The Female Face in Patriarchy: Oppression as Culture

The Female Face in Patriarchy: Oppression as Culture

The Female Face in Patriarchy: Oppression as Culture

The Female Face in Patriarchy: Oppression as Culture

Synopsis

The Female Face in Patriarchy discusses women's complicity in patriarchal dominance and their role in fostering their own oppression. This work, the result of a two-year study by Frances O'Connor and Becky Drury focusing on Brazil and the United States, examines how and why women are participants and promoters of their own oppression in the Roman Catholic Church. Using the Church as a model for society in general, The Female Face in Patriarchy demonstrates how women, through centuries of conditioning, have become both victims and perpetrators of their own oppression and how their cooperation with, and submission to, patriarchal dominance has been both conscious and unconscious.
The authors begin by asking tough questions: How does patriarchy deform a woman's soul? How and why does a woman embrace patriarchy? What are the ramifications of female patriarchal behavior? Their conclusions are based on data gathered through hundreds of personal interviews with women in parish settings and small communities. Leading Catholic feminists were interviewed about their theories as to why women are co-opted by the patriarchal system. The experiences of grassroots sisters and other women were compared with, and used to either corroborate or refute, the assumptions and theories of leading American and Brazilian feminists. Women are formed to hang their heads.

Excerpt

Women will have the place in the church they want when they can silence the voice that says, "You are not worthy."

W hy is it that so many women across this country feel undeserving of a more participatory role in the church? Why do some women indicate repeatedly that their place is in the pews, that they are not holy enough to be eucharistic ministers or intelligent enough to be in decision-making roles in the church? More importantly, Susan Muto asks, "What has deformed women's thinking and self-image to such an extent that they do not consider themselves worthy?"

One of the many reasons for this feeling of unworthiness is the way women have been, and are still, treated by some of the clergy. Two experiences illustrate this assumption: First, a woman in a midwestern parish, a minister of liturgical art responsible for decorating the church for the various feasts and seasons of the church year, was talking to her pastor. The question of women's role in the church surfaced in their conversation and she remarked that she did not feel called to ordination nor was she interested in being a priest. "All I want is a little respect," she told him. He retorted, "Why do you think you deserve respect? You're only a woman!" Although few priests are as blatant in their response, many women have indicated that they receive the message of their "unworthiness" in various ways from the clergy. In a second example, a woman eucharistic minister on the East Coast made it a practice to call each person by name when distributing communion. The pastor disapproved and told her not to do it because more parishioners were approaching her than him. However, since the woman knew the people in her parish so well, she felt called to continue the practice. One Sunday she happened to be at the same communion station as the pastor, and he heard her addressing each person by name. After they had returned to the altar, he struck her on the arm and told her he wanted . . .

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