Back in the Habit

Nope, this isn’t about a revival of the early 90s Whoopie Goldberg hit movie, this is about what Bust Magazine is reporting this month is a new trend of young, feminist minded women choosing to become nuns.
Bust reports that young women are being drawn into the nun’s life, something that even in Whoopie’s movie is characterized by sheltered little old ladies with grey hair. At a time when criticisms against the Catholic church are at a high, with recent priest sexual abuse scandals and harsh reactions to the archaic stance the Vatican is taking against modern day issues like homosexuality and birth control, it’s surprising to think that young women may be choosing to become part of this hierarchy.
The article points to the internet as evidence of the rising visibility of nuns, and gives it at least partial credit for recruitment into the life as well. They mention a number of nun-authored blogs which deal directly with many of the difficult issues of convent life–celibacy, for example. And, just in case you’re curious, priests are blogging too.
The women interviewed for the Bust piece use the language of feminism–and frame their decisions to enter the convent within the language of choice:

Society tells women that you have to get married. But I’m open to the possibility of falling in love with a religious community or a man.

Further explaining the feminist context of these convents:

…Women’s gifts are encouraged–whether it be to play music, teach, learn languages, or write. Convents demonstrate the positive side of a gender-segregated education. Women’s religious life is a very strong feminist social construct.


What does it mean to be living feminist principles within the context of a religious hierarchy whose treatment of women has been hotly contested? This trend reminds me of Ann’s piece about competitive birthing , another instance in which women are returning to traditional roles and spheres, in some ways in response to the paradox of “choice” and the opt-out phenomenon.
It’s hard to tell if this is really a “trend”, as the article makes no mention of numbers and the interviews focus on three particular young women, but the theme of “feminism within religious contexts” is not a new one–we’ve also heard it in the context of muslim women and the hijab as well as others.
See some of the Feministing ladies past discussions of women and religionhere.

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39 Comments

  1. Janet
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Society tells women that you have to get married. But I’m open to the possibility of falling in love with a religious community or a man.
    Why can’t they have both? This is one of my biggest beefs with the Catholic church and not allowing priests (or nuns) to marry.

  2. Xana
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I don’t believe this is a recent trend, though I might stand corrected. More women have been joining the Church for the past decade (and is often cited as a reason to allow women to be ordained as priests as it would help solve the problem as fewer men enter the ministry.)
    From my experience, though I realize this is not true for all, as a Catholic and from working at a university founded by nuns, the nuns in my life are some of the strongest feminists I know. Since they are barred from other positions in the Church hierarchy, becoming a nun is a way to be a member of the Church and a way to try and create internal change. Our school is very progressive in its Church teaching (though, in general, Minnesota tends to be progressive in the Twin Cities) and I know many members are some of the first to speak against the Pope’s, or other Church leaders, sexist comments. There are some fascinating on-campus discussions around how Catholic feminists try to reconcile where women have traditionally been placed and where they rightfully should be. I know there is a lot of debate about why someone would want to stay attached to a religion with clear sexism in its ranks, but to me at least, it’s a faith vs. religion argument.
    I think it’s wonderful to see nuns, and priests, blogging about their lives. It might offer a lot more insight into why people choose that way of life.

  3. Xana
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Janet: I agree. I still don’t understand that either when priests in the earliest days of the Church were married and had families. While this did create some of the controversy that fueled the Reformation, you’d think the Catholic Church would realize that they’ve moved beyond 1517. But then I look at the sex-abuse scandal and wonder if they’ve gotten anywhere at all.

  4. amazonratz
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I too, have experienced nuns who are strong, feminist, and who are working to change the church from the inside, or at least define their own sphere as sacred feminine space. But unless one knows them personally, their alignment with such an outmoded institution makes them suspect. My understanding is that most new nuns are older, widowed or never-married women who are seeking community and a supportive life outside the mainstream. I would like statistics, Bust!

  5. SamBarge
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I find it difficult to hear ‘feminist’ and ‘nun’ together in a sentence. I was raised Catholic and my first step towards atheism was my feminist rejection of the status of women in the faith and, by extension, in the Catholic world view. The Madonna-Whore dichotomy is so firmly entrenched in the faith and, frankly, I refuse to be either.
    As I get older, I find it harder than ever to separate my atheism and feminism.

  6. Miko Monkey
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Using the few options religions leave available to them to be feminists is one of the oldest ways that women cope with living in a society/religion that constantly denigrates them. See: most female saints & all female mystics (at least, in the Catholic tradition). It’s unfortunate that this is stll one of the only ways for them to live outside the expected heterosexist norm.

  7. Ms.Underhill
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I too have known and worked with extremely feminist nuns. I also know many nuns who are involved with the Women’s Ordination movement. They wear pearls because they say they have a “ministry of irritation.” I love that. I also know many nuns who identify as lesbians, so that’s something to think about. The Catholic church is full of dissent and multiple ways of enacting and interpreting Catholic doctrine, just like Islam and other faiths. We don’t all fall in lock step with the pope, nor are we commanded to by our dogma, as much as some bishops might like to believe we do. It depends on the order, but these all-women communities can be hotbeds of feminism.

  8. jeff
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    This is what happens when feminism becomes so non-judgmental that it basically ceases to exist or mean anything at all. These women are making a bad decision in the name of a good thing, and thereby sullying it.

  9. Jane Minty
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I was often surrounded by plain clothes-wearing nuns with a healthy appetite for gin & tonics, classical guitar, and actual hands-on work with Central Americans. Judging by the age range, I can conclude that a) this was one result of Vatican 2, and b) most of them were probably lesbians who never could have come out in their communities back in the day (not unlike the priesthood in that era).
    Not sure about the current crop, but I’d like to read this.

  10. Betsy
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Jeff, how much do you actually know about what nuns do these days? I’m not Catholic and I find much about the church to be repugnant, but I’ve read a fair bit of writings by nuns in my study of the history of feminism. Nuns tend to be much more complicated than their stereotypes, and those who identify as feminist tend to have put a whole lot of thought into what their feminism means for their vocation and vice versa. I don’t always agree with them, but they’re often doing a tremendous amount of good, both in and out of the church, and they certainly don’t always agree with church directives on things like birth control, etc. Ironically, given the stereotype of the prudish old woman nun, many of the more elderly nuns are the most liberal and intellectual.

  11. florafloraflora
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Speaking as a feminist, lefty Democrat who baffled my atheist friends by going back to the Catholic church (in which I was raised) a few years ago, at the height of the sexual-abuse scandals, I think this trend, if it truly is one, is brilliant. I know I don’t have the discipline for life in a religious order, but I can absolutely see it as a valid life option and a good way for women to achieve what they want. I have no trouble understanding how a young woman might decide that sexual relationships are overrated and so is the materialistic rat race, and drop out of all that to better pursue her goals. I really admire the choice these women are making.

  12. Betsy
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    This is what happens when feminism becomes so non-judgmental that it basically ceases to exist or mean anything at all. These women are making a bad decision in the name of a good thing, and thereby sullying it.
    Ok, this whole quote bothers me a lot. Leaving aside the irony of a man chiding women in the name of feminism for not making choices to his liking, feminism is not a monolith; it doesn’t “become” anything. Feminists have a wide range of ideas and beliefs. The fact that these women are framing their choice in feminist terms does not mean that we all agree that it’s a good or feminist choice. It’s not like there was a vote, for heaven’s sake.

  13. amazonratz
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    PS, my feminist nun friends put me on the prayer list at their retreat center for the following reason :”We pray that Karen will be safe and avoid arrest while she marches for choice.” How’s that for antidogmatic?

  14. kissmypineapple
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    These women are making a bad decision in the name of a good thing, and thereby sullying it.
    What makes this a bad decision for those women?

  15. Posted August 8, 2007 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    The common media portrayal of nuns as painfully shy and retiring women that never leave their convents, wear full penguin-gear, and don’t quite understand where babies come from is ridculously exaggerated and out-of-date. Most nuns have college educations and jobs outside of their convent, most of them wear pants and moderate or no headcoverings. I’ve known nuns that were doctors, that go to baseball games and concerts and run marathons. And a great many of them today ARE feminists and are joining because they want to make changes from the inside. They love their church and their faith enough to want to save it from being irrelevant and scandal-ridden.

  16. jeff
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I do know that nuns have some interesting feminist – as well as radical progressive – history, and I find that fascinating and impressive.
    That said, I’ll go out on a limb and say that devoting your entire life – the whole freakin’ works – to a patriarchical organization based on some hilarious mythology is a bad decision. If there isn’t even the most basic agreement on what constitutes a feminist decision, then it truely is meaningless. I could call my choice in cereal this morning a feminist choice, and that would be silly – I could vote a straight Republican ticket in the next election and call that a feminist choice, and that would be simply untrue.

  17. SamBarge
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    “‘We pray that Karen will be safe and avoid arrest while she marches for choice.’ How’s that for antidogmatic?”
    It would be even more anti-dogmatic if they added:
    “And, while you’re at it, Lord, do you think you could reveal to your servant Benedict that women’s bodies aren’t his to control? Perhaps you could let him know that you didn’t really mean that thing about Eve bringing on the fall of man and that women must suffer because of it. It’s only a start, Lord, but by God-er, You, it would be a good start. Amen.”

  18. JPlum
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    On days when I’m feeling particularly separatist, I like the idea of a convent. Then I remember the whole thing where I’m an atheist, and I realize it won’t work. But the idea of a women-only community still appeals to me. Just without the ultimate-male-authority and believing-in-fairy-tales things.
    Also, obedience. I remember watching ‘A Nun’s Story’ and thinking it was so unfair to make Audrey’s character do things she wasn’t entirerly suited for, just to teach her humility and obedience.

  19. kissmypineapple
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    That said, I’ll go out on a limb and say that devoting your entire life – the whole freakin’ works – to a patriarchical organization based on some hilarious mythology is a bad decision.
    I don’t think that’s how the women in the article see it at all. In fact, they might be a little offended. For one thing, their lives are devoted to missions, prayer, outreach and the like… not necessarily only to the institution. Further, just because you find Christian mythology to be hilarious, doesn’t mean everyone thinks so. I find the stories about the life of Jesus to be compelling, especially since he embodied such progressive, and dare I say, feminist values.
    Just because you find the decision to shuck off material things and the life our culture has planned for you (marriage, children, etc.) in exchange for developing your spirituality and devoting your life to helping others laughable, doesn’t mean their decision is a bad one.

  20. Maggie
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    First, some business:
    Jeff and JPlum: All mythology is hilarious (ever read stories about Thor?) and all mythology is deeply, deeply meaningful. The modern term “fairy tale” and the modern treatment of the stories themselves, does great disservice to very old, very important patterns of human thought and communication. I find that people who use these terms to disparage religion and belief are in actuality very threatened by those things, for whatever reason. If you have something against religion (btw, lots of us in the field recognize the modern obsession with science as much of a religion as any other), fine, but find a more intelligent way to talk about it than “fairy tales.”
    Back to the point, it’s important to remember that some of the most influential people in the Catholic church have been women (like Dorothy Day). The vast majority of major spiritualists in the Church have been nuns – I believe that Francis was the only male stigmatic, for example (could someone verify that? My expertise stops around 325 CE). The modern Church certainly needs some changes if it wants to be truly modern, particularly in regards to the treatment of women, but maybe the best way to do that is to infuse it with, rather than starve it of, intelligent, driven women.
    Most importantly, unless these women are being forcibly conscripted or coerced into convents (it wouldn’t be the first time), I think it’s hypocritical to disparage their choice in the name of feminism.

  21. JPlum
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    “I find that people who use these terms to disparage religion and belief are in actuality very threatened by those things, for whatever reason.”
    Yes, I am threatened by religion. Because religion has a habit of threatening me. It threatens to take away my liberty, my ownership of my body, my status as a person equal to other persons, regardless of gender. That’s why I’ve become an atheist. Equating the modern ‘obsession’ with science with religion is exactly what intelligence design enthusiasts do.

  22. Maggie
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    JPlum: You’re misunderstanding what I mean when I say that science is a religion. People who insistently deny the existence of God simply because such a thing can’t be “observed” (a claim many spiritualists would disagree with) are just as dogmatic as those who insist that the Bible must be taken as the infallible word of God.
    Also, religion doesn’t threaten you. Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam, or whatever, threatens you. And a specific brand of it, at that. Plenty of people manage to be very religious without those problems. It comes down to choosing to believe in what you experience to be true. Universalists, pagans, and even many adherents to the more “traditional” religions manage to be feminist, free-thinking, intelligent human beings who think through their beliefs and don’t allow themselves to be intimidated by someone else’s definition.

  23. jeff
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Also, religion doesn’t threaten you.
    Well, an awful lot of them do – enough that I think it’s a fair way to say it. At what point does religion threaten us? When 80% of them do? 90%? It’s not a minority, that’s for sure. Further, religion in general DOES threaten me, so long as it spreads the idea that there are ways of knowing other than reason and evidence. This threatens our ability to make good decisions collectively.
    lots of us in the field recognize the modern obsession with science as much of a religion as any other
    This is a common false duality. One is a inherently mutable human endeavor that has resulted in the advancement of knowledge and technology. Atheism is the default position; religion was added later.
    Just because you find the decision to shuck off material things and the life our culture has planned for you (marriage, children, etc.)
    I think that’s a great idea. In fact, I’m doing it myself.
    in exchange for developing your spirituality
    Now *this* is a waste of time. You can go on as long as you want about the deep meaningfulness of mythology but it doesn’t make it any less false. I wouldn’t give anyone a hard time for spending their life being a professor of mythology, as it teaches much in the academic sense. The difference is some people actually believe it.

  24. manda
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    You know, it is entirely possible to show a basic level of respect for others’ beliefs without sharing them. Just a thought.

  25. Katha Pollitt
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I can’t access the Bust article, but here’s another one on the subject:http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20070421/ai_n19037325
    This article attributes the rise in interest to increased conservatism, not feminism, and to the appeal of the various hardline stances of the new pope. Frankly, that seems more likely! the new crop of priests tends to be rightwing and doctrinaire and, an older priest tells me, deeply in flight from their homosexuality. The women may the same.
    I haven’t been able to find any hard numbers about this supposed phenomenon, but I am suspicious of all trend stories. Are we talking about 100 people? 1000 people? People who express interest in becoming a nun but have yet to actually take vows? So few women are becoming nuns that even a very small numerical increase can look like a large percentage jump.

  26. Xana
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    amazonratz: Actually, most of the new nuns tend to be young 20-somethings. Here’s an article from my local news team: http://wcco.com/seenon/local_story_050093555.html

  27. JessL
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    That second quote really struck me. I remember reading those old school Spanish nuns’ work, Santa Teresa de Ã?vila and others, and those are the same reasons used in discussing why many of these women entered the convent. They were able to find a place where they were allowed to write and given some amount of respect and freedom to be creative. And that was, what, the 1500s?

  28. Xana
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    amazonratz: Actually, most of the new nuns tend to be young 20-somethings. Here’s an article from my local news team: http://wcco.com/seenon/local_story_050093555.html
    And the Time magazine article: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1558292,00.html

  29. veronica
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    “The vast majority of major spiritualists in the Church have been nuns – I believe that Francis was the only male stigmatic, for example (could someone verify that? My expertise stops around 325 CE).”
    There’s also Joao de Deus and Padre Pio, the Portuguese and Spanish saints, but yeah, most have been female.
    What makes this interesting from a feminist perspective is how quickly the angle of faith and spirituality associated with stigmata became so closely associated with women in the medieval church and later. St. Francis was one the first orthodoxy-friendly ascetics, and in the hagiography he perfected the kind faith which is intended to be accompanied by every kind of physical, emotional, or social burden possible, as a way of proving your devotion to God. When the male orders became enmeshed into civil service, though, often those burdens of sainthood were largely relegated to women. Not meny clergymen were willing to sit around and starve and wail all day (Katherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila). Until more recently, then, men have been more often associated with “works”, and women with martyrdom.
    So we got screwed again. Which is why I can’t fathom anybody these days choosing to join the orders. I understand from a medieval perspective, when the church was the only social infrastructure where women could grow intellectually and have a vocation. But women can do social work, we are taught to read and write, we can even do spiritually-based social work without signing our autonomy away to an inherently patriarchical institution where our subordinance is dogma.
    But then again, maybe that’s just because I left the Catholic Church, then decided to spend my college years studying its history in all its corrupt glory, so I tend to be biased.
    (sorry for the rant…I’m only weighing in on this because usually there aren’t many other medievalists hanging around on feminist blogs :) )

  30. Posted August 8, 2007 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    I’m an Dawkins atheist. Not only do I not beleive in a deity, I think that it’s an actively inimical concept most of the time. I personally don’t understand worshipping any authority or heirarchy that is comfortable with abuse of women and children, and that has been the totemic cause to inspire most of homo-sapiens’ bloodletting. That said, the nuns and former nuns whom I’ve met tend to be passionate, creative, self disciplined and determined women who beleive firmly in their power to change the world for the better, in direct benefit to those who have terrible burdens of circumstance to bear.
    I respect the work that most of these women do, and accept that they are whole people making their own choices. That said, I wish that they attributed the credit to themselves…the people who actually did the work, instead of to a hierarchal society that fails to value them or the work that they do as anything other than an afterthought.

  31. Maggie
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    “the nuns and former nuns whom I’ve met tend to be passionate, creative, self disciplined and determined women who beleive firmly in their power to change the world for the better, in direct benefit to those who have terrible burdens of circumstance to bear”
    And it seems to me that the environment of the convent and the label of “nun” might make some of those things easier to do, if only because it completely (to the outside observer) desexualizes women, and, with regard to societal expectations, makes them something other than women. They don’t have to worry about their drive and achievements being a threat to their relationships, they’re not bothered by people constantly analyzing their commitment to work vs. their commitment to family… I imagine that in some way it’s a very freeing experience. At least, that’s why a lot of women joined convents in the Middle Ages. Now if only we could get rid of that silly ban on female priests…

  32. liontamer
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always thought being a nun was an empowering place. As a “bride of christ” you’re free from the random objectification most women go through. Suddenly if a guy treats you like a sex object everyone realizes that he’s the one with a problem. Since traditionally women earned social status based on their spouse, nuns got all sorts of freedoms that other women didn’t. “You want to spend your day reading? o.k. Don’t want to pop out a zillion babies, cool. Do you want to work outside the confines of keeping a house? more power to you.” Especially if you’re not catholic (yes other religions have nuns) becoming a nun is a shortcut to the respect that all women deserve as human beings, but few of us actually receive.

  33. JPlum
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Veronica, I seriously considered a Masters from Harvard or Chicago Divinity, with my research interests in the secular and religious lives of mediaeval Christian women.
    And Maggie, I don’t know that women joining convents in the Middle Ages were often doing it of their own choice. Until…Bernard of Clairveaux? came around, oblation (the act of giving your child to the church) was pretty common. And the only women in the convents who got to do all that reading, writing, and mysticalizing were the ones whose families were rich-the ‘average’ nun would have been more like a maidservant. From what I remember from courses years ago.
    What about the obedience issue? I always had the impression that you don’t get to decide, as a nun, what your life’s work will be-the Church makes that decision. So if your mother superior is a meanie, you could be a doctor before you join the convent, and then be told that you’ll be running the kitchen and laundry the rest of your life.

  34. Tara K.
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    I used to want to be a nun. It was before I identified myself as feminist. I was probably fourteen, maybe younger. I saw it as an easy bypass of a lot of things that were scary: marriage, beauty standards, college, etc. I also thought it would be awesome to wear a big baggy black thing and never have to pick out clothes. (Note: I had never actually SEEN a real nun. I’m pretty sure I’d never actually known a Catholic person at that point.) Before now, I had never considered the feminist aspects of nunhood, but I can certainly recognize them. I wonder how the pope would react to this idea of feminists being drawn into the calling?
    Totally unrelated, but my partner has a book about the histories of sex workers and it details nuns during the late 1400s serving as concubines for priests. Apparently, or according to this text, nuns at that time were associated with promiscuity. Of course I am making no comparison to anything modern.

  35. Persephone
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    I just want to get this out in the open. I am so sick of people on here attacking religion! My experience has been that the people who are atheists have completely valid and understandable reasons for choosing to be atheists, but so do the people I have met who are spiritual. There are people who want to use their religion to harm others, and I have always found it illogical that anyone can justify acting in such a way. That people can worship an all-loving God and then commit acts of violence in the name of God has never made sense to me (both emotional violence, like forcing your beliefs on others, and physical violence.)Saying, “All people who are religious are threatening and harmful.” makes about as much sense to me as saying, “All women are caretakers.”
    Respect, people, respect. That’s all I’m asking for.

  36. kissmypineapple
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Yogi and Manda! I happen to be Christian, and feel no need to attack anyone’s atheism or other beliefs. I respect them as valid and would never tell someone that that aspect of themself is a waste of time. How hideously arrogant would that be?
    Also, I’m really surprised how many people speak of these women’s choice to become nuns so derisively. It reminds me very much of the people who talk about women who shun marriage and children, but do not join convents. A feminist can’t say that she or he respects an adult woman’s decision making skills, but only so long as she or he likes the decision being made. If you don’t like the idea of becoming a nun, then don’t. I wouldn’t want to be one, but I have serious respect for the women who do. I hate the idea of having children, but I don’t call parenting a laughable waste of time.

  37. Fenriswolf
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    “”I find that people who use these terms to disparage religion and belief are in actuality very threatened by those things, for whatever reason.”
    Yes, I am threatened by religion. Because religion has a habit of threatening me. It threatens to take away my liberty, my ownership of my body, my status as a person equal to other persons, regardless of gender.”
    Precisely! I don’t have a problem with religion on an individual level – though I just cannot conceive of believing in something that romanticised, I can appreciate how good it is for some people.
    But organised religion (Christianity specifically, because that’s the only religion I have to hear about regularly, and the the only one with any influence over our politics) makes me incredibly angry and scared.
    And how do people misunderstand science so completely? Science is learning – some scientists may be arrogant, but it’s not ABOUT being “right”. It’s about constantly striving to understand more, to disprove hypotheses and previous theories in the name of knowledge.
    It’s not a belief system, so matter how many times you say it.
    P.S. Those who are offended by constantly questioning in the name of more understanding, do you deny that it’s knowledge and understanding that undercut discrimination?

  38. violetlightning
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    “What about the obedience issue? I always had the impression that you don’t get to decide, as a nun, what your life’s work will be-the Church makes that decision. So if your mother superior is a meanie, you could be a doctor before you join the convent, and then be told that you’ll be running the kitchen and laundry the rest of your life.” -JPlum
    Well, that’s why you would look into specific convents before you join and decide if they have the opportunities that you’re looking for. Just like how I wouldn’t go to Patrick Henry College because they have a dress code and don’t allow dating. I don’t think there are a bunch of Mothers Superior out there pulling a bait-and-switch.
    I was relieved when I read (most) people’s responses to this – I kind of thought I might have to read through and start correcting people’s crazy notions about what it means to be Catholic. (And any crazy notions I’ve seen have been corrected.) Now, I’ve known a fair amount of nuns over my life, ranging from a college professor, to a nun that my grandmother has gotten acquainted with and who is now the least favorite guest at family events. She’s maddeningly, frustratingly stupid. When I think of nuns, sure I think of ‘penguin’ nuns, who are quiet and reserved (but also warm and bright – my grandmother’s ‘friend’ is most denifinitely an exception to the rule) but I also know there are many like my professor. Someone asked why you would become a nun to do social works when you can do them without vowing celibacy, etc. But how much can you do on your own? The Catholic church, with its long history of Social Justice work, provides oppotunities that you couldn’t get on your own. And if you’re really looking to dedicate your entire life to that, how are you going to pay rent, buy food or travel to far-off countries to work with those in need? You’d either need to spend part of the time working a high-paying job or else have a trust fund – and let’s face it, those aren’t always options. One way to look at it is like the Army in peacetime – people join because of the chance to get an education and other opportunities they wouldn’t get otherwise. (Some nuns might even risk their lives working in dangerous areas of the world – I’ll see if I can find a link for anyone who’s doing this.)

  39. Mina
    Posted August 14, 2007 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    “The common media portrayal of nuns as painfully shy and retiring women that never leave their convents, wear full penguin-gear, and don’t quite understand where babies come from is ridculously exaggerated and out-of-date.”
    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the nuns out there became nuns because they know exactly where babies come from and because joining a convent is practically the only birth control available for women in their villages…
    “That said, I’ll go out on a limb and say that devoting your entire life – the whole freakin’ works – to a patriarchical organization based on some hilarious mythology is a bad decision.”
    Wouldn’t that depend on what her other options are?

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