I married into a guy’s-guy family. War stories, fart jokes, sex tales, and harrowing narratives involving body parts, souped-up vehicles, and confrontations with law enforcement dominated the decidedly not-polite dinner conversation. This was all new and often entertaining to me, coming from a household of enforced manners, feigned politeness, imposed goodwill, and repressed aggressions. Both our families were Catholic — but oh, in such different ways.
My new family introduced me to dimensions of male expression I never knew existed — just as my first trip as a criminal-defense lawyer into a high-security prison gave me a new understanding of interior design. I was interested. I could even find the mealtime cussing, spread as thickly through the discourse as the Mazola on the Wonder Bread, somewhat novel and creative.
But one thing bugged me. My father-in-law referred to my then-new sister-in-law as a “leghorn chicken.” At the time, she had four children, and everyone knew more would be coming. She was a devoted and articulate Catholic woman — dignified in her passion and love for her husband, Church, and children. She took me to Perpetual Adoration before I knew what it was. She gave me my first, lovely glimpse into “authentic feminism.”
“What the heck is a leghorn chicken?” I asked my husband, whose loud dinner behavior was frighteningly unfamiliar to me.
Struggling to contain his laughter, he responded, “Oh, that’s a chicken that’s nothing but skin and bones after a year of laying!” Ha ha.
“And, what,” I asked my father-in-law, politely tense, “does that make your son?”
“A damn idiot!” my new dad crowed, dissolving the men at the table into such unrestrained laughter that I had to excuse myself so that I did not add to the hilarity by throwing up in my Hamburger Helper.
Today, I find myself similarly nauseated reading several Catholic writers and bloggers whose work, I am told, is “humor.” Simply put, I object to womb humor. It’s gross and disrespectful, and I wish it would stop.
I’m going to name only one name by way of example — and because I don’t think the “Catholic Caveman” will mind being singled out, in view of his blog title. Yes, I do realize that the following is supposed to be funny, and that many people will guffaw over it. But it makes me squeamish and, more importantly — while I am comfortably pounding my podium — it’s certainly not Catholic.
“No . . . Not Another Chick Post”
Admittedly, I thought this was just another chick post about the joys of squeezin’ out little ‘uns and colic . . . a celebratory gynothon chock fulla estrogen and baby vomit. . . . I was willing to bet this post was going to be just womberrific.
Okay. Call me uptight. Call me a prude. Go ahead — compare me to an aging, polyester-clad nun in Birkenstocks. But I have just reason to complain. I left behind radical feminism when told that my capacity to have children — you remember, those little gifts from God? — was a cruel burden and unjust impediment to my future success. The radical feminists told me I needed to keep it in check with various chemicals, devices, and procedures so that my body would behave. Theirs was not womb humor but womb bashing — the kind that viewed a functioning uterus like a car defect.
I found this point of view unnerving and started wondering, “What’s so dreadful about my fertility anyway?” I thought my womb seemed like a pretty cool design — particularly compared to the alternative. I didn’t see myself as a lemon some poor sap might have to tolerate. Why, I dared to wonder, couldn’t I realistically expect the world to honor and accommodate my fertility, the same way it honors and accommodates the oversized muscle development celebrated in strongman competitions? Why shouldn’t I get a trophy for truly excellent fertility?
This sort of thinking was the start of my return to the Roman Catholic Church — begun, in no small measure, because of her beautiful, dignified image of “woman,” whose femininity is intrinsically rooted in her special capacity to bear children, whether she bears them or not. Here, my dear funny fellows in Christ, was the answer to radical feminism: the natural source of my female dignity.
The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. [T]his entrusting concerns women in a special way — precisely by reason of their femininity — and this in a particular way determines their vocation (Mulieris Dignitatem, 6).
Another line from Pope John Paul II’s profound document might be of more interest and insight to comedic Catholics, so quick to this new scatological humor:
Is Jesus not aware of being in contact with the mystery of the “beginning”, when man was created male and female, and the woman was entrusted to the man with her feminine distinctiveness, and with her potential for motherhood? This entrusting is the test of love, spousal love. In order to become “a sincere gift” to one another, each of them has to feel responsible for the gift (Mulieris Dignitatem, 14; emphasis added).
Why would I want to trade the radical feminist rant against fertility for the Catholic joshing about minivan moms and fertile women? I expect better — for myself, and for the wonderful, young, orthodox women who are having the babies the Good Lord sends, who deserve respect and love and honor because they willingly embrace the dignity of their fertility, tirelessly committing themselves to becoming the person God created them to be.
So enough with the womb humor. Let’s decide who we are and feel responsible verbally, as we surely feel in fact.