Posts Tagged ‘Catholics’

Go Get ‘Em Tiger: Women Still on the Sidelines

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Until I was 18, I went to Catholic school.  I was surrounded by religion, but more importantly, priests were a huge presence.  They taught religion classes, waved to us in the hallways, and presided over school Masses.  They were people we were taught to look up to, role models who were the epitome of kindness and gentleness.  They were the ones closest to Jesus, as far as I knew.  Besides that, everyone seemed to like them.  I still remember Fr. Merkel riding his bicycle down the school hallways talking like Donald Duck.  When I was younger, I was very much influenced by my faith and by church members and officials.  So, of course, when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, first-grade me said, “A priest.”

That dream died hard and fast.  I was told that I could not be a priest because I was not a boy. To a 7-year old, this was a harsh reality check.  Girls couldn’t even be altar servers.  The most I could do at church was sing (which I can’t do) or say the readings at school Mass (which got old).  I wanted a more active role in the church, which was such a big part of my life growing up.  So when freshman year of high school rolled around and my church announced that they would start training girls to be altar servers, I was pretty excited.  I was one of the first female servers at my church, and I thought I did a pretty good job.

That is, until grade-school sexism made an appearance.

Here I was, 13 years old, a high schooler, getting ready to serve Mass when this 10-year old boy altar server comes up to me and tells me I should just go sit down with my family and let him serve alone.  He then proceeded to preach that on the Catholic food chain, priests were above deacons, who were above boy altar servers, who were above girl altar servers.  My reaction can be summed up as:

...Really?

…Really?

I had been hit not once, but twice by this idea that girls couldn’t do everything boys could do.  Back in first grade, I guess I could see why girls couldn’t be priests.  The Catholic church was founded on the idea that we had a male Messiah, who was followed by twelve guys for a few years, then left his ministry in the care of his right-hand man, Peter.  From there we get only male Popes, cardinals, and priests.  We come from a long tradition of patriarchal leadership, and Catholicism isn’t the first to place these kinds of restrictions on women.

According to Thekla Ellen Joiner’s book Sin in the City, Protestant evangelicalism during the 1880s through the 1920s tended to gender men and women and place them into separate spheres.  Men dominated the public sphere, working to make a living and having leadership roles in the community, while women played happy homemakers and took care of the house and children.  These roles don’t come as much of a surprise even in 2013.  The idea of a stay-at-home dad may be wishful thinking for some women, but advertisements still insist on following this formula: stupid dad/husband doing something ridiculous until the mom/wife shows up with a smile and a solution:

Oh those kooky dads.  This dad is even pushing his media-based gender role on his son.

So the morality of these women during the revivalist period in Chicago was based on their “willingness to sacrifice herself for her husband and children,” which “assured her moral commitment to both her family and her country.”  Do it for America, ladies!  This “sacrificial femininity” should be nothing new to us.  Take the Young Stranger by the Hand also emphasized this idea of wives sacrificing their husbands for a greater good.  These are the women who stood by their men, who hung out at the YMCA all day, every day.  These women gave up time with their husbands because these men were considered moral authorities in a public sphere, whereas the women were left to decorate or cook in the private sphere.  Their moral role was to educate their children to become moral citizens.  You know who these women are?

“I’ll just wait here while you save the world.”

Mary Jane Watson is a sacrificial woman.  Yeah, they still exist.

According to Out of the Mouths of Babes, women preachers were accepted by the 1920s.  Then came the flappers, who were the embodiment of youth and radicalism.  Then came World War I, and women had to become more independent to take care of their families while their husbands were away.  But then the men came home and women are still trying to create an even playing field.  We can haggle over equal pay and rights for women, and in many ways things have improved. But those pesky gender roles are still firmly in place.  From Mary Jane to Lois Lane to Hilary Clinton, America has seen history march on with men still planted in leadership roles while their women watch from the sidelines, begging for a chance to break out of their gender roles.

Here’s hoping the winds of change will blow.

 

 

 

Sex Education and the YMCA

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

In one section of the book Take the Young Stranger by the Hand,  John Donald Gustav-Wrathall discusses sex education that took place in the YMCA.  It brought me back to my Catholic school days, all the way back to fourth grade.  We started sex ed (of course it wasn’t called that), and once a week for about a quarter the boys and girls would separate into separate rooms in our parish rectory.  There we would talk about puberty and the changes we would be going through in the next few years.  I never really enjoyed these talks.  I had already had The Talk from my parents when I turned ten, and that was disappointing enough in that I had to sit and listen to my parents talk about sex while my sisters got to have McDonalds at my grandma’s house.  The problem with both Talks I got was that there was hardly any mention of actual sexual intercourse.  All we got was abstinence, menstruation, and baby gestation (abortion was also highly criticized, no surprise).  It wasn’t until high school that we got into bigger ideas like the intimacy of sex, waiting for marriage, birth control, or disease.

What surprised me in reading Gustav-Wrathall’s book was that in the early 1900s, at the YMCA, you could get yourself clean, you could have a good meal, and you could be open about sex education.  Like my high school experiences in sex ed, they seemed determined to make sure there was no masturbation or free sex.  In fact, they encouraged “early marriage,” to keep men from acting on their sexual desires without being married.

One of the more interesting sections of the book discussed the relationship between sin and illness. The book explains that it was assumed at the YMC that if you weren’t healthy, it wasn’t biological, but moral.  I thought that this was more of a past belief, like way in the past.  I was surprised that in early 20th century America, people still believed that their sins could manifest physically.  In the case of the YMCA, young men would be inspected, and if you were considered “abnormal” (I’m not quite sure what constitutes abnormal in the eyes of the Y, though the book seems to hint that it was associated with penial dysfunction of one sort or another), then your perversions needed to be educated away.

It seems that the YMCA made it its mission to “save” its members, young men who they believed to be in danger of falling into temptation.  I guess they thought that if they educated their members, so-called “perversions” would go away.

Based on the subtitle of the book, Same-Sex Relationships and the YMCA, I don’t know if they really succeeded.  The YMCA is apparently still believed to be a hotbed for homosexuality:

Is the YMCA still a homosexual hangout? – Yahoo! Answers

Class Describes YMCAs as Homosexual ‘Brothels’

Which YMCA locations are the most active for gay sex?

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She living the life just like a movie star, Oh Maria, Maria…..

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Maria Monk. So many things come to mind when I hear that name. I would like to think that she was not mentally well and she wanted to create lies with the book, but of course, that’s not all that true either. The truth is that she was used and manipulated by a group of Protestant ministers in order to scare Catholics in America.

Protestants were mean back in the day and some still are! They were nosy bullies to the people they didn’t like because of their religion, race, sexual preference, people’s personal decisions, and other similar things. They obviously over looked 1 John chapter 4, which talks all about loving other people because it is a commandment. I don’t think many Christians at that time asked themselves, “What Would Jesus Do?” If they did, they did an awful job of showing it. They just didn’t know how to let people be and not be the bosses of everyone. It’s annoying and embarrassing, as a Christian myself, to see them force people into doing whatever they wanted, many things that were unjust, throughout history.

The book was hard to read for me personally because I had to remind myself constantly that it wasn’t real. Pretty frustrating.

And this is the fun part to my blog…. haha

Lions and Tigers and Catholics, Oh My!

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

There’s nothing that unites people like a common enemy, and enemies are often rooted in  fear. Enemies often pose threats to us for whatever reason–we fear losing power, losing a loved one, or even simply feeling inferior.  However, there is safety in numbers, so when there’s a common enemy, people need to stick together.

In America, we have many common enemies (though we don’t necessarily liek to talk about it because “everyone is equal” (HAHAHA YEAH RIGHT!)).  During the first world war, it was Germany.  The second world war we pretty much hated anything Asian, and post-9/11, the enemy was anyone remotely Arab-looking (Airport profiling, anyone?).

However, one common enemy has stuck with us through it all, and that enemy is: The Catholic Church.  Why do they pose such a threat, you might ask?  Well currently the threat is with its refusal to fund Planned Parenthood, but I won’t get into that now [in fact, it is my opinion that as their own religious entity, they have the right to do with their funds what they wish, but, like I said, I won’t get into it].

America was founded on rebellion–good, old-fashioned, rule-breaking.  The enemy a that point was the British.  They represented a hierarchical, monarchical, rule-based society.  And let’s be real, folks, we weren’t having it. Catholicism is all of that, and more.  Hierarchical (priests, cardinals, the Pope), monarchical (followers listen to the Pope’s “infallibility”), and rule-based (i.e. sins, mortal sins, Catholic guilt, etc.).  Plus, there was a time when the Catholic Church would bleed their members dry for funds, and America’s never been to keen on that either.

Though the Maria Monk account is absurd, what’s not absurd is the reasoning behind it being written.  Protestant pastors at that time saw Catholicism as a huge threat to society.  Catholicism was anti-American.  It was anti-Protestant. It was anti-everything-good-‘ole-Christian-America-stands for.  Writing a false account in the name of God and freedom is not half as absurd when you start to see Catholics in the eyes of the writers.  Not arguing that “Maria Monk” was in the right (or whomever her sources actually were), but from “her” perspective, The Pope is Hitler, and Catholics are Nazis.  Wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power, false or not, to take down “Hitler?” Just a thought.

Deception, Lies, and a Convincing Story

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

What the Ministers created was a work of art.  A story that convinced many people that the Catholic church was brewing great evils behind the walls of their convent.  The Catholics were also worshiping a king, something that post revolutionary US was not appreciating.  They were also taking young women out of their homes and putting them behind walls in which family members were unable to see them.  However, all these ‘problems’ aside, why were the Ministers able to create a narrative of horror and captivate so many individuals?

It is a simple notion of fear, fear that played right into the hands of a newly formed government and society.  Post revolutionary US was trying to find identity in whatever form that she was able.  Thus, the way that the US found foundation was through the aggressive democracy and anything that did not live up to the litmus test created was harshly attacked.  A perfect example of this is the Catholic church which had deep roots in the value of the Pope, a king at the time.  As these catholics prayed through the Pope to god then they were legitimizing the popes authority over them.  Or so the Ministers believed.

Hence, why individuals in this ‘new’ society believed deeply in preserving  democracy as well as attacking any form of authority that did not aline with these new values.  Therefore, for the Ministers to create a narrative surrounding the horrors of the Catholic Church was not difficult, and it was also not difficult for these individuals hearing the story to believe it.