By GRACE JENNINGS-EDQUIST
Rachel* is the mother of two daughters at a co-ed primary school in bayside Melbourne. Her daughters thought little of their friendships with boys in their class, or the boys they played tennis with every week.
But this month, the older of Rachel’s girls came home clutching her school newsletter, pointing to a full-page feature article and asking: “Does that mean I can’t have my friend over to play, mum?”
The feature article was called 15 Ways to Protect Your Marriage, published as part of St James Catholic Primary School newsletter. The intended audience was school mums, who were advised to “protect” their marriages by ridding themselves of male friends and spontaneously checking in on their husbands at work.
Rachel scanned the article, which was positioned on the final page of the Victorian school’s newsletter, and struggled for words before explaining to her daughter: “No, hon… Those are the olden days. This does not happen now. Men and women can be friends.”
Rachel is now seeking an apology from the school’s parish priest for the “sexist and misogynistic” article that was published on August 7.
The controversial article, which originally appeared on iMom Family First and was submitted to the newsletter by the school’s parish priest Father Gerard Johnson, lays out a series of rules. The rules state that women, as “the more communicative half of a marriage,” have a responsibility to guard against external threats to their wedded bliss.One of the article’s more memorable rules? Its requirement that women know their spouses’ co-workers.
The article implores women to “pop into” their husband’s offices to “take him lunch occasionally… just to be familiar with his world and spot trouble if it arrives.”
The article also bans ‘pornography’ — which it defines to include erotic fiction like the bestselling 50 Shades of Grey — and advocates for an ‘open-phone’ policy, arguing: “Both partners in a marriage should be completely comfortable with having their spouse look at any social media accounts, text messages, or other forms of communication.”
Rachel told Mamamia that the article had “caused an uproar” in the school community.
“The mums emailed separately (to complain) and then realised when we got talking that a lot of us had emailed,” Rachel said.
“Parents already feel let down by the Catholic Church by its inability to keep up with the times, but are now concerned that in 2014 our children are being educated in this sexist and misogynistic environment,” she said.
“Kids in Years One and Two are reading it. It’s just bonkers in our country, in this day and age.”