St. Edith Stein's vision of womanhood involves the notion that women are helpers, but offer our help only when asked for, and then modestly return to the background to do our own thing. St. Edith Stein was operating under a classical assumption that women were made for men, an idea that was gently developed by Bl. John Paul II, who held that women, like men, "were made for themselves" but called to service.
My friend Lily and I, while backing up each other's sense that women should not ask men out on dates, used to say, "Call-Response" to each other. Call-Response. Call-Response. It was our shorthand for the idea that men call women and women respond. No call, no response.
That can be an alarming idea. A very alarming idea indeed. After all, what if a man doesn't call? Or what if the right man doesn't call? And this, unfortunately, is the thought that gnaws upon the minds of women who want to be married and aren't. It's made all the worse by the Sexual Revolution, which hates marriage and loves divorce and treats men and women like lease-to-own automobiles.
One of my few male detractors, in a comment I didn't publish (naturally), linked to a website dedicated to warning men not to marry. I'm always amazed when Catholic and Christian men sign on for anti-marriage campaigns, but there it is. To such men I would say, "Okay, buddy. If you don't want to get married, you don't have to get married. But don't have any kids either. And don't waste the lives of women who don't want to be sterile concubines. And, incidentally, premarital sex is still a mortal sin."
The next step would be for such men to tattoo "Marriage Sucks" on their ring fingers, where Single women naturally glance when they think a man looks interesting. I think even the most reality-denying women would pause before pursuing a guy who was so hard-core anti-marriage that he actually tattooed it on himself. For balance he could tattoo a big V for vasectomy on the ring finger of his other hand, and thus attract only those women who want a guy who will offer neither permanence nor children. Birds of a feather.
And what does a girl do if she is surrounded by such men? Well, I'll tell you. She gets the best education she can afford, she gets a job, she lives within her means and saves for a rainy day, she goes out into the world to have fun conversations and make friends, and she goes to Church to ask the Lord where He wants her to serve.
If men don't want to get married, there's no point crying. It's not like men who are hardcore anti-marriage are all that and a bag of chips. Sure, they need help, but they aren't asking for it, so it's no woman's job to offer it. Call-Response. If they don't call, you don't respond. You don't have to put aside your own interests, or make any sacrifices, or shelve your dreams to chase after potential husbands, particularly the ones who are anti-marriage, and indeed you should not. If women are financially secure and not overwhelmingly troubled by sexual temptation, then men need women more than women need men.* That said, it's not nice to rub men's noses in this. It's not friendly. Women are, at very least, called to be the friends of men.
It seems to me that the anti-marriage brigade is not as afraid of marriage as it is of divorce. But that is a subject for another post. What I am thinking of today is of a certain female detachment. I have the image of a slim young librarian in my head (why a librarian, I do not know, and the library I am thinking of no longer exists) shelving books in tranquility. She enjoys her job, she loves her friends, she's open to meeting new people--being a friendly sort--but she blenches at the idea of actively searching for men. I don't know if a man she discovers she loves will ever ask my imaginary librarian to assuage his longing by marrying him, but I know she's got self-possession. She has dignity, and I mean that in a good way.
*Naturally this is offset by the not-very-rooted-in-reality, culturally determined, unscientific idea that unmarried women are failures in some way. When I was at B.C. on full scholarship (oh, alas), a young Vietnamese manicurist who told me that what she liked best about the USA was seeing all the cars go back and forth (?), upon hearing that I was 36 and unmarried, gave me such a look of astonished pity, that I am sure I will never forget it. I suspect that the taboo about unmarried women is society's way of making sure enough women knuckle under and just get married, so that men settle down--or at least be less tempted to riot in the streets--and babies get born.