Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Thinking of Lectures...

Today I am pondering what to tell my retreatants about the dignity of woman. After all, I am giving four (4) talks. So far I am thinking, "The Dignity of the Single Woman", "Theology of Woman", "Challenges to the Dignity of Women in the West" and "Heroic Catholic Women of the Past Century." This way I can talk about Blessed Natalia Tułasiewicz. (On the one hand, I want to talk about specifically Polish interests, but on the other hand, I have to know what I am talking about, and my Polish is not that terrific as yet. If, however, anyone can recommend a book in English on "Social Trends in Contemporary Poland", that would awesome.)

The problem of the West is that it is in decline. This is so obvious, I don't think I have to make an argument here. All I have to do is throw out phrases: "Internet porn addiction", "redefinition of marriage by the state", "illiterate high school graduates," "bare-breasted Argentine feminists attacking men protecting the cathedral in San Juan from them."

(If you haven't seen the youtube video for this last item, don't see it. One way the bare-breasted Argentine feminists taunted the brave Catholic men was with woman-on-woman sex acts. I have never seen anything as revolting as the behaviour of those women, if they can still be called women. They looked more like the demons tempting St. Anthony, and actually what they were doing was akin to rape, unless you think there is a better word for deliberately, out of hatred, trying to sexually arouse a man against his will. And, incidentally, how can anyone in a soi-disant Catholic country spit on a helpless, praying man without thinking of the Passion Narrative? Just thinking about those creatures makes me want to throw up.)

This is a bad, bad time for social trends in the West to be influencing the former Eastern Bloc. Which I will say. I will talk about the Polish rock film Jesteś Bogiem--although western music, including the very fact that a song called "Jesteś Bogiem" ("You are God") was considered acceptable for Polish broadcast, is part of the problem--and how hilariously innocent I found it, compared to the lives of rap artists in the West. For one thing, all the rappers in the film had fathers at home. And these fathers had married their mothers, and at least two cases were still married to their mothers. One father fixes his son's busted Walkman.

The implication was, boo hoo, in 1990s Poland you had to get your Walkman fixed, not just buy a new and better one. But what I saw was a father at home, fixing his rapper son's Walkman with his own bare fatherly hands. The neighbourhood's buildings were crumbling, sure, but it was full of fathers living at home with their children. Fatherhood was a fact of life. It was the rule, not the exception. Meanwhile, forty percent of children in the UK are born out of wedlock. And seventy percent of African-American children in the USA, birthplace of the music the heroes of Jesteś Bogiem love so much, are born out of wedlock. When marriage goes out the window, so does fatherhood, unfortunately. And lots of women are complicit in this; although sometimes the fathers are just immature jerks, sometimes we actually drive the fathers away. WHAT an age we live in.

Anyway, there is a better way, and it is called Christianity. Rant, rant, rant.

Well, rant in the combox yourselves. Be warned that I may steal your ideas and use them in my lectures without attribution.


Sunnysaffer said...


I think you need to talk about how to avoid selfishness as a single person today. Everyone is becoming so isolated by social media (ironically!)and I know so many singles who work hard then go home to spend hours on Facebook or watching the DVD box set of the latest trendy TV series (Breaking Bad at the moment). This is soooo dangerous as (to link into a previous post from this week) it makes people hesitate about giving up their single life and making a committment to another. Why take on all that responsibility when you can so easily keep yourself distracted at home? (Obviously internet p*rn should be added to my list above). This is what I tend to rant about :)

I am thinking of practical ways to draw oneself out of this selfishness- charitable works, making time to connect with people face to face, having internet and TV free evenings etc.

Andrea said...

I have Mary Eberstadt's "How the West really lost God" on my desk here, and I wonder whether it might not also be good prep for your talks? I have not read it yet. It may only be peripherally related. that said, I do love Mary Eberstadt, so really, any reason to bring up her recent book should do. :-)

Domestic Diva said...

It's good for both West and East to hear the perspective you give to things when you point out the material benefits we have in the West, but that we are rapidly losing all spiritual benefits. I pray that Poland, etc. do not follow suit!

MichelleMarie said...

@Sunnysaffer, that is so true. I didn't realize how much of my social validation as a single I got from Facebook until I took a break from it for Advent. On the plus side, it can connect you, and sometimes not even that superficially, to a larger community. If you live alone, that can be a tremendous help in staving off crippling loneliness.

On the other hand - how much more motivated would we be as young adults to get out there and create our own families if we didn't have this convenient, tidy, and risk-averse way of getting our emotional needs met?

PolishTraveler said...

Hm and here I'll have to disagree with Sunnysaffer and others, mostly because of the Polish context.

Because my surmise is that every Polish girl's mom, aunt, not-related-but-still-bossy-aunt, grandmother, hairdresser, and ESPECIALLY Catholic speakers are already telling them that they are selfish 'singielki' who need to stop gazing at their navels and instead 'settle down' and start a family (who with - they never seem to specify). The ones that tend to harp on this the most are the ones that are visibly unhappy in their marriages.

From my experience as a young Polish single at 25 when (it seemed like) every single one of my friends was getting married straight out of college, Polish girls don't need to be told that they are selfish, especially the ones that will be attending a Catholic retreat. They are probably already volunteering at homeless shelters, carrying groceries to their bed-ridden great-aunts, feeding stray cats and watching over their nieces and nephews in all of their spare time.

Sorry if I am getting heated but I think the message they need to hear is more along the lines of 'you have a right to a free evening/manicure/evening without screaming children and you are not evil for taking advantage of that right'. Everybody else (and mostly the Church) in Poland is already good at telling them the opposite.

Seraphic said...

And hence the success of "Anielskie Single" in Poland!

Unless the hairdressers, grandmothers, and whoever else are also yelling at young Polish men, they aren't doing Single women a bit of good.

Don't worry! Whereas in the West, I think we really do have to worry about selfishness and self-absorption--and marriage is helpful in that it makes sure you can't get away with this--I don't see this as a Polish problem.

Sherwood said...

Oh Polish Traveler, I extend my sympathies. How horrible it must be to have everyone in your life pressuring you - and you're right, it's like people think soul mates grow on trees and all we need to do is pick one from any tree.
Not me, thank you - knowing myself, marriage to anyone I didn't have both physical and personal chemistry with (and common world views, which is the kicker) would be a disaster. There are women who can probably marry almost any man and make it work, but I realize that I am not one of those.
Today, not one, but TWO acquaintances were SIMPLY DESPERATE to get me on the dating scene, and they practically ordered me to get a profile on a certain dating site (don't worry Seraphic, I didn't!). They could not fathom that any single young woman was not dyyying to have a boyfriend, and assumed that I was just shy and didn't know how very pretty I was. (I do know I'm pretty, but I have reasons to not be in a relationship right now.) So I smiled, made vague little comments and left. But for some reason I took a while to recover from their eagerness.

Sorry, this was more of a rant. But Polish Traveler, if my experience today was anything like single Polish women's daily experiences, my heart bleeds for you. You young 'uns sound quite selfless already; no one should ever criticize you for not having a boyfriend. You are all wonderful as you are! <3

MaryJane said...

I'm just curious, but do people really think that selfishness is a huge problem for Catholic / Christian/ Other of Good Will women in the West? I mean the typical girl who might read this blog - she'd like to get married, but the prospects just aren't great right now, and so in the mean time she just lives her life - which may include volunteering, or it may not if she has a stressful job and just wants to go home and binge watch DVDs for an evening.

I just don't know a lot of single Catholic women who would really fall under the "selfish" category (admittedly, we're all human of course), even in the West. Not being married is not for lack of trying on their part, or lack of desire, but there's only so much one can do.

{Maybe men are a different discussion, I don't know.}


Julia said...

MaryJane, from what I've seen, I don't really think that selfishness is a massive problem that religious women in the West have.

There are just different kinds of service, and some forms of service are more public and paid more attention to than others.

For example, I have a friend who used to volunteer at a men's shelter. I went with her one time, and quickly figured out that that wasn't really the right fit for me. At times I feel bad that I don't seem to gravitate towards the formal volunteering type of service, but I've come to realise that I do serve people quite a bit in more informal ways (especially members of my family).

An outsider might conclude that I'm selfish because I'm not organising charity fundraisers, but hey, not everyone is suited to that.

Tanny said...

Hmm, I wonder about the term "selfish," too… I think it connotes more than it should. Which is to say -- for some lonely, shy young single women, coming home to Facebook and television shows is not so much an act of selfish isolation as a preventative effort to preempt isolation. Distraction, to me, seems to be a means to circumvent or assuage loneliness. And then there's context to consider, too: if there are no decent boys, NCBs or otherwise, no one in whom the girl is interested, then why shouldn't she stay home and treat herself well, fulfill her life in some single way?
I guess this is the question that I always have, a kind of loopy logic that I can't figure out because it's dependent on social/cultural beliefs that I'm not sure I agree with: the girl hasn't found any boys who meet her expectations, or she just hasn't met any boys due to environmental or temperamental factors (location, social patterns, shyness, etc)--> but she shouldn't be out actively looking, right? because if you are meant to be with someone, then God will let that person come into your life --> staying home and hanging out with single friends whilst obsessing about the Preeminent Spinster Aunt, Ms. Austen, is FUN! --> but should she be out looking? Maybe that's the way the "one" is supposed to come into her life? And so on. Yep, I'm confused here. :) I wish I could attend those lectures!

MichelleMarie said...

@PolishTraveller, you're right about context being important, I'm in North America so I was speaking more generally about the single experience here, not implying that Polish girls need to be told that they are selfish. Heavens, I was on that retreat last year and never have I met such serious and earnest women.

I think it would be the wrong approach to tell a serious, earnest, scrupulous young woman further about the dangers of selfishness. But I think that forces that exist in the larger cultural milieu will, at every turn, tempt even the earnest, scrupulous young woman to selfishness.

Even so, the antidote to this is not being told to not be selfish, and to guard against it at every turn. The antidote to this is to be reminded of the joy present and available in community, that Facebook or other forms of social media cannot give you.

PolishTraveler said...

MichelleMarie, I completely agree with you on the 'joys present in community' and I'm all for initiatives that enable single women - in Poland and other countries - to partake in community, without feeling pressured to do so if for instance they are introverted, overwhelmed at work, etc.

Julia, I have the same issue with organized volunteer causes - I honestly don't have enough time in my day after work, chores, grocery shopping, and keeping in touch with my family and friends (a lot of whom have different problems they need help with) to regularly volunteer with a specific charity. I think it all depends on your place in life, if you give of yourself in daily life in the workplace and outside I think nobody can accuse you of selfishness.

Sherwood, thanks for your empathy! I've moved past that part of my life (although unfortunately out of Poland) and I'm now in an environment where being single is no big deal, and I'm happy with being single so that nobody really ever brings it up. In Poland the pressure and hints would come from outsiders and rarely came from my family so they were easy to brush off, just annoying. The one exception is my feisty Polish grandma who is so intent on matchmaking that even in the midst of a heart attack she tried to set up my cousin - older than me and single - with the cute EMT who came in an ambulance to her bedside ;) Thankfully she made it out fine but even then she tried to make sure my cousin would visit her at the hospital only at the times when the most handsome and eligible male doctors would be around.

Seraphic said...

I think selfishness and self-absorption are "Western" problems rather than "Single" problems. They're in the air, especially where family really isn't important, e.g. where parents and children actively and passionately want the children to move out by age 22.

Western Singles, priests, religious and very likely married people without children are all in danger of getting addicted to their creature comforts and closing off their lives from inconvenient others, in part because they don't have insistent children demanding their attention from dawn to well beyond dusk. It's more of a spiritual temptation than a fault we ALL have.

From what I have seen, I suspect Poles are tougher on their young than contemporary Canadians, Americans and Brits--very demanding and not afraid of tough love. At least, those I have met born before 1970 behave this way. It could be that grannies do not get that live has changed and you really do not need just any man (and his children) to survive and thrive, let alone be happy.

The problem with the word "selfish" in Poland is that it seems to go hand-in-hand with the concept of 'Single', which is pejorative. Apparently the title "Anielskie Single" was a daring choice! Really, I think Polish Single women living chaste lives should push back and say, "I'm not selfish! I'm just unmarried! Look what I do for the family!"

Julia said...

PolishTraveler - Hahaha! Babcias, hey? I can almost imagine my own Babcia doing something like that.

omblner 549 said...

Julia - we love our Babcias, don't we?

Being selfish is one of two spiritually dangerous extremes Single people can face. The other I would call perfectionism. Sometimes you may feel tempted to think like: OK, I’m Single, so I’m called to work longer hours, do more things for other people than people with families in order not to become selfish. But, selfishness is not inherently connected to Singleness. There are married people with families who are also selfish.

The world can make you feel like you have to make up for your Singleness. You have not chosen anyone (or even more often, have not been chosen by anyone), so you have to somehow justify your existence. We Christians are all called to perform good deeds for others, which means Single people also are. But don’t let other people think that Singleness means you’re just some waste than can be exploited. You’re a living creature who requires sleep, food, physical activity and spiritual nourishment. This is also something that should be reminded. Not taking good care of ourselves means frustration and burnout syndrome after some time.
Sounds bitter but I think it is worth being given a thought.

I'm writing this from Polish perspective, as our country is specific. We have been fighting for independence ever since. This meant continuous shortage of men for decades if not centuries. We have a strong stereotype of Matka Polka, a Polish mother who takes all her responsibilities at home and being mother and father to children while the father is absent. So the demands which are put on Polish women are traditionally tremendous.

Teabag said...

"actually what they were doing was akin to rape, unless you think there is a better word for deliberately, out of hatred, trying to sexually arouse a man against his will." This is a *really* problematic thing to say about rape, and extremely insensitive to rape survivors. Rape really has nothing to do with trying to sexually arouse someone, either against their will or not. Rape is penetrating someone sexually against their will, which I hope you can see is a totally different matter from what you describe here. You should also put a trigger warning at the top of your post if you are going to use such extreme language.

Pearlmusic said...

PS: the last one was from Pearlmusic :D I typed something weird into the name box (or my computer did it for me, sorry!)

Seraphic said...

@Teabag. I concur with your definition of rape. This is why I said "AKIN to rape" (i.e. not rape). What the women were doing to the men has been described by others as sexual assault, as there was unwanted touching involved.

The sexual assault of men by women is not something people talk very much about, but if you ever see the video, you will understand why I think perhaps we do need to talk about it.

Normally I do write a warning at the top of my post if there is something I think might disturb sensitive readers, particularly survivors of rape and sexual assault. I am sorry my post upset you.