Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The 'elephant in the room' is sexism in religion - maybe it is time to sue God!

There really is no getting away from it but that does not stop people trying - the 'elephant in the room' of religion is sexism.

In this day and age, in the developed world at least, you can take a Golf Club or sporting organisation to court on grounds of sexism -  and win the right to play the course or become a member, so why not with religion?

Probably because most women who belong to male dominated patriarchal religions believe the propaganda and are just as brainwashed as the men. Although I have heard that such challenges have been made in the US and lost because, given the religiosity in general of the society and it's Christian affiliations in particular, the courts are going to be full of people who seriously do believe that women are inferior to men when it comes to religious systems and they should be kept in their place.

But that doesn't apply in quite the same way in places like Britain, Australia or even European countries where fundamentalist christianity does not hold sway as it does in the US. So has any woman or group of women sued the church or a religion for sexism?  Although there is no doubt that the system, still patriarchal in many respects, gives religion an 'out' by setting it apart from the norm! How convenient!

Not that the internet is the absolute in sources, far from it, but I could find no trace. If you can sue a corporation for sexism then why not sue a religion which is also a corporation, merely a theological one - the profit being souls not dollars. Although even as I say that I remind myself that of course it is not true. Religions are very profitable corporations and one supposes that the men running the religious corporation prefer to keep their hands on the 'purse strings', so maybe it is about profit as much as power.

Perhaps one reason why religious systems maintain their sexist attitudes is that it is women who traditionally make up the bulk of congregations and who, with equality, would dominate the church. So at core, just male fear, yet again at the source of female subjugation. But if men won't free women, and they won't, then women have to do it for themselves just as they did to get the vote and to get a decent education. But they too are part of the system and in that tragedy for women, the war they must fight is against those they love - fathers, brothers, lovers, husbands - the men in their life.

As an article in the New Stateman titled, Is God Sexist? says:

Yet because of the prevailing public etiquette that says that religious views should be accorded particular respect, and sometimes legal privilege, religion as such is rarely called out for its underlying sexism. Instead culture gets the blame, or fundamentalism, or a patriarchal conspiracy that we are assured has taken control of religion and twisted it for its own ends.

Of course there are progressive, even feminist, voices within all the major religions. But they are historically novel and even today may struggle to get their voices heard. It's unlikely to be a coincidence that the most religiously observant countries tend to be those with the worst records when it comes to the position of women. Or that the most secular and least religious countries score highest in terms of sexual equality.

Religion, almost every religion, views women primarily in terms of their biological function. It takes certain commonplace observations and draws from them conclusions that have restricted women's participation in society and undermined their sense of themselves.

Because women bear children, religion has moralised about their sexual behaviour far more than about that of men, promoting in many societies a cult of chastity that has made women prisoners of their fathers and husbands. Because women tend to be smaller and less physically powerful than men, religion teaches them to defer to their husbands as they would to God ("for the husband is head of his wife as Christ is of the Church", as St Paul once charmingly put it).

Because heterosexual men enjoy looking at women's bodies religion castigates sexually confident women as harlots and temptresses, inculcates shame and teaches that "modesty" requires covering up any part of themselves that some passing man might possibly find attractive.


But my Mormon friend had me pondering yet again and still, this gross injustice 'nailed on the patriarchal cross of bigotry' in all religions, to lesser and greater degrees, as he responded to my last post with something which looked like agreement, but was in fact not. It is this circling of the subject which I find so interesting and I can only assume that intelligent, decent, informed, educated and thoroughly decent people, as he appears to be, have to refuse to look at the 'elephant in the room' in order to maintain their sanity and some substance of defence.

I mean there is no way in this modern world that you can defend discrimination against people on the basis of gender - absolutely no way. There is no defence, except they would argue, theological dogma, which of course is no real defence in any true court of law, nor any defence to a rational mind. And so it goes.

He said:

Just want to share with you part of a message to the priesthood of the church by Elder Richard G. Scott which seems to indicate that he largely agrees with you!
The purpose of priesthood authority is to give, to serve, to lift, to inspire—not to exercise unrighteous control or force. In some cultures, tradition places a man in a role to dominate, control, and regulate all family affairs. That is not the way of the Lord. In some places the wife is almost owned by her husband, as if she were another of his personal possessions. That is a cruel, unproductive, mistaken vision of marriage encouraged by Lucifer that every priesthood holder must reject. It is founded on the false premise that a man is somehow superior to a woman. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The scriptures confirm that Father in Heaven saved His greatest, most splendid, supreme creation, woman, to the end. Only after all else was completed was woman created. Only then was the work pronounced complete and good.

And I replied:
As I touched upon in the last post, these comments, while appearing 'positive' are highly sexist, but I can appreciate that is not how you see them.

And that is because to try to say woman is the greatest, supreme etc., creation is discriminatory to men but it is also disingenous because you know and everyone else knows that the church denies roles to women because of their gender and that the church is run by men. Based on no more than a God-given distribution of hormones and a variation on the theme of body parts - although all males begin as females and simply develop physical differences because of hormones - women are denied positions and powers in your religion and many others.

There is no justice in that and it could not be defended in any court of law in any truly enlightened country. Perhaps it could in the US which is sourced in such Christian religiosity that courts are stacked with people who hold to such views but it could not be upheld in any court in any other developed nation.

You can no longer deny, even in the US, a job to a woman because of her gender - the last bastion of this outdated view is religion. If you cannot deny a job in the secular world to someone because of their sex then you should not be able to deny a job to anyone anywhere because of their sex.

It is also patronising to anyone who believes in equality. Women don't want to be supreme, splendid, greatest etc., they simply want their rights - and that is to be seen as and treated as absolute equals on every count - no exceptions ever.

There is nothing done in less developed countries, cultures, religions or systems to women which has not been done by all in the past - at least during the patriarchal age. The only difference is that what we call the modern world has become enlightened enough to realise that men and women are and should be treated as, absolute equals. There is no doubt we still have a way to go given that women in many developed nations still get paid less for the same job, but the acceptance of the justice of gender equality is pretty much a given even if we still have to fight the 'glass ceiling' which patriarchy still tries to hold in place.

The exceptions to this view remain only in those countries, cultures, religions, systems which have not yet developed enough (for a variety of reasons) to allow them to 'see' the justice in gender equality, or, even if they see it, to have the wisdom and courage, to change their religion, culture, system etc., so that gender equality is a part of it.

And if it is Lucifer (something in which I don't believe - I think and feel that human beings are more than capable of demonstrating evil (ignorance) and creating evil in this world) - who is responsible for the false idea of marriage then why is it not also Lucifer who is responsible for the clearly false idea that women are not equal to men in this material world - this being the reason they are denied their rights within the Mormon religious system and many other religious systems.

I mean if Lucifer can be instrumental in one wrong then why not in another? And I suspect that even as you support your church you are enlightened and intelligent enough to know in your heart that discrimination against anyone based on gender, race or creed is well, quite simply wrong. There is no reason why women cannot or should not be able to take on any role in the Mormon Church - as they do for instance in the Anglican Church (without the wrath of God smiting all involved) - because we all know in this enlightened age that women are just as intelligent, just as capable, just as strong and just as suitable as men are. And vice-versa.

I also dislike the patronising attitude which people often take to men as caregivers. Men are just as good at looking after babies, children, homes, doing the cooking, the ironing, the gift-wrapping, the tending the sick etc., as women are. Just as there is nothing a man can do that a woman cannot, so, beyond bearing children and giving birth, there is nothing a woman can do that a man cannot. This is accepted as reality in the developed world at least.

There is no job that a woman cannot do and vice-versa, there is no job which is now denied to a man because of his gender - at least in the non-religious world. The limiting of women in religion is an anachronism in the modern world and one which will end in time - for the sake of all religions, if they wish to have relevance to modern women and if they wish to hold up their heads as defenders of justice and human rights - the sooner the better.

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