Of equality and cussing

I’m not a big Simpson’s fan, but I do remember one funny episode where Homer’s neighbour, Ned Flanders—the bible-believing Christian—promises Homer that he will shave off his mustache if Homer agrees to give up swearing. Ned institutes the swear jar and every time Homer lets a cuss word fly, he had to put money in the jar. If memory serves, the jar was all but full by the end of it. The curse words were only implied, not fully spoken, but the makers of the Simpsons got their point across. Homer was an unthinking potty mouth, who taught his neighbour’s kids how to cuss by his example.

That episode jumped to my mind when I read this post from the Catholic Patheos blog. The blog entry is a bit lengthy, but well worth the read as Calah lays out a pretty serious problem (among many) in our society: namely, women being judged by a different “measuring stick” than men. She took issue with the maelstrom that was brought about by Patrick Madrid’s comments on potty-mouthed women—he said something to the effect of “women who swear are unattractive” and he seemed to be implying that it was more okay for guys to drop the F- or S-bomb because, well, they’re guys. But for women to do so is a whole different ball game.

On the one hand, I can understand PART of the reasoning that says women should be held to a different value system than men. Women are the gatekeepers of society. Fulton Sheen says, “The nobler a woman is, the nobler man will have to be to be deserving of that love. That is why the level of any civilization is always the level of its womanhood.” Alice von Hildebrand must have had something similar in mind when she wrote, “Deep down, society understands that women’s purity is a linchpin of any Christian society, nay, of any civilized society.” Because of this, it seems natural for women to be held to a higher standard because of who they are within themselves. It might even be suggested that we need them to be held to a higher standard for the sake of our children, our communities, and our society.

It’s a little disconcerting to admit that it is women who effect civilization in a deeper more extensive way than, say, politicians or prime ministers—but it isn’t the hand that signs the declarations that rules the world. It’s the hand that rocks the cradle. And rightly so. Presidents, while they have power to start wars and keep criminals locked up, have limited jurisdiction (at least, within democratic societies) over what a mother teaches her little babe. She could teach him that the sky is orange and lemons are called tigers if she wanted to, and the little gaffer would believe her. Until he grew up and figured out, after years of therapy, that lemons are lemons and the sky is blue. Sure, it’s possible for the men-folk to have a good deal of influence over their children as well, but there’s something fundamentally different about the woman’s influence. Chesterton said “Nothing can ever overcome that one enormous sex superiority, that even the male child is born closer to his mother than to his father.” And it’s true. Women have power—power to shape people in a very special way. So when the morality of women declines, the morality of the home declines, the morality of communities decline, and the morality of nations decline.

But…BUT…on the decidedly large other hand, I do not agree with men being held to a different standard than the rest of us. Men are not exempt from taking the high moral road simply because they are of the male sex, or because they’re not fundamentally the gatekeepers of society, or because they’re not necessarily a child’s first teacher. Nowhere in the bible does it say, “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s Name in vain…except for you guys out there. Go right ahead my brothers. You can’t help yourselves.” No way. God laid out the same rules for men as he did for women and instructed us all to follow them. I don’t see how the standard between men and women can be different when the same rule applies.

Not only that but weren’t men and women created to be complimentary to one another—to encourage and help one another within their unique roles and responsibilities? If that is the case (and I would argue wholeheartedly that it is) then if women are faltering, it’s because men are faltering. And if men are screwing up as men, it’s because women aren’t being the women they should be. We desperately depend on each other, and when one sex is spiraling into a downward trajectory, the other is close behind.

Sure, Patrick Madrid is entitled to his own opinion. If he feels women who swear are unattractive, well then God bless him. But I truly hope he holds the men in his life to the same principles he holds the women. Using bad language, as I’ve just been informed by my friendly, neighbourhood clergyman, is evil in and of itself. It is not uplifting or edifying and it is generally used to hurt others and/or make them angry—and this is true across the board. All things being equal, the sin is a sin for a man and a woman, no exceptions. How can there be? God is calling every one of us, male and female, to the one standard of being saints in heaven. “To everyone, without exception,” wrote Josemaria Escriva, “the Lord said: ‘Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.’” There are no higher or lower standards within perfection, only perfection itself.

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