Monday, April 29, 2013
Like Hildegard of Bingen, St. Catherine of Siena (whose feast day we celebrate today) always attracts the attention of feminists. Christopher Check, in a nice little article about her genius in Crisis, explains why:
It is not so difficult to understand why feminists wish to claim the patronage of Saint Catherine. After all, a version of her life might go something like this: At seven years of age a girl determines never to marry. When at age 12, she is pressured by her parents to submit to an arranged marriage, she defiantly cuts off her hair and neglects her appearance. Later, the young woman develops quite a following in her town. Men and women alike seek her counsel. Soon she is bringing influence to bear in political circles unknown to women. She arbitrates family feuds. She brokers peace within and between the city-states of Tuscany. Bankers, generals, princes, dukes, kings, and queens, as well as scholars and abbots seek her counsel. Her admonitions inspire the pope to restore the papacy to Rome. She writes one of the greatest works of medieval literature. She accomplishes all of this in 33 years. When, six centuries later, she is at last declared a doctor of the Roman Catholic Church she is only the second woman at the time to receive the honor. A real glass-ceiling breaker, Catherine made it big in a man’s world.
It's a very interesting article, though I do wish Check hadn't so essentialized all of us Catholic "feminists."
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Monday, March 25, 2013
Two feminist legal theorists for whom I have great respect have recently written pieces on achieving equality between the genders that emphasize the need to take on the 'hook up-culture.' This kind of convergence is all the more remarkable because these two women come from very different perspectives.
Erika Bachiochi bravely jumped into the fray as what looks to me like the only pro-life voice of 10 people contributing to a "Roe at 40" series of blog essays by Notre Dame's Center for the Study of Social Movements. Among the arguments she makes in her essay 10 Years Later: Let's Get Honest about Abortion, Roe, and Women's Equality is the following:
By equating equality with abortion access, we have capitulated to the misogynist view that equality requires women to become more like men, i.e., not pregnant. This is not to say in a biologically determinist fashion that because women’s bodies have the capacity to gestate fetal life, women are assumed by nature to be designed only, or even primarily, to be wives and mothers. It is to say that a culture that relies on abortion to achieve equality between the sexes takes male—wombless—physiology as the norm, and in so doing perpetuates the cultural devaluation of motherhood, and of parenting generally, and the social conditions that are often inhospitable to childrearing. Abortion leaves every societal and familial injustice just as it is, and expects nothing more or different of men.
In her response to another contributor's criticism of her essay, Erika lauds :
the effort to call men and women to a renewed sense of integrity and dignity with regard to their sexual lives. I, for one, think women ought to be at the forefront of such a movement, since we are the ones who deal disproportionately with the consequences of all-too-casual sexual encounters and failed contraception. It’s astonishing to me with so much heartbreak and so much unintended pregnancy—still, 50 years after the Pill—that mainstream feminists wouldn’t take a hard look at the way in which the sexual ethic on college campuses and post-college social scenes tends toward male prerogatives for low commitment sex.
Katharine Baker is one of the 'mainstream feminists' who has recently taken careful look at this issue, and arrived at much the same conclusion as Erika (though she does not share Erika's pro-life commitment.) She recently posted an essay entitled Sex and Equality, soon too be published in Boston University L. Rev as part of a symposium on Hanna Rosin's book, The End of Men. Baker's essay is sharp and punchy, and I think very effectively
challenges Rosin’s suggestion that contemporary sexual norms on college campuses serve women’s interests well. Unpacking the same data that Rosin uses to defend hook-up culture on women’s behalf, the essay argues that hook-up norms facilitate rape and may help explain the high rate of sexual assault on college campuses. Hook-up norms also perpetuate the sexual double standard, disproportionately hurt lower income women who cannot compete in hook-up status games, and valorize boorish, selfish male sexual behavior. In doing so, hook-up norms likely hurt young women’s ability to secure what they say they eventually want, which is sexual relationships rooted in equality.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
In celebration of World Down Syndrome Day (celebrated annually on March 21 or 3.21 -- in recognition of the fact that people with Down Syndrome have 3, instead of the typical 2, of the the 21st chromosome), I invite you to:
2. watch this video about "the friendliest restaurant in America", and
3. try to get your own hug from someone with Down Syndrome today!
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Here's my contribution to this virtual poetry-slam: the poem that I reached for after watching the announcement with some of my colleagues in the faculty lounge here at UST Law. It was published sometime in the last year or so in First Things, but I only have the xerox of it I keep by my desk -- it doesn't have the cite.
As the mother of 2 young adults who seem destined to choose careers that will not offer financial security (one who is now training to be a Catholic school teacher with ND's ACE program, and another seriously studying to be a Hollywood screenwriter whose work reflects the values of his faith), this one speaks to me.
St. Clare of Assisi
Her parents tired of locking her up before she tired of running away. Love mocks the locksmith, and love drove her on till the convent walls closed around her strong as a castle, and poverty made her as safe as wealth makes a queen.
Francis the merchant’s son should have died in the streets of Assisi known as the local beggar, Crazy Old Frank. Who knew that young men would flock to him, poverty-mad, throwing away their future to live this way? And Clare after him— luring a princess from Hungary to case aside royalty and wealth for a winter heated by no fire but love.
Could it happen again? Parents hope not. Children should make (and be) good investments, while faith and fanatics are out of fashion. But all it takes is a whisper, a change in the wind, a trick of the light, for the sleeping coal to flare up and sons and daughters come running, scattering fellowships, law school, the Army, the arts, their engagements, brimming with glorious news for their families: “I’m begging! Isn’t it wonderful?”
-- Gail White
Sunday, March 10, 2013
SPRED is an organization near & dear to my heart, and I was so happy to see that they're being recognized this year by Notre Dame:
Sister Susanne Gallagher, S.P.; Sister Mary Therese Harrington, S.H.; and Rev. James H. McCarthy, founders of the Special Religious Education Development Network (SPRED), will receive the University of Notre Dame’s 2013 Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics, at Notre Dame’s commencement this May.
“Sisters Gallagher and Harrington and Father McCarthy have summoned the Church to a crucial and too often overlooked ministry,” said Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C. “Insisting that a developmental disability neither tempers Christ’s invitation nor restricts one’s right to respond, they have ushered countless people to their rightful place at the Eucharistic table.”
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Amy Uelmen wants to bring this job opportunity to the attention of our readers:
Georgetown University in Washington, DC is seeking a Catholic Chaplain for our Campus Ministry, Law Center and Medical Center. The Catholic Chaplain will be an integral part of an ecumenical and interfaith ministry environment within the Office of Campus Ministry. For a complete job description and to apply please visit http://www12.georgetown.edu/hr/employment_services/joblist/jobs.cfm In the middle of that page, in the Job Requisition Number box, enter 20130210 and click the "Search by Job Number" button. On that page, you will see the job announcement - and at the bottom of the announcement, a link to "Apply for this position."
And if you're looking for a ministry-type job in Minnesota, Bryan Bademan, Director of MacLaurinCSF, (the Christian Study Center at the University of Minnesota) is looking for "two new part to full-time members of our staff team. MacLaurinCSF’s mission (strengthening Christian thinking by bridging church and university) has nurtured a dynamic work environment in which MacLaurinCSF staff along with University and community members seek to understand the implications of Christian faith for all of life—especially University life." More details here.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
That's the title of an excellent piece in today's New York Times by Stephanie Coontz. In a few short paragraphs, she paints a vivid picture of how starkly the contemporary American workplace differs from much of the rest of the world, in ways that directly undermine the Church's views on the place of the family as society's most effective 'school of the virtues." And, as she makes clear, this is no longer (if it ever was) just a "woman's issue."
In today’s political climate, it’s startling to remember that 80 years ago, in 1933, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to establish a 30-hour workweek. The bill failed in the House, but five years later the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 gave Americans a statutory 40-hour workweek. By the 1960s, American workers spent less time on the job than their counterparts in Europe and Japan.
Between 1990 and 2000, however, average annual work hours for employed Americans increased. By 2000, the United States had outstripped Japan — the former leader of the work pack — in the hours devoted to paid work. Today, almost 40 percent of men in professional jobs work 50 or more hours a week, as do almost a quarter of men in middle-income occupations. Individuals in lower-income and less-skilled jobs work fewer hours, but they are more likely to experience frequent changes in shifts, mandatory overtime on short notice, and nonstandard hours. And many low-income workers are forced to work two jobs to get by. When we look at dual-earner couples, the workload becomes even more daunting. As of 2000, the average dual-earner couple worked a combined 82 hours a week, while almost 15 percent of married couples had a joint workweek of 100 hours or more.
Astonishingly, despite the increased workload of families, and even though 70 percent of American children now live in households where every adult in the home is employed, in the past 20 years the United States has not passed any major federal initiative to help workers accommodate their family and work demands. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 guaranteed covered workers up to 12 weeks unpaid leave after a child’s birth or adoption or in case of a family illness. Although only about half the total work force was eligible, it seemed a promising start. But aside from the belated requirement of the new Affordable Care Act that nursing mothers be given a private space at work to pump breast milk, the F.M.L.A. turned out to be the inadequate end.
Meanwhile, since 1990 other nations with comparable resources have implemented a comprehensive agenda of “work-family reconciliation” acts. As a result, when the United States’ work-family policies are compared with those of countries at similar levels of economic and political development, the United States comes in dead last.
Out of nearly 200 countries studied by Jody Heymann, dean of the school of public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, and her team of researchers for their new book, “Children’s Chances,” 180 now offer guaranteed paid leave to new mothers, and 81 offer paid leave to fathers. They found that 175 mandate paid annual leave for workers, and 162 limit the maximum length of the workweek. The United States offers none of these protections.
A 1997 European Union directive prohibits employers from paying part-time workers lower hourly rates than full-time workers, excluding them from pension plans or limiting paid leaves to full-time workers. By contrast, American workers who reduce hours for family reasons typically lose their benefits and take an hourly wage cut.
Is it any surprise that American workers express higher levels of work-family conflict than workers in any of our European counterparts? Or that women’s labor-force participation has been overtaken? In 1990, the United States ranked sixth in female labor participation among 22 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is made up of most of the globe’s wealthier countries. By 2010, according to an economic research paper by Cornell researchers Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, released last month, we had fallen to 17th place, with about 30 percent of that decline a direct result of our failure to keep pace with other countries’ family-friendly work policies. American women have not abandoned the desire to combine work and family. Far from it. According to the Pew Research Center, in 1997, 56 percent of women ages 18 to 34 and 26 percent of middle-aged and older women said that, in addition to having a family, being successful in a high-paying career or profession was “very important” or “one of the most important things” in their lives. By 2011, fully two-thirds of the younger women and 42 percent of the older ones expressed that sentiment.
Nor have men given up the ideal of gender equity. A 2011 study by the Center for Work and Family at Boston College found that 65 percent of the fathers they interviewed felt that mothers and fathers should provide equal amounts of caregiving for their children. And in a 2010 Pew poll, 72 percent of both women and men between 18 and 29 agreed that the best marriage is one in which husband and wife both work and both take care of the house.
BUT when people are caught between the hard place of bad working conditions and the rock wall of politicians’ resistance to family-friendly reforms, it is hard to live up to such aspirations. The Boston College study found that only 30 percent of the fathers who wanted to share child care equally with their wives actually did so, a gap that helps explain why American men today report higher levels of work-family conflict than women. Under the circumstances, how likely is it that the young adults surveyed by Pew will meet their goal of sharing breadwinning and caregiving?