Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm Also Lazy Again

But Reditus keeps having such great posts:

Many religious groups have a strange approach towards modern life. The Muslim Wahabists, the Old Believers, the Hasidim, snake handlers, traditionalist Catholics, and the Amish all seem to try to fight modernity by creating an order that accentuates selected parts of the past to the point of being grotesque. Female dress is one of these things. A typical woman hundreds of years ago probably did not look like a Hasidic wife or an Old Believer maid wading in the wheat. She certainly did not look like the traditionalist Catholic wife piling out of her white van with eight well-groomed kids in tow. The customary style of dress would not have been an issue. It would not have been an object of serious reflection. That is because being a reactionary is not the same as being traditional, just as being conservative may be just as much about creating an ideal image of the past as saving it.


The veiling of woman was merely the closing of the door on nature as seductress: woman, like nature, is the servant of the devil, and she can only be controlled by hiding her charms. Ultimately, it was the bourgeois philosophy and religious thought of Descartes and Luther that turned man decidedly inward, so that he is left staring at his own reflection: a Narcissus trapped in a dead cosmos.

One could thus say, in some sense, that just as modernity is a war against the local, so it is a war against the feminine. I mean this not in a political sense, but rather metaphysically. Perhaps the only reason that the flesh unveils itself now is because we have tamed it, compartmentalized it, and brought it under control. In other words, we have emptied it of meaning. Those who advocate the styles of “modesty” only play into this paradigm in that they continue the early modern fear of woman and nature under the guise of “traditional piety”. They are just as modern as anyone else.

Though I think head-covering of some form while in church is an important part of the whole symbolic system (on which also depends the doctrine of the all-male priesthood), it is clear that sometimes this pressure for women to wear some sort of traditionalist uniform (no pants, sleeves at least to the elbows, etc) to TLMs is just an attempt to enforce an aesthetic. Which, ironically, makes what would have been beautiful become stilted and repressive; like Pleasantville. You cannot legislate taste.

Now, I think there is something so wonderful about free-flowing and draped colorful cloth, especially on a woman, and it's nice to see, especially in a setting like traditional liturgy that is already transporting and "romantic" in its aesthetic. But this has also all bizarrely been tied up with a fear of women's sexuality by men who project the blame for their own alienated lust.

I suppose this is a perfect example of where vain Romanticism easily becomes totalitarianism, and ugly hunchbacked old Realism shows himself to be, in his tolerance, the one who is truly noble and compassionate.

Don't be left staring at your own reflection. Let yourself be seduced.


Agostino Taumaturgo said...

Can't say I blame you for the laziness. Arturo really does have a gift!

This post, plus your comments on women's dress, really brings me back to remembering the Indult community I described in To Catholics Alienated by Their Own Kind, where I used to sing in the choir (Holy Family in Dayton, Ohio, just as an FYI). You didn't have people griping about the dress code, but there were kids with piercings and kool-aid in their hair, girls with torn jeans, little old ladies with matillas atop their heads, and so on, everyone was pretty much united as one big family. At the time, I had hair going down to my waist and was every bit as accepted as the rest of them. As long as they had two retired priests saying Mass there, that's what it was like; neocons, sedeplenists, and even two or three sedevacantists for the most part got along without any problems whatsoever. To my mind, that was true inclusivity.

Then a couple years after I moved out of town, the FSSP took over, moved the Indult to another church, ran out anybody who wasn't a party-line neocon, and things went to hell in a hand-basket from there.

I really miss those days!

sortacatholic said...

My comment's up on Reditus. No need to regurgitate.

I suppose this is a perfect example of where vain Romanticism easily becomes totalitarianism,

I'd agree to a degree. The objectification of women through the (perhaps unwilling) imposition of "pious dress" reveals a liminal totalitarianism. This totalitarianism builds on the implicit and unrealistic expectations of fundamentalist-traditional Catholicism. Clothing cannot create election. As I have said, the imposition of restrictive dress on women closes all minds to the necessary and endless quest to understand belief and liturgy.

Perhaps my "burial shroud" analogy was cruel. That comment was quite serious and honest, however.

Jonathan said...

Why do you think I ended up being "coerced" to shave yesterday (I'm still getting over it.) ? There is this aesthetic in place within Trad communities where TLM communities are seen as the last bastion of Western Civilization. Remember that time we spoke of that book "How The Church built The West"(or whatever its called)?, well thats exactly whats going on in this case (I think your reviewing of this book (even if you haven't necessarily read it) would make for an excellent blog entry on Trads and Western civilization.). Many of them wish to be seen as the SOLE inheritors of Western tradition (where exactly do we make the cut off of what is Western Culture and who is and isn't a part of it anyway ?)

If those more fundamentalist type Trads didn't have escape mechanisms like those, well they wouldn't be able to cope with the world around them. Its just another form of escapism, but of the unhealthy sort in a few cases.

I DESPISE wearing pants, I'd rather wear a robe. But I'd never be able to get away with that and reasonably so, why because it would be just as affected. Yet what troubles me is the downright hypocrisy of it all. I'm affected, because I'd prefer wearing garments such as those, but the men or women who look like they stepped out of "Leave it to Beaver" (I call them Leave it to Beaver Trads (Yeah its not as catchy, but it captures the essence of almost EVERYTHING they stand for.).) apparently can get away with it. But the sad thing about it all is this, these individuals regardless of strain, have no concrete sense of continuity with said eras (and the cultural mores of the time). There is nothing wrong with admiring a given era (heck I have my own indulgences from time to time), but to do so with the intent of adopting it in such a masochistic manner is unhealthy. Whats ironic about it all (well not really) is that these are self professed traditionalists.

As to head coverings there are different circumstances among various groups. Among the Middle Eastern women of The Melkite Church I assist at times, NO ONE covers their head. Now before all The Latin Rite Trads get their panties in a bunch, I can see reasons for this possibly being so. One possible reason is that of assimilation. When you come from a culture/nation where the mores of modesty are MUCH stricter (especially under Muslim rule (but not exclusively Muslim, just Middle Eastern in general.)) and enter into one where such values are seen as oppressive (ie Western civilization) you seek to disassociate yourself from your native culture. I mean are people here really above calling someone a terrorist, because they are from The Middle East ? I was in a cab one day, when a random driver called my chauffer a terrorist with a license. Was that even necessary ? For all the guy knew, my chauffer might have been Christian. So just imagine your typical Middle Eastern woman with any sort of head covering, yeah not the best position to be in.

It also explains why many of them highlight their hair blonde and choose to stay out of the sun.