Religion and Women

Read Nicholas Kristof’s opinion piece in today’s New York Times

Published: January 9, 2010

Religions derive their power and popularity in part from the ethical compass they offer. So why do so many faiths help perpetuate something that most of us regard as profoundly unethical: the oppression of women?

It is not that warlords in Congo cite Scripture to justify their mass rapes (although the last warlord I met there called himself a pastor and wore a button reading “rebels for Christ”). It’s not that brides are burned in India as part of a Hindu ritual. And there’s no verse in the Koran that instructs Afghan thugs to throw acid in the faces of girls who dare to go to school.

Yet these kinds of abuses — along with more banal injustices, like slapping a girlfriend or paying women less for their work — arise out of a social context in which women are, often, second-class citizens. That’s a context that religions have helped shape, and not pushed hard to change.

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The more extreme the religion the greater the misogyny.  Homophobia and transphobia are really really just another facet of misogyny.

Religion started as a method of gaining power by certain individuals claiming special knowledge.  Hence women’s original sin was eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

Lucifer’s sin was thinking he was equal.

Religion uses an invisible tyrant in the sky with the ultimate spy system, one Stasi would have been proud of and the threat of eternal punishment to keep people obediant to the priest class.

No gods, no masters.

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More Thoughts Regarding Mary Daly

It has been just about 40 years since Robin Morgan published her original rant titled “Good-Bye to all That”.  I recently reread it and recalled all the reasons why I didn’t reject everything  I was into to embrace that version of radical feminism.

In that rant she demanded that we reject all sorts of hip artists who were challenging a wide variety of repressive mores that shackled both women and men.  I was involved with Weatherman and other hard core radicals in opposition to the war in Vietnam.

I was a part of the alternative culture.

A couple of years ago I reread The Feminine Mystique and discovered that Betty Friedan put down this one young woman who rejected the mystique by becoming part of the Beat Movement.

There seemed to be something very privileged about the feminist movement of the early 1970s with so many leaders from the Seven Sisters private universities.   There was a sort of academic detachment.

Yet women, myself included found aspects of feminism that did touch our lives.  Even if it was the equal pay for equal or even work requiring the same levels of skill.  Control over our own lives.

As early as 1974 when Jane Alpert wrote “Mother Right” there was the start of s schism between women who were fighting for rights and equality, and those women whose idea of feminism seemed to simply impose another set of strict rules of behavior.  Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

The right to say no is meaningless if one does not have the right to say yes.  The feminist policing of personal style as well as conduct was odious to many.

The snotty use of “politically correct” did not come from the right wing initially but rather from women who were fed up with having to obey a party line or face criticism.

The phrase, “feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice” may not have killed second wave feminism but it was deeply harmful.

I was involved with the Women’s Building in Los Angeles.  I took classes there.  I watched as the whole Wicca/New Age stuff replaced the idea of working for serious political change.

I was a photographer.  I would have liked to earn a living at it.  The women artists I met  at the Women’s Building wound up taking classes about finding the goddess within.

I took classes on money hoping to learn how to apply for grants from places like the NEA.  Instead the classes taught me about self-affirmations.

Mary Daly wove this fantasy and at the same time was a major force in the separatist movement that was about disengagement from society and the formation of these cult like collectives.

It sometimes seems at though the real feminists left things like “women’s studies” for Law School, Medicine, Art School etc.

Add in Dworkin and Mackinnon along with a few others touted as leading voices.  Tell women they have been brainwashed by male supremacist socialization and that instead they should give their lives over to a cult and you have a prescription for the destruction of a movement.

While Daly and others described themselves as radical feminists they had little in common with the real radical feminists of the late 1960s and 70s because rather than working for societal change they buried themselves in increasingly alienated fields of academic endeavor where all outside criticism was denounced.

While this isolating in a cult never resulted in the self destruction of say a People’s Temple (Jim Jones) it did help turn feminism into something to be ridiculed.

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