“…There are occasions when girls like Bathsheba will put up with a great deal of unconventional behaviour. When they want to be praised, which is often; when they want to be mastered, which is sometimes; and when they want no nonsense, which is seldom… Moreover, by chance or by devilry, the ministrant was antecedently made interesting by being a handsome stranger who had evidently seen better days. So she could not clearly decide whether it was her opinion that he had insulted her or not.” – Chapter 24, Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
As I read this, it struck me as an accurate observation on Hardy’s part. Why do we girls do this?
Women – particularly teens and twenty-somethings-will very often put up with “unconventional behaviour” from others. Why? What is in our psyche that prevents us from drawing the line, calling people out, demanding proper virtuous behaviour towards our person? Mulling it over, I conclude that it is:
A) Insecurities: Often we grow up with insecurities for various reasons. Not being shown the correct form of love from our family (particularly a father/father figure) leads to being insecure in who we are as a woman, and lacking self-worth in the true and beautiful sense. Will I be loved simply for being me? Because of these insecurities, we’ll put up with treatment unfitting of a young woman, because we aren’t secure in our own worth to demand the proper respect due to us as daughters of the King.
B) Fear of Offending: So many of us are ever so concerned with offending others. While I agree that we must be conscious of how our words and actions will affect those around us, I most heartily believe that allowing your fear of offending others to rule over your dignity and self-respect is NOT a feminine virtue to be coveted. As the daughter of a King, you are to be treasured, loved, dignified, sought after, generous, kind, loving, courageous, strong. Do you think your father the King would stand by and watch his daughter treated with a lack of dignity and respect, either physically or verbally? He loves and treasures you too much to allow such a thing. And so, if we value our Father as well as ourselves, we must take care to also uphold ourselves to our station. That means not putting up with “unconventional behaviour” (ie. vulgarities in both physicality and speech, breaking of physical barriers, or any conduct unfit to a particular relationship). And this goes for men, too. Just because you’re a gentleman, does not mean you need to put up with any unorthodox behaviour from a young woman or another young man. Call them out. In all charity and humility, of course. But don’t be afraid of making a situation awkward or uncomfortable. If it becomes uncomfortable, the offending party will also sense it, and this will probably keep them from behaving so in future.
Hardy goes on to say that women will allow themselves to be treated this way when:
- They want to be praised (which is often)
- They want to be mastered (which is sometimes)
- They want no nonsense (which is seldom)
1. It is true, most women like to be praised every now and then, whether it be to our physical, emotional, or intellectual being. It affirms us. Whether you like it or not, women’s nature is to strive to be pleasing to man. This is the reason God made us – to be companion, helper, and comforter to man. He made us from man’s rib: not from the head, that we should rule over man; nor from the foot, that we should be beneath him; but from the side, that we should work alongside him, under his arm that he should protect us, and close to his heart that we should be cherished by him. To be praised by man (in the true sense of the word) is to receive confirmation that we are fulfilling our duty.
But, of course, with fallen human nature comes the lack of ability to seek and work for true praise. We are susceptible to flattery and unrighteous men who provide it (“…made interesting by being a handsome stranger…”) No, it’s not necessarily directly our fault, for the sin of Adam is unmistakably marked on our souls, and we suffer the consequences that come with it. But we do need to strive for virtue and perfection, which means putting aside the emotional delight in flattery from an undesirous source.
2. I have one word for you girls: Submit. Our Lord asks us to submit to His will, he asks us to submit to our husbands. If we don’t have one, we should submit to our spiritual director, our father, brothers, friends, etc. And before you loose your minds and start yelling at the computer screen, hear me out. “Submit” doesn’t mean “be walked on or below another”. It means to put our own wills aside and work for anothers good or desires. Obey without putting your two-cents in. If that goes completely against your nature, you will merit all the more graces for it. Don’t be like every other “modern woman” and scrunch your nose and puff your chest at the word “submit”. Instead, embrace the role God intended for you, and strive for that feminine virtue of docility, meekness, kindness, tenderness, generousity and courage (for indeed it does take courage to submit your will to that of another). Research true submission, as asked of us by God. A very good book I recommend is “The Mirror of True Womanhood” by Fr. Bernard O’Reilly.
Speaking as a strong-willed extrovert, it isn’t easy to submit. I fail at it very often. When I do succeed, I am always happier for it, I see and feel the spiritual benefits of t. It will be a life-long journey, but one I hope to find easier and easier as the years pass. And deep down, it is our God-given feminine nature that wants the man/men in our lives whom we love, to be the strong leader/s whom we can follow and aid and trust.
Is being submissive a new concept to you as a Catholic woman? Get used to it, embrace it, love it, and I promise you will be a more virtuous, happy, and love filled woman for it.
3. Hardy refers to his opinion that woman rarely want no-nonsense, that we enjoy foolishness and non-reality. He’s right about lots of women – the kind that live in an alternate reality without realizing it, who think they should be adored by all men for their mere existence. Or the kind that think men are somehow inferior because they used to “suppress women”. As Catholics, we should be outside this class of women, striving for sainthood through virtue and prayer. Our head should be grounded in reality, while not being afraid to let our hearts dream and hope.
It is our duty and right to demand the respect owed to us as a woman and daughter of Christ (or a man & son of Christ). Don’t shy away, keep your mouth closed, or allow anyone (be he stranger, friend, significant other, cousin, etc.) to treat you with “unconventional behaviour”/anything in the least way that is unbecoming to yourself or him. By establishing those boundaries, and/or demanding proper behaviour of others, you are doing him, yourself, and Our Lord, justice.