Read This, Not That: Better books than ASK YOUR HUSBAND

Perhaps you are interested in the topic of femininity: what it means, why it’s important, what the Catholic church teaches about it. You’ve heard of Stephanie Gordon’s new book on the topic, Ask Your Husband, and you see that it’s getting (mostly) glowing reviews on Amazon. 

But then you see that some of the more granular and scholarly reviews, like this one and this one, say that, while book claims to teach a boldly orthodox Catholic view on femininity, it actually misunderstands, distorts, and misrepresents Church teaching. And the book’s publisher, TAN, says it has submitted Ask Your Husband to a diocesan censor for review after publication, “to ensure that the content is in line with the faith,” but has not yet heard back from the censor. 

It’s an important topic, for sure. But maybe there are better books to read. 

What shall we read instead? I asked several well-read Catholic women for recommendations for a new feature I’m calling “Read This, Not That.”

Here’s what they suggested:

DANIELLE BEAN

Danielle is a writer, speaker, podcaster, and retreat leader, and the author of several books.

Danielle recommends:

The Church and the Culture War by Joyce Little

“Yes, it’s out of print, but you can find used copies, and Little does such a beautiful job of responding to the culture, and secular feminism in particular, with the gift of timeless truth and wisdom of the Church. She’s very smart, but the book is clear and accessible, even to average moms like me.”
 

Essays on Woman by Edith Stein

 
“Ahhh, such a saint for our times! Now HERE is the Catholic perspective on the expansive gift of femininity and motherhood presented in a way that will inspire and encourage women of all backgrounds and all walks of life.” 
 
 
 
SUSANNA SPENCER

Susanna Spencer has a Masters in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, is a writer and the theological editor for Blessed is She, a regular contributor to the National Catholic Register, and is a co-author of the children’s devotional book, Rise Up: Shining in Virtue. She lives with her philosophy professor husband and four children in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Susanna recommends:

A Call to a Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence of the Parents of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus by Saints Zélie and Louis Martin

“This book of letters of canonized saints shows what a holy complementary marriage looks out lived out, with both working together to support the family through St. Zélie’s lace making business and the collaborative efforts they gave to help each other and their children grow in holiness.”

The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand

“The brilliant late Alice von Hildebrand (1923-2022) beautifully describes true complementarity of men and women, showing how it is a result of the curses of the Fall than some individual men have devalued women. She shows how women can both have equal dignity but also live out their call to live as full women of faith.”

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

“This book shows the importance of men and women treating each other as equals and working hard to maintain their love for each other. It shows the couples growth into faith in Christianity and the tension of giving themselves entirely to God but still to each other.”

Middlemarch by George Elliot

“Novels are great for understanding hard to grasp ideas about life. Middlemarch is classic tome which demonstrates in narrative form ways marriages can be lived out both poorly and well.”

 

ABIGAIL FAVALE

Abigail Favale is a writer and academic. She is the author of Into the Deep: An Unlikely Catholic Conversion and The Genesis of Gender.  

Abigail’s recommendations:

“For a more general resource that touches on a range of topics related to women and Catholicism, watch this free video series: Cultivating Catholic Feminism.

“This series responds to JPII’s call for a ‘new feminism’ and articulates what feminism could look like if truly and authentically Catholic. Full disclosure: I wrote the scripts, but the beautiful production quality and aesthetic is all the brainchild of Corynne Staresinc, founder of The Catholic Woman.”

“If you feel like reading—choose Edith Stein’s Essays on Woman.

“Edith Stein (a.k.a St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross) is a brilliant philosopher and a saint, and her writings on woman influenced JPII’s development of his theology of the body. Her take on woman and marriage is far more sophisticated and theologically rich than Gordon’s, while also remaining faithful to scripture and tradition.”

“Another book that comes at the question of woman from a totally different angle is The Eternal Woman, by Gertrud von le Fort.

“This book blew my mind when I first read it as a new convert. It is small but packed with rich spiritual insight, describing the beauty of the sacramental significance of woman—something that is unique to Catholicism, and completely overlooked in Gordon’s book.”

 

RACHEL LU

Rachel Lu is an Associate Editor at Law & Liberty, and a Contributing Writer at America Magazine. She lives with her husband and five sons in St Paul, MN.

Rachel’s recommendations:

“For a dignified, uplifting discussion of men and women and marriage, I like to browse Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love.

“Hildebrand is a personalist philosopher, not overflowing with practical advice, but the book has many insights to help us think about the complementarity of man and woman, and the sense in which we are meant for one another.”

“My Ántonia, by Willa Cather, offers an inspiring portrayal of maternal strength and honor, lived out on the American plains.

“We only see Antonia as a mother at the end of the book, but her fundamentally maternal character is evident throughout, and it is affirming to me to enjoy a book that is actually focused on the character of an admirable matron, and in showing how a girl can mature into that kind of woman. (Too often literary mothers are flat and uninteresting, mainly serving as support staff for more dynamic characters.)”

“St. Edith Stein’s Essays on Woman is full of rich material for reflecting on the nature of womanhood, and what it means to live as a rational being in a body made for childbearing.

“I’ll give advance warning that this is some heady philosophical stuff! You might not want to read it on a beach. It’s a treat though to see this topic addressed by a woman, who is also both a saint and a first-rate thinker.”

 

KATIE PREJEAN MCGRADY

Katie Prejean McGrady is an award winning author, speaker, and host of The Katie McGrady Show on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM. She writes for Aleteia, Blessed is She, Catholic News Service, and hosts the Ave Explores podcast from Ave Maria Press. She lives in Louisiana with her husband and daughters.

Katie recommends: 

Three Secrets to Holiness in Marriage: A 33-Day Self-Guided Retreat for Catholic Couples by Dan and Amber DeMatte

“Found it to be accessible, not overly hard to implement, and relatable”

 
Couples, Awaken Your Love! by Robert Cardinal Sarah
 
 
“This collection of retreat reflections from Cardinal Sarah is challenging & the concepts provided a lot of great things to pray on.”
 
 
 

“A much better reflection on the feminine genius [than Ask Your Husband]”

 
 
“An actually realistic take on family life (from a WOH dad and a SAHM)”
 
 
LEAH LIBRESCO SARGEANT 

Leah Libresco Sargeant is the author of Arriving at Amen and Building the Benedict Option. Her substack is Other Feminisms.

Leah recommends: 

Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen
 
 

“My husband and I read this together, out loud, over the course of our engagement. It’s an excellent, accessible work on marriage and thus on men and women. And it’s always focused on how marriage is directed outward and upward to God—which helps avoid a certain kind of inward idolatry.”

 
 
 

“Favale is a convert to Catholicism who was formed first by fundamentalism, then by secular feminism. That means she’s particularly good at discussion where those cultures have ahold of a partial truth, but fall short of the fullness of truth to be found in the Church.”

 
Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla 
 
 

“This one is the densest read, but the future Saint JPII is answering the hard question: We know marriage means giving up liberty in order to make a full gift of self. How do we make sure we are offering ourselves rightly? What makes marriage fruitful rather than self-erasure? (If I ask my husband, he would also recommend Wojtyla’s exploration of these questions in the play The Jeweler’s Shop, which is much shorter but differently challenging to read).”

 
Married Saints by Selden P. Delany
 
 

“This is our current family spiritual reading, so we’re not finished yet, but I appreciate having the example of many different saints, so we can remember that God calls everyone to sanctity but that there is more than one way to live out that command.”

 
Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy by Sigrid Undset
 
 
 

“Why not explore these questions for more than 1000 pages in 14th century Norway? Hear me out, you guys. Undset makes an epic of one woman’s life to allow the small movements of the heart and the actions of grace to have the weight of a sprawling battle. My husband and I read it alongside a group of friends online, and it made for some of our most fruitful conversations about marriage, self-discipline, and self-gift.”

 
***
 
Many thanks to the contributors for their suggestions. I will admit I’ve never read Edith Stein, but it’s starting to feel like a must. 
 
What’s next for “Read This, Not That”? Can you suggest a popular book that tackles an important topic, but misses the mark? I’ll solicit alternatives from knowledgeable people, then share their suggestions. Send me an email at simchafisher@gmail.com with “read this, not that” in the subject heading, or use the contact form on this page. Thanks!
 
 
“Read this, not that” logo by Elisa Low of Door Number 9
 
 

The debate over Pete Buttigieg’s paternity leave is missing one thing: the birth mother

In early October, the news cycle gave birth to a giant red herring, and all the country’s most prominent talking heads have been dining out on it since.

I am talking about Pete Buttigieg’s paternity leave. He and his husband announced in August that they had become parents of newborn twins in October, social media went bonkers with the news that Mr. Buttigieg, who is the secretary of transportation for the Biden administration, had been on paid paternity leave for two months and has only recently returned to work.

I say that the question of paternity leave is a red herring, but do not mistake me: I am not saying it is not a big deal. I know firsthand how desperately new moms need help (and how capable men are of bonding with newborns). Sometimes I hear friends complain that their husbands only had a week or two off after the birth of a child, or maybe they even had to use their vacation days. I nod sympathetically and zip my lips, remembering the time I persuaded my ob-gyn to induce labor on a Friday so my husband could be with me for the luxurious span of Saturday and Sunday. That was the time he had off: 48 hours a week. Period.

The nurses would always ask me what my postpartum support network looked like, and I would tell them, “Nothing.” They would look sad, and that was as far as it went. So you do not have to convince me: A world where moms and dads and babies can be together and rest? That would be very good indeed.

But it is peculiar to see the Buttigieg discourse swirl around the question of paternity leave when a close look will reveal that it is really about so many other things, and that is why people are getting so mad about it.

First, of course, it is because Mr. Buttigieg is gay, as Tucker Carlson so incisively noticed. More than that: He is gay and kind of boring, and some Americans have no idea how to process that combination. So they get mad.

Second, we are talking about paternity leave, but we are really talking about the rights of workers in general, about whether even people in thankless jobs should expect to have full lives or if it is reasonable for them to owe their soul to the company store. We are clearly in the early stages of some kind of cultural spasm regarding labor, and it is not clear if we are going to slide right back into the status quo ante, or if there is some real transformation afoot. That is scary, and scary things also make us mad.

Third, we are also talking about paternity itself, fatherhood, manhood. Lord, do we have some sorting to do on this. One writer opined on Twitter that there is not much for a dad to do when there is a newborn in the house, and babies do not care either way. It is an old but often true trope that the men who sneer at hands-on dads are often secretly grieving that their own dads never had the time for them, and that is why they care so much. In any case, it is harder than it ought to be to step away from what is familiar, and being asked to do so makes us mad. So now we are mad about fatherhood, too.

The White House arguably degraded the discourse further by calling Mr. Buttigieg a “role model” for taking two months off in the middle of an economic crisis. Press Secretary Jen Psaki probably meant something more like an “aspirational example,” but her words came off as critical of dads who cannot take time off, especially since Mr. Buttigieg is undeniably part of privileged sliver of society with the money and access to choose when and how to start a family.

So there is all this stuff: about sexuality, class, money, work, fatherhood, legislation and so on. But do you know what has not been talked about at all?

The mother. The woman who gave birth to her two little ones two months ago and then said goodbye. That is what I am here to do: talk about her.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine.

 

Learn to tolerate other people’s discomfort (like Christ did)

I’m a member of numerous women’s groups, and one question comes up time and time again: Someone I care about (my mother, my adult child, my husband, my brother) behaves such-and-such a way. What can I do differently to change it?

The best answer is: Nothing. You can’t change how other adults act. You can influence it, but how people behave is their decision, not yours. How they feel is their responsibility, not yours.

Really, truly. Not yours. Even if they tell you that they do what they do because of you. Even if, your whole life, they’ve expected you to take responsibility for their behavior and their emotions. It’s just not your job; it’s theirs.

But in our culture, it is so deeply ingrained in women, especially, to take on this responsibility that we don’t even realize we’re doing it, and we actually mistake other people’s emotions for our own. We think that feeling what other people feel is just part of love, part of caring for others.

Some of it does properly go along with love, and is normal and healthy. We are made to be connected to others, to care for them and to take their suffering seriously. But this sense of connection becomes an unhealthy entanglement when we can’t tell the difference between what someone else is feeling and what we’re feeling ourselves, and when we therefore assume that someone else’s anger or unhappiness is always a sign that we’ve done something wrong.

The truth is, if someone is unhappy or angry, maybe we’re doing something wrong, and maybe we’re not; but it’s very unhealthy when someone else’s sadness, anger, disgust, or distress automatically prompts us to rush around, searching for what we can change in ourselves, so their emotions and behavior will improve or at least make sense.

The problem comes when we set up our lives in such a way that other people are never left to deal with their own emotions and their own behavior, but automatically look to us to take responsibility. This is unfair to everyone concerned. It crushes the one who takes responsibility, and it stunts the one who refuses to take responsibility.

One of the great skills I’m learning in my mid 40’s is the skill of sorting out whose emotion is whose. It’s liberating, but it’s difficult, and a little bit frightening — partly because it’s new and unfamiliar, and partly because it feels a little bit forbidden or impious. When Catholics learn to become more psychologically healthy, we sometimes have the haunting feeling we’re turning our backs on our faith, or that we have to choose between emotional health and holiness…Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

 
Image by Prettysleepy from Pixabay

A short primer on women’s health for hags

Welcome to your late 40’s! This is the season of life that brings wisdom, confidence, interior strength, and silver wings in your hair, but it can also bring some less welcome changes. Mood swings, weight gain, decreased libido, heavy or irregular menses, spotting, migraines, skin changes, hair changes, and a special hamper just for poo poo undies can all be normal if unwelcome developments. 

Luckily, there are remedies available. But first, it’s vital to pinpoint your specific symptoms so a treatment plan can be tailored just for you.

Heavy menses: This may be a sign of low progesterone.

Spotting: This may be a sign of low progesterone.

Very light menses: This may be a sign of low progesterone.

Irregular menses: This may be a sign of low progesterone. 

Any kind of mensy menses: [screechy monkey voice, accompanied by trombone] This may be a sign of lowdy-low-low progesterony-wony.

Mood swings: Go fuck yourself. 

If you opt to treat your symptoms with progesterone supplements, there are many forms to choose from. One of the most popular is a bioidentical progesterone cream, which is made from wild yams. This nature’s way of reminding you that, biologically, you’re very close to a bloody sweet potato and you’re lucky we even let you into a real doctor’s office with your whiny little bitch problems, you stupid whiny bitch. It may also help with mood swings. 

Timing is very important. A woman’s body is like a sacred clock, and, like any timepiece, it must occasionally be adjusted; but precision is a must. So if you’re using progesterone supplements to help regulate your cycle, it’s vital to use it after you ovulate and not before, and not too late, but not too soon, or else either it will make everything worse, or it won’t do anything and you’ll just be standing there rubbing yam cream into your elbow like a weirdo. It’s simple to calculate the proper time, because all women always ovulate exactly two weeks before their period. To calculate ovulation, simply count two weeks back from your period and then make sure you have already used progesterone cream starting two weeks ago. It’s simple. It’s yam simple.

There are also progesterone suppositories, because of course there are. 

Progesterone isn’t the only remedy, of course. Some women who are experiencing unexplained weight gain, loss of libido, migraines, mood swings, and irregular bleeding opt for the mini pill, which alleviates these problems. Just be aware that the mini pill causes weight gain, loss of libido, migraines, mood swings, and irregular bleeding of the yam. This is the only treatment your insurance will cover. 

Have you tried exercising? Low energy and mood swings can often be corrected by something as simple as getting moving.  Just pour your ponderous cottage cheese thighs into some shiny leggings, why don’t you, and go hit a treadmill with a mirror in front of it. This will make you feel better. Whoa, your knees look like cinnamon buns. Cinnamon buns that hurt. 

You can also achieve remarkable effects by simple dietary adjustments. Make an effort to avoid sugar, alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, salt, gluten, nitrates, tannins, HFCS, MSG, soy, dairy, wheat, nightshades, endives, carrageenan, joie de vivre, and marshmallows for six months, and see if that doesn’t help. Many women have also experienced profound relief through seed cycling, a practice that’s starting to get the attention of mainstream medical professionals who are clearly just buying time by sending women home to eat flax for a few months, and then sneaking them off their patient records and saying it was an insurance glitch. Some women have also achieved promising results in balancing estrogen by avoiding testosterone-dominant foods such as bananas, zucchini, very turgid cucumbers, and red hot wieners of all kinds. No wieners for you, ya’am. 

If all else fails, some women opt for a subalvectomy, which involves removing everything below the waist. Just get rid of it. Chop chop, problem solved. This is usually day surgery, because you have to get home in time to fix dinner.

Above all, remember this is just a season, and like the seasons, it will pass, and eventually you will die. And no one tells the dead to eat more yams. 

 

Image by jung2 from Pixabay

Please stop saying “my cycle” when you mean “my period.” It matters.

The following essay is about the menstrual cycle, and what I have to say is just as much for men as it is for women. 

I recently had the most frustrating visit with my OB/GYN. It’s probably not what you think. She listened to me carefully, treated me with respect, explained things thoroughly, and was interested and responsive when I told her how Marquette NFP works, even when I touched on the principle of double effect in medical care. She didn’t even poke me too hard; and my insurance covered everything. 

The frustration came in when she had to repeatedly clarify that when I said “my cycle,” I didn’t mean “my menstrual period.” They are two different things. My menstrual period — the days when I am bleeding — are part of my cycle. But a cycle is, by definition, “a series of events that are regularly repeated in the same order.” In female biology, a cycle means the repeating pattern of four phases: menstrual bleeding, the follicular phase leading up to ovulation, ovulation, and luteal phase, ramping down from ovulation. 

But this doctor regularly treats women who use “menstrual bleeding” and “cycle” interchangeably. This led to a frustrating conversation that went something like this:

Me: So, my period started on this day. That cycle was 22 days long. . .
OB/GYN: Wow, that is so long!
Me: No, I only bled for four days, but my cycle was 22 days. Then the next cycle was only 17 days . . .
OB/GYN: But you weren’t bleeding for 17 days? 
Me: No, the cycle was 17 days, but my period lasted five days. Then the cycle after that was 26 days . . . 
OB: Okay, just to clarify . . .
 
And so on, throughout the whole visit. 
 
It wasn’t her fault. She needed to make sure we both knew what we were talking about (and she had no way of knowing I literally wrote a book about this stuff).
 
Part of the reason this situation exists is just linguistic sloppiness. Most of the time, women only have reason to refer to their cycles when they are bleeding, so the shorthand is close enough.
 
The other reason is cultural squeamishness, or even shame, around women’s biology. “Menstrual bleeding” or even “my period” sounds too graphic and bloody, and it’s more socially acceptable to say “my cycle.” It makes it more abstract, like part of a machine, or something on a pie chart.
 
I hate that this feels necessary to so many women — that they feel the need to make their bodies seem abstract or mechanical. Men aren’t ashamed to talk about their involuntary bodily functions. Many men even seem proud of them, for reasons that remain obscure to me. But women, who suffer through a huge amount of tumult and pain that allows them to keep the human race in existence still feel shame about their menstrual cycles.
 
This is a larger problem than a linguistic one. I don’t think it’s necessary to run around free bleeding, but I grow more and more disgusted with the idea that women should be at pains to shield the world from knowing anything about menses. 
 

Because that really is what happens: women and girls are taught that it’s their problem to bear, and part of the burden is the obligation to make sure no one finds out what they’re dealing with. In very conservative circles, girls are often taught to think of their bodily processes as a humiliating, degrading stain on their personhood, evidence of their constitutional, inherent weakness inherited from Eve. In liberal circles, girls are often taught to think of their bodily processes as a hassle, or possibly a sign of oppression, something that, with modern technology, we will quash if we have any self resect or ambition. 

A young woman I know went to see her doctor because she has very irregular cycles. She says sometimes she goes many months without a period. The doctor’s response?

“Is this really a problem? Lots of girls would be thrilled to go so long without dealing with bleeding! Can’t you just learn to enjoy getting a break?”

Not even a speck of curiosity as to why the young woman’s body wasn’t doing what her body is supposed to do. And this doctor was a young woman herself.

On my advice, the patient pushed for some basic blood tests, but when these came back negative, the doctor shrugged and gave up. Happily, the young woman was able to find a specialist who takes a more humane view, and didn’t try to wave her disfunction away.

If mainstream doctors are so flippantly ignorant about what is and isn’t normal, it’s no wonder women, young and otherwise, have only a vague understanding of what it means to have a cycle. Because of this willful systemic ignorance, serious health problems will go undiagnosed, causing women to routinely endure overmedication, undermedication, and a whole host of physical and psychological problems that may be unnecessary. The fact that women are discouraged from even talking about it in plain language? This is telling, and it is intolerable. 
 

I don’t assume that every woman who carelessly says “my cycle” when she really means “my period” is ignorant or oppressed or suffering from internalized shame of some kind. People have all different reasons for using imprecise language.

But I do think women would do the world (not just each other) a service by making a point of being more precise in this one area. When I realized, “There is no reason to use vague language when talking about my menses,” I was astonished at how many little knots in my perception of myself started to come undone. Almost as if the thing that goes on literally in the middle of my body affects my psyche.
 
Strangely enough, it was my husband who led me to be less squirrelly about how I talk and think about menstrual issues. He made it clear to me, over and over again, that he’s not going to throw up or lose his mind if I talk about my period. He’s not a “It’s our nausea” kind of guy, but he doesn’t feel like he has some kind of masculine right to be protected from knowing about something that affects my life (and our relationship) so intensely and so often. He loves me, and doesn’t want me to be ashamed about something that’s not shameful. 
 

I’m not big on vulgar jokes about menstrual issues, and there are situations where it’s just courteous to be discreet. But if you do have a habit of always using euphemisms or imprecise language around your menstrual cycle, it’s not a bad idea to ask yourself why. What would happen if you got more specific? Are you protecting someone? Who, and why? Are you afraid something bad will happen if your speech is forthright?

And if something bad will happen, whose fault is that, and why shouldn’t they be pressed to be better? 
 
 

Do women need ascesis?

I recently interviewed the developer of Exodus90, a spiritual exercise aimed at Catholic men who want to find spiritual freedom through prayer, ascesis, and fraternity. One thing lots of people wanted to know: Why is this only for men? Why was there no companion program for women?

Although I have mixed feelings about the program in general, I was impressed by his answer to this question. He said that, while “there’s nothing exclusive about prayer or asceticism or community,” the program had been written with men and fatherhood in mind, so he didn’t want to just — boop! — shift it over to women. But people kept pressing him to write up and market a version for women. He said:

“We’re a bunch of men. You don’t want us writing a program for women. So we got a religious order we respected. Their whole mission revolves around feminine identity. We asked them, ‘Would you study Exodus, and if you think this is a model of healing for women, would you write a program, if you feel called to?’

“Six months later, they said they didn’t believe this structure is a model of healing for women.”

I have my own theories for why this may be. Warning: I’ll be painting with a broad brush here, so please keep in mind that my words won’t apply to every last individual human. (I know you’re going to complain anyway, but at least you can’t say I didn’t warn you!)

In general, women are introduced at an early age to the inescapability of suffering, and to the ultimate helplessness of humans in the face of nature and before the will of God.

When women hit puberty . . . Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

***
Image: Portrait of a Young Woman As a Sibyl by Orazio Gentileschi (Wikimedia) / Public domain

What kind of woman veils at Mass?

Imagine you are a millennial Catholic woman. You are at Mass, kneeling at the altar rail, waiting to receive Christ in the Eucharist. As you peer at the high altar through your lace mantilla, your heart burns with love.

And into your back burns the searing hot gaze of that weird dude in the pew behind you—the one who once cornered you after confession to let you know your modesty is smoking hot.

I am not making this up. That really did happen to a friend of mine. And, based on a recent meme posted to the Facebook group Traditional Catholic Millennials, her experience may not be unique. The group, which has over 20,000 members, posted a photo of three young women kneeling at an altar rail, veiled and apparently in prayer. The emoji-littered meme exclaimed:

Looking for a good husband? [shrugging emoji] Want to be irresistible to Catholic men?? Simple!

[heart eye heart eye] VEIL! It’s a SMOKING HOT

Trad magnet! [fire fire] #Truth

#GetAHusband #NotPC

And the photo description read:

#BringOnTheTrollArmies TRIGGER WARNING:

It’s so true!!!! Holy men LOVE virtue and reverence for the Eucharist! Inner beauty is SMOKING HOT! [heart eye, panting emoji panting emoji heart laughing/crying fire] Externals show it. Buy one Here: https://www.veilsbylily.com/

Because God forbid there be one hour per week when a woman is not forced to deal with the consequences of whether or not men find her hot.

The cognitive dissonance was jarring if you are not familiar with the bizarre netherworld of outré ultra traditionalists, where pants are verboten because their pockets form a visual arrow pointing to the crotch; where working outside the home is stealing time from your family, but incessantly tweeting about collarbones and hemlines is doing God’s work; and where feminine modesty is a great way to advertise your…modesty.

If this makes any sense to you, I am telling it wrong.

The good news is, it does not make sense to a good many traditionalists, either, millennial or otherwise, and they found the “smoking hot veil” meme revolting and ridiculous. Lily Wilson herself, the founder of Veils by Lily, the website that was promoted in the post, told the group to take the meme down, which they eventually did.

Ms. Wilson thinks the contingent of traditionalist Catholics who objectify women and fetishize veils are in the minority.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine

Photo by kilarov zaneit on Unsplash

Why are women so angry?

The other day I heard about a man who beat the hell out of his pregnant girlfriend. When she escaped out into the street, he chased her with his car, slammed into a light pole, found a piece of bent metal, and started beating her with that. She somehow survived, but the child in her belly died from the trauma.

They did arrest the man. Later, in court, she gave her testimony. She hadn’t yet birthed her dead baby. Then it was time for her boyfriend’s lawyer to make his case. He asked for leniency, for his client to be released on personal recognizance rather than held in jail. “Your honor,” he argued, “My client is a young man with a bright future ahead of him. He has a fiancee, and the young lady is expecting their first child. . . ”

Happily, the judge wasn’t buying it. But imagine that lawyer’s thought process as he prepared his argument: Hey, maybe that bitch can come in handy one last time. 

My husband calls our society “Titanic in reverse.” Women and children are sacrificed first, tossed into the waves as men scramble to warmth and safety. He has been a reporter for decade and a half, and he’s been at crime scenes, seen evidence, interviewed victims and victims’ families, heard court testimony, and seen the sentencing process, and this is what he knows: Women and children are expendable. Their suffering, their torture, their rape, their murder is acceptable to society. 

I asked him if he thought it had ever been any other way, and he said no. 

We’ll convulse with horror when a man throws a dog out of a window. Precious little pupper! People who hurt animals should be executed in public! But if in that same night he also throws his wife down a flight of stairs, guess which victim makes the headlines?

Well, domestic disturbances are private things. Two sides to every story. 

Sometimes it’s not a matter of turning our heads when women are abused. Sometimes we’re right behind her, shoving her toward danger. Remember last time the country was so very tired of hearing about priests molesting kids? The thinking public came up with an easy solution to the problem: Just throw women at it. Just let priests marry, and never again will we deal with widespread clerical abuse.

It sounded so simple and obvious: Single men are doing pervy things, so let’s make them not be single anymore. Of course the mechanism of it was a little uglier. It meant that we know there are countless men willing to subjugate, humiliate, and abuse people who are weaker then they are. We hate it when they do this to children. So instead, let’s let them do it to women. Because that’s what women are for. 

Don’t let yourself believe that this is a Catholic problem, that only Catholics see women as the universal solution to male complaint. Last time an incel shot up a crowd, the progressive edgelords of social media instantly put up a cry for publicly-funded prostitutes. That’s all these dudes need! When they don’t get enough sexytime, they get mad and they kill people! So let’s make sure they can do it to women; and then real people won’t get hurt. 

Women are the corks for every leak, the excess ballast to be chucked off every sinking ship, the red meat to distract every wild dog, the kindling to brighten up every smoldering fire, the universal salve to spread on any festering wound. You have a problem, any problem at all? Try using women. You can always use women. That’s what women are for

We see this sense of entitlement everywhere, and not only in obvious examples like abduction and rape, murder and abuse. It’s more pervasive and more accepted than you may realize. Most men would never say, “Women only exist for my consumption.” They would never even think it in so many words. And yet when they walk down the street and see an unattractive women, their response is not simply a lack of interest, but irritation, even anger. Anger, as if the woman who doesn’t appeal to him has personally wounded him, or refused to give him something he deserves. 

Why should this be? Why should they feel, in any part of themselves, that they can expect to be pleased by women?

I don’t know why. I do know the one recorded statement we have from Adam is Adam using Eve as an excuse to get out of trouble with God. And ever since then, many, many men have assumed that, since a woman is there, she’s there for him to use.

Most men don’t act out when they feel this way. Only a noisy minority of men would allow themselves to shout something nasty at a passing fat jogger, or take the trouble tell some random lesbian he doesn’t approve of her haircut. Only a noisy minority sends hate mail to an actress who goes out in public with a dreaded “fupa” after giving birth. 

But when you’re a lone women being jeered at by a handful of strange men, or even by one man, it doesn’t feel like minority. It feels heavy and scary and big. It feels dangerous, and it is dangerous. It’s easier, in many ways, to simply agree: Yes, I am here for men to use. I must try as hard as I can to be pleasing to as many of them as possible, so I will be valued and safe. This is what many women do, without even realizing it. Mousy trad women do it by submitting and obeying and never making their own needs known, and raunchy progressive feminists do it by thrusting themselves headlong into porn culture.

And women in the middle of these two extremes do it by constantly accusing themselves, gently or harshly, of being unworthy. We tell ourselves we are unworthy to take up space, to put on weight, to get old, to slow down, to be tired, to be ugly, to be unavailable, to be loud, to be unproductive, to be charmless, to be sick, to be alone. To be angry. We feel that we are endlessly on trial, that our lives are one long audition, and we’re constantly in danger of being rejected and replaced by someone who knows how to do her job better. So many women have spent their whole lives floundering in a bottomless pool of fear that, if we aren’t pleasing men, we’re nothing.

I used to think that all that feminist talk about “the male gaze” was liberal garbage, and women simply didn’t understand how pleasant it could be to be desired by men. But now I am older and I can see that all my life, I have lived with this terrible fear of not being pleasing enough. Even women who know better know this fear. And that’s why there’s so much anger out there: Because it’s not right that we should live that way. 

I said as much on Facebook yesterday.

Yes, I was angry. I have eight daughters, and I see them growing up in this world that still hasn’t changed. And so I cursed at men who feel entitled to an aesthetically pleasing experience from every woman they meet. I felt the weight of that entitlement, and I was angry. 

And what do you think happened? My post was reported and removed. Men told me I was being strident and offensive, and that maybe they would listen if I watched my language and spoke more gently. Maybe if I changed myself just a little bit, so I was more to their liking, then they would listen to what I had to say. 

And there it is. Maybe I just need to be more pleasing to men, and then I’ll be allowed to talk. 

I don’t want to be angry all the time. I certainly don’t want to respond in kind, and become permanently enraged at a whole populace just because of the sins of some. But every once in a while, I feel the whole weight of that crushing, grinding, everlasting entitlement to be pleased, and I feel it even more heavily when I realize how I’ve been complicit in it.

I am asking men to be better. I am asking women not to be complicit. And I am asking men to hold each other accountable when they behave as if they are entitled to be pleased by women. I am tired of feeling inadequate, so instead I am angry. I have a right to be angry. 

 

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Image: Bathsheba with King David’s Letter, by Rembrandt. Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Are we spiritually deprived when women are barred from preaching?

The rule against women preaching doesn’t stem from misogyny, but from the obligation to make the sermon something specific: an extension of the proclamation of the liturgy of the word. It’s not supposed to be a lecture or a chat; it’s supposed to be part of the liturgy celebrated by an ordained priest or deacon in persona Christi. And that’s why laypeople aren’t supposed to do it.

But the flap over who gives sermons exposed another, possibly deeper misunderstanding about how, exactly, we’re supposed to learn about and live our faith.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

 

Pro-life Spotlight Vol.3: Mary’s Shelter offers so much more than shelter

“Why do pro-life activists only seem to care about unborn lives?” asked a Slate writer in 2017, echoing a question asked by scores of people who want to discredit pro-lifers for focusing only on the fetus.

Well, some of them do only care about the unborn. But many of them, including the folks at Mary’s Shelter in Virginia, have a much wider and humane vision, offering not only physical shelter and goods to pregnant mothers in time of crisis, but also classes and mentorship, so women who want a better life get get themselves and their children on a track toward independence.

Mary’s Shelter volunteers warmly supply a broad range of encouraging and educational supports, from cooking and knitting classes to book clubs, mentoring, doula services and roundtables, transportation, a private thrift store, academic tutoring, guest speakers, and baby showers. Residents get help earning their GEDs or degrees and finding jobs, finding counseling, and building new lives. The homes are cozy and friendly, and many women go there and find hope when everyone, including other shelters, have abandoned them.

Mary’s Shelter provides an expectant mother, and any additional children she may have, with housing for up to three years in order to further her education and/or secure employment. She must receive counseling, attend in-house parenting and life-skill classes and adhere to the program covenants which offer structure, self-discipline and guidance.

Each resident is blessed with a mentor who provides hands-on support, compassion and encouragement. This foundation ensures that our mothers have the necessary time and tools to work toward their goals and provide for their children, making the possibility of independent living a reality.

They rely very heavily on donations and volunteers, and since their founding in 2006 have helped more than two hundred pregnant women work toward a goal of independent living. They started out with a basement apartment and now have four houses, capable of sheltering and mentoring as many as fifty women and their children.

Here’s a video from Mary’s Shelter that features some of the women telling their stories and explaining how their needs were met:

In 2014, I did a short interview with Kathleen Wilson, the director of Mary’s Shelter. Here’s an excerpt that gives more detail about what kind of support and community they offer:

Kathleen Wilson: If the woman is abortion-minded, we’ll give her a place to live, if that’s what’s holding her back. If a woman walks in and she’s in a domestic violence situation, we get her counseling.  We don’t even kick them out if they’re drinking or doing drugs; we give them an opportunity to do a program and stay with us.

We give women up to two years with us; and women who are “rock stars” – the ones who are really looking to move on and get a nursing degree or something like that — she can stay up to three years while she does school and work and gets everything together. That’s all about the woman. That’s for her.

SF: I was amazed at the long list the services you offer: cooking and knitting classes, book clubs, mentoring, doula services and roundtables, a private thrift store for residents, academic tutoring, guest speakers, baby showers, and on and on. How many people do you have on staff?

KW: We have so, so many volunteers. The main group is me and two people that get small paychecks – a total of only $24,000 a year, and that’s for crazy hours. Then there are two or three volunteers I consider staff. Then there’s a whole slew of people doing other things.

For instance, we hook up every resident up with a mentor or two. And there’s a woman who comes every other week with a van, to take them shopping. A local church sends over volunteers to do service projects, paint room, put in a swing set, redo a bathroom – big projects like that.

SF:It sounds complicated. How do you coordinate everything?

KW: We started out in a basement apartment – didn’t even have a file cabinet! But it’s evolved. Everything we need comes along. Someone says, “Oh, I can do that.” We say we want a book club, book club leader comes along. These volunteers just fall out of the sky.  We even have a volunteer coordinator who is a volunteer herself.

SF:I know you sometimes fit in more residents than you comfortably can. What’s the ideal number of women you’re set up to shelter?

KW: Yes, we will roll beds into our office, or put women in hotels in an emergency. We have four houses now, and we’ll be opening our fifth on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15th . When we open the new house, it could be seventeen or eighteen families in the homes all together.

We’re one of the few shelters that take in women with additional children. That really is rare. We’ve got a lot of kids floating around the houses. We don’t offer daycare, but we do have babysitters available during for classes, guest speakers, and baby celebrations.

SF:Do you feel like the residents form a community?

KW: Some of them do. At one of our houses, the women have family dinners together once a week. There’s independent living, but they get together once a week, and their kids play together.

They have babies, and they have to lean on each other a bit. They have to ask for babysitters, or just had a C-section, and they have to step up to the plate. A majority of them haven’t had family relationships. This starts opening that door.

SF: Are you a Catholic organization?

KW: Most of our staff is Catholic, but non-Catholic Christian churches have been getting involved. We’ve had a Muslim resident; there’s no religious criteria for getting involved. We believe life begins at conception, and we ask that if you work for this ministry, you respect that.

It would be lovely to convert everybody, but that’s not our mission. It’s to show them God through our witness, and we hope they will sees God’s hand in everything.

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More information about Mary’s Shelter:

You can donate to help sustain Mary’s Shelter residents here and find out more about how to donate goods, volunteer, or help in other ways here.

Expectant mothers, who are at least eighteen years of age and are motivated to make positive changes in their lives, are welcome to apply.

We welcome all races and religions and will support and respect your decision to keep your child or place him/her in a loving adoptive family. Please call us for an interview.

Intake Number: 540-376-2108
540-374-3407 • info@marysshelterva.org

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Previous volumes of the Pro-life Spotlight:

China Little Flower

Immigrant Families Together

Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center

If you know or have worked with an organization that works to build a culture that cherishes human life, please drop me a line at simchafisher at gmail dot com with “pro-life spotlight” in the title.