Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Few Women I Admire

Yesterday was International Women's Day. I passed a pro-abortion march in Dublin city centre. The protestors were chanting that all-time favourite, "get your rosary off my ovaries". I wish I'd had my rosary beads to wave at them, but I did shout "prolife!" at the top of my voice. Someone (a man) shouted back "F--- you!" at the top of his voice. It's all fun and games until they start killing babies.

Anyway, I don't really approve of International Days. But I do like women, so, what the heck-- here's a very selective list of women I admire (I don't include my mother, my wife, the Blessed Virgin, etc., as I couldn't begin to do them justice). It's completely off the top of my head and utterly arbitrary.

1) Sue Townsend, writer of the Adrian Mole diaries. I remember being lifted out of a considerable fit of the blues by coming across Adrian Mole: From Minor to Major in a second-hand bookshop when I was in my early twenties. Townsend's observation of the teenage male is amazingly accurate, compassionate and clear-eyed. And it's hilarious, too.

I like many forms of humour, but humour which sails as close to realism as possible is one of my favourites. That's why I like The Office. The Adrian Mole diaries become more outlandish as they go along-- at one point, he becomes a celebrity chef (despite the fact that he can't cook)-- but the diaries set in his teens and early twenties rarely depart from anything that might plausibly happen to a bookish young man living in provincial England.

Adrian is an aspiring writer, and at one point he is working on a novel entitled Lo! The Flat Hills of my Homeland, which contains only consonants. Later he decides to compromise his artistic standards and add vowels.

Sue Townsend died some years ago, before finishing the saga. (I haven't read the last book, as they were getting darker and darker as it went along.) Sadly, we will never see Adrian finally win back his lifelong love, Pandora Braithwaithe, she of the treacle-coloured hair, although I'm pleased to hear that the last book's last scene suggested that they might finally resume their juvenile romance, and that Adrian's undying devotion to her was not so hopeless after all.

Sue Townsend was a socialist, a republican, and an atheist. But she pokes fun at all her characters, including those who share one or other of her beliefs, and she portrays quite affectionately those characters that a socialist republican atheist might be expected to send up unmercifully. I think that's a sign of a good comic writer.

2) Mary Whitehouse, campaigner against gratuitous sex, violence and bad language on British TV. I grew up when this lady was in the declining days of her influence, and I remember the truly vicious detestation which she inspired amongst entertainers, celebrities, artistic types, and the media in general. (Indeed, a whole comedy show was mockingly named in her honour.) The title of one of her own memoirs best expresses the reaction to her campaign: Who Does She Think She Is?

Who was she? Just a teacher, a mother, a wife, and a Christian who believed that ordinary people should have a voice when it came to what was broadcast on their television screens. She organised a campaign to "clean up TV" and for this she was utterly pilloried. A very brave and noble woman who swam against the tide (indeed, the filthy tide) of her day, and gallantly fought a losing battle. I greatly admire anyone who is willing to fight a losing battle.

She helped to organise "The Nationwide Festival of Light" in Britain in 1971, a mass demonstration in favour of Christian moral principles. Tens of thousands participated. It's hard to believe this happened as recently as it did.

3) St. Bernadette Soubirous. A saint with all the simplicity of a flame. When she found out her brother had made some money (a trivial amount of money) from her vision, through showing some visitors the stream which Our Lady asked St. Bernadette to dig up, and that he had accepted a small sum for the favour, she punched him on the ear-- the soundest punch on the ear he'd ever received, he said. She also made him give the money back.

When she was entering her final illness as a religious sister, and an unsympathetic superior asked her why she was not about her business, she replied: "My business is to be ill." What an immense humility and candour in that answer!

4) St. Gemma Galgani. Even amongst the saints, St. Gemma seems extraordinary for her complete otherworldliness and total dedication to Christ, from the earliest age. I am surprised she is relatively unknown outside Catholic circles. I often pray to her. There is a wonderful site dedicated to her, on which you can read a book-length biography for free.

 5) B'Elanna Torres. OK, she's not real, but so what? B'Elanna is the half-human, half-Klingon chief engineer on the starship Voyager, in the Star Trek series of the same title. Star Trek Voyager was a strange show in that it had some very strong characters, but most of the stories were poor. Seven-of-Nine, the cyborg rediscovering her humanity, was the fan's favourite, partly because of her skintight catsuit but also because her character arc was so compelling. The Doctor, a holographic character who was developing his own personality, was similarly fascinating.

However, more recently I find B'Elanna interesting because of her complex attitude towards her Klingon heritage. She was bullied for being half-Klingon as a girl and is quite cold towards that side of her nature at the start of her series. Later, she slowly begins to accept and appreciate it. Since tradition and heritage is a fascination of mine, this character development appeals to me. The crewmember she falls in love with and marries, Tom Paris, is the kind of guy I would ilke to be-- happy-go-lucky, jaunty, cocky, boyish. Their relationship is very believable.

I could think of more than five women I admire, but I may as well leave it there.


  1. Séamus(Australia)March 9, 2017 at 11:21 PM

    That was brave of you.
    I had a friend who did a bit of heckling at a rally for same-sex marriage(which, believe it or not, we still don't have here)a couple of years ago; but he's the type you'll always expect some excitement with.
    Several years ago in the Australian senate several Greens senators wore t-shirts with that Rosary saying. At the time they were debating embryonic stem cell use,I think. The remark was mostly aimed at the then health minister Tony Abbott, perhaps not a likeable man but often disliked for his good points or his Catholicism.
    What got me this week(just after Woman's Day I think) was an announcement by some economic body I'd never heard of that stay -at-home mothers are a drain on the economy. Excuse me? Australia can't employ the people that are searching for work as it is... On a brighter level, our church last year was lent a bone fragment of St Gemma on her feast, which we venerated although we didn't have the actual liturgy-I've forgotten what the actual feastday it liturgy was for that day. I'll remember you next time it visits

    1. Funny how "Green" politicians have less regard for nature when it comes to human nature, isn't it?

      Please do pray for me at St. Gemma's bone next time you are close to it!