Religion

How to write a dress code for boys

Have you seen this?  This completely unsurprising supposedly-directed-at-both-genders-yet-curiously-female-centric dress code for a prom at a *gasp* Catholic school?

Yeah.

The inevitable discussion is of course all about misogynistic body-policing vs. good and common sense, summarized with one word in the usual way: modesty.

Look, the school absolutely has the right to set the tone they want for the event.  So they want a formal, respectable prom where everyone is dressed with taste and elegance?  Good for them.  But why the single-minded focus on the women?  I assume there will be guys there, correct?  And there are expectations for gentlemanly dress and appearance, correct?

Oh, wait –

“Young men are expected to wear formal evening attire that would include a tuxedo, suit with a tie, or sport coat and slacks with a tie.”

That’s it?

Really?

But the women get pages – pages – of examples?!

“But Athena, there’s just so much more variety in women’s clothing – that’s why the women need the additional focus!  And there’s only so many pages because the school is just so generously providing examples so that there’s no confusion about what’s allowed!”

Yes, they are providing examples!  Good for them.  I have no doubt that those examples were provided in order to make it crystal clear to girls exactly how to follow the dress code.  But here’s the problem: all of those models are a size 2.  Further, prominently featured in the dress code are subjective statements such as, “Dresses should not be excessively tight,” and “Some girls may wear the same dress, but due to body types, one dress may be acceptable while the other is not,” and even a flat-out admission that “Modesty is admittedly a subjective interpretation.”  In short, there is zero guidance for curvier girls regarding the overall look that would be considered acceptable for their body type, which means that there is a lot of room for disagreement between school administration and a student making a good-faith attempt to comply.

“Really, Athena, this is really nothing different than a fashion magazine showing young adults what to wear to job interviews!”

Err … yes it is.  In particular, a guide for men’s interview clothing would discuss recommended color combinations, the proper fit of clothes, a provision that clothing should be wrinkle-free, and many other details that, in total, yield a professional, put-together look.

Speaking of detail, it’s time I get to the point of my post, which is –

How to write a dress code for formal dances without being sexist (i.e. in such a way that compliance for women and men is equally burdensome with roughly equivalent ratios of good sense and arbitrary rules)

For women

I don’t think anyone needs my help writing a dress code for women.  So let’s skip this part.

For men

  • Men are expected to wear formal evening attire that would include a tuxedo or a suit with a tie.
  • Jackets should hang off the shoulders in a dignified manner without being too big. Jackets must be worn at all times to preserve the dignity and formality of the event.  Jackets are allowed to be unbuttoned while dancing or seated but must be buttoned at all other times.
  • Vests are optional, but if worn must be color-coordinated with the tie and the rest of the outfit. Vests must remain buttoned at all times.
  • Ties are required. Ties may either be in the necktie or bowtie style and must be properly tied; clip-on ties are disallowed.  If a necktie style is chosen, the bottom of the tie must hang to between the top and the bottom of the belt buckle when standing up straight.  Neckties may be no more than 3” wide at the widest point, and bowties may be no more than 2” wide at the widest point.  Ties must be worn and properly tied at all times and may not be “loosened”.
  • Belts are required. Belt buckles may not be more than 2.5” in diameter and should not be ostentatious in appearance.  Belts should be color-coordinated with the rest of the outfit.
  • Pants should not be oversized nor excessively tight. Pants should hang to the ankle when standing.  Pants may touch the top of the shoes but should not touch the ground when standing up straight.
  • Dress socks and dress shoes are required. Athletic shoes and/or athletic socks are disallowed.  If you have a medical waiver allowing special footwear, you must bring your waiver with you to be allowed into the dance.

The overall look should be formal and tasteful, properly fitted, not oversized, and not excessively tight.  Men wearing wrinkled or improperly fitting clothing will not be allowed to attend.  Tastefulness is admittedly a subjective interpretation, but one which we have a duty to uphold.  Students should therefore err on the side of formality and good taste and not put school administrators in the difficult position of upholding school standards.

Guidelines will be strictly enforced.  Students, including guests, not in compliance with the dress code will not be admitted to the dance.  There will NOT be a loaner clothing option.  Having been specifically forewarned, we expect nothing less than full cooperation from students and their parents on this issue.


General notes

We understand that there is a degree of judgment in fulfilling the provisions for good taste and modesty.  We further understand that what is acceptable to one school official may not be acceptable to another.  Because we reserve the right to strictly enforce the guidelines, yet we want to minimize misunderstandings and disappointment inherent in strict enforcement of subjective guidelines, we are available to pre-approve your outfit.  From (date) to (date), text a picture of yourself in your proposed outfit to XXX-XXX-XXXX.  If you receive a response of “approved,” simply show the approval to anyone who challenges you the evening of prom.

If you are unable to attend for any reason, your ticket cost will be refunded to you.


 

There – see how easy that was?

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Agnostic

Scene: Husband and I in the basement on our computers, each playing a game.

Me: *grumble*

Husband: What?

Me: Nothing.  It’s fine.

Husband: No really, what?

Me: *inwardly sigh and make the decision to let him feel like he’s helping* This game mechanic isn’t working, but it’s okay.  I’m just not going to worry about it, and I’ll try it again some other time.

Husband: Have you tried clicking it?

Me: Yes.

Husband: Have you tried reloading the user interface?

Me: …. Yes.

Husband: Have you looked up what else you’re supposed to do for it to work?

Me: Yes I have, and there’s nothing else.  It should be working but it’s not.  No reason why.

Husband: *irritated* Look, things don’t just not work without a reason.  So there’s not no reason, there is a reason.  You’re probably doing something wrong.

Me: *also irritated now* Yes I’m aware that there is a reason that exists somewhere in the bowels of the program.  I just don’t feel like spending my limited leisure time figuring it out.

Husband: Well if we don’t figure it out, we can’t fix it.  Here, let me try –

Me: *interrupting* Look, I don’t care.  I really don’t.  I’m aware that if I don’t investigate, I will never know.  And I’m okay with that.  See, while you are content to remain agnostic with regard to important things like the existence of God and the implications (or lack thereof) on the universe as a whole and your place in it, I am content to remain agnostic with regard to shit that doesn’t matter, like why this game mechanic doesn’t work.

Fin

If you don’t feel loved, it’s your fault

And a Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too!

I’ve seen a couple versions of this message over the years in various places, and I hate it.  It’s nothing but the typical behavior-policing misogyny that you see over and over again from conservative religious types.

To be clear, I believe in God – 100% convinced He exists and He loves us based on the various logical arguments, philosophical arguments, historical evidence, scientific evidence of various miracles, and the occasional clear-as-day perception of an overwhelming Presence from time to time.

But this type of post is not helpful.  At all.  If you’re convinced that God is real, the absolute WORST thing you can do is conjure up emotionally manipulative bullshit and slap God’s name on it. All you’re going to do with that is drive people away when they see it for the victim-blaming poison it is.  Off the top of my head, here are the most obvious toxic messages embedded in this very short article:

  1. Fun-loving personalities are “desperate” and “attention-seeking.”  Exhibit A: The stock photo used for this piece.  With their modest clothes, tasteful makeup, joyful smiles, moderate portions of wine, and no men anywhere in sight – what exactly are those girls doing that could possibly be offensive?  To anyone?  Also, some people are naturally more flamboyant and attract more attention than others, and guess what?  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  How about we not insult them with derogatory terms, mmkay?
  2. Reasonable expectations are “begging for attention and affection.”  Because we gals are just so needy, ya know?  How about we stop pretending that there’s something wrong with people who need attention and affection from their loved ones?  Yes I said people instead of women on purpose – because there are plenty of men who thrive on affection.
  3. If you experience completely normal feelings of loneliness, it’s your fault.  Because God loves you.  QED.  If that doesn’t work to make your feelings of loneliness magically vanish, it just means you need to be beaten over the head with the Catechism a few more times.  Hell, even the newly canonized St. Mother Teresa had some spiritual dry spells where she didn’t feel loved by God.  So where do you people get off telling normal, non-canonized people that there’s something wrong with them for feeling the exact same way?
  4. Your needs for human interaction (which you were created with) are irrelevant. When you make a friend or start a relationship, be sure to consult your crystal ball ahead of time so you know whether or not the relationship will work.  If it doesn’t yield a flat, emotion-free, passion-free courtship … err … I mean chaste of course … and end in marriage, it’s clearly your fault for “settling.”  Emotional and social needs are a thing, and it’s very damaging to pretend they aren’t real.
  5. You think you know what you want, but you don’t.  You need someone else to tell you what you really want because your feelings aren’t real.  Not directly stated in this piece, but strongly implied with the references to your suffering, your free will, your unwise decision to “settle.”  More explicitly stated by the female half of this couple, who in her pamphlet addressed to young women says, “You think you want sex, but you don’t; what you really want is love.”  It’s very damaging to create or encourage a dissonance between your intellect and your desires this way.

So what’s the answer?  I don’t have one, other than, “Sometimes life sucks and you can’t do anything about it.  I’m sorry.”  Once you confront the truth of this, you’ll have a better shot at where to go from there.

The Problem With Perfectionist Conservatism, Part I of II

Kayla Sue wrote a post a couple months ago talking about “a disturbing movement within the [pro-life] movement that is strongly anti-contraception.”  What she doesn’t get into is how much deeper it goes and why it exists in the first place – there’s a lot going on in the background and below the surface that most visibly manifests this way, and I think it’s worth taking the time to understand where it’s all coming from.

My background, in a nutshell – I was raised a conservative Catholic, I’m still Catholic, and I had a few very messy years in early adulthood.  So I’m fairly familiar with conservative thought and Catholic apologetics, but I’ve had the experience of challenging a lot of my assumptions, sifting through to see what’s bullshit and what holds up.  I’ve worked on seeing what works for me, what works for other people, what doesn’t seem to work for anyone, and occasionally what seems to work for most people.

Now, once you’ve established what’s true and good and beautiful at an individual level, you still have to decide what works for public policy.  And while you have to keep in mind that the way you see the world is not the only way to see the world, I agree with Archbishop Chaput that “A healthy democracy depends on people of conviction working hard to advance their ideas in the public square – respectfully and peacefully, but vigorously and without apologies.”  Unfortunately, this means that for many issues there is realistically no such thing as “live and let live.”

Meet the Perfectionist Conservative

When I say “perfectionist conservative” I am referring to the conservative that is shooting for the moon, social policy-wise.  They want no same-sex marriage, no divorce, no birth control, no abortions, no sex outside of marriage, no single parents and NOTHING LESS IS ACCEPTABLE.  They are unable to prioritize; they want it all at once.  In no way does this represent all conservatives, but as Kayla Sue noted, there’s a bunch out there.  So let me take you inside the mind of a perfectionist conservative, beginning with some baseline concepts:

Human nature – Human nature is corrupt.  Without external constraints, humans will descend into ugliness.  But we need people to behave to minimize the negative impact on innocents such as children.  To get people to behave, we need to make the consequences of bad behavior unpleasant so people will not do those things.  We also need to make unfortunate circumstances unpleasant so people will be sufficiently motivated to do something about it.  Everything is seen through this punitive lens.

Feeding into this, I think, is the way many perfectionist conservatives were raised as children.  Many will wax poetic about how their parents were successful at controlling their behavior with the constant threat of a spanking.  For their own good, of course.  So all they can conceive of for social policy is an environment of punitive control that should be put into place for everyone else’s good, too.

Theology of the Body – Shorthand for the grand unified theory of how our bodies relate to our souls, and based on that, how we should treat our bodies.  Based on a series of talks by St. JPII.  Note: It’s actually on my reading / blogging list because I keep getting referred back to this body of work in my struggles to understand and accept Catholic teaching on sex and birth control.  Widely assumed that if everyone everywhere followed the guidance of Theology of the Body, various social issues would go away.  Specifics include:

  • Sex – An acceptable activity only for married couples so that children have a safe place and stable household to grow up in. Leads to a lot of smug attitude from married conservatives, with an undercurrent of “nah nah ni boo boo” whenever they talk about how people shouldn’t be having sex if they’re not married.  Also leads to a lot of hostility in abstinent single men who are being eaten alive with jealousy that other people are having more fun than they are.  Anyone who has sex outside of marriage is a slave to lust and is party to an inherently abusive relationship, both with their own bodies and with the other person.  Even if you have sex with your fiancée a half-hour before your wedding.  Purity culture addendum: Men have sex because they “need” it; women have sex because they are trying to trick men into loving them.  So women need to deny men the satisfaction of their “need” in order to wrest a commitment (i.e. marriage) out of them in order to satisfy their own need for love.  It’s just the way men and women are; no use denying biology.
  • Birth control – Enables people to have sex outside of marriage without the “consequences” of children. Also enables married couples to continue to selfishly use each other for lustful purposes without the consequences of children.  Note: All that being said, I have to think that the long-term effects of all of us dumping hormones into our bodies en masse cannot be benign.  It would be nice if we collectively could maybe not assume that turning our bloodstreams into artificially-created hormone rivers is necessary and normal.  It would also be nice if young women could go to the doctor for things unrelated to reproduction without being pressured into taking a prescription for birth control pills.

Marriage – the basis for the family, the building block of society.  We need to encourage strong marriage … by making it supremely unpleasant to be in anything other than a monogamous, heterosexual marriage.  And we need to make it difficult / impossible to divorce, because people only divorce for selfish reasons.  Also, if people do “need” a divorce because of abuse, they need to prove it in court.  Because abusers always leave a neat trail of evidence, and if they don’t then it’s not really abuse anyway.  Also, abuse victims should be able to clearly and logically piece together their stories in a sequential fashion, because trauma isn’t a thing.  If they can’t tell a clear, logical, sequential story in which they reacted to every stimulus like a “reasonable person,” it’s not because of the way trauma messes with your brain; it just means they are lying.  Marriage is also a ticket out of poverty, and we will prove it by trotting out statistics of how middle class and rich people behave and make the logical leap that poor people can become like middle class and rich people by behaving like them, but only in ways that we care about, such as marriage.  Note: No word on whether you can magically lift yourself out of poverty by buying a yacht and a vacation home in the Hamptons.

Family – the building block of society.  We need to encourage strong families … by making it supremely unpleasant to be in anything other than a nuclear family.

Self-denial – Life is not about what you want and it is childish to use “but I want it” as an argument for anything.  We need to be better than the animals and master self-denial and self-control.  Note: A fair point, but too often used as a crutch.  By itself carries no weight, even though it is often treated like it does.

Right to life – the foundation for every other human right.  Liberty, bodily autonomy, equal protection under the law – none of those have any meaning without the right to life as an inviolable foundation.  Touches a lot of specific issues, but for today we are only roping in:

  • Abortion – This is the only issue that is actually a matter of life and death.

Why the inability to prioritize?

You will notice that at the end of a very long section detailing the perfectionist conservative’s opinions on all the things that are wrong with society, there is one small sentence on abortion – the only issue that is actually a matter of life and death.  But that’s not good enough for the perfectionist conservative – they want it all.  At once.  Right now.

I mentioned earlier that one of the defining characteristics of the perfectionist conservative is the seeming inability to prioritize one issue over another, and I think I see two reasons for this:

  • Cultural blend – not so long ago, American culture and Christianity were very intertwined. They still are, but not to the extent they used to be.  Even so, this is why you see a lot of people falling back on Christian theology to explain their recommendations for social policy.  They are unable to separate what every Christian optimally ought to practice with what you can reasonably expect people from a variety of backgrounds to conform to.  So you ask the perfectionist conservative what his non-negotiables are for social policy and he says, “All of them.”
  • Perfect is the enemy of the good – the perfectionist conservative believes that ALL of their pet issues need to be addressed RIGHT NOW or any remaining permissiveness will once again rot society to the core. After all, with the very future of Western Civilization™ at stake, one simply cannot negotiate with terrorists. Note: I give them points for realizing that things are connected to causes, but then I take those points back away for refusing to listen to what actual problems and actual causes are.

 

In Part II we will talk about how the perfectionist conservative sees various social ills, how they want to fix them, where they are wrong, and where they are right.

American Catholics are …

Now this is kinda fun.  Here is a Huffington Post article with the 25 metropolitan areas with the greatest proportions of Catholics.  To make very blanket regional judgments, American Catholics are:

  • Everyone (New York – #2)
  • Where I live (Chicago – #4)
  • Smog-breathers (Los Angeles – #6)
  • Bad drivers (Miami – #7)
  • Love a good time (Las Vegas – #8)
  • Live in chilly humidity (San Francisco – #11)
  • … and dry heat (Phoenix – #12)
  • Hypocritical, lying scumbags (Washington, D.C. – #20)
  • Coffee-lovers (have you met me?) (Seattle – #24)
  • Hipsters (Portland – #25)

And there’s more on the list, obviously.  Take a minute and click through at least for the pictures – they look great!

One thing that will DOOM your marriage

Right here is a marriage that is definitely doomed to fail:

What is wrong with you people?

What is wrong with you people?

My husband and I saw this last weekend and the conversation went like this:

Me: *Gaping in horror* How would that even work?

Him: I don’t know – maybe they work through it somehow?

Me: Yes, but … why would you even get married if you’re so far apart on such a fundamental life philosophy?  I mean, a difference in politics?  Fine – you can learn from each other.  A difference in religion?  Sure, I get that – no problem.  But this?!  No way.  Anyone that would put up that sign is either not in a happy marriage or is soon to get divorced.

Him: Maybe they just learn not to speak to each other for five months out of the year?

Me: *Shaking head* I still don’t understand how they would get to the point of considering marriage.  I mean, if you were a Packer fan …  I don’t think I could have married you.  I mean, the Catholic – agnostic thing is fine, no problem.  But this?  I … I really don’t think I could have done it.

Him: I know what you mean.

The Church is Not Yet Dead: An Interview with Dr. Shannen Dee Williams

“No person has ever been simply Catholic, and any attempt to discuss or frame Catholicism without acknowledging the great diversity of the Catholic faithful or the intersection of people’s identities is woefully inadequate and perhaps even intentionally insincere. Indeed, I immediately become suspicious when I hear someone dare to offer the “Catholic” perspective … being Catholic means to live, breathe, serve, and rejoice in the Holy Spirit like Martha Jane Chisley Tolton. It also means to be the pious, but once lapsed, black Catholic woman to whom Martha Jane’s son, Father Augustus Tolton, administered death rites on Sunday, May 10, 1891. Nine years earlier, this black woman, whose name has been lost in the historical record, had been “hurled out of a white church and even cursed at by the Irish members” for daring to worship with her fellow Catholics in Chicago as equals. Despite suffering such savage violence and hatred from white Catholics, this woman’s faith had endured, and she “thanked God” at her death for a priest who finally saw her as a human being and a child of God. That is what it means to keep the faith and serve God in the face of oppression. That is what it means to be truly Catholic.”

The Catholic Church is called such because it is supposed to be catholic (i.e. universal). I grew up in a stodgy, white church, where the only, right, sacred way to worship God is that of Northern European liturgical culture, language, and music handed down to the present unchanged. I have my own complaints about that myopic perspective, but it pales in comparison with the stories Dr. Williams shares about herself and other black Catholics throughout history.

At the end of the day, why do we stay? The only reason that makes sense is that although the Church is made of imperfect humans that do plenty of awful things, we are all centered around and reaching for God, Who makes us more than the sum of our imperfect parts.

Daily Theology

Over the last month, I have had the privilege of interviewing, via email, Dr. Shannen Dee Williams, an Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.  Williams is currently working on the manuscript for her first book entitled, “Subversive Habits: Black Nuns and the Long Struggle to Desegregate Catholic America,” which unearths the forgotten history of black Catholic sisters in the fight to eradicate racial and gender barriers in the U.S. Church and wider American society. When published, it will be the first historical monograph on black nuns in twentieth-century America.  

JS: First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of the conversation here at Daily Theology.  If you don’t mind, let’s start with your background.  Could you tell me a bit about your own journey, growing up in the Catholic Church?

Dr. Shannen Dee Williams

SW: Growing up, I could count the number of…

View original post 4,950 more words

#Muslims4Lent

This just warms my heart!

After all the terrorism and finger-pointing and fighting and speculation and profiling and racism and ignorance … all of that and more, I’m completely humbled by this and so very appreciative.

While we were arguing about whether Duke can play the Muslim call to prayer, other Christians were fasting with their Muslim brethren during Ramadan.  Before ISIS beheaded 12 Coptic Christians, other Muslims formed a human shield around Egyptian Catholics attending Mass.  And Christians formed a human shield around Muslims praying.

It makes my heart ache that there are places in the world where violence and death and torture is a very real possibility, but in the middle of all this darkness there is light.  There is hope.

Yes, we CAN treat each other like brothers under the same God.  We CAN.  And we WILL.

Holiday roundup 2014: Lives remembered

We’ve had a pretty hectic couple of months, and early January is a good time to reflect on things.  Let’s be honest – January isn’t good for much else!

Anyway, I need to get my candle out again.

Here it is

Here it is

Thanksgiving weekend, the son of a family friend died of an accidental heroin overdose.  We went to his memorial service the following Saturday.

I remember the first time I met Seth – he had come to one of my mother-in-law’s parties with his mom Joan and his sister Katlyn.  I can make polite conversation well enough, but I was struck by two things – 1) he could keep up with me intellectually.  Not to toot my own horn, but I don’t meet many people who can.  2) he just knew exactly the right thing to say all the time – what an incredible gift!

In casual conversation, I told his mother how wonderfully sweet Katlyn was and how impressed I was by Seth.  When I said that she gave me a friendly half-smile, half-smirk and chuckled, “Yeah …” and stopped.  I half-chuckled along with her, having NO idea what that was about.

At some point over the next year, I heard the rest of the story from my mother-in-law.  Seth and Katlyn’s dad had been a horrible mixture of coddling and abusive to Seth.  Not Katlyn – just Seth.  Seth got the intersection of “Oh my sweet baby boy!” and “Suck it up – don’t be a whiny little girl, be a MAN!”  That type of abuse would fuck anybody up; and fuck Seth up it did.  He started a heroin habit as a teen, got clean a couple times, but relapsed periodically.  He would work really hard at getting his life together, succumb to a desire for a momentary fix, and then start from ground zero again.  It was very frustrating for Joan to know her son was capable of so much but was being dragged down by his addiction.

Ultimately, Seth and Katlyn’s dad left their mom.  Right when Joan was going through treatment for cancer.  Great timing!  Couldn’t have been better.  After the divorce, Seth and Katlyn’s dad didn’t talk to them.  No calls, no visits, no birthday cards.  Nothing.  By the time he was 19, Seth was a work in progress.  He was attending a support group for recovering addicts, Joan and Katlyn were attending a support group for families of recovering addicts, and it was then that Joan and Katlyn began preparing themselves for the possibility that they might lose Seth if he relapsed.  Seth was gainfully employed most of the time, even though he bounced around a lot.  He started attending church, finding strength and purpose there.

It was just last October that Seth, Katlyn, and Joan just happened to drive by my mother-in-law’s house on their way out.  When they saw that the kids and I were there and that we had JUST finished raking all the leaves into a HUGE pile, Joan pulled into the driveway.  No sooner did the car doors open but my girls RAN toward the car – “SETH!!! KATIE!!! Come PLAY with us!!!”

About three nanoseconds later, Katlyn was snuggling my baby boy who was shamelessly flirting with her, and Seth was buried in the leaves.  I yelled, “GIRLS!!! Be CAREFUL!!! Seth is NOT a jungle gym! BE NICE!!! Seth, hand me your sunglasses and phone – I’ll put them somewhere safe – GIRLS!!!”

I think it’s adorable when people are so doting that don’t tell my girls no, and Seth was one of them.  He would have let them jump on him, bury him in the leaves and squish him, and he wouldn’t have complained.  Lord knows why he was so sweet with my girls, but he was.  I did my best to watch out for him, because even if he wasn’t going to say no, it still wouldn’t have been okay for them to actually HURT him.

When my girls had worn themselves out from beating up and jumping on Seth (who STILL hadn’t complained and seemed game for more!), we all exchanged hugs and Joan and her family left.

That was the last time I saw him alive.

Early Friday morning after Thanksgiving, Katlyn woke up and saw a girl in white in her room.  She had never seen anything like that before but she wasn’t scared; she checked the time on her phone – 4:40 – and then turned over and closed her eyes.  She assumed she was just dreaming.

Friday afternoon they found him, shortly before 5:00 p.m.  He had been gone about twelve hours.

A few days before the funeral, I told my girls (ages 11 and 9) that Seth had died.  Because we wanted to be honest with them, we told them how he died, and we told them that it was an accident.  We told them that unfortunately that’s one of the dangers of illegal drugs.

But honestly ALSO means that’s not who he was.  Heroin was something he did, and his accidental death was something that happened to him, but that’s not who he was.  He was the guy who played in the leaves with them that day.  He was the guy who always knew just what to say.  He was the guy who was SO bright with SO much potential.  He was the guy who was going to look back on this time in his life and laugh at how far he had come.

His soul was such a bright light and the world is a little bit darker with him gone.


That same weekend my friend lost his mom.  She was very old and had been declining for some time.  It was definitely time for her to die and he knows this, but there’s still a finality to death that takes some emotional wrangling.  Being a middle-aged man, he’s dealing with it the way he deals with everything else – with a mix of morbid, light-hearted humor.


But the great circle of life continues – that same weekend, one of my coworkers became a grandmother.  Her daughter gave birth to a perfect, healthy baby girl three weeks ahead of schedule.  Baby, parents, and grandparents are ecstatic, doing well, and adjusting to the new little being in their lives.


I have to remind myself that even as we are sad for lives lost, there continue to be new lives, new opportunities, new experiences.  It is the nature of the world to be this way.

I don’t know what to say to close this post out, but one of the benefits of being Catholic when you don’t know what to say is that there’s a pre-prepared prayer for everything.  And one of the benefits of being Catholic in the internet age is that with a quick Google search I can find any of them that I want.  So I’m just going to scroll back up to my candle and ask all of you reading this – I don’t know what your religion or spirituality is (if any), but please send prayers / thoughts / positive energy up for the people in your world who are mourning lives lost and who are marveling at new life.

It’s a woman’s world, apparently

I read a few related things lately, and some thoughts started rolling around.  Just so you get a sense of the overall sentiment that I’m responding to, the things I read are here, here, here, and here.  I’ll cherry-pick some quotes at the end, but first some general thoughts –

So it seems that for thousands of years, people (male and female) basically trudged about their business because we collectively lacked the spare time to contemplate how we each got a raw deal in the social order.  Then women started to speak up.  Now whether this was because women got the worse end of the deal or because women can communicate better – not a debate I want to have right now.  The fact remains that feminism happened.  “Pardon me, sir, but wouldn’t it be jolly good if I could own property in my own name?  While you’re at it, it would be really awesome if I had access to the same employment opportunities men do so I have an option to get my children and myself out of an abusive marriage without starving to death.  And if you’re feeling REALLY generous, you can start judging me on my capabilities as an individual rather than what’s between my legs.”

So there were some sputters and starts and even today there is STILL some resistance to these basic ideas, but by and large women got what they needed.  And women also got affirmation and encouragement for however they wanted to express their femininity – whether it be with lace and fake nails or short hair and weightlifting. (I’m oversimplifying because I don’t want to write another 300 pages.  And if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t want to read another 300 pages, either. )

And men didn’t get that encouragement – it was presumed that men didn’t need any affirmation.  After all, they were the default.  And the default isn’t ignored, per se – it’s taken for granted.  The default doesn’t get recognition or affirmation for being the default.

Also, they never asked for it.  The age-old stereotype of men being dismissive of their wives’ feelings and neglectful of their wives’ needs … now men are talking about how THEY have dismissed feelings and neglected needs, too.  How does it feel?  Do men take this as a lesson in how to be a better human being?  “Gee, maybe women have a point about needing affirmation and maybe I should not be a jerk because now I know how it feels.  And maybe I should be a grownup and ask for what I need.”  Some men take it that way, but other men react like “Women are eeeevil!  How dare they get their needs met!  What about meeeeee?”

So – are men getting what they need?  Some men don’t think so.  The world has become too “feminized.”  Men need to be MEN!  Masculinity is GREAT!  Men have NEEDS!  And oh by the way feminism is EVIL because it ignores and diminishes the needs of MEN!

Slow down – let’s back up a bit.  The whole point of feminism was that women are not all the same;  women have different interests and abilities and should have the freedom to pursue them and should be paid the same as a man doing the same work.  But the idea behind the emangelists(*) is that in the most important ways, men ARE all the same.  That’s a big reason there’s such a huge disconnect between feminists and emangelists – women fought for the right to be seen as individuals instead of a monolithic bloc and now men are fighting for the right to be seen as a monolithic bloc.  Do you see why this doesn’t make a lot of sense to feminists?

Maybe we should do a better job of affirming EVERYONE in a way that recognizes their contribution as individuals and allows them to own their unique masculine or feminine identity.  Susie being the breadwinner for her family is a valid expression of her femininity just as Johnny being the stay-at-home parent is a valid expression of his masculinity.  Samantha is “woman enough” being a professional bodybuilder and Jack is “man enough” being a nurse.

Sure, men can be valiant conquerors with majestic beards and BIG MUSCLES – if that’s how you want to be a man, so be it.  What you don’t get to do, though, is pretend that YOUR masculinity is the ONLY way to be masculine.  You ALSO don’t get to advocate a return to the “good old days” and dismiss the very real problems of a system where women don’t have the same legal rights and recourse as men do.  You don’t get to pretend that your needs and priorities are hard-wired in and universal to males as a whole.  ASK for what you need and find a spouse / companion / group of friends that provide those things.  And turn around and provide what your spouse / companion / group of friends need, too.

(*) I’m speaking of the best, most genuine, intellectually honest representations of both feminism and men’s rights.  But because men’s rights is inextricably linked with extremism in my mind, I’m going to refer to it as “emangelization” after one of the sites I linked to – New Emangelization.  Also because it’s a catchy-sounding name.


Now to the cherry-picking:

From Cardinal Burke:

The Church becomes very feminized. …The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.  Men are often reluctant to become active in the Church. The feminized environment and the lack of the Church’s effort to engage men has led many men to simply opt out.

Last I checked, there was still a dude in fancy liturgical vestments oh, I dunno, acting in persona Christi and saying the Mass.  And that’s not nothing!

But to Cardinal Burke’s actual point, there’s a pretty detailed post and discussion of this on a scale broader than the Catholic Church over here on patheos.  When I think of my own parish, there are a lot of women involved as religious ed teachers (of which I am one). But I think that probably has more to do with how gender roles still work in our society as opposed to a “feminization” of the Church.

Of the women who are teaching, the vast majority of them are retired / stay-at-home parents / work part-time, so they have MUCH more flexibility with their time. Relatively few of us women have full-time work and still volunteer. But of the men who volunteer, ALL of them have full-time work and still volunteer; there are probably an equal number of men and women who have full-time work and still volunteer.

So to me, the irony is that the solution to the “problem” of “feminization” is more feminism – free men and women from the constraints of gender roles and you will likely have a different gender distribution.

Also from Cardinal Burke:

The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time.

A couple of things are going on here – first, I think there’s a lot of assumptions here about what is “natural” and universal and what is encouraged.  Even as a kid in elementary school, I got along better with the boys than the girls.  I played soccer and kickball with the boys at recess, and I read He-Man books with the boys during free time.  My involvement in these activities didn’t seem to bother the boys at all, and they certainly didn’t “drift away” over time.  Second, there’s an idea that because the girls do something better than the boys, the boys become discouraged and give up.  Why?  I thought Men™ liked challenge and competition and liked to conquer things?  Why wouldn’t the boys let the girls’ skill inspire them to get better?  So clearly we’re a little fuzzy on what, exactly, the universal nature of Men™ is, if such a thing exists (which I don’t think it does).

Again from Cardinal Burke:

Men are facing great temptations, particularly, as I mentioned due to pornography and confusion about sexuality and desperately need to be taught how to battle these temptations in Christ.

As a former teenage girl, I can tell you that a teenage girl’s sex drive is all-consuming and makes it VERY difficult to do anything productive some days.  But the message I got from church and the other pro-purity materials that got passed around my circle was that women don’t have sex drives.  Not really – women might THINK they want sex, but they REALLY want love.  But because men have SUCH a sex drive, it’s up to the girls to protect the boys from themselves through modesty and through always having to be on guard and always having to be the ones to say “no” to sex.

It’s all well and good to say that men are “facing great temptations,” but even now the “great temptations” that women face are COMPLETELY ignored and dismissed with a “Oh you just don’t UNDERSTAND.  Men have it SO much worse.”  Purity messaging hasn’t really changed at all in the last 20 years.

So I have to protect the boys from themselves but I get to wrangle my sex drive on my own without even an acknowledgment that it exists?  Color me unimpressed.

More Cardinal Burke:

Everyone understands that women have and can be abused by men. Men who abuse women are not true men, but false men who have violated their own manly character by being abusive to women.

You don’t get to dismiss the possibility of domestic violence with a verbal wave of your hand.  For some of us, domestic violence is a reality we lived through, and the ONLY reason we are alive and successful today is because of the “radical feminism” that pushes for things like equal pay for equal work, daycare assistance programs, and women’s resource centers.

Yes – women’s resource centers.  If you have more obligations put on you, you need more help.  Statistically, if a woman is abusive, the man leaves with little to no ill effects; he goes and gets another place to live with the uninterrupted income from the job that he had all along and generally moves on with his life.  When a man is abusive, the woman is left destitute.  Oh – and she has to take care of the kids, too.  So she needs to feed them, and she needs to secure childcare, and she needs a place to live -and all that requires money that doesn’t have.  Child support (when you can collect it) generally doesn’t even begin to close the gap.

When we say things like “structuralized sexism,” we’re not trying to be mean.  All we’re saying is the Way Things Are™ set up by men back when it was ONLY men’s priorities that mattered and there was ONLY ONE WAY to be a man works very well for men (duh).  That’s why there’s no men’s resource centers – the whole world is your men’s resource center.

And one more from Cardinal Burke:

We have to be very clear with men about purity, chastity, modesty and even the way men dress and present themselves. Men’s behaviors and dress matter, for it affects how they relate to the world and it affects the culture. Men need to dress and act like men in a way that is respectful to themselves, to women and to children.

YES!!! Did you see that?!!! Cardinal Burke just said that MEN need to be modest, too!!!  I’m so glad to see someone FINALLY say that men need to be modest and it’s not just women!!!!  I’m sorry, am I using too many exclamation points?!!!!

From the comments on the Breitbart articles (here and here):

Women are horrible!  I’ve had so many awful experiences with women who expected the world from me and didn’t give anything in return!  Today’s women are worthless.  I’m done with women!  And some bitter, angry feminist will probably come along and call me a ‘whining man-baby’ for speaking the truth!

(A mixture of paraphrasing and combining sentences from several different comments, but the general idea from multiple people is captured fairly.)

“Whining man-baby” – you know how you get that label?  By whining like a baby when you’re a grown-ass man.  So you had a bad experience with a woman or two – good for you!  Welcome to life, where sometimes people are assholes.  Now grow up and get a grip on yourself.  If I were to take a page from your book, I would be ranting and raving about how ALL men are horrible just because I was married to ONE man that was horrible.  What if I came on here and whined about how ALL men are sociopathic assholes that would let their wives and children freeze to death?  ALL men create secret bank accounts and yank money away from their stay-at-home spouses so that they have no money for food?  ALL men throw dishes and glasses around the house when the food you make isn’t exactly what they like – and then the nicks in the drywall are YOUR fault?  ALL men unhook the phone before they start shoving you around so you can’t call for help?  What if I came here and started whining because ALL men are just like my experience with ONE man?  Hmmm?

Fortunately, I’m smarter than that.  You know that spiel about judging people as individuals and not what’s between their legs?  Yeah – I actually practice what I preach there – imagine that!

In closing, 

– There are multiple, varied, valid ways to be manly.

– There are multiple, varied, valid ways to be womanly.

– Assuming “feminization” is a problem, the way to fix it is more feminism.

– Ask for what YOU need.  You have no basis for assuming that what YOU need is what ALL men / women need.  If you do that, you would be wrong.

– Men, women are assholes sometimes.  I’m sorry you’ve been through that, but get over it.  If you don’t want to be lumped in with all the asshole men out there, don’t lump all women in with all the asshole women out there.  Goose, meet gander.  I trust you’ll get along.

Agree?  Tell me in the comments.  Disagree?  Keep it to yourself.  Just kidding!  Tell me that, too – nicely, please.