Catholic school girls think it’s just plain sexist that they were asked to take a no-cursing pledge on Friday — and the boys weren’t.
What the hell is up with that?
Lori Flynn, a teacher who launched the civility campaign at Queen of Peace High School in North Arlington, said the rationale was simple: “We want ladies to act like ladies.”
And besides, the principal, Brother Larry Lavallee, added, the girls have the foulest language.
That’s bull, according to an unscientific sampling of students of both genders who were hanging out in the hallways before the morning ceremony. Research by psychologist Timothy Jay, a professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and author of “Why We Curse,” backs the view that men are typically more profane. In general, people who are more extroverted, dominant and hostile tend to swear more.
Yet, despite their annoyance at what they said was a clear double standard, many girls were game.
This kind of "girls must be ladies, but boys will be boys" double standard annoys me. So I was glad to read (hat tip: Deacon Kandra) that the no-cursing pledge has been opened up to boys:
Days after a coed Catholic school made headlines for asking only its girls to take a pledge to stop cursing, it administered the oath Monday to some boys who sought equal opportunity.I find it encouraging that the boys themselves asked to participate while being realistic--as the rest of the article discusses--that it won't be easy to cure themselves of an all-too-prevalent sort of speech pattern in our country.
Some staff members at Queen of Peace High School in North Arlington were upset that the media attention and online comments that followed The Record’s coverage of the girls-only pledge on Friday focused largely on criticism that the campaign was sexist.
The school administered the civility pledge Monday to teenage boys who chose to participate, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, which oversees the school.
“Once the boys heard about it on Friday or Saturday, a lot of them said, ‘We’d like to get in on it,’” Goodness said. It was unclear how many boys took part, he said.
All of which means that I do not agree with those who think that habits of casual cussing or cursing or however you prefer to say it are just fine and dandy. Do I think it's immoral or a sin to let the occasional expletive fly, even in print? No, I don't. Do I think it's rude and insensitive to pepper your speech or writing with words that include the Lord's name being taken lightly, words connoting sexual violence, words that are scatological, or words that call down imprecations on their targets? Yes, I do. Why? Because these words are meant to be coarse and vulgar, and even though they may have lost their power to shock all but the most sheltered, the last thing we need in our culture today is more coarseness and vulgarity. And it's particularly rude to swear in front of children, those elderly who were raised in a generation when public swearing was truly offensive, and anybody who is especially sensitive to this sort of thing (victims of domestic violence, for example, were often treated to the worst four-letter insults on a regular basis, and thus tend not to laugh and shrug when people start yelling four-letter words in their presence).
Whether a swearing habit actually rises to the level of sin is something I think people ought to take up with their confessors or spiritual directors; I suspect that the answer is "It depends," followed by a lot of specific questions by the spiritual director about the person's particular state, the words employed, the context of the swearing, and so on. But does something have to be sinful before Catholics can agree that it's rude enough not to be encouraged? I mean, there's nothing objectively sinful about making armpit noises that resemble the sound of flatulence, but most of us would agree that it would be rather rude to do so while, say, waiting in a cashier's line at the grocery store. A lot of cursing these days is the verbal equivalent of making armpit noises in public: not particularly intelligent, not especially enlightening, and telling the hearers more about the person engaging in that behavior than they probably realize.
So I'm glad to see the young men and women at Queen of Peace high school take a step away from the popular culture's widespread acceptance of cursing and swearing as a sort of speech code for the cool kids. If it's uncool to prefer the use of language which strives to avoid these words and phrases, then I admit to being uncool.
UPDATE: Pat Archbold has a different take on this. He writes:
While I am not in favor of either gender cursing, I have no problem with asking young women to be superior to their male counterparts. Even in a coed school (which may or may not be such a great idea) we need to teach our boys to be men and our girls to be ladies. And guess what, ladies don't curse (much).
I think it is perfectly sensible and reasonable to single out girls for a call to better behavior. Boys will be called to behave like men in their own way, but boys are different than girls. I think that our world and our culture already suffers from the lack of the former benign influence of ladies. Today, we have all too many girls who grow up merely into curvier versions of the vulgar male counterparts.
Bottom line, you cannot make ladies of young women by asking them to be equal parts sugar, spice, slugs, and snails.
The world does not need more women who act like men. We need something better than that, we need ladies. We don't merely need the other sex, we need the fairer sex back.