Sunday, September 1, 2013

Footnote to Discussion of Bottum's Essay on Gay Marriage and the Re-Enchantment of Culture: The Addition of Calah Alexander's Voice

A footnote to my discussion yesterday of Matthew Boudway's round-up of conservative commentary about Joseph Bottum's Commonweal essay on Catholics and marriage equality: 

As I noted in my posting yesterday, when I read Boudway's posting at the Commonweal blog, it had a clearly erroneous double listing of Russell E. Saltzman's First Things essay. At some point after I had posted my commentary, it appears Boudway corrected the double link, and the corrected list of links now shows that the article that his double linking had skipped is this posting by Calah Alexander at her Barefoot and Pregnant blog site.

My commentary, of course, states that all of the folks reacting to Bottum's essay on whom Boudway had focused in his round-up piece were men. I made that claim because the double-link mistake with Saltzman's essay resulted in the bumping of the Calah Alexander link from the list I originally read in Boudway's Commonweal post.

After Boudway had corrected his original list, I did not go back and alter my original essay (though I did post a footnote to it noting that Boudway had corrected his list of links, and Calah Alexander's posting was now in the list). I didn't want to alter the text of a posting I'd already published in some substantial way without notifying readers of the change.

The statements in my original posting that all the respondents to Bottum listed by Boudway were men is now obviously not correct. They're all men with the exception of Calah Alexander.

I continue to stand by my claim that this conversation (and almost all conversations about these issues among Catholics of the right and center) is heavily dominated by heterosexual men, almost all of them white and of comfortable socioeconomic status--a slice, that is to say, of the human community and of the American Catholic community itself, though a very powerful slice that represents itself as "the" voice of American Catholicism.

If one computes the "percentage" of Calah Alexander's contribution as the sole woman to a conversation in which the six voices (I'm including Bottum in the total here) are those of men, women represent 14.3% of the conversation that has resulted, per Boudway, from Bottum's essay. If one adds Boudway himself to the total of conversation members, it's a conversation including 12.5% of women's voices.

But women constitute over 50% of the human community, and most studies indicate that they also constitute well over half of active, churchgoing Catholics in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world. And so I stand by my original claim: Bottum's thesis is being critiqued almost exclusively by other heterosexual men, most of them married, and this same slice of the human community heavily dominates the official conversation of American Catholicism.

So that any discussion of a disenchantment of American Catholicism that doesn't begin by asking how the continuing claim of heterosexual men, most of them married, white, and of comfortable economic status, to represent the whole of American Catholicism, is off on the wrong foot from the outset, since it refuses to ask the pertinent question: who is, after all, most responsible for the disenchantment "we" are being asked to fix?

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