Apparently my old friend Austin Ruse has joined the chorus of people who think that I left the Catholic church because I’m obsessed with power. It’s a standard reply to feminists who want power-sharing in the church. “If you think the gospel is about power, you’ve got it wrong.”
So, I want to talk briefly about the difference between power-lust and empowerment. They both concern power, that’s true, but they don’t both involve grasping after power. It’s kind of like how sex is the content of both porn and chastity talks, but we don’t assume that listening to a lot of Christopher West means you’re consumed with lust.
Empowerment is about correcting abuses of power. It is to power as self-defence is to violence. If you’re not paying attention, or if you are the assailant, you might say “Well, the victim was violent too. Look at these bruises. Fault on both sides.” But the person who uses violence in self-defence doesn’t use violence because they like it, or because they’re obsessed with it, or because they suffer from blood-lust. They use violence because otherwise they or their loved ones will be harmed.
Empowerment is like that. It is the desire for enough power to prevent harm. I’m not talking here about some nebulous harm: amorphous feelings that I don’t have enough safe-space. I’m talking concrete harms.
Women in the church are deprived of the means of ensuring that we are not threatened with hellfire if we choose to avoid life-threatening pregnancies. We are often told to persevere in abusive marriages. To continue to have children past the point where it is good for us or for the children. To “offer it up” when the teachings of the church produce havoc and chaos in our lives. And we risk being bullied or taunted by priests and laypeople if we question this state of affairs.
Beyond the minimum power necessary for personal security, I’m not interested in it. Running an organization that lobbies the United Nations sounds dreadful. Having to reverse my anti-Trump stance and suck up to the Donald so I could be on his Catholic Advisory board sounds like literally my worst nightmare. I don’t think I could, in a million years, bring myself to unironically identify as a Knight.
It’s always curious when men who have spent there entire lives seeking power, cultivating powerful friends, and raising money to increase their power and influence insist that women are obsessed with power if we say “Hey, you know, I really don’t like you lording it over me and I want that to stop.” It’s almost like they’re projecting or something.
Now, I do have to grant my critics one thing: I do have an obsessive personality. I get really into things and then I get way over-excited about them. So for your enjoyment, education and edification I present a short list of things that Melinda Selmys is actually obsessed with:
2. Star Trek. Specifically, TNG. When I was a teenager, I insisted that people call me “Kira,” after the character on DS9. I also got to appear on the Jumbotron with plasticine on my nose when “All Good Things” first aired. Recently rewatched TNG and realized how much of my base-line philosophy comes from Jean-Luc Picard. Kept thinking “Man, I thought I got that from Kierkegaard!”
3. Babies. I know, I know. But I really am one of those women who every time there’s a baby, or a picture of a baby, or a baby in the background of a movie, I’m like “Squeee!!!!!” It’s gotten worse now that I can’t have any more of my own. My almost 3 year old has taken up constantly telling me that “My’s not a baby! My’s a big boy!” But I still tell him he’s adorablicious about 500 times a day.
4. Language. I love words. I like to play with them and put them together in neat combinations and learn about their histories. I like foreign words and smutty words, sesquipedalian neologisms and simple Anglo-Saxonisms. I’m a magpie for slang. To me words are like LEGO only better.
5. The Kirkmans. Currently, I mostly use my words to build a world involving a modern Roman pagan family and an evil well that takes secrets out of the world. Kind of like a diabolical confessional. I work out my characters in ridiculous detail: like, I know exactly how Germanicus gets the fizz out of his RockStar so that he can quaff it in a single gulp, and how Catullus likes to listen to the click of his shoes in subway tunnels. I published Octavia, the first novel set in this world, about a year ago. (There’s also a Kindle Version now.) I’m working on the sequel whenever I’m not kissing my toddler.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.
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