Friday, 12 July 2013

**Can we yet recover respect in the discourse? The liberals sexist attack on Tracey Rowland...

In recent times in Australia there has been a lot of focus on the sheer nastiness of the sexist way in which high profile women tend to be attacked.

Instead of debating their ideas and views, they are attacked for their appearance.  Instead of taking issue with their approach we get 'jokes' about chaff bags and the like.  And there are no holds barred whatsoever when it comes to questions about their private life.

Now most of us thought the particular response offered to all that was the wrong one.  But that doesn't change the objective reality about the unpleasant nature of the discourse.

Yet somehow, no one seems to be learning the lessons.

Maybe because the ultimate takeout message was that bad behaviour so often wins the day, at least in the short term?

Liberal attack on Dr Rowland

You would think that 'liberals' would be a little sensitive to these issues.

Instead, over at 'V2 Catholic' David Timbs, in a piece on the alleged evils of the Sacra Liturgia Conference, feels it necessary to especially draw out attention to the fact that Dr Tracey Rowland is a female theologian.  Presumably that would normally mean that we don't need to listen to her?

But he then indicates that of course she does have to be responded to because she has the support of two men, viz Bishop Eliot and Cardinal Pell!

So he launches into a a vicious ad hominem attack that accuses her inter alia of suffering from "presumption, dissemblance, manufactured snobbery and hubris".

Wow, all that for the sin of being a respected (female) academic and giving an academic talk at a conference on the liturgy!

And Brian Coyne over atCatholica not only feels the need to laud Mr Timbs' rant, but to add a few other sexist epithets on his own, describing her variously as 'George Pell's pin-up girl', 'golden girl' and so forth.

The nature of their discourse at least exposed for what it is...

**And from the trad side

And now unfortunately the LMS Chairman has joined the sport.

It is one thing to disagree with Dr Rowland's comments - while there is something to them, I too think they are somewhat exaggerated concerns about the culture around the Latin Mass as I've said here previously.  But her comments on the oddities in dress of some of those who attend are pertinent to the debate: she is talking about what puts people off attending the EF Mass.  That's shouldn't be a license to attack her for her own personal appearance, jokingly or otherwise, for it is completely irrelevant to the argument.  And frankly it just distracts from undermines the good ones offered in the post.

I can only endorse the comments of JAM over there to Mr Shaw:

"Do you feel at all ungentlemanly for ridiculing her appearance? It seems very out of line, and I don't care "who started it"... the more fundamental point is, it is not *virtuous* for a Catholic man to make demeaning comments about a woman's appearance, especially not in public, and especially by way of responding to her argument..."

Unoppressed women?

I do find it deeply depressing that this kind of behaviour persists, and that many on both sides of the political divide defend it.

Over at the 'Catholic Talk' website, for example, Monica Doumet attacks those who take offence at misogynistic comments and argues that the fact that a male in her workplace is paid more than her for doing the same job is not in fact an injustice, because she at least has a job, and that worrying about women who are pregnant getting sacked, pay equity and so forth is a misdirection of resources.

I agree that a lot of the feminist agenda is misdirected.  But not all of it.  We should all reject the old style feminist agenda of abortion, women's ordination and so forth.

But honestly, does that really mean we have to let slide any and all real problems we actually can see and do something about?

And isn't the payment of just wages part of the Church's social teaching?

Personally I do think that that things like the pay equity case, that will see increased wages for community sector workers, was a real achievement of the last Government for three key reasons.

First, because wages were much lower in those professions even though they required a degree, more people were choosing to study law and for other higher paying jobs, leading to dire shortages in areas like child protection workers.  It also led to people in these professions not being accorded the degree of respect that is appropriate for the challenging and important work they do.  And importantly, higher wages means families where women are the sole income earner will be better off, and where there are two income earners, they can reduce the number of hours they have to work.

There are genuine policy issues that need to be addressed in this country, and some of them actually are specific to women.  Let's not pretend otherwise.

And please, let's focus on content, on what was actually said and done, not who said or did it and what they happen to look like!


A Canberra Observer said...

perhaps what David, and the other 'liberated' commentators, can't stand is that Tracy should know that she has been liberated by the glorious revolution from the shackles of the (4000 year old) paternalistic conspiracy against women - however did she come to be in a position to have this learning and authority. But, unforgiveable sin, she has become a recidivist traitor to the revolution which succoured her progress and instead supports the restoration of the Ancien regime. Shades of Danton and Robespierre?

Kate Edwards said...

Perhpas there is something in what you suggest CO; it is in the nature of revolutions that those within the fold who reject the received line are often seen as more deserving of the guillotine than members of the ancien regime!

But even though male conservatives come in for nasty personal and over the top attacks over at places like Catholica and V2, they don't I think, suffer the same degree of venom as women seem to garner (and I'm speaking from personal experience here as well as observation on others!).

vexilla regis said...

Kate, I think that as far as messrs Coyne and Timbs go one would not expect any better. I believe Tracey's prime offense in their eyes is not so much her sex as her association with Cardinal Pell - which would induce such a frothing at the mouth that every measure of intemperate commentary would follow.
As for the ex PM she destroyed herself by her consistent errors of political judgement and, to facilitate criticism unfair or not, she happened to be a caricaturist's delight as so many of our politicians male and female are.
Nevertheless, I agree with your underlying idea that it would be good for the Nation to return to a mre civil discourse - but I don't really think it is about one's sex so much. For example, I believe if Clive Palmer and Gin Rinehart were each better looking, they would not be treated quite so roughly in the media. The sex of the person is not the trigger for the attacks so much as their appearance and their inordinate ambitions.withRa

Kate Edwards said...

While agree that Dr Rowland suffers from 'guilt by association' in the eyes of some, I really don't think that is all there is to it - else why mention specifically that she is female, and use demeaning and derogatory insults like 'pin up girl'?

In Palmer and Rinehart's case, neither actually gets attacked for their appearance all that much directly - we might all think it, but it mostly isn't said (too scared of people who can afford to sue?). And I think it is the fact that they seem to be using their money to buy influence and power, rather than anything else, that I suspect earns them fairly tough treatment - Australians like to pretend things operate on merit here, not money!

And while Ms Gillard certainly made some errors of judgment and dug her own grave to a large extent, if ambition was the main crime, surely Rudd and Abbott, both of whom have shown a capacity to ditch every ideal they claim to hold in the interest of getting elected, are more obviously deserving of attack!

PM said...

It doesn't take much experience of the self-styled inclusivistas to realise that their professed tolerance and inclusiveness apply only to people like them.

R J said...

It's not only the overt "Catholic" Left which is indulging in ad feminem ridicule of Dr Rowland, as this bitchy post from England's Latin Mass Society indicates:

Kate Edwards said...

Yes I updated the article previously to reflect the piece RJ.

It is depressing but predictable - there is a misogynist stream on both sides.

What I find particularly off is Mr Shaw's subsequent 'reply to critics' defending his words on the grounds that he is defending 'simple Catholics'.

Apart from the patronising nature of that term he seems to have completely missed the point. Would he have attacked the personal appearance of a male commenter on this issue? I think not!

Moreover, the point Dr Rowland was making is that she thinks such oddities put mainstream catholics off attending the EF. And there is something in her argument in my view - on a number of occasions when I've taken friends and family to EF masses I've been asked about 'who that strange cult group who go to your Mass' are. I've attempted to explain that it reflects a commitment to modesty, but I'd have to say the explanation did not persuade!

Dr Rowland's comments though I think, as I said in my original piece on the Sacra Liturgia conference, aren't really that helpful given the real barriers to spreading the EF, are somewhat exaggerated and don't reflect the norm, but they do point to the ghetto mentality that is a reality in many EF communities I've encoutered.

R J said...

Agreed. And my apologies to you for not having previously registered the fact of your update.

Anonymous said...

Dr Shaw's vituperation on Rorate Caeli about Tracey Rowland's interview would be bad enough, but now we have a predictably pompous pronouncement from the "Senior Chaplain" to the Latin Mass in Melbourne!

I think the "Senior Chaplain" (whatever that means!) might do well to remember that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

tfaessler said...

I think Fr Tattersall's reply on Rorate was succinct and totally to the point. Dr Rowland is a first-class theologian but on these particular issues she simply does not speak from experience and like it or not that sort of bad press is the last thing the EF needs. Her comments were unhelpful as Kate suggests, but I agree she certainly doesn't deserve the level of vitriol that many traditionalists have poured upon her.

Kate Edwards said...

TFaessler - While I do think her comments are unhelpful, that is not because I think she is all that far off the mark on all points.

I do agree that there is a ghetto mentality in some places, and traddies need to take a hard look at themselves to see what needs to be done to be more attractive to newcomers.

My problem, however, is firstly that it all seems a bit like conservatives appropriating the EF now that it becomes a bit fashionable again in certain circles, but wanting to dissociate yourselves from those who kept the tradition alive and quite legitimately argue for a different theological perspective on some issues.

And more fundamentally, she is pointing to some of the things about the laity at EF Masses; most of these are heavily influenced in my view, by the leadership of priests.

I've certainly heard sermons at EF Masses, for example, demanding that we adopt amish style dress (indeed even praising medieval sumptuary laws requring us to dress in accordance with our social class!) and denouncing women who do not veil). Hardly surprising then that some in the congregation take the advice to heart and even go a step further (I've been told off for wearing the 'wrong' colour of veil for example!) so that the congregations look and behave oddly to outside eyes.

And while I'm not that convinced the aestheticism problem is really a major thing, you only have to look at some of the comments on piccies over at NLM and other places to see that there is a certain sub-group who are obsessed with trivial details of rubrics, vestments and so forth. Mind you, there are also some perfectly legitimate discussions of what might appear nitpicking to newcomers, because many EF saying priests seem to take the same creative attitude to the rubrics as novus ordo priests do, and when you turn to the EF to avoid all that sort of thing, it is all the more annoying!

And the thing is that even if the various problems she alludes to are not that prevalent, it only takes one experience of that sort of thing to be turned off unless you are already committed...

Tancred said...

There's too much heteropraxis at the New Mass.

That's far more dangerous than the clothes people wear at Latin Mass communities frankly.

Unfortunately, it seems that Dr. Rowland falls into the stereotype of failing to see the forest for the trees. If she actually understood the significance of the Catholic Faith, of following the rubrics of the Liturgy, for example, the kinds of clothes and behaviors that take place in Latin Mass communities wouldn't be on the radar.

Tancred said...

Correction: There's too much heteropraxis at the New Mass.

That's far more dangerous than the clothes people wear at Latin Mass communities frankly.

Unfortunately, it seems that Dr. Rowland falls into the typical female stereotype of failing to see the forest for the trees. If she actually understood the significance of the Catholic Faith, of following the rubrics of the Liturgy, for example, the kinds of clothes and behaviors that take place in Latin Mass communities wouldn't be on the radar.

Anonymous said...

The point is missed time and again by some traddies who seem to be too hypersensitive to any criticism. Which in a way validates the criticisms made, or at least lends them credibility. Dr Rowland was asked what she saw as some barriers to people attending the EF Mass. She named three things which in her opinion were such barriers. They may be barriers to some people, they undoubtedly are barriers to some people. Generally Dr Rowland has been supportive of the EF and my understanding is that the paper she gave at the high level conference in Rome was very supportive of the EF Mass and its continued growth and flourishing. A Bishop (among the very many) who attended also told me that the paper was very well received and was given a long ovation. Why don't these thin skinned sexist trogs turn thier attentions to the real opponents of the EF Mass like the aCatholica group who attack Rowland for being pro the EF Mass. The wood for the trees argument which relies on a caricature of 'so called' feminine stereo-types - I mean does this guy have a working brain cell. You may not agree with Rowland and on some issues I certainly do not but I am happy for her to express her opinions. I think she is clever, well-qualified, academically beyond reproach and someone who loves the faith, sees its beauty and is faithful to the Magisterium. And, who generally supports the EF Mass in writings and papers that I have seen. All movements in the Church have their 'fruit cakes', no less among those some of those who support and celebrate the EF Mass, and yes sometimes these types scare others off. Get over it kids! Mellow out a bit, the intensity might herald the arrival of the nice men in white coats,

Anonymous said...

As far as I am concerned, I don't attend Mass to note what others are wearing. In commenting on what others wear to Mass Tracey Rowland has left herself wide open to scrutiny of her own dress sense. Looking at photos of her on the internet, it seems to me that in passing comments about what others wear to Mass she has unwittingly described her own style of dress which appears to be dowdy. I find it extraordinary that a Professor of Theology would stoop to such comments at all. There is nothing charitable in what she has had to say and her comments are indefensible.

Freda Morris