Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Reply to an Intellectually Cogent and Coherent, Nuanced (Indeed, Irrefutable) Feminist Critique

A feminist who goes by "bellatrys" has produced a remarkable "rebuttal" of one of my papers on feminism (dated 8-2-06). I posted the following comment on her blog:

Thank you for your response to my (rather old and mere summary-type) paper. If you or any of your readers would like to engage in cordial rational discussion about it, you are more than welcome to on my blog. I've noted your critique here [this URL given], with a few counter-responses when I found myself unable to resist.
As per my usual custom, in cases of particularly enthusiastic, caustically critical, "colorful" replies to my writing, I shall now cite some of the more notable excerpts. If "bellatrys" ever deigns to engage in discussion with those of opposing viewpoints (i.e., beyond the confines of the clone-like rah-rah club on her blog), then I would be more than happy to discuss the substantive merits of her critique in that context. We'll see. I confidently predict (based on much past experience with this sort of thing) that she won't, but I would be absolutely delighted - indeed, downright ecstatic - to be wrong about that.

The words of "bellatrys" (invariably eloquent and charitable) will be in blue; those of other commenters in various other colors; my bracketed editorial interjections will be in red.

[Rated PG-13 for two relatively mild cited profanities: a warning for those particularly sensitive to such things]:

* * * * *

TITLE: "God says I don't have to listen to you, nyah nyah!"

. . . he is dead typical of the American Conservative Catholic Convert of Academic Sort, right down to the way you can almost come up with his lines for him before he does, after you've read enough. Bog-standard "orthodox" apologetics, with a slightly-larger platform than your average TAC or Christendom graduate gets - and that definite inescapable (like spoiled potatoes or onions in the pantry) sense that he's only really a Christian because it validates his chauvinism . . .

[she cites my entire paper]

Don't you feel flattered? Empowered? Complimented? Don't you want to trust to Armstrong's vision of Christian Chivalry as keeping you safer than legal rights and your own wits? Read on, dear reader, and I'm sure all your doubts will be swept away -

(Is that an in-joke, putting Lord Peter up as apotropaic figure to this post? Why yes, Socrates, it is!)

Some of you may be wondering WTF the point is of saying that no women can "have authority over" him when by his narrow definition of "authority" he means something which only an ordained minister whose ordination he considers valid can have, which thereby also rules out 99.99% of the males in the world-? I refer you to the title of the post, for the answer to that...

* * *

Yer [sic] all a bunch of bleeding heretics, and must be lovingly corrected until you see the error of your ways! Don't worry, Armstrong's just the man to do it, too -

[ugh. now I need a wash.]

I think we also need a corollary to the Titanic rule, this one just for Catholics - that you don't get to justify an all-male priesthood and the authority of the husband and all the rest of the patriarchal bullshit by saying that women get Mary [her link], so there.

Oh, and he's got a blog, too. (Pretentious much? No sense of self-mockery? Do bears eat little boys who insult prophets -?)

(8-2-06)

* * *

It's Armstrong's kind of horseshit that makes me a lapsed Catholic. Not sure I have the intestinal fortitude to deal with his blog.

("cynthia1960", 8-3-06)

* * *

My mom is a very devout Catholic, but when she hears stuff like this she gets . . . rather irate. Here she is, a cantor, lector, and eucharistic minister. She was also a single mother and head nurse of her unit (medical school being too expensive when she was college-age). Anyone who tells her she's supposed to sit down and shut because she's a woman gets an earful.

She once told me that she'll never read that section of Paul's letters at church. She refuses.

("tlachtga", 8-2-06)

[Of course I have never believed - let alone stated - that women should "sit down and shut because she's a woman." I take a much different interpretation of these Pauline passages, as I stated in the paper: "The situation dealt with in 1 Cor 14:34-5 appears to be simply a cultural consideration concerning politeness, propriety and order, as opposed to an absolute mandate. The latter intuitively seems far too strict to and virtually impossible to be apply without exception." It's quite amusing to see that I am pilloried even when I quite agree with these vitriolic critics]

* * *

I have to admit I burst out laughing . . . and I wonder if he believes that women judges have no authority over him?

("randwolf", 8-3-06)

* * *

Or female police officers. Or female tax inspectors. That would be amusing to see.

("anna_wing", 8-3-06)

* * *

Yeah, that's what I was wondering - is he going to file with the ACLU (or, you know, whoever's not Evil Liberals but serves the same function of protecting his rights) if he's ever in court and the judge rules against him and happens to be female?

("nenya_kanadka", 8-3-06)

[Since the paper in question is entitled "Women Teachers in the Church" [emphasis added presently] it would seem that the previous three comments are - whatever one's position on this issue happens to be - rather, um, irrelevant and ludicrous, would it not? . . . .]

* * *

well, see, I think that's why he makes that special definition of Authority as meaning only "religious teaching authority" which is why I say "why does he even bother stating this?

[Obviously because I was dealing with "ecclesiastical" authority only (!) - not all authority (now was I claiming - as she absurdly implies - that the "only" authority was religious, which is, of course, an entirely different proposition): a manifest fact of the paper which seems - quite inexplicably - to be a mystery to several of these critics. This is patently obvious from the title of the paper (generally regarded as a suitable summary of a paper's contents) and the following portions (emphasis added):

"traditional teaching on Church authority"

". . . I am not bound in any ecclesiological sense"

"Thus good, stimulating, edifying Christian fellowship and conversation can occur between men and women, in which women can "teach" men and not violate Church authority, since these activities are not - technically and ecclesiologically speaking - "church." ]


it's a neener-neener thing" because he also is under no moral obligation to obey the theological beliefs of a) the guy at the gas station, b) the guy on the bus, c) his male boss, d) the Dalai Lama, e) Bob Marley, f) George W. Bush, g) random televangelist dude, because none of these males are validly ordained Catholics, and don't have any say over Catholics in matters of belief and nobody thinks they do.

[Exactly! Bingo! - no pun intended - gee, that must be why I wrote: "Nor am I bound - strictly speaking - to men, for that matter, who are not ordained; who do not possess the apostolic succession that the priesthood confers." So now I get chastised for supposedly not making clear what is a corollary of my main point, when in fact I did make it quite plain; which "bellatrys" plainly missed. I get lectured in a non sequitur for allegedly missing something that I did not miss at all, while the critic misses the remark which makes hers irrelevant! I must say that I immensly enjoy the logical and rhetorical absurdity, if nothing else here . . .]

Like most male chauvinists, like my atheist sexist relatives, the ones who think it's unnatural for women to be in charge blame it on Modernity and the Decline of Society Today - but obey policewomen etc, resentfully, grumbling in private or on blogs - and do their damnedest (bad pun intended) to simply avoid situations where they have to be in a subordinate relationship to a mere female.

The only reason for Armstrong to go on like this, is that he felt a need to vent about how much he disrespects women particularly, even above heretic males, and how much he loooooves belonging to an organization which validates this. (But some of his best friends are women...)

(8-3-06)

[Who could argue with such compelling reasoning? I obviously can't stand women, right?]

* * *

The ones he names specifically, I know most of them in the less-than-six-degrees way. Rhonda [sic] Chervin, Kim Hahn, Elizabeth [sic] Eliot [sic] and Alice Von Hildebrand all write book after book explaining why Feminism is Bad! and men should be treated like the noble Christ-imagers they are, full of your typical strawfeminist-who-yells-at-men who open the door for her contrasted with the lovely, feminine girl who is rewarded for her anti-feminism by chivalrous guys leaping to change her tire for her.

(8-5-06)

* * *

. . . some people can only worship something identical to, and therefore as small as, themselves. They may say they believe in an Infinite, Unknowable, Deity - but what they really worship has to be as human, petty, feeble - and gendered - as themselves. Others don't even reach that level of schizophrenia: "God is a white male" someone distantly related to me once said, unironically, this person being Joe Ordinary Sixpack American, and outraged at the idea that Jesus H. Christ was - gasp - a Jew, let alone that The Divine could be conceived of as Feminine, or that any sort of attributes were more along the lines of analogy (as in Negative Theo) than anything literal, back in the heady days of the 1960s. They have to make a deity they can be comfortable with, reflecting back all their own prejudices and desires and validating them with a halo. The *real* idolatry, as it were.

(8-7-06)

[How profound; how unanswerable; how obviously applicable to myself and my opinions - which is the ostensible topic, after all . . . Yeah, right: I believe God is "white" and that the God-Man Jesus is "petty" and "feeble" and am "outraged" that He was a Jew? !!! Now, the reply might be that she was making a rhetorical side-point and not referring to me, but then I could make the same charge that she falsely made of my paper: why mention this at all, since it is irrelevant to my own opinions? But of course, in a propagandistic, smearing sense it fits right in with her agenda: make her opponents appear as ridiculous and fringe as possible by use of whatever stereotypical illogic and falsehood at her disposal; all the while expressing outrage at supposed stereotypes of women and gender issues and alleged "chauvinism" that are nonexistent in my paper or in my person or opinions]

* * *

A bunch of people don't want to think, want a comfortable god that shares their bigotries.

[This is delicious. I'm really enjoying the asinine absurdity of it all now: first assume that I not only don't think, but don't want to think, then assume that I am a bigot, and then conclude (by impeccable logic, starting from the premises), that I have, therefore, created a "comfortable god" in my own alleged image. And this is supposed interaction with my position (and that in a mere brief summary-paper - from 1997 - that makes no pretense to being any sort of exhaustive treatise on the subject? But oops; I forgot that the point was not to reply to the paper but to simply attack me personally with a series of cleverly-expressed condescending liesand slanders about my imaginary, fictional interior attitudes. Bottom line is: "whoever disagrees with me is a bigot and a chauvinist and religious idolater of the worst sort; that way I can dismiss them before ever interacting with their actual expressed opinions"]

I know my logic "skills" are fuzzy.

[The understatement of the century (oops: more proof that I despise all women because I opined that one was profoundly illogical) . . . for more verification of this truism, see a previous post of hers so extraordinary that I didn't even cite it, so as not to embarrass the feminists by implying that this woman's thought is at all representative of theirs. But nevertheless, if they should perchance inform me it is indeed mainstream feminism, I'll take their word for it; not wishing to dispute a studied conclusion of passionate advocates of any particular position . . . ]

("julifolo", 8-8-06)

* * *

. . . hearing Americans ranting on about Paul and headship, the first thing we think of is "Paul Who? Oh, yeah: St Paul" and the second thing is "Headship? What's that?". Not saying there was never unequality of treatment, but this specific emphasis on and weight attached to "Paul says..." as against the Gospels, never mind the Magisterium, is a peculiarly Reformed Protestant of the American Evangelical/Fundamentalist identifying mark. This tizzy over 'the man should have the headship in the home' thing is also puzzling to us, both Catholic and Protestant, as this heavy emphasis on 'even if the bloke is an alcoholic, a gambler, a wastrel, a backsliding heathen - you've got to follow his decisions and submit to his authority, even if he forbids you to go to a particular church or squanders all the family income on a get-rich-quick scheme, you can't disagree or complain or challenge him, because he's got Headship', quite simply because most of us, even the devout, would have no idea what you were banging on about when you said 'Headship'.

("deisearch", 8-3-06)

* * *

. . . an American thing all over - see, I get the distinct impression that he decided to become a Catholic b/c the Protestant denominations here (tho' only some of them!) were ordaining women.

[Nope; had nothing to do with the decision whatsoever. Next time, perhaps "bellatrys" will trouble herself to actually read my conversion story, at least (available online in about four different versions now) before psychoanalyzing my reasons for conversion: real or alleged, rather than coming to a stupid conclusion based on a 618-word paper]

Ugh! Girl cooties! I have to respect a WOMAN now? Tis against nature! Where's a church they won't do that? Ahah! Rome has made it a central defining tenet of themselves now, I know, I'll Cross The Tiber (TM) and then I won't have to worry about it ever again! This is not an uncommon thing, I have come to realize; freaked-out authoritarian personality types looking for the place they will have to do the least critical thinking, yet can comfort themselves with the illusion that they're living on the cutting edge of philosophical daring. (I mean, the guy calls himself "socrates58"-!)

[Wow; she has sure got me pegged, doesn't she? I'm so exposed and embarrassed by her riveting critique of all my manifest faults and deficiencies that I think I'll melt in a puddle of goo and never venture out into the lion's arena of public expression again. Let's see; here is what this pleasantly delightful woman has figured out about me (and the Catholic Church), in the above statement alone:

1) I think women have cooties.

2) It's against nature to respect women.

3) Therefore I don't respect women.

4) The Catholic Church doesn't respect women.

5) The Catholic Church has made #4 "a central defining tenet" of itself.

6) I won't have to worry about respecting women, and their cooties, etc., if I convert to Catholicism.

7) I'm a "freaked-out authoritarian personality type."

8) I want to be in a place (i.e., Catholicism) where I can "do the least critical thinking."

9) I "comfort [myself] with the illusion that [I'm] living on the cutting edge of philosophical daring."

10) #9 obviously follows (i.e., by this twisted, Screwtape-like pseudo-"logic") because, after all, I have "socrates58" in my blog URL (she incorrectly asserts / assumes that I call myself by this name; a subtle distinction, perhaps, but a real one, for those who value logic).
As a related note of trivia, the only nickname I've ever used much at all on the Internet (I quite despise the practice, generally-speaking; I think it is unnecessary, annoying, and tends to lead to more impersonal discourse) was "erasmus," when I started on the Religion Forum in CompuServe in 1996; and that was strictly because I thought the name sounded cool; it had little or nothing to do with the 16th-century Greek scholar Desiderius Erasmus (though I do like his work and have a few links to it). Hence, the retention of "erasmus" in all of my website URL's. But in "bellatrys's" inexplicably incoherent mind (plum-full of stereotypical prejudices against Catholics and other troglodyte Christians who don't buy the feminist line) I suppose that will be proof-positive that I think I am a modern-day Erasmus, too, as well as a pseudo-Socrates. ]

(8-3-06)

* * *

Oh, this guy isn't going to get himself killed antagonizing the govt or challenging societal norms, don't worry.

[I don't expect to be killed, but alleged wimpy conformity does not account for why I was arrested five times for engaging in civil disobedience by blocking the doors of abortuaries some 24 times, or why I wrote a paper expressing my opinion that America is arguably the most wicked nation ever, or why I've written sizzling condemnations of our dropping the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and have often expressed scathing outrage at our genocide of the Native Americans and abominable treatment of African Americans; or, Indians and blacks, depending on one's preferred terms). For some odd reason I am also a vocal critic of corporate capitalism and espouse an economic view akin to Chesterton's Distributism (considered quasi-socialism by some). I could go on and on about this, but the above examples should quite suffice to illustrate that I am not some stuffed-shirt American conformist or cookie-cutter political conservative of the stereotypical type written about on this woman's blog. In any event, she has this amazing ability to size up a person without reading hardly any of his many papers which would disabuse her of her stupid falsehoods about a relative stranger, expressed publicly with the utmost confidence and seemingly without fear of contradiction.]

Far from! He recites tautologies and flatters himself that he's a daring, radical freethinker who defies conventions by asking why people just go along with them, when in fact he's about as mindlessly hidebound-conventional as is possible, and moves from mental safe zone to even less challenging safe zone so as to avoid having to think critically about any of his own assumptions.

[Who could doubt this?! The above facts which I cited about some of my "unconventional" beliefs and behavior surely coincide with this cynical opinion, no? My 380 posted dialogues with folks of many many different opinions clearly prove that I wish to "avoid having to think critically about any of [my] own assumptions." What could be more compelling evidence than that, that I run from opposing positions and avoid critical thought like the plague? Now, we'll see shortly whether "bellatrys" has the courage of her own convictions and will come here and discuss her asinine criticisms of me (and by extension, many of my readers and virtually all orthodox Catholics and all who are non-feminists), or whether she will choose to remain within the safe womb of her fan-club blog, composed of clonish replicas of herself and her comically predictable (YAWN) leftist opinions.]

That he should compare himself to any martyr, let alone one who challenged the popular theologies and practices of the day, is just ludicrous.

[Here again is the ridiculous fallacy that I somehow am comparing myself to Socrates simply because I used his name in my blog URL and because I admire his method and incorporate it into my own apologetic methodology. By this "logic," any Thomist must think he is another St. Thomas Aquinas; all Christians think they are another Jesus: whenever one admires someone and adopts some of their thought and method, this would follow (and then they should be mocked and pilloried for allegedly thinking in this fashion), by the cynical illogic of "bellatrys."]

(8-5-06)

* * *

Not all, but most of the core Conservative Intellectual Catholic types here are not "cradle" but converts, and either converts from American fundamentalism, or converts from genteel Anglo-American agnosticism of various sorts ranging from "C&E C of E" types to 2nd or 3rd generation Jewish atheists rebelling against their parents a la Edith Stein, and anything in between, often including phases of "wandering" or "seeking" meaning careening from Buddhism to Rasta to Orthodox (Christian or Jewish) and all of it in an effort to find something that was a) structured and validating but b) not too structured, not requiring of them anything they weren't willing to give.

[If the implication is that I somehow fit into such characterizations (which might be reasonably surmised from context), it is wrong on all counts:

1) I was never a fundamentalist, in any sense of the word.

2) I was never an agnostic, let alone of the C of E or Judaism, though I was quite secular, of the type now fashionable in England and Canada, throughout most of the 70s, and was raised (i.e., up to age 10, to the extent that one could say this at all) as a nominal, liberal Methodist.

3) I never ventured into eastern religion or Orthodoxy.
This is yet another example of the curious antipathy to and endless second-guessing of Catholic converts, which I have written much about.]

If you're an innately-chauvinistic guy - which is almost impossible not to start out as, in the US . . .

[That's right. We all hate women here; everyone knows that!]

- then there's a kind of inevitable spiral towards the Church of Rome as interpreted here by the extremely doctrinaire Neo-Trads, which is all about the justification of authoritarianism by appealing to Tradition & the mystical authority of the Magisterium, and using that justified authoritarianism to recursively justify all the their own inclinations of disliking the Other (women, gays, cats, Pakistanis, jazz musicians, vegetarians, people who eat ice cream while walking down the street) and since they really can't get away from the whole Want Sex!/Hate Women! problem without making themselves eunuchs literally, the discriminatory bits of Christianity, and the one Church which is not only hanging on to them but also doesn't have any kind of democratic mechanism to get rid of them down the line unlike the Protestant ones, are going to exert a much stronger gravitational pull than oh, some other religion which offers the same thing but requires you to wear funny hats, too, or stop eating/drinking things you like almost as much as you're squicked out by the thought of women having sex with guys other than you, or guys having sex with other guys, it makes the choice a lot easier.

[This woman is quite the eloquent social / religious critic, isn't she? Would that her logic and factuality and extension of charity would even remotely approach her ability to turn an eloquent phrase . . .]

I think - to get Thomist here - that it's a case of two things coming from one, that is that Machismo is so core to Americanism that it can't not come out in religion, too, whether Protestant or Catholic, and that people will even change their religion in order to be able to hold onto their sexism unchallenged.

[Yes! Clearly I am a sexist chauvinist pig and this formed the main (if not sole) reason for my conversion to Catholicism, since that religion hates women; thinks they have cooties (otherwise, why not ordain them?) and institutionalizes its hatred. Such endless profundities; almost too much to process at one time . . . ]

And if you want to be a Christian, and validate your machismo, you're pretty much stuck with invoking St. Paul, outside the Torah.

[St. Paul is obviously a chauvinist machismo sexist pig as well, no one can doubt . . . the funny thing is the usual reluctance of feminists to include Jesus in the sweeping condemnations of imaginary woman-hatred. After all, He was one Who believed that God the Father was just that: a Father, and He was the one who chose all male disciples, and taught that some would voluntarily become eunuchs for the kingdom of God. So He should be deemed sexist, anti-women, and anti-sex just as Paul is, but for some reason, rarely is. Why?]

(8-3-06)

* * *

I know it's not going to convince him one wit, were he ever to read this, but the most inspired, truly really obviously meant for their calling in the church minister I have met in ten years is a female Episcopalian priest. I met her, and my first thought was, "My God, how can anyone believe that women aren't meant to be priests? How much her church members would miss out on if she were barred from her job because of her gender!"

*sigh*

("nenya_kanadka", 8-3-06)

* * *

Now we can all sit back and wait for the wisdom, wit, and profundity of "bellatrys" and her clone-like blogmates who will, hopefully, come here and enlighten us backward chauvinist pigs and show us how all my replies are null and void; how Paul and Christianity (and above all, the Catholic Church - which commenter "lyorn" informs us, in very un-PC, uncharacteristically intolerant language among such loving, tolerant feminists, is plain ole "bad") hate women and seek to oppress them, etc. . . . I won't hold my breath. Whether any of them 1) come here and reply or 2) do so with even rudimentary charity and the appropriate logic (if possible in their case, given what we have observed thus far) and on-topic coherence remains to be seen. #1 is remotely possible; #2 is, in my experience, almost a practical impossibility for a radical feminist, as most of these folks appear to be. As I said, I would be absolutely delighted for this to be a rare exception to that rule.

In the meantime, it is at least good to be informed about the ridiculous rhetoric and utter lack of rational argumentation that is being spewed in feminist circles about Catholics and non-feminist Christians. If I can prove that an opposing argument literally has no substance and much nonsense, then that is a roundabout way of illustrating that perhaps the Catholic position has more going for it than supposed by many critics, since opposition to it (i.e., in individual cases such as this one) is so pathetic and insubstantiual, and consists mostly of personal attack against Catholics and falsehoods about the actual teachings of the Catholic Church.


No comments: