consider about the "r*pe culture" that writer finds in urban Chicago includes the rape of boys and men in prison and any other violence, torture and humiliation meted on the weak by those who want to feel strong.

The idiots who pestered the girls about "tacos" while looking back at their friends have been told by rap music that they are victims of society and they should grab what they want in revenge. And if they are young black males (Chicago was 80% black when I was a kid), they probably are victims of their society, a society which overemphasize thuggish black men in music videos and downplays ordinary, respectably black men with wives, families, educations and steady work.

In the 1980s, one of the leading causes of death for young men in Chicago was gunshot wounds. Really, Chicago can be a very dangerous, nasty place for men and women and a world away (really, a world away) from the student lounges of Notre Dame, the drawing rooms of Edinburgh and, for that matter, even the street corners of Montreal.

Every context has its own problems, and its own culture, and carrying anger about young men on the streets of Chicago into Catholic parties makes as much sense in the context of another place as a white kid in Oakville Ontario or Wrocław, Poland getting all fired up against the local police because of the tales his L.A.-based rap heroes spew in his ears.

Seraphic said...

Sorry, that should be "respectable" not "respectably."

Seraphic said...

Alisha's last two comments have gone mysteriously missing, but here's a link she posting, and I think it's thoughtful. The one thing that gives me pause is that the writer somehow indicts Steubie U. for the cruel, criminal behaviour of the high school rapists. I don't think that's fair, and one of the sad things about the "Steubenville case" is that hitherto the most famous part of Steubenville was Franciscan U, so I automatically thought the rapes had happened there. They didn't.