Thursday, September 13, 2007

So What Does All That Mean?

I suppose that the penultimate post ( I just like the alliteration...) really did leave a lot of room for questions. I guess the most common would be something like, "Ok, so women should act like women... so... how should women act?"

I have heard many people say that it is hard define femininity in the modern world. That especially now, since women are told they and can and should do everything, and are made to feel inferior if they don't, the definition of femininity has changed and we have yet to define it in concrete terms. I do not agree; femininity is femininity whether a woman works or stays at home to watch children- 1000 years ago or now. I think that it's the application of femininity that is hard to figure out. At what point do careers/pleasure/whatever get in the way of true femininity? How should women act like women?

Well, before acting, women should think. How a woman thinks determines how a woman acts; what a woman thinks it means to be a woman is the way in which she lives out - or does not live out- her femininity. A woman should think that she has dignity and worth simply because she is, not because of what she does. If a woman does not think this, she will not be able to act as a woman should. Femininity seems to me to be more a kind of state of mind than an act or series of acts. The state of mind is reflected in the actions. There are some women who are very good at balancing home life and work life, and others who aren't so good at it, and I think this has to do with the way a woman thinks about what it means to be a woman. If a woman thinks that in order to prove her value as a person she must compete against men- that her worth and dignity depend on what she achieves in a male dominated work world- then she must reject her femininity because it will get her in way.

The difference between men and women encompasses both the physical and psychological. It is an essential difference. A woman's essence is different than that of a man's. It follows, then that because of this essential difference, the ultimate purpose of men and women, though the same (to get to heaven) would be achieved in different ways. These differences are not so much that one sex is better than the other, as that one sex is nothing without the other. Men need women (Yes, J.C.) and women need to men in order to reach their full potential as human beings.

Humans are composite beings (matter and form- i.e. body and soul). Differences in form -the intellective soul, the part that deals with how a person reasons, thinks, and responds to the world- are expressed in the matter (the body). The differences in the matter are expressed in the form. This does not necessariraly mean that the physical and mental capabilities of one sex are better or superior than the other's, it means that they are different.

A woman's body is potentially capable of carrying a child and giving birth. This is reflected in her intellective soul. The way she thinks is dictated by the fact that she has the potential to be a mother. It is in the nature of a woman to be a mother. This does not mean she must have a child to be a woman, or even that she must actually be physically capable of motherhood. There are women who give up physical motherhood for the good of others and have been for thousands of years. This does not make them less womanly.

So feminity is the embracing of motherhood (whether one is a mother or not). It is realizing that this is why we think the way we do and not fighting against it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Response to a Response That I Recieved

I shared the last post with a few people, just for criticism. I don't know why. I don't know.

The world is big and wide, and full of beliefs, with everyone
thinking they have
the 'ideal' way. There is no such thing. When I was
younger, I felt all
famillies were like my own also(thankfully they were
not, as my home life,
though supposidly solid Catholic was far from good).
People choose to live out
their lives like they want to do so. I do not feel
subsurvient to any man. If
you read the works of Austin or woman of her
period, woman were horribly
surpressed. They were thought of brainless
twits. They were stuck in loveless
marriages, while the husband had
countress concubines on the side. Woman, of
course, had no need for a sex
life. Re-read The Doll's House and see how woman
were really treated and
thought of in that era(by Ibsen).Dating is necessary.
How are you going to
know if you have the 'right' man if you don't see whats out
there. It also
teaches you social graces and how to look out for users or
jerks.Keep on have a good mind. Just allow it to open a see the
scope of
the world. You are in school, so see how others do things, and how they
live.When I was younger I did volunteer work in inner city Philadelphia. It
taught me alot, mostly it taught me how little I know. And guess what, I am
still learning. And each day I am challenged not to judge others, but to
them and their ways

Ah, this bliss of arguing.

If there is no ideal way of life, then why bother? Why bother with kindness? Why bother with charity? Why bother with any morality at all? If there is no ideal way of life, why bother with any sort of religion, for is not Heaven a way of life? And would it not be the ideal way of life? And are there not actions that will get us to Heaven and actions that will bar us from Heaven?

Granted, here on earth, we can't really live the ideal life (a life in full communion with Christ), so we must strive live our lives following Him as closely as we can.

People do choose to live their lives as they please. It's a little thing called free will. A blessing and a curse. But just because someone chooses evil (a rejection of God, any size, a mean comment or anything) does not mean that evil is a good thing to choose. Nor does it mean that others must just accept the evil done and say "well that's just the way that so and so chooses to live his life." Again, if that's the case, why bother?

I have read the works of Jane Austen. The women who were thought of as twits generally were. The womenly women were not thought of as twits. When a man's wife was womanly, he didn't cheat on her. My point was not that this didn't happen, but that women should act like women, because look what happens if they don't. I remember reading "The Doll House." Unfortunately, it was a while ago and I don't remember the plot. I do remember that most of Ibsen's works (the ones I have read) were not exactly great representations of every day life. They seemed to be extraordinary circumstances.

Dating, oh dating... Of course dating is necessary. I did not say that it wasn't. I said that it is not something to play around with. Why would you date a guy that you are not attracted to? Especially if that guy really is attraced to you. That's just playing with someone's emotions and isn't fair or kind to them. I'm not going to hook up with some random guy just for the sake of dating. I would most definitely date someone to whom I was attracted. I'm not going to date someone that I don't know. The point of dating is not to get to know someone-that's what friendship is for- but get to know them in a deeper, more intimate way. I don't think that dating anyone who will date you is a very good way to find "the right guy." It actually seems like a disaster waiting to happen. I would have to respect "the right guy" and I expect him to respect me. I think I can tell whether a guy is a jerk without dating him. And, really, why would I want to date a guy to find out if he's a jerk? Seems a bit pointless to me. Seems a bit counterproductive, as well. I think I'll find out if he's a jerk first.

Seeing what others do and doing what others do are two very different things. If I see the results of something are bad, why would I imitate? If I see the results of something are good, why wouldn't I imitate. The point of an open mind is to find something around which to close it (I can't remember who I am paraphrasing- I think it's Chesterton). A consistently open mind is almost synonomous with an empty one. (Which is why I absolutely what that sign in the hallway that says "the point of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one" - it is NOT!- *end random rant). We are called not to judge the state of people's souls. We are not told that we should not judge whether an action is wrong or right, regardless of whether the actor considers it wrong or right. We are not to be pretentious about it, but we are not to accept everything as it comes.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Conglomeration of Thoughts from this Summer and This Month

Most people who read this already know that my summer job was ironing clothes for a family of eight. This summer, I also read Home Comforts: the Art and Science of Keeping House (interestingly enough, written by a philosophy professor at Columbia) and Orthodoxy. So having read this, having been brought up in the Catholic faith, having been taught that women's roles differ from men's yet are both equal in dignity, observing the ways in which my employer family interacted with each other, and standing solitarily in a laundry room for hours upon hours (ten or more hours a day sometimes), being paid to play with children and teach other women how to bake, my head was left in a mess of thoughts which have been bubbling around in my brain which has been too busy to give them enough time yet.

When I came back to school, I was met with happy faces and lovely people who knew "the perfect guy" (who turned out NOT to be so) to set me up with! Yay! NOOOOOOOO!!!! As much as I am unopposed to the idea being dated and eventually married, I am dreadfully opposed to the idea of hooking up with someone just because no one is dating me now. Dating is not a game or an experiment; I am not a toy or an object (neither is any man). As I said in discussion with someone who said that dating is overrated, quite the opposite is true: dating is horrridly under-rated. Dating should not be thought of as a social activity, but as a step on the road to holiness- one that should be tread carefully and willfully, not playfully and at whim. SO, with this added to the last paragraph, my head has been absolutely full of thoughts to the point of explosion, I think- to the point of forgetting that I have paper for which I have yet to read due, anyway. For all of my loudness, quite a bit of my thoughts never come out audibly.

I have read a lot of 19th century American literature written by women (Alcott, Montgomery, Lovelace...) and I have been reading it since I was ten. Every girl should read this stuff. The role of a woman was clearly and intellectually defined- in no way was she ruled or lorded over by her husband; she was his helper and he was her support. She wasn't supressed or uneducated- even women who had never been to school had common sense and wit. Mrs Baehr (my hero- Jo March from Little Women - she married professor Baehr) ran a school, wrote books, and founded a college all while raising 10 boys and 2 girls and running her household. Of course, her household did include a couple of maids, but she ran the household and she did most of the work. A woman's role was not only clearly defined, but unquestionably held in high esteem. Especially (and I see this now, looking back; it wasn't quite so clear when reading it before I knew that I was looking for role models) the role of a married woman- of a wife and a mother.

This was only the foundation (not even really foundation, but it was indeed a big help for me) of my understanding of womanhood. What really set this in stone was watching my own mother. Well, being apprenticed to my mother... By the time I was ten, my mother had taught me enough that I could cook dinner, clean it up, do laundry, mop floors, clean bathrooms, and take care of babies (now I was ten, so I couldn't take care of babies like I can now, but I knew enough to be a "second mother" when Daniel was born). By the time I was twelve, I was cooking dinner regularly and by the time I was fourteen, I was pretty much in charge of dinner. I was a lucky little girl. I came to this conclusion over the summer while giving a "bread making seminar" and being asked by an eight year old (or maybe it was the six year old) "you mean, you can make bread?"

Going from my family to my employer family was a huge shock. I knew that women do not all care for their homes the same way and that some don't even care for them, but I had never lived in a household where just common sense housekeeping was absent. The woman fed her animals (of which she had plenty, something like 8 dogs and 4 cats) a raw diet. She would take the meat out of the freezer, leave it on the cutting board while she prepared dinner (so it was there a few hours), after chopping the meat, she would rinse the cutting board off and cut vegetables on it. I realized that most of the things that I took for granted that everyone just sort of knew were apparently not so well known: things like not leaving a sippee cup full of milk in the sink overnight because it will sour and smell bad and if it gets in the plug thingy can make baby sick; things like how to wash dishes (not with cold water...); how to hold a spatula while stirring batter; the simple fact that bread can be made at home; how to creatively make an entirely different meal out of leftovers instead of serving the same thing two or three times a week.

I was hired to iron clothes. The family consists of of the parents, a 16 year old girl, 15 year old boy, and 8 year old boy, and little girls aged 6, 4, and 2. The 16 year old girl was completely lost when it came to housework. She had never been taught to do laundry, wash dishes, or cook, and despite having four young siblings, she had no clue how to interact with little kids. I never once saw her hug her little siblings- only reprimand them.

As I stood in the laundry room amidst piles of clothes day after day after day, I remembered my old friends with worn covers. I remembered how the women would teach thier daughters that the mundane work (which was a lot more mundane in the 1800's) was a labor of love, beneficial to to the lover and the loved (whether this be son or husband, daughter or mother, sibling or friend). All of this was reaffirmed by reading Home Comforts in which Mrs. Mendelson not only explains the technical and practical things about housekeeping, but the reason why: out of love; love for yourself, and your spouse and your kids (if you have those things...).

John Paul II wrote that God has entrusted the world to women in a very special way because our femininity. Women are the nuturers of the moral and physical well being of society (so are men but in a very different- women are responsible for making the men responsible...). The old and over-used but very true saying that "behind every good man is a good woman" demonstrates the need for women to be women. I hear women complain about how guys act all the time. Perhaps if more women acted like women should (which does NOT mean a bare-foot and pregnant houswife), then more men would act like men should.

Perhaps this makes a little bit of sense. Perhaps I'm just rambling and confused and tired. Perhaps Dr. Hartmann is right and my biggest aspiration in life is to be a charwoman.