Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Vatican Celebrates Purim… who knew?

I didn’t even know the Vatican observed Purim, let alone got good and liquored up and printed Purim Schtick for the occasion!

You can't make this stuff up. The Vatican newspaper's Purim editorial argues that the greatest advance for women in the 20th century was the invention of the washing machine. Here, from Yahoo:

The submission was made in a lengthy article titled "The Washing Machine and the Liberation of Women - Put in the Detergent, Close the Lid and Relax."
The article was printed at the weekend in l'Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, to mark international Women's Day on Sunday.
"What in the 20th century did more to liberate Western women?," asks the article, which was written by a woman. "The debate is heated. Some say the pill, some say abortion rights and some the right to work outside the home. Some, however, dare to go further: the washing machine," it says.

Maybe the writer thought this was a pretty clever take on history, ignoring all of the obvious advances in favor of the little-suspected, never-mentioned but truly catalytic agent of change.

It's kind of like saying that the Internet wasn’t as great an advance in communication as, say, the invention of some fertility aid which enabled a boom in conceptions among a certain population, leading to the birth of a generation of engineers who would, one day, invent the Internet.

But, really. Romies, here’s a tip for you: Some thoughts are better kept to yourselves. (In Italian, per Google’s translation service, which unfortunately does not offer Latin: Alcuni pensieri sono meglio che rimanga a voi.)

And this is one of them.

Here’s the deal. You’re behind the old Eight Ball from the start – you’re the Vatican, for heaven’s sake! (So to speak.) If you say the word “women,” “woman,” “womanly” or even “womb,” people just assume the rest of your sentence is, “are inferior to men.”

They aren’t even listening; a low buzz drowns out your words, and the subconscious replaces them with “women are agents of sin, but they are here on earth to be slaves who do housework and give birth to children.”

I know - I'm a rabbi. I have my own words which I know I can't use, because they just demand misinterpretation. If a rabbi says "television," listeners hear "evils of modern media." If a rabbi says "zmanim," listeners hear "overly obsessed with minutiae." And don't even get me started on "aphids."

It's like Microsoft Word's Auto Correct option - if you type teh, it automatically substitutes the - so if the Vatican says Women, society's Auto Correct option substitutes Foul demonslave temptress incubators.

So you’re never going to win, and that’s reason enough not to write articles with any of those W words.

And then, as if including Women was not enough, you went and put Housework into the same thought. Women, housework, together, in a Vatican editorial. Not a good move.

Face it, Vatican, about the only way you could have made this worse would have been to throw in Bishop Williamson.


  1. They may just be looking for attention. As you point out, most people are going to automatically react in a certain way when they hear about the Vatican discussing women and housework -- but for some people, the assumption will be that the Vatican is getting unfairly targeted for criticism. So by saying something like this, they get a lot of people to talk about it -- and those people may accidentally mention it to an audience sympathetic to the Vatican's comments.

    That said, it's pretty funny.

  2. Jokes and insults aside, think about it: From a purely historical perspective, their claim is accurate.

    HIstorically, women did the washing, not men. It took them three full days (washing, bleaching, ironing) of intensely physical labor. Poor women washed for rich women (who had more "free time" but did not pursue careers for other reasons), all while looking after kids and running households without the benefit of additional electric appliances. The whole thing was exceedingly time- and energy-consuming, which meant little time or energy for anything else.

    From a traditional Catholic perspective, of course, we would never expect them to address the Pill or give it any credit.

  3. GiftOfLife-
    I suppose that could be it, but it seems a pretty convoluted thought process. There are easier ways to get positive exposure.

    But did all of that really change with the dishwasher?