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Cultural Clash in Pictures
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Masculinity & Extravagance in the
Modern Female Profile

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Three old ladies eating and laughing in extravagant hats

One of the most deplorable effects of the naturalist, egalitarian and sensual neo-paganism of our times is the degradation of old age by "embellishing" it with the appearances of youth and "enhancing" the woman by inducing her to flaunt a boldness of manners and air of independence appropriate for men.

Above, we have three modern ladies who have already reached a mature age... a very mature age. On the whole there is something masculine about them – a robustness, a self-sufficiency, an air of imposing one's own will, a prominent self-assertion in public, a boisterous and triumphant elation – that somehow reminds one of the swollen-headed self-made man who became rich and likes to show off... the more the better.

Besides their masculine air, it is also remarkable that they are acting like "girls." While a certain gravity of semblance and manners is the proper backdrop for old age, even in hours of leisure, these ladies laugh, eat and enjoy themselves with the garrulity of three young women. The showy patterns of their dresses and, especially, the festive extravagance of their hats, accentuate this impression.

Rustic painting of an elderly grandmother sewing the clothes of a child

How charming were the elderly of past decades! How much confidence and respect they inspired!

The lady in the center wears on her head an elaborate jumbled assemblage of flowers and ribbons in bright colors. The one on the left adorns her hair with a fanciful fountain of cascading plumes meant to flutter at the least gust of wind or the slightest nod of the head.

In brief, everything in this picture that can be called typically modern tends to despoil old age of its authentic charms and replace it with false attractions.

How charming were the elderly of past decades! How much confidence and respect they inspired! They did not disguise their physical decrepitude nor were they ashamed of it, for they knew that, over and beyond the outward appearance of a natural deterioration, the moral apogee of a soul that had reached the fullness of its worth shone forth.

Who feels inclined to help the self-sufficient "girls" of our picture? Who can imagine receiving from them a counsel full of gravity, deliberation and serene elevation of soul?

Oh, those affable, solicitous and wise counselors who in each family were the grandfather and grandmother of old, having no other pleasures but those of the home nor any other concerns except for meditating on life and preparing for death!


Black and White photograph of a Carmelite efrectory with two veiled nuns
To meditate on life, its vanities and its illusions, to prepare for death: Old age is par excellence the season fit for this. However, the Church advises that all her children should do so. Thus, she forms souls in such a way that even the youth should not have the airs of frivolous nonchalance and boundless exuberance, but rather should radiate the virtues that normally reach their apex in old age.

An extreme example and, therefore, a sublime one of what the Church accomplishes in this respect is the recollection, austerity, the incommensurable elevation of sights to which the Rule invites the Carmelites, even the young ones.

Our picture at left presents a partial view of the Carmelite refectory on Via Borgo Vado in Rome. The nuns who appear in it have their faces covered by veils due to the presence of the photographer. They are about to start their meal. The reader is in the pulpit to entertain the community with a pious reading.

Blason de Charlemagne
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Catolicismo n. 95 - November 1958
Posted April 9, 2018

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