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More than just the heterosexual male point of view

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, January 30, 2006

Through the heterosexual male gaze, I learned about my sexuality at Notre Dame. With the help of one male professor, I learned how it feels to be sexually harassed. With the help of many male students, I came to understand that pictures of nude girls in dorm rooms would be a reality I would have to accept.

It is acceptable for the heterosexual male to express his own sexuality on campus and for him to gaze at, harass and mock women’s and homosexuals’ sexualities. With the prohibition of the “Vagina Monologues” and the Queer Film Festival, the new president is explicitly saying that women and homosexuals should not be able to express their own sexualities on campus. Their voices, their gazes and their introspections into their own sexual identities must remain quieted, and left to the heterosexual male gaze.

Let’s be critical of the “Catholic values” the new president is advocating: they are “Catholic views” as defined from a heterosexual male point of view. This point of view targets those who are different from it; it targets non-males and non-heterosexuals. These happen to be heterosexual women and homosexual women and men.

Like I mentioned above, I was sexually harassed by a professor at Notre Dame. I complained, and a couple of years later, discovered that the male counselor had not filed my complaint as a “formal” one. Two years after my incident, the same professor harassed another student. The student complained and yet, the professor remains at the school. My senior year, I participated in the “Vagina Monologues” and started hearing my own voice again; it was very empowering. When the president is speaking of “Catholic values,” he is speaking of the disempowerment of women and homosexuals to speak about their minds and bodies, about their entire selves as complete human beings.

Let’s explore the interpretative powers of this new leader at Notre Dame. If Mother Theresa, instead of Father John Jenkins, had posed a talk to the Notre Dame campus about “Catholic values,” do you think she would have focused on quieting the sexual voices of non-heterosexual and non-male students? Or do you think that her “Catholic values” would have included the voices of the entire community, exploring a dialogue between our minds and bodies, between our thoughts and emotions?

Mother Theresa wrote, “I pray that you will understand the words of Jesus, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Ask yourself, ‘How has he loved me? Do I really love others in the same way?'”

When we discuss and define “Catholic values,” let’s not forget that a religious priest is interpreting the community’s values. My example of Mother Theresa and Father Jenkins illustrates this divide in Catholicism: We can interpret “Catholic values” to reflect the inclusive values of social justice theology or the exclusive values of a doctrinal faith. Do we want to draw on those public figures, like Jesus, Mother Theresa, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., who embraced all those around them, or on those figures who have sought to exclude women, blacks and homosexuals’ voices from any possible public dialogue?

Let’s question our identity. Do we, the Notre Dame community, want to base our values on the tradition of social justice theology, or are we embracing the doctrines of the Vatican? It is this same Vatican that excludes women and gays from the priesthood. These priests are those who create religious doctrine and interpret our “Catholic values” while purposefully excluding women and homosexuals from this process. Yet, it is this doctrine and these values that Jenkins draws on. How can these doctrines bind me if, as a woman, I am not represented in this governing body of priests? How can women and homosexuals empower these priests, like Jenkins, to interpret “Catholic values” when these same priests are not even allowing women and homosexuals to help define the “Catholic values?” By requesting the exclusion of women’s and homosexuals’ sexual voices from Notre Dame’s campus, Jenkins is seeking a gag order without representation. Perhaps another Boston Tea Party is in order.

OK, fine, Father Jenkins, I see the bright side. At least you’re offering academic freedom for those just like you: Those who perform as heterosexual males in the public sphere, and who do not challenge the heterosexual male Vatican’s interpretation of the biblical text and Catholic tradition.

Maribel Moreyalumnus class of 2003Jan. 27