Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I thought I knew what the phrase “double standard” meant.  I thought that a double standard referred to the uneven or unfair application of a rule or set of rules that were intended to apply to all members of a group but were instead adjusted for some members based on non-material factors, such as race or gender.  

According to Lori Flynn, a Catholic school teacher at Queen of Peace High School in New Jersey, I must not understand the meaning of a double standard.  If she’s correct, it would not be the first time that a Catholic school teacher confused me.

You see, the girls at Queen of Peace have been requested to take a “no cursing” pledge, while the similarly situated boy classmates have not been asked to take the same pledge.  Instead, the boys were asked only to refrain from cussing when the girls were nearby.  At least we know chivalry lives in New Jersey.  The weaker sex has sensitive ears in need of extra protection from boys’ filthy mouths, and this school is happy to add this additional security measure. 

When asked about the pledge by a local newspaper reporter, Lori Flynn said that this was not an example of a double standard.

For Flynn, I believe she does not see this as a double standard because boys and girls are not the same in the eyes of the church.  While in some respects her point cannot be disputed, I cannot understand why one group has cursing privileges and one does not.  To be fair, I have no doubt that neither the boys nor the girls may curse out loud in Brother Benivegna’s pre-calculus class, and the restrictions against taking the Lord’s name in vain, as outlined in Commandment #2, remain in force for both genders.  At Queen of Peace, the threat of eternal damnation for violation of these rules is probably the second worse outcome for these students.  I hear Brother Benivegna runs a strict detention.

This uneven application of the no cursing pledge requirement may have a Biblical root.  As we all know from our reading, it was Eve who could not be trusted to obey a simple rule, and it was upon learning of her original sin that Adam uttered that gateway expression, “You are such an idiot.”  From that phrase, it’s a short trip to a profanity-laced tirade, and the message from the Word is clear –women are to blame.  Had Eve taken a pledge first…no wait, she did.  OK, bad example.

Regardless of this possible theological explanation, I still think the pledge for girls but not boys represents a double standard.  I was sentenced to 12 years of a Catholic school education.  I am pretty sure that this no cursing pledge situation is a text book example of a double standard.   The boys are not being held to the same standard as the girls for only one reason – the ownership of a penis.  I have to wonder what other lessons I may have missed in school.

Flynn says school officials want “ladies to act like ladies.” Brother Larry Lavallee, the school's principal, told the newspapers that girls have the foulest language.  Since Brother Larry no doubt has empirical evidence that the girls’ language is objectively more offensive and vulgar than the boys’ language, he has plausible deniability that he is part of any double standardizing.  He’s done the research.  Treating boys and girls differently when it comes to language is part of the natural order.  No one likes a girl with a potty mouth, but a boy who can inject a well-time F-bomb into a sports argument, well, he’s colorful and confident. 

The saddest part of the story could be that vow of obedience being taken by most of the girls.  According to the story, many girls said they would try to follow the pledge, even though they believe it should apply to all students.  What ever happened to civil disobedience?  Did they not learn anything from Martin Luther or Henry David Thoreau?  They shouldn’t just sit back and take it.  Perhaps some brave girl should tack up The 96 Words You Should Never Use on Television on the schoolhouse doors.  That ought to get someone’s attention on the double standard being applied at Queen of Peace.   

The teachers are hopeful that the example of clean language coming from the girls will rub off on the boys, while the boys are mostly hoping that clean or foul-mouthed girls would rub up against them over time.  Secretly the boys are praying for a “double standard” after school, but I guess I no longer know what standard is.

Pledge or no pledge, boys will be boys, as this final sentence from the article makes abundantly clear:

A pitcher on the school's baseball team, Recarte said he can't help shouting obscenities from the mound after mishaps, and he didn't expect that to change.

“Mishaps” happen, right, Recarte?

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