Names have been changed.
Sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein have caused many people to come forward with their own assault stories, all tagging their social media posts with the hashtag “#metoo”.
These stories of assault are coming from everyone, everywhere.
Actresses and actors, olympic gymnasts, friends and family on my feeds. All of these posts have reminded me of my own story, when I learned that the unfortunate reality is that just because someone is Catholic, doesn’t make them infallible.
Me too, and I let it affect my relationship with God.
A few years ago, I had just moved into a new town, a new parish. I was starting to get to know people, and everyone was very kind. I had just been broken up with and was not looking for a casual situation where I was going to get hurt. I was looking for something serious, and respectful. I was looking for someone Catholic.
My husband and I were avoiding pregnancy after our wedding while we worked on an interstate move and settling into new jobs. But we were open to life, and looking forward to tangibly welcoming life by way of a squishy little bundle of baby chub in short order.
We were prepared for it to take time – I was diagnosed with PCOS in high school, and years of charting my cycles for health awareness revealed a litany of reproductive health concerns that hadn’t responded to treatment thus far. Cycle after cycle led to a week of extreme cramping and a glass or three of red wine while picking fights over Downton Abbey or the gender wage gap instead of gleefully researching how to raise a kid in an urban studio apartment. After a year, we weren’t alarmed by this, just resigned that my ovaries hadn’t magically healed themselves (surprise) and we would have to pursue fertility-specific medical intervention after all.
Six months later, a few days before leaving to visit family, I peed on – a lot – of sticks, not wanting to let myself believe that I really was seeing a second line.
We were pregnant.
That life had arrived.
Our society is very concerned with productivity and efficiency. As with most social phenomena, there are a variety of factors that contributed to this. One factor that I find fascinating, however, is the so-called “Protestant work ethic”.
I had never even heard of the Protestant work ethic – although it’s got a whole Wikipedia page unto itself – until senior year of college in my Intro to Sociology course (yes, it was a class of freshman + me). Sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) wrote an entire book called The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he claims that Protestant (especially Calvinist) theology, laid the foundation for capitalism. It’s a very fascinating argument, but I can’t do it justice here. The overall (oversimplified) argument is that, in some Protestant circles, there has historically been a significant emphasis placed on hard work and industry as a sign of one’s “election by God.”
Hence, the emergence of capitalism.
I suppose it’s no surprise, then, that American Christianity has elevated “industry” to a virtue. Think I’m exaggerating? I was shocked to discover recently that sloth (the deadly sin, not the animal) is NOT the same as laziness.
A recent move has landed my family 20 hours away from home. We now find ourselves in the rural south, in the middle of the “Baptist belt.”
The Catholic parish is very small, and I am embarrassed to admit this but I absolutely hate the parish life. I’ve disliked priests before, but never to this extent.
Our pastor is a good man, he’s faithful and is available for all the sacraments; my dislike is totally a clash of personalities. I also disagree with the way a lot of things are done within the liturgy. Often things are included and made a part of the mass that have no business being a part of the celebration (for example, once a month we sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to everyone who is celebrating their birthday that particular month).
I’ve worked in professional ministry settings for the last 7 years and I have a degree in Theology and Religious Education. I think this is partially why I get so frazzled. I volunteer at the parish, helping where I can, but I’m not in a position to “fix” anything.
I donned a T-shirt that said it all as I dragged myself out of my warm, cozy bed and into the gym one recent Monday morning. In big, bold letters it read “THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!” Oh, yeah. Believe me when I tell you, I am one of the LEAST physical people I know and at every turn I will avoid exertion of any kind. Yet, there came a time when my body began to retaliate against this kind of neglect and I could no longer avoid the reality of what my body was saying: “I’m tired, I’m heavy, I’m thirsty, I’m hungry, I HURT!”
We have nothing short of a spiritual crisis in womanhood.
I know that I am not the only woman who carries this kind of reality within her body. We struggle with negative self talk and lack of respect for our own bodies. The cultural pressures that impact women’s relationship with her physical self abound. We are inundated with images that exploit, distort, and dismantle the vital and natural life-giving connection that woman was created to have with her own body.
The other day, I started another rant while my husband listened. (It’s ok. He’s used it.) As with most of my rants, this one fell under the broad category of “why can’t everyone live their lives as I think they should.” And, as with most of my rants, he responded to this one with an amused smile.
This particular rant, however, took me in a direction I didn’t expect.
It started out as a complaint about the pressure that some Catholic women feel to conform to some sort of imagined “ideal” of domesticity.
Why do women feel that they must good homemakers to be good wives?
Why is all of the pressure on women to be the nurturers?
Doesn’t this ideal overlook the truth that not all women are good at cooking and cleaning? What about men? Shouldn’t they help out with the domestic duties?
On and on I went until I unveiled my secret weapon: Proverbs 31. (Let’s pause here and agree not to talk about the fact that I used the Bible as a weapon…)
“I get so frustrated by women who try to become ‘Proverbs 31’ women. I mean, is anyone really like that? This ideal is just setting women up to fail! And what women with jobs? Listen to this!”
I’m told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, the contribution I make to our family is invaluable and irreplaceable.
I’m told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, the market value of my in-home services (accountant, chauffeur, tutor, housekeeper, nurse, personal shopper, general maintenance, etc.) is incalculable.
Recently, I’ve also been told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, I shouldn’t speak on politics and should just post photos of my cute babies on Facebook instead.
Suffragette cartoons capture the predicament of many housewives and stay-at-home moms today.
How can a woman be so overwhelmingly qualified to manage a household and form the hearts of our next generation, and yet, simultaneously, disqualified from holding an informed political opinion?
Why am I uniquely entrusted to manage my children’s diverse and complicated healthcare needs, and yet silenced, when I talk about how our country could improve healthcare affordability and accessibility?
Why am I empowered to be the primary parent in my children’s education, and yet also informed that these issues, on a national scale, are more complicated than I could possibly begin to understand?