When I posted my most recent CR column on Facebook, two friends asserted that I was "brave." This reminded me of the time I mentioned the right to life during a "Classics of Christian Spirituality" lecture, and a male classmate muttered the same thing to me after class. At first I had no idea what he was talking about, but he explained that there had been middle-aged women tutting and sighing at the back of the classroom. However, my thought was that if you can't express pro-life sentiments in a Roman Catholic theology school, where CAN you express them?
The same goes for defending Catholic doctrine on the sacraments in a Catholic newspaper and there comparing our modern laissez-faire attitude regarding sexual sin with the beliefs of the Fatima seers. You would not think that this would shock the Catholic readership, but lo. I have been sneered at on Facebook by someone who feels I have "skipped over Jesus" to focus on "visions and sin." Whoa. Is that how we talk about Fatima now?
Naturally I clicked on my critic's name and discovered that he is a recently retired schoolteacher who is very interested in a number of causes associated with the left. This amuses me, as this stalwart of social justice referred to me as a "lady columnist." Not a columnist, mind you, but a LADY columnist. You know, a conservative or traditionalist Catholic would think twice about using the expression "lady columnist", for fear of being thought sexist.
The feminist revolution swiftly followed the sexual revolution for a reason. I suspect this reason is that men drawn to left-wing causes treated women so much worse than ordinary conservative men who wanted to get married and have kids that women figured that they had nothing left to lose.
Anyway, I suppose "lady columnist" is a relatively minor insult although it certainly grabbed my attention. Of all the aspects of my writing--and I have been writing a biweekly column in that paper for nine years--why focus on my sex?
Is it still unusual for a woman to be a columnist? You would think not, but apparently only 10%-20% of opinion pieces in "legacy" newspapers are women. This rises to 33% in "new media outlets." There are various theories as to why this is so. I once read somewhere that women don't like putting ourselves out where other people will criticize us. That I can believe. My career more-or-less began with a spirited review of a tome of feminist theology I really hated, and the (female) writer went berserk.
Of course, the reader may have focused on my sex because the column features a (relatively) pretty, nine-years-out-of-date photograph and he's a guy. Maybe not a very intellectual guy because if I were a guy, and I were uncomfortable with something I had written, I would call me a "reactionary" or a "spiritual terrorist who wants to drag us back to the days of dread of God and fear of hell." But on the other hand, what do I know? If I were a guy, I might focus on the pretty photo.
Not that I am anywhere near the Martha Gellhorn class, but I am reminded of what an amazing journalist she was and how now mostly she is remembered for being Hemingway's third wife. I was thinking about her--and other female war correspondents--when I forced myself to wriggle through thousands of Polish nationalists to confront the one carrying an American flag. As a matter of fact, if you're going to be a foreigner at a right-wing Polish rally, it's a good idea to be female because Poland, for good and ill, is still a chivalrous country. Being a young and pretty female would be ideal, but if you can't swing that, female is enough.
All the same, I was terribly frightened until I faced the chap with the American baseball cap and the American flag and saw that he was, if anything, even more afraid of me. Some tense situation had broken out around him, and so I wriggled back to my de facto bodyguard instead of smiling brightly and asking "Amerykański?" Thinking about this adventure makes me feel better about being called a "lady columnist" although I wouldn't say I am a tower of physical courage. For one thing, I'm too chicken to learn how to drive. For another, I'd never try to get a story out of makeshift migrant camp in France.