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Monday, November 13, 2017

Today's sins against women rooted in religion

"Oedipus at Colonos" by Jean-Baptist Hugues (Musee d'Orsay) 

     Religion fancies itself as manifesting the word of God.
     And with frequent evocation of morality, much soaring architecture and oft-inspiring music, it regularly does exactly that.
     However, a skeptical person — me for instance — gathering together all doctrines, could be forgiven for viewing orthodox religion as something else: an elaborate system to dominate women.
     Women get the short end of the stick in every major faith. The Judeo-Christian tradition certainly stumbles out of the blocks. No sooner is Eve crafted from Adam's rib — to give him a lackey, remember — than she gets mankind booted from the Garden of Eden, earning her painful childbirth and divinely ordained second-class citizenship forever ("And he shall rule over thee"). The starting gun to an endless series of indignities commencing with Genesis and rolling right up to Louis C.K.
     I won't take the time to outline the degradations served up by Islam, except to note that when Saudi Arabia allowed women to drive — in 2017 — it was considered a breakthrough. For all its spirituality, in Buddhism enlightenment is seen as something that doesn't happen to women.
     Thus, indignity over good Alabama Christians rushing to support Senate candidate Roy Moore after he was accused of molesting teenage girls seems naive, and makes me wonder: You are paying attention, right? Most Southern Republicans no doubt draw the line at exploiting teenage girls. But it also fits into the overall right-wing policy of scorning what real women actually want: equal pay, reproductive rights, health care, to not be treated as sexual playthings by any man who crosses their path. In their place is put what religion-addled men imagine women want, a second-class citizenship halfway to victimization. Sexual intimidation in this context isn't a lapse; it's baked into the system. Not a flaw, as the techies say, but a feature. Much of religion resembles the old-fashioned "virginity check" — an assault disguised as insistence on purity. It's no accident that one of Moore's defenders cited the story of Mary and Joseph as if it offered exoneration.

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  1. I am not going to deny that religion including Christianity has been used to downgrade women and justify all sorts of evil. And, yet, if we take the Bible seriously - it says that we are all one in Christ including male and female. In my eyes, this opens the door to a different understanding of equality between men and women which transcends the culture based restrictions upon women you find in the Bible.

    1. And in Buddhism, enlightenment is definitely seen as extending to men and women and there many examples of enlightened men and women, extending into the present day. No doubt sexism exists and can be ingrained into certain Buddhist traditions, but I can point to living enlightened women, except for the inconvenient tradition of "Spiritual modesty" likely leading to their shaking their head and gently remonstrating that they aren't in fact enlightened, oh no, far from it... but those of us striving wouldn't mind experiencing and living what that particular flavor of unenlightenment might be, so to speak.

  2. Religion certainly has a lot to do with it, but there are more atavistic reasons having to do with power and voice. In ancient times women, being physically weaker, sexually desirable and domestically useful, were prizes of war. It was unusual that they were given a voice in things the world considers important. As the first Earl of Chesterfield noted in one of his letters to his son, "A man of sense only trifles with them, as he does with a spritely and forward child, but he neither consults them about nor trusts them with serious matters."

    How much this has changed in just my lifetime is really quite remarkable. When I entered the work force I found quite a few women, but most were clerks or secretaries (do secretaries even exist anymore?) Girls who wanted a profession were told to become teachers or nurses. Enough have now attained prominence that we men must now pay attention. As James Thurber put it some years ago, women everywhere is advancing, men are giving way, the dog seems to be holding his own.


  3. In America today women younger than 16 are married off by the thousands with permission from their parents. Most often to adult men. This is legal.?Sexual slavery often of women under the age of consent is also common. When this crime is prosecuted it is often the womrn who are arrested and punished. Children are sexually abused both girls and boys. The numbers reach into the hundreds of thousands possibly Millions.
    While ancient religious beliefs may play into this it is our modern society that tolerates it and engages in these activities. When Women are raped they are stigmatized and victimized again by both Society and the judicial system.
    Women are routinely abused and sexually harassed in public both in the workplace and on the street. It is imperative upon us to speak out against these practices and behaviors. We must make it clear to our sons that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and that they should stand up against this type of behavior from their peers.
    How many routinely denigrate the Muslim religion for the way women are treated in their societies but we need to clean our own house.
    To ignore this abhorrent treatment of women and to discuss the Discrimination that occurs in hiring and pay instead is a terrible to service to the people who suffer the worst treatment in our society.
    Why it happens while having some bearing bearing on the victims Rings Hollow. Action must be taken to change these terrible circumstances. Again I raise a call to personal responsibility. All men must take it upon themselves to end this scourge

  4. I'm a (mostly) practicing Catholic, but I certainly don't deny that my church and many others have been a means to devalue and oppress women. I don't believe that most of them came into being for this purpose, but religion has certainly been a handy system to achieve that end. This dovetails with a theory I've long had about some religious leaders and practitioners, that religion is used as an excuse for some to do what they already want to (e.g., boss other people around, have sex with whomever they want to have sex with, accumulate power and wealth).

    That said, I guess I see religion as a possible factor in some cases of sexual misbehavior, but I don't think we can lay all the blame (maybe not even most) at the church door. I think it may be more due to selfishness and unwillingness* to control urges and desires.

    * NOT inability, BTW. I don't want to give these guys a pass by saying they just can't control themselves, because clearly they can. They're not whipping it out during business meetings or making advances to the wives of their bosses, they're doing these things with varying levels of discretion to women with less power then they have.

    I still like most of the men I know, though!

  5. As a Catholic, I see more and more participation of women in the Church, as altar servers, as lay ministers, as lectors, but not yet as priests or deacons. Sometimes I think that the main obstacle to women priests is the fear that they would take over absolutely and men would be excluded by attrition.


  6. It's easy to scapegoat any one religion on this topic, but I believe the subjugation of women to be a male response sightly linked to evolution. Why else do so many different religions and cultures treat women the same way...less than equal? It's only been one hundred years since we were allowed to vote, yet like with African Americans, the discrimination and repressive abuses have continued to this day. We can't even pass an ERA amendment or get equal pay, let alone religious tied themes like control of our own bodies.

    This current outcry is just a blip, carried by that demon: social media. What will result regarding change? Probably not much, another one step forward, preceded by two steps back, the loss of government supported birth control under Obamacare and the attempted elimination of Planned Parenthood.

  7. Is religion entirely the reason for the abuse waged of women? No. But does that mean we, especially those beholden to it, be let off the hook. No institution is held in higher, untouchable, stature than religion. Because of this stature, it's too often given a free pass and we design our society around injustices just because of originating in religion. The untouchable standing of religion is exactly why it needs to be held to higher standard and self-enforcement (including lay people) must ensure its actions set the tone of how we want our society to behave ... not be a rationalization for hideous misdeeds.


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