At some point in between our first spoken word and first professional email, woman's language becomes spattered with cushions of irrelevant apology. This phenomenon is distracting enough that Chrome designed a plug-in - specifically with women in mind - to help us eliminate the non sequitur verbal clutter of conditional language (and punctuation!! And emoticons :-O).
For example, "I’m sorry, but this connection between language and its real-world implications must be addressed. If we constantly apologize and somewhat hesitate to speak our thoughts with confidence, I feel we might communicate a kind of perceived inherent fault within ourselves. Do you know what I mean?! : - ) : - ) : - )"
If this sounds like just another harping feminist denying her natural tendency to use feminine language, or an attention-seeking woman basking in complaints of no real importance, at least I’m in good company:
“Here I cannot fail to express my admiration for those women of good will who have devoted their lives to defending the dignity of womanhood by fighting for their basic social, economic and political rights, demonstrating courageous initiative at a time when this was considered extremely inappropriate, the sign of a lack of femininity, a manifestation of exhibitionism, and even a sin!” (Pope Saint John Paul II, Letter to Women; emphasis added)
Why might women experience pressure to constantly and unnecessarily apologize for fault that isn’t theirs? Let’s review some recent issues that indicate an extensive cultural problem.
Blaming Women When Men Commit Murder
The same voices that dare to blame sexual assault victims for not being clear enough in their “no” also blamed Shana Fisher for not being nice enough in her “no.”
Women are awesome, but let’s be clear: we do not possess some innate magical power to turn a “smart, quiet, sweet boy” into a mass murderer any more than a souped-up Corvette can change a random man into a carjacker (or than spaghetti straps can turn a decent, well-mannered student into a rapist).
Why condemn a dead victim of harassment with partial blame for her own death and the deaths of nine peers because she didn’t date a guy who made her feel uncomfortable? As evidenced over and over again, our culture is conditioned to blame victims, usually women.
[O]ur culture is conditioned to blame victims, usually women.
For Catholics who are tempted to blame the victim, the Bible and Catechism remain clear on who’s morally at fault in the case of murder:
“The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.” (CCC 2268, emphasis added)
Blaming Women When Men Commit Sexual Assault
In considering sexual assault, we need to address the unfortunately popular idea that the root problem of rape culture is drunk women.
Adopting this perspective, if a girl is exhausted because she pulled an all-nighter to study, would she carry partial blame for the rape committed against her? After all, we don't have full control of our senses when fatigued and studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause impairments equivalent to those caused by intoxication from alcohol. Why was she around men when she was tired? What did she think would happen?
God forbid these men get married and have to be in bed next to a sleeping wife. A passed-out woman, right there - in her pajamas no less! It's like she's asking to be raped.
When I'm really tired, my husband doesn't have sex with me because he knows it wouldn't be consensual. He also recognizes that it wouldn’t be mutually enjoyable, and he prioritizes my pleasure as equal to his own.
“...although the sexual urge is there for man to use, it must never be used in the absence of, or worse still, in a way which contradicts, love for the person.” (Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility)
Blaming Women for Domestic Violence
If not women, then who is to blame when men act out “the worst version of themselves”? We have two parties at fault: 1) individual men who make individual choices and 2) a toxic culture that grants them permission to behave poorly if they aren't treated with deference by a fearful, dependent, and insecure member of the opposite sex.
Consider an alternate headline that doesn’t imply "If she had just been a good wife despite his domestic abuse, this man would not have killed his own innocent children": "Abusive Man with History of Anger and Control Issues Kills 5 Children."
A brave, business-savvy, unmarried woman is no more a threat to true masculinity than a fearful, uneducated, emotionally-needy woman is an affirmation of it, because the one (virtuous manhood) does not depend on the other (deferential women).
A brave, business-savvy, unmarried woman is no more a threat to true masculinity than a fearful, uneducated, emotionally-needy woman is an affirmation of it.
Going a step further: a confident, competent, married woman who chooses to view her husband as protector, provider, and lover is neither the source of his manhood, nor the responsible party for his personal choices in exercising virtue or vice.
“Typically, abusive men deny that the abuse is happening, or they minimize it. They often blame their abusive behavior on someone or something other than themselves. They tell their partner, "You made me do this." Many abusive men hold a view of women as inferior. Their conversation and language reveal their attitude towards a woman's place in society. Many believe that men are meant to dominate and control women.” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence)
Blaming Women for Unaddressed Social Issues that Affect Men
Matt Walsh’s victim-blaming for sexual assault is part of his stance against the feminist movement as a whole. He blames feminism for failing to resolve men’s ignored mental health problems, for education inadequacies for boys, for longer prison sentences for men, and for men's higher tendency toward addiction.
What Walsh fails to recognize (aside from the fact that many feminists are also concerned with these legitimate issues) is that the solution is not to place more blame on women for hosting their own cultural revolution. The solution is a masculinity movement that redefines what it means to be a man.
Does manhood equal sexual conquest? Staying strong and silent rather than seeking help? Harsh punishment in place of reform? Expectations that others defer to a man’s advancement or financial primacy in the name of promoting marriage? America needs a masculine revolution just as much as it needs feminism. This movement cannot and need not occur at the expense of others (as toxic masculinity might insist), but must rather be pursued for the benefit of all (as true masculinity would pursue).
America needs a masculine revolution just as much as it needs feminism.
“Each culture and social group needs purification and growth... In the case of the popular cultures of Catholic peoples, we can see deficiencies which need to be healed by the Gospel: machismo, alcoholism, domestic violence. . .” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel)
Blaming Women for Poor Character Development in Men
A few weeks ago, Dale Partridge made his way into my newsfeed with 20,000 likes and 13,000 shares, blaming feminism for men’s inability to be the best “versions of themselves.”
A woman’s decision to open her own door takes nothing away from a man’s ability to be a good person. (Not to mention that plenty of men have been wonderful door openers and terrible “protectors.”)
Dale Partridge sets up a false dichotomy. He implies men’s capacity to treat women decently (“Cherish women. Value women. Listen to women.”) is stunted by women’s failure to treat men, in general, as protectors, providers, and lovers.
A man’s moral fortitude should not depend on women’s fear (to require a protector), inability to achieve financial independence (to require a provider), or insecurity (to require a lover); and a culture that reinforces these values does not have the moral high ground.
A man’s moral fortitude should not depend on women’s fear (to require a protector), inability to achieve financial independence (to require a provider), or insecurity (to require a lover)
Regarding his next point, a mother doing anything outside of her immediate family’s home, whether paid work, volunteer work, or spiritual, physical, or educational development (and yes, each of these can be legitimate aspects of a woman’s familial vocation), does not make a father in the same house somehow lazy or “less than” as a man.
“And what shall we say of the obstacles which in so many parts of the world still keep women from being fully integrated into social, political and economic life? We need only think of how the gift of motherhood is often penalized rather than rewarded, even though humanity owes its very survival to this gift. Certainly, much remains to be done to prevent discrimination against those who have chosen to be wives and mothers. As far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State.” (Saint John Paul II, Letter to Women)
Blaming Women for Men's Inability to be Godly
Revisiting Partridge's comment, he not only blames feminism for men’s worst qualities, but he also blames women for men who “side-step God’s call for how to treat a woman.”
I can’t find anything from Scripture or Tradition implying that a woman is outside God’s parameters for her gender when she is well-educated, financially stable, opens her own doors, pulls out her own chairs, is capable of self-defense, and can recover and support her children despite absentee fathers. How, then, could these actions by a woman cause a man to be outside of God’s will for him?
“Women should be present in the world of work and in the organization of society... women should have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the policies of nations and to promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems.” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, On the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World)
Blaming Women for Men’s Delayed Adolescence, Aversion to Marriage, and Avoidance of Children
Let us consider this excerpt from a LifeSiteNews article entitled, “Young Men Giving Up On Marriage: Women Aren’t Women Anymore”:
Now women are also responsible for men’s inability to succeed at marriage, fatherhood, and life in general.
First, delayed adolescence might not be a negative thing insofar as it has allowed young adults to pursue higher levels of education than were available to previous generations, while also building stronger relationships between generations.
Second, instead of blaming women for seeking higher education, quality employment, and the freedom for marriage to be a choice instead of an economic necessity, we should examine the larger cultural influences that might cause men to delay adolescence, marriage, and children.
Fewer men attend college because they recognize the “economic despair” of their peers upon graduation, where entry-level work doesn’t pay a livable wage.
“No consideration of the problems associated with development could fail to highlight the direct link between poverty and unemployment. In many cases, poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited (through unemployment or underemployment), or ‘because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family.’” (Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate)
Fewer men find success in the workplace not because of women, but due to our unwillingness, as a society, to address the harm caused by increased automation, outsourcing, social stigma on blue-collar trades, prison records, opioid addiction, high student debt, and unlivable wages (especially for care-taking jobs that are typically associated with “women’s work”).
“The current crisis is not only economic and financial but is rooted in an ethical and anthropological crisis. Concern with the idols of power, profit, and money, rather than with the value of the human person has become a basic norm for functioning and a crucial criterion for organization. We have forgotten and are still forgetting that over and above... the parameters of the market is the human being; and that something is men and women in as much as they are human beings by virtue of their profound dignity: to offer them the possibility of living a dignified life and of actively participating in the common good.” (Pope Francis addressing employment in the 21st century)
Fewer men consider marriage in their 20’s not because of casual sex, but due to increasingly stark gender ratios among the white collar middle class, where marriage has most commonly occurred. (This book suggests that commitment phobia is simply a statistics game, advising women who desire marriage to do the math, adjust their expectations, and relocate).
Fewer couples plan to have children because an increasing gig economy (expected to constitute 50% of the workplace within 10 years) has stagnant wages, less career stability, and fewer family benefits, which make it difficult for a person to just take care of him/herself, much less provide responsibly for offspring. While it’s easy to assume that selfishness and/or excess consumerism are to blame for those who choose to avoid or delay children, the difficulty of obtaining affordable housing and comprehensive healthcare (as costs inflate faster than wages) align America more closely with explanations that Saint John Paul II attributed to developing countries:
“Worthy of our attention also is the fact that, in the countries of the so-called Third World, families often lack both the means necessary for survival, such as food, work, housing and medicine, and the most elementary freedoms. In the richer countries, on the contrary, excessive prosperity and the consumer mentality, paradoxically joined to a certain anguish and uncertainty about the future, deprive married couples of the generosity and courage needed for raising up new human life: thus life is often perceived not as a blessing, but as a danger from which to defend oneself.” (Pope St. John Paul II, The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World)
Instead of Blaming Women, Thank a Feminist
Historically speaking, women have long been blamed for the ills of society. Also, historically speaking, the policies for which feminists advocate become less controversial, and even laughable, over time: Joan of Arc is burned at the stake for wearing pants (1431), women are granted the right to own, but not control, property (1839), unmarried women are allowed to own land (1850), women can vote (1920), women don’t lose their citizenship for marrying an Asian man (1931), Newsweek is forced by court decision to permit women reporters (1970), women can apply for lines of credit (1974), Supreme Court rules that women can serve alcohol at a bar not owned by their husband or father in cities of more than 50,000 (1976), women can’t be fired for being pregnant (1978), women can legally refuse sex with their spouse in all 50 states (1993).
Historically speaking, women have long been blamed for the ills of society.
Instead of continuing the blame game on women for the economic and familial despairs of our time, we should join the work of contemporary feminists whose advocacy is addressing the real issues at stake, empowering both men and women to be the best versions of themselves and bring this empowerment into their marriages, families, and service to the world.
“Thus the family, in which the various generations come together and help one another grow wiser and harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life, is the foundation of society. All those, therefore, who exercise influence over communities and social groups should work efficiently for the welfare of marriage and the family.” (Pope Paul VI, The Church in the Modern World)