Jul 22, 2021

Sad Reflections on the Feast of Mary Magdalene

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Today is the Feast of Mary Magdalene. It's been a very weird day.

I am not Catholic and I do not pay much attention to the Church's calendar. But I was reminded that it's the day the Church commemorates Mary Magdalene – a day elevated to a feast by Pope Francis in 2016 – by a Facebook post floating down my timeline. The exquisite artwork caught my eye.

That I have very strong feelings about depictions of Mary Magdalene is no secret. She has historically been an icon of misogyny, thanks to the way the Catholic Church has represented her down through the centuries. It was only 52 years ago that the Church reversed course and quietly retracted the charge of prostitution leveled at her by Pope Gregory in 591. Much of the Western world, and even much of the Catholic Church, never got that memo. Mary Magdalene is still perceived far and wide as the fallen women, the woman of ill repute, the whore half of the Madonna-Whore complex.

So what made this day of Catholic celebration so weird for my nominally Episcopalian self? Only that I have been awash in news stories today that make it hard for my female body to breathe.

In a brief perusal of the news this morning I learned that female Olympians from Europe are compelled to wear uniforms that reduce them to sex objects and make it harder for them to perform as athletes.

The Norwegian women’s beach handball team wants to wear comfortable clothing while playing the sport instead of being forced to wear bikini bottoms that are uncomfortable and sexualizes them. The handball team said they are done with the degrading attire and called for a change in the rules that mandate they wear bikini bottoms that cover only 10 centimeters on the side. The incident happened when the Norwegian women’s beach handball played the European Championships in beach handball. The team's stance threw a spotlight on the reported sexism as men are allowed to wear shorts to their games. "We are forced to play with panties," Norwegian team captain Katinka Haltvik told NRK, reported Inside the games. "It is so embarrassing."

The regulations are very particular about what women wear, down to the measurements while it's relaxed for men. "Women should wear a bikini where the top should be a tight-fitting sports bra with deep openings at the arms," read the international regulations of beach handball. "The bottom must not be more than ten centimeters on the sides." The Norwegian Beach Handball Association has been fighting to have the rules changed. Even prior to the European Championships in Bulgaria, they had planned to protest against the regulations and play in thigh-length tights, reported Fox News.

I was also reminded, not that I'd exactly forgotten, that the "Karen" construct is more than a little sexist.

Sorry, but no. You can’t control a word, or an idea, once it’s been released into the wild. Epithets linked to women have a habit of becoming sexist insults; we don’t tend to describe men as bossy, ditzy, or nasty. They’re not called mean girls or prima donnas or drama queens, even when they totally are. And so Karen has followed the trajectory of dozens of words before it, becoming a cloak for casual sexism as well as a method of criticizing the perceived faux vulnerability of white women.

Not saying there aren't some awful and racist white women out there who need to be called out, but the term is now hurled at any woman who draws a boundary. Heaven forfend that any white woman should complain when she gets poor service or when some random stranger breathes maskless in her face. Women should take every indignity in stride as stoically as the Angel in the House, lest we be labeled as odious Karens.

In a dark turn that I took in under an hour of news reading, I learned that yet another "incel" was preparing to go on a bloody rampage. Thankfully, his plan to punish women for not sleeping with him was foiled by police.

In his posts, he sometimes expressed admiration for Elliot Rodger, who in May 2014, killed six people and injured 14 others. Some of Rodger's victims were shot outside a University of California, Santa Barbara sorority house.

Genco wrote a manifesto titled "A Hideous Symphony," by "Tres Genco, the socially exiled Incel." In it, he said he would "slaughter" women "out of hatred, jealousy and revenge..." and called death the "great equalizer." Investigators say they discovered another note, allegedly drafted by Genco, that said he hoped to "aim big" for a kill count of 3,000 people.

Prosecutors say that the same day he drafted his manifesto, Genco searched online for fraternities and sororities around Ohio.

As much as I'd like to think this kind of misogyny is limited to the warped unfuckables who inhabit the darkest corners of the "manosphere," their special brand of entitlement to female bodies has been legitimized by pseudo-intellectuals like Jordan Peterson and even echoed in quasi-respectable journals like the The National Review.

When a sample of nearly 1,500 female Ivy League students was asked whether they would date a Trump supporter, only 6 percent said yes (after excluding the small minority of the sample who support him). So finds a survey of 20,000 university students that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) conducted in 2020. While people are free to discriminate however they wish in dating, this attitude bleeds into problematic spheres such as hiring and social toleration.

This reveals the predilection among many young elite Americans for progressive authoritarianism, a belief system that justifies infringing rights to equal treatment or free speech in the name of the emotional “safety” of historically marginalized race, gender, and sexuality groups. In this left-modernist worldview, conservatives’ resistance to racial, gender, and sexual progressivism mark them as moral deviants. As Millennials take power, this generational earthquake is set to shake the foundations of the cultural elite to its core, leading to pervasive discrimination against, and censorship of, conservative views.

That's right. Not throwing a man a shot because you find his world view horrifying is "discrimination" now. Saying "no" to men's advances infringes on their "rights."

Here we are. It's 2021, 16 centuries since the time of Pope Gregory the Great and women are still being reduced to their bodies and their terrifying, mystifying, infuriating sexuality. I wish a much too late Catholic feast could fix that.

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