Monday, December 30, 2013


Someone recently accused me of being unable to forgive, despite having known me for many years and having seen me forgive several people.  The authorities of my childhood parish also accused me of an inability to forgive.  Both parties are correct in one sense: they demanded immediate forgiveness on command, which I can not do.

Forgiveness is not an easy thing to define, it is more than simply saying "it's ok" when someone has caused harm.  It involves releasing resentment, moving on both as an individual and as a relationship from an incident, letting go of hurt.  One can forgive another without ever speaking to the transgressor: forgiving someone who's hurt you doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea to resume a relationship.  It's also possible to forgive someone who's died!

Functioning as an individual and as a member of a community is eased through forgiveness.  The act, which is an almost entirely introverted event with fuzzy boundaries, ameliorates harmony both internally and communally.  Forgiveness has been such a prominent religious concept because religious communities involve so much intangible vulnerability between participants.  Both forgiveness and spirituality exist on the line between logic and emotion.

Time between the hurtful occurrence and forgiveness (whether of the self or of the transgressor) is immeasurable.  The idea of needing to forgive in order to harmonize the self and the community is very old, and many ancient ritualistic religions involved going through some kind of ceremony in order to bring about forgiveness.  Some of these traditions also argued that to die without having forgiven would cause disaster: ritual fixed this dangerous chance.  Catholicism makes the same point, but with intimidation rather than facilitation*.  The line of the Our Father "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" meaning, at least as it was posed to me, that if you don't forgive everyone right away then God has no reason to forgive you so you've doomed yourself to Hell if Jesus could forgive while on the Cross what's stopping you?!?

No matter who demands forgiveness on command, the forgiveness itself is insincere when done through intimidation or fear.  The fault of the insincerity is on the pressuring party, not the forgiver.  I was already in the process of forgiving the person mentioned at the beginning of this post and the accusation of my inability only hindered the process.  Thinking and writing about the nature of forgiveness is a step in resuming that process, which has an unknowable duration.

* It may seem logically inconsistent to many that I would return to the very Church that hurt me so much.  Seeking out a parish of compassion and re-establishing myself as a practicing (keyword: PRACTICING.  Practice, not doctrine.) Catholic are steps in my forgiving of the Church.  By attending Sunday Mass and studying Catholicism, I'm harmonizing myself both as a spiritual individual and as a very tentative, doubting member of a community.

Friday, December 27, 2013

More Thoughts on Catholicism's Matriarchy

This podcast is a fascinating presentation on "Mary as Icon and the Feminine Genius."  Although I don't necessarily agree with all of it, it's vital for conversation on the Feminine in Catholicism to continue.  I've been working on this idea for a long time that the Catholic community is more matriarchal than most people anticipate: all the Marian shrines in yards, decals on cars, prayer cards, bedside statues, pendants, flowers, candles and rosaries evidence a feminine prominence.  Future archaeologists will likely look back on Catholics and determine their practice as matriarchal, based solely on these common items. 
Mary, in this podcast, is referred to as both the Tabernacle (Even the picture of the Tabernacle in the image above, which is referenced in the podcast, is vaginal) and as the Mother of the New Covenant.  It's very important to put words to these concepts, which are often vaguely accepted in the background without much thought.  Not only do these ideas about Mary reinforce Catholicism's connections with Pagan folklore and spirituality, but also empower women in the Church more than the patriarchal hierarchy has for centuries.  As women are the most active laypeople, at least in America, a communal understanding of being more than fundraisers, Sunday School teachers and secretaries (read: assistants) could be a valuable foothold in the Catholic community.

Also, I just had no idea how profound Eastern Orthodox iconography is.  Here I just thought it was a way of saying "look at all our money!"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Feminine Feminism

Some prominent foci of the current "4th Wave feminism*" are street harassment, intersectionality (though not often effective), and reclaiming femininity.  Crafts & domestic projects have become incredibly popular as both personal and feminist statements recently, primarily among privileged (read: predominantly white) feminists. This isn't that different from the DIY movement of the early 90's, save that we have the internet now and crafts today are typically much more feminine than then. I suggest that Pinterest is the primary subcultural point.

A few months ago, an argument passed around tumblr debating that the popularity of Pinterest among women evidenced a move back toward domestic femininity...but that it isn't a bad or regressive thing. Femininity has long been a widespread cultural scapegoat: a woman must be feminine in order to have value, though femininity is weak + devalued in patriarchy. Reclaiming crafts, domesticity, and general prettiness is a way young, privileged women are putting power into femininity. In the 1950's, femininity was often displayed in order to attract & keep a mate (see: The Feminine Mystique, The Erotic Silence of the American Housewife, Pink Think, etc.); that's unheard of now: today's feminine feminists do it for ourselves.

I'm waiting for more people to say that the empowering of domesticity is connected to the current feminist focus of street harassment. Catcalls & stalking often push women back into our homes just for the safety, and more dialogue among women is engendered therein. Domestic crafts are a way of reclaiming the very femininity street harassers prey upon, while also connecting to other women. Pinterest (and tumblr, etsy) has become the women's bookstore of the 2010's.

Of course there are problems within this feminist movement, largely relating to race (as always). Crafts require time and money and a safe place, and the websites of exchange display mostly white able-bodied people, white aesthetics, English at around a 6th grade reading level. WOC designers & businesses are often celebrated by tumblrs that focus on race, rarely by tumblrs that focus on gender/sex (and are therefore white tumblrs). Transphobia isn't unusual either, "I didn't mean it that way, therefore it's not transphobic." I'd like to say that intersectionality is improving now, but I am able-bodied & white and it's not my place to make such judgements.

Beginning about 7 years ago, much mainstream media noted that domestic femininity was becoming more common among [white, privileged, cisgender] women. Many such journalists speculated that feminism was ending, women were going home in order to become housewives, etc. They were partly correct, but they couldn't see femininity as something powerful willingly chosen by strong individuals.

* I'm beginning to realize that the use of Waves as categorizing islands of angry women, as opposed to a point of generational reference in a larger context, is a divisive tool used primarily by mainstream media.