Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Où sont ces heureux jours que je faisais attendre?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 13, 2003

Anna Quindlen is perturbed by a new study on the status of women at Duke University, which rattles her faith in human rationality and (what comes to the same thing) the inevitable progress of feminism:

Fem - i - nism: n. 1. Belief in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. That wasn't so hard, was it? Certainly not as hard as being a female undergraduate at Duke, where apparently the operative ruling principle is something described as "effortless perfection," in which young women report expending an enormous amount of effort on clothes, shoes, workout programs and diet. And here's a blast from the past: they're expected "to hide their intelligence in order to succeed with their male peers." "Being 'cute' trumps being smart for women in the social environment," the report concludes.

Beginning with the earliest writings we have on the subject, clever girls have lamented the fact that boys respond more passionately to beauty than brains, and clever boys have lamented the fact that girls respond more enthusiastically to money than academic accomplishment. Part of growing up is coming to the realization that this truth, though often painful, is not the whole story, and that the advantages won by these attractions are neither long-lived in themselves nor even in the short run unmixed blessings.

Most of us believe that it is the individual's own responsibility to reject those allurements he finds false to the human condition -- and his duty to pay the price consequent on his decisions. Thus, a principled feminist is free to ignore the Culture of Cute, and should naturally expect to forfeit the kind of popularity that attends it. But Quindlen seems not only surprised but indignant that her principles still come with a price: it's hard being a female undergraduate at Duke.

Well, what needs to change? Should boys be genetically re-engineered to respond to poetry-writing, quadratic-solving girls by tropism, like a planarium to a light source? Or should dating be arranged by an ideologically reliable Committee of Public Safety? Skeptics among us will wonder why a girl who professes indifference to the sorority culture and wishes to be respected for her intellect would choose to be educated at Duke in the first place. That's what the University of Chicago is for.

Nay, says Quindlen, the reason for the malaise is found in dark forces at work beneath the surface. Frat boys in Beemers and theater arts majors are alike in thrall to a basilisk, to mind control beyond their ken: the Amalgamated Ironworkers Union and the Holy See's Congregation for Divine Worship:

Of course, when it leaks out that the Vatican is proposing to scale back on the use of altar girls, it shows that the forces of reaction are always waiting, whether beneath hard hats or miters.

The fiendish cunning!

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