Boys Will be Boys?
My son has little interest serving at Mass anymore . He's just turned 13 and wants to be a priest, but whereas he used to love to serve, now he does so reluctantly and only out of duty.
I figured it was an age thing: the teeny-bopper's sense of cool (even though he, thankfully, doesn't carry the obsession with coolness that his peers carry). But when he and I went to Mass yesterday morning, it struck me that there were two female altar servers, no boys. It then dawned on me that most of our altar servers seem to be girls now (at least they're the ones that are showing up).
I started to wonder, "Does the fact that it's a mixed-gender thing water down the appeal to the boys? Even if the boys aren't aware of a bias, are they somehow slanted against altar serving by the simple fact that girls are doing it, too?"
I then thought of other groups I've belonged to that struggled as soon as women were admitted. I've seen this dynamic at least three times: a struggling or "flat" men's group admits women, the women provide a great shot in the arm for awhile, then the organization goes down hill even more and, to the extent it does excel, it's because the women are doing the heavy lifting while the men's participation dwindles and dwindles.
Is there something about the presence of women that make men lazy? Maybe, but I suspect it's something a bit more primordial.
I believe men (boys) are, in a sense, innately chauvinistic. If women (or girls) are admitted, the luster of the job, group, or responsibility dulls. I'm not saying it's right, I'm not saying it's cool, I'm not saying it's lawful. But I do think it occurs.
Is it because men intuitively think less of women? Perhaps, but I think it's more from a natural urge to do "manly things." Men like to be men. If women are doing a thing, then it's no longer a manly thing. It might still be a good thing, a virtuous thing, a beautiful thing, an important thing, a profitable thing. But if women are doing it, too, it ain't manly and its virility varnishes. If a man intuitively seeks out manly things, that thing will no longer hold a manly appeal.
Of all this, I feel anecdotally certain.
Where I'm stuck is, is this type of chauvinism a sin--a "hard wiring" from Adam and Eve? Or is it natural--a "hard wiring" from God? If the former, we should try to root it out (each man individually, preferably, not by government coercion). If the latter, then it ought to be respected.
Good arguments can be made on both sides of that issue, and I suspect some forms of this kind of chauvinism are rooted in a sinful kind of discrimination, whereas others are just healthy forms of male "bonding" (loathsome term). Problem is, our culture and laws deem all such "chauvinism" as innately evil and therefore, wherever possible (the Right of Association be damned), illegal.
This is not a good state of affairs. I could extend this post by thousands of words to explain why, but I'll let the following suffice: Where nature is repressed, it will manifest itself in troubling ways. If men aren't allowed to be men naturally, they'll be men perversely. This doesn't mean they'll turn gay. But it does mean they'll seek manly pursuits in less-healthy ways. They used to hang out at the Lodge, work in the service club, or serve at church. Those things are increasingly gender mixed. Manly activities are now relegated to chat rooms, fantasy football drafts, and getting drunk in the basement while playing video games and referring to women as "ho's."
Such things are getting more and more popular as women increasingly infiltrate traditional male strongholds. Coincidence?
Maybe I'll ask my thirteen-year-old son.
This entry was
Monday, July 27th, 2009 at
1:05 am . You can follow any responses to this entry through
RSS 2.0 feed.
Both comments and pings are currently closed.
I hope that someday you follow up on this post (anecdotally, theologically, or politically). I think is a rather interesting observation. I’m sure to talk about it with my wife later today.
In just following links from another blog (View from the Right, I believe), I can across this link here. I’d be curious as to your thoughts. It doesn’t have identical observations, but it has related ideas.
There is a book by Dr Leonard Sax entitled, Why Gender Matters. It is absolutely fascinating reading.
Among other things, Dr Sax promotes single-sex schools. In gender-segregated schools, girls are less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy, more likely to have high self-confidence, and more likely to put less emphasis on looks and peer judgements. Also, in the same setting, boys are more likely to develop an interest in the arts and languages, more likely to study hard, and more likely to respect women later in life.
I think the sewing circles and Elk Lodges of old ought to make a comeback. Or perhaps people of all ages can just start associating more often with their own gender, and teach their kids to do the same. I think our “groups” (those we hang out with on a regular basis) have gotten very stratified – they have more to do with simply our age level than interests or beliefs. There’s no continuity, there’s just generation after generation that doesn’t know what the role of each individual ought to be.
The blending and blurring of gender roles hasn’t really cured as much as it’s confused.
I’ve noticed fewer and fewer boys serving on the altar now that girls are serving.
At our Youth Mass I cannot remember the last time a boy was a lector. Ditto for the Eucharistic ministers and Ushers.
The boys do belong to the youth groups – anywhere you see girls in numbers the male of the specie seems to notice. Especially given the state of dress of some of these girls! Skin tight jeans on the altar?! Sun dresses?
Fr. Phillips at St. Peter Cantius in Chicago doesn’t have girls on the altar. Check his success with vocations.
I have seen two parishes go from only having altar boys to only having altar girls, each in just a couple of years. Adolescent and pre-adolescent boys don’t want to be seen in public doing the things that girls do. This is just common sense.
(There is a theological point about the fact that ideally altar servers should be ordained ministers, and that boys and men merely substitute for the clergy in a way that women can’t. There’s a politico-theological point about women getting a role on the Sanctuary as well, but your thirteen year old is probably not interested in either.)
When we used to attend the NO, my sons had no interest in serving. Now that we attend the TLM exclusively, they all want to serve, down to the 5 year old (SSPX only permits 12 and older, at least here).
The idea of growing up to be an ‘altar girl’ apparently just isn’t as interesting.
[...] response to my post two weeks ago about my son’s disinclination to serve at Mass, a reader sent along this great piece from The Telegraph: Have you turned your man into a [...]
Enter Amazon here, buy something, and get me a kickback.
"The Daily Eudemon is the sort of thing
that Chesterton or Mencken would be doing, if they were
alive today. It's what, in saner times, was called journalism.
In the writing and in the reading, it's exactly the sort
of leisure we should want at the basis of culture."Mike
Aquilina, Author of The Fathers of the Church
and TV Talk Show Host.
Catholicism-urbane, witty, engaged-is alive and well!
If you can read, you should be reading The Daily Eudemon!"David
Scott, author of A Revolution of Love: The Meaning
of Mother Teresa
you like your blogs pithy, nimble, pointed, high-spirited,
and waggish, then bookmmark Eric Scheske's The Daily
Eudemon. Ooops! You want prolixity, density, meandering,
dull, and sober? Then run (do not walk!) to the blogs
of the major news outlets. They have just what you want.
Honestly they do." John
Peterson, Editor, G.K. Chesterton: Collected Works,
Volumes 12 and 13.
Scheske's web site is full of information and insight.
Always worth a read."James
V. Schall, Author of Another Sort of Learning.