“The nun who kissed Elvis”

Upon reading through the news, I came over a very interesting article from
foxnews.com. It was about an old famous actress named Dolores Hart. She was once envied by many girls in the 50’s because she got the opportunity to kiss the infamous Elvis Presley in “Loving You“. The reason for this beauty is
being brought back into the lime light is because she has appeared in a documentary that was nominated year, 50 years after her hit with Elvis. What’s
different about this actress these days you may ask? Well, these days the actress has a different wardrobe. At age 24, Hart became a Roman Catholic nun. Because this story is very unique and interesting, the documentary “God Is the Bigger Elvis” was created. So Hart has a lot of women, especially from the ’50s asking “Why in the world would you go from being an actress to a nun?”

When reading this article, I was personally surprised by Hart’s choice. She was a
successful actress, participating in 16 other movies. And the typical lifestyle
of a Hollywood actress isn’t the same as a nun…so where is the connection? It
is actually thanks to her movie “Where the Boys Are” that she found her lifelong calling. The movie was placed in Rome and there she met Pope John XXIII and decided where to take her life from there. Since she took her vows in 1970, she has been a dedicated Roman Catholic nun.

In our society, the label nun usually has people think of a couple different
things: Catholic, black and white outfits (habits), and strict. Personally, I
have never met a nun in my life; however, my father went to Catholic school and his teachers were nuns. Naturally, the only stories I have ever heard of nuns deals with my dad being drug around by his ear and being hit with rulers and wooden spoons. “They see us as simple, acquiescent people. We are not given credit for being women of decision and administrators of every kind of institution.” (Smith, 1994) Sr. Irene Fugazy talks about the stereotypes she and her sisters face on a regular basis thanks to media and the general public. “One sore spot was the notion that all nuns wear habits.”(Smith, 1994). According to Religious Orders, nuns’ outfits can range from formal wear of blazers to jeans or denim skirts. In the campaign in this article, the sisters were working on breaking the stereotypes by even going as far to emphasize in advertisements about the work they do, such as “educators, social workers, health care professionals or administrators” (Smith, 1994). The idea of all this generalizing is known as “stereotyping”. A stereotype is taking an idea, like nuns, and placing them all into one category and generalizing them. An example of this is back where my dad is from. There was one school when he was growing up and it was a Catholic school with solely nuns as the faculty and staff. The nuns my dad dealt with constantly had to punish him because he was always doing something wrong. Because of this, my dad has a natural resentment towards nuns and tells negative stories about them. Because my siblings and I only hear negative things about nuns from him, and don’t have a personal interaction with them, we also generalize all nuns and stereotype them by saying they’re mean and strict.

Although media has made movies such as Sister Act, “when a member of the
clergy appears on screen, it’s usually in the form of a stereotype.” (Martin, 1994). However, today, as previously stated, nuns aren’t the media’s ideal sisters in habits and aren’t phased by media. In fact, in Rome in 2008, there was an online beauty pageant for nuns. Reverend Antonio Rungi wanted to “fight the stereotype that nuns are all old and dour….External beauty is gift from God, and we mustn’t hide it.” (Canadian Press, 2008) Although there was criticism from other Catholic organizations, it is actions like these
that need to be put into place to help nuns fight stereotypes.

 

Resources:

www.foxnews.com

Google Images

www.imbd.com

Italian priest to organize `beauty contest’ for nuns: `Miss Sister 2008′. (n.d). Canadian Press, The,

Martin, J. (1994). Penguins, regular guys, idiots and whoopi goldberg.   Amberica, 170,

Smith,C. (1994). Sisters fight old stereotypes, cultivate spanking new image. National Catholic Reporter, 30(16), 24.

 

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One Response to “The nun who kissed Elvis”

  1. Jess Trafton says:

    Hillary,

    Great post! However, while I agree with your initial premise that nuns are just as affected by stereotypes as other women in society, why does the solution to countering these stereotypes have to be the implementation of other stereotypes and repressive gender norms? A beauty pageant for nuns may combat the idea they are all “old and dour” but it also reinforces the idea that women are things to be looked at, not things to function; it also reinforces the idea that physical appearance is something women focus on more then men. Have there been any similar pageants for priests? I also find it interesting that it is a male official of the church, Reverend Antonio Rungi, who chose to focus on “external beauty” to combat the stereotyping of nuns, while the women themselves chose to combat both physically and mentally. You commented sisters not only combated the stereotype of dress but ‘went as far as’ emphasizing their work as “educators, social workers, health care professionals [and] administrators” in advertisements. I put ‘went as far as’ in quotations because, while it is clear you support the efforts being made to combat stereotypes of nuns, phrases like ‘went as far as,’ with its hint of radicalism inherent in the nuns actions, reveal how embedded these stereotypes are in our society that we believe it is a far reaching thing for nuns to use media to advocate for themselves.

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