In response to:
The High Wire of Faith from the May 20, 1971 issue
To the Editors:
Robert M. Adams’s sexist remarks about St. Teresa’s raptures [NYR, May 20] precipitated a little “consciousness raising” in me which I will share with you. Why is it that no one can write about Teresa without going into a sniggering rap about “Virgin ladies with strong religious persuasions…[encountering] angelic forms who poke them dreadfully with sharp instruments and hurt them delightfully”?
Adams, like most of the people who feel compelled to deride the Saint in this way, is not seriously probing the “Freudian” underpinnings of Teresa’s experiences. It seems more likely that her greatness affronts his male self-esteem and makes him want to put her in her place: she is, after all, a mere woman, just another sex object that any man can ridicule and surpass.
If there were any real point to be made by slandering Teresa in this way, Saint John of the Cross would be a target, too, which is not the case. Why is it that every passing reference to Saint John doesn’t contain some sly comment hinting that he was a repressed homosexual “queen”? I mean, what is all this stuff in his poetry about the “amada” being wounded in the “neck” (tch! tch!) by the “Amado“?
I am not attacking Adams, particularly, since the remarks I am criticizing are not original with him. I am simply pointing out that this way of talking about Teresa reveals a great deal about the sexist attitudes toward women of the people who write this way while contributing little or nothing to our understanding of the Saint.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
September 23, 1971