Thank you for writing this and articulating the situation so clearly. I have been having the repeated experience lately of engaging in conversation with people who are apparently unable to perceive this situation or who refuse to believe it, and reading this post was a breath of fresh air in that regard.
That said, I wish things were different, such that this post wasn't needed at all, but I agree 100% with your closing sentence.
I wish things were different, too. But they aren't, and the sooner we recognize it and deal with reality, the better.
2012-04-13 06:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you --
I was just talking with my boss yesterday about the War on Women. She said she really hasn't seen evidence of it so I dug up a few links last night and sent them to her. She did admit that because we live in a very liberal area (WA state) she doesn't really see a lot of what goes on-and she is not on the internet very much. So I think I opened her eyes a little bit with the few links I did dig up.
I will be linking her to this post and your previous post. They will blow her eyes wide open.
That last sentence? Sums everything up perfectly. Because it isn't just about abortion or birth control. It's about turning women back into second class citizens. Putting them firmly back under the control of men. Dependent on men for everything. And we cannot-and must not-let that happen.
They're also doing tricks to disenfranchise the poor and anyone of color with their little bureaucratic tricks to shut people out of their voting rights (the false claim of widespread voter fraud, for instance) and also the immigration laws in places like Georgia and Arizona. I figure they plan on shoving a lot of kids of color from flunking out of school directly into prison, where privatizing prisons allows contractors to make lots of money off the free labor.
Privileging older white racist males explains a lot of these behaviors (I think I followed a link from daily Kos that explained that one as financial ideas originating from racism and sexism and idealizing their own status back in the Fifties), but from a demographics point of view it requires those men to drink the Kool-Aid that they'll be part of the Oligarchy. No, they'd get to carry out the orders, and we can see in places in the Middle East where that leads. They'd have to crush student rebellions and the Occupy movement and find every excuse to arrest people and attack them as dissenters, and hey, even if they spiral down into Syria's kind of mess, the Assad Regime got at least 30-40 years of sucking the public coffers.
The idea that bugs me about all of this is that it requires long-term planning to carry it off, but in that same long-range time frame, it impoverishes the entire society. It's not just "rob the commons, nobody will notice" it's destroying capitol resources to develop resources and respond to emergencies. Shrinking the middle class down to prison guards and security goons means the rest of the people who used to have money no longer have enough beans to buy all those widgets that used to get sold at the superstores. No salary, no widgets, no stores, no real estate commissions, just lots and lots of slums. Oh sure, lots of drugs, lots of burglaries to support habits, and overall, declining resources.
Why would you want to shut down all those value-adding businesses?
They may hold the contradictory thought that their methods won't actually be effective. They think there's plenty of middle class to go round, just like there used to be plenty of trees and plenty more gold-bearing rock, so much endless supply nobody ought to plan for shortages. They claim they're just shearing the sheep a bit, but hey, this is not factual. These attempts are seriously reducing entire towns out here in California (and let's not even talk rust belt towns like Detroit) to foreclosure mills. What bank makes any money out of empty neighborhoods?
This is why, when it comes to improving productivity, I don't the GOP actually can find its collective ass with both hands. I don't think they know where the profit is. Also, IMHO, the faux-Libertarian Tea-Partyers who don't want national government or even regional governments can't be serious about the extent of their demands. They yammer about the Dems developing a tottering overburden of taxes, so *none* of it should exist. Or perhaps they won't pay but everyone else has to. Well, if all the rest of us are living in cardboard shacks on rice handouts as in the favelas of Brazil, who's going to pay for fire crews and police and maintaining dams and river levies and responding to emergencies?
Yes, really. I see a lot of homeless people in this town, we have the honor of being 6th worst in the entire country for foreclosure rates. (Thank you, Schwartzenegger and Bush.) Hey, let's make it even worse! There's places in Africa and Southeast Asia that look like that. North Korea comes to mind.
Where's the market profit in *any* of it?
Yes, and I will get to the GOP war on the civil rights of other citizens in a later post.
Thank you! You always have such great sources of info, different from what I've been seeing, and it always help to have other eyes on the same problem coming from other perspectives. Your comments below about RNs taught by religious schools and about how you judge the stages of the pregnancy in MODERN TIMES. It seriously makes me wonder if any of them were even around while their wives were going through that stuff.
Tell your boss to watch FoxNews and its commentators talking about women if she still thinks she "hasn't seen evidence of it."
I read this getting angrier and angrier. Rape is a heinous crime, and sorry but when it comes to abortion, that is a woman's right to decide, no man has rights over my body, thank you! The problem is, these narrow-minded bigots deny science, the rights of anyone but themselves to pronounce on any aspect of life, and are trying to force everyone to their view of religion - one must ask, have they ever read the bible properly? Oh, I'm so angry I can hardly write coherently. I'm sitting here, full of vengeful thoughts, bu thtat won't help. Even in the UK there are idiots like these men and a few women who 'let the side down' with their echoing of such nonsense. thank you Elizabeth for setting it out so well, you're damned right, it is war and women must win.
Elizabeth, the link about the AZ law sounds really bad until you read the comments - especially those from RNs - and find out that the medical profession has always defined weeks of pregnancy from date of last menstrual period. The law overall IS bad, but the lowering from 24 to 20 weeks is more to the point.
ETA: Please don't take this as disapproval of the overall rant. I am totally with you, but hate seeing 'facts' wrong.
Edited at 2012-04-13 12:12 pm (UTC)
There are different ways of timing pregnancy--and RNs are not the best source (too many RNs now are coming out of religiously conservative schools and are vehemently anti-choice. It's shocking what some young RNs believe)
The medical profession has not "always" defined weeks of pregnancy by first day of last menstrual period...dating has changed as the understanding of pregnancy itself has changed. Dating from onset of previous period has two major defects, making it an imprecise measure of gestational progress. First, some women who are pregnant bleed in an apparent period at the time of implantation (or for other reasons, at about the time of what would be a normal period for them.) They may not realize they are pregnant until they miss their next period--by which time they're farther along than one would think (something that will be detected by bioassays and other measurements in a physician's office.) For another, women with irregular ovulation vary greatly in the intervals between ovulations--and thus menstrual periods. For a long time (until bioassays) ovulation could not be determined, so "X weeks from last menstrual period" was all anyone had to go on. Now the date of ovulation can be determined, and since pregnancy cannot occur until after ovulation, no pregnancy can exist until then.
In the '70s and '80s, forward-thinking physicians were moving to stage pregnancy from conception, not from the date of the previous period, precisely because of the uncertainties built into that approach, and the need (when monitoring problem pregnancies) to determine the fetus's exact stage of maturity when pre-term delivery became necessary. In dealing with both infertility cases and these pregnancies requiring early delivery, the date of ovulation was critical. (The only text I have around is Williams' Obstetrics, 18th ed., 1989. It mentioned several ways of staging pregnancy and why one may be more useful in a given situation than another.) Religious conservatives (in and out of the medical profession) do not care about any of that--they just want to prevent abortions.
Arizona's intent is to make abortion as illegal as possible at this time--with a goal of ending all abortion later. Counting the fetal age from the first day of the previous period shortens the allowable period for legal abortion--which is further shortened by a) allowing doctors to lie to pregnant women about anything that might lead a woman to want an abortion (maybe she won't find out until it's too late) and b) the requirement for her to make repeated visits to satisfy legal requirements for ultrasound and counseling. Worse, defining pregnancy as existing from the first day of the previous period allows a side attack on contraception.
No interference with a woman's right to the autonomy of her own body is acceptable...but using medical tradition--from an age when there was no alternative--as an excuse for staging pregnancy based on a previous non-pregnant status--is particularly counterfactual.
Forcing a woman to continue an unwanted pregnancy is slavery--forced labor, for the good of another, without recompense--in its most literal, most intimate, most invasive form.
There are two reasons people might not recognize that. 1) Women's work (and blood, and sweat, and tears) doesn't count, and how can it be enslavement if no work is involved? 2) They have a circuit crossed in their brains and enforcing sexual purity on women feels like morality to them. The latter case is regrettable: they didn't ask to have that circuit crossed and they can't help it; the feelings from that circuit are real and urgent; but they still can't be permitted to act on those feelings because that would be unfair and harmful to their victims. Sort of like pedophiles that way.
2012-04-17 03:43 am (UTC)
(From Elizabeth Dowling) Some people confuse their own biology with their religion. That is creating an idol of the mind. (And forgive me, but I am a religious person.)
In the case of women, we have to listen to our biology, but it does not always cooperate. The pituitary sends GNRh signals back and forth, and all of it is in a cycle. If listening to biology, the worst a woman will do is to believe that sex has something to do with raising children for a long time. At best, a woman knows better than to think that the roller-coaster could be equated with God.
In the case of men, there is almost a lingam-worship among some, and I am not referring to Shiva worshipers, but some of the men who are afraid that women will develop the ability of the cuttle-fish to choose which sperm actually will allow reproduction. They confuse their own will to survive and survive in their children with God's will. You can tell it is about male biology and not about saving the human race or worshiping God, because as soon as a woman gives birth, the same men with that view will cut off funds to feed and educate those children, not obeying God's rules about feeding the poor. (My husband is not one of those men, thank God.)
But I'll get more personal. There is a new devil in the mix called pollution: plastics, organic compounds mixed with chlorine (poly-vinyl chlorides and dioxin), and even radiation and heavy metals. This can be in trace amounts: the amount of dioxin that can cause reproductive problems in women (and the "teeny weenies" in boy babies) is in parts per billion. This pollution causes millions of women to have various reproductive problems: irregular periods, constant periods, early menses, endometriosis which is the uterus lining in other places such as the abdomen, scarring, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fibriods, polyps, tumors, cancers, etc.
My daughter and I have had endometriosis on the bladder, bowel, scarring that creates webs between abdominal organs, constant pain, and my daughter carried my grandson to term 9 months with a perforated uterus caused by deeply invasive endometriosis, putting her life at risk. She had such deep endometriosis on her bladder that they were afraid of a fistula between bladder and uterus. She was not married when she had her son, but she was afraid that her chances to ever have children would be gone soon.
I have been told that I complain too much. Years ago, I thought that 1 to 10 pain scale was a joke, so I created a description of each stage based on my own experience. It turned out that it matched the actual description; yes, I've been to 10 with endometriosis; it can hurt more than a wisdom tooth extraction, without painkillers. (We don't want to get women hooked on drugs, do we?)
But who pollutes? Who spills benzene in the Gulf of Mexico, or refuses to clean up? Or takes mountaintops off or creates slag heaps with heavy metals, or fracks with unknown chemicals? Aren't these the same people who blame the women who are victims? They say, don't talk about that icky reproductive stuff in public; not only do we not want to fund any research into women's diseases, but it might cause us to change our policies regarding pollution. (Of course, there are still those "teeny weenies," who is going to marry those boys later? We don't want to talk about how delicate is the human race, and how dangerous those policies are for every human.)
Did I mention that my daughter and I have had hysterectomies to try to stop some of the pain after several laparoscopies each... but for both of us, the endometriosis has come back even without the presence of the uterus (and that is all-too common)?
The Republicans are something very scary, because they twist medical facts.
P.S.: Two links about bad laws and policies concerning women:
first, an article about women who are murdered and the kind of bad reporting that causes everybody to ignore the problem. http://truth-out.org/news/item/8168-murder-of-a-nobody
second, women who are raped in the military are discharged with a "personality disorder" and forced to pay back any signing bonus. http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/14/health/military-sexual-assaults-personality-disorder/index.html?hpt=hp_bn12
Thank you for a lucid assesment of the situation. I'm in the UK, but we usually get whatever is going on politically in the States, just a little later and forewarned is forearmed.
I cannot conceive that people actually still think in this manner, let alone honestly believe it to be true. Barbaric, ignorant, bigoted nonsense.
It blows my mind that they can get away with these kind of remarks and still keep their job as a 'representative' of people.
You sometimes wish these goons would be required to stand in an operating room when a dead fetus is being removed. I have it from someone whose child died before the Caeserian that the assisting nurse ran out before she quite spewed in the OR.
Almost a third of first pregnancies used to miscarry in the day before abortions but after the pill. Normally. No abuse involved. It's ridiculous to assume women are thwarting these pregnancies. Paranoid white men say stupid stuff like "If you grant that an ectopic pregnancy is grounds for abortion, there will immediately be a huge rash of ectopic pregnancies." Morons. An ectopic pregnancy has one outcome, untreated -- violent infection and death. So these men that want to dictate a total ban on abortion are asking to be accomplices to murder. this makes them happy. It also tells the rest of us just what they are: Taliban.
Very well said. I sometimes think of this as a war between the educated and the ignorant, but I know that's simplistic. The hold rabid ideologies can have on the marginally intelligent is just a fact. But the fact of this Republican bill factory's existence (I forget their name) suggests a kind of ideological price-fixing that is, at its heart, not only anti-woman, but anti-democratic.
I'm a white male, and grew up attending a Southern Baptist church. Born in 1970 and coming of age in the 80's, I missed the civil rights movement and have no memory of the Vietnam War or moon landings. I heard and learned of it in school and from family, much in the way you would have learned about the Great Depression, I suppose. Registered Republican, though I have voted for Democrats or Independents for president, when I believed they would be better. I submit all of this as background, and an attempt to identify myself "fully" per your request.
As the perceived target for your post -- if there is a concerted 'War on Women' I'm not seeing it, and I think I could if it existed. Are there small groups of ignorant kooks spouting nonsense both privately and in government office? Of course! Always have been, and will be for a long time to come. On any issue you can think of. One has only to watch the YouTube video of Rep Hank Johnson worrying about Guam tipping over to shudder and be afraid... So am I surprised that there are government officials that believe women can't become pregnant from a rape? A little, frankly, and saddened, though I can't believe any sizable number of people could believe that could be greater than those who worry about Guam capsizing from overpopulation, or that the moon landings were faked.
Neither should I be surprised that you would stand vigilantly defending the rights of women, fighting shadows of a conflict my generation grew up assuming had long since been won, a generation that only through books or cinema can imagine the US as it was then. My wife put me through grad school, and I put her through grad school. She works as a nurse practitioner for the VA, and is currently studying at Harvard while I work and watch the children. No one will be taking away her right to choose a career, or our daughter's, or their right to vote, or marry or not. I do not believe any of these issues truly divide us.
I suspect though, that the true divider is abortion. My neighbor across the street neglected to take her birth control regularly, became pregnant, and had an abortion. At least twice. The timing was inconvenient. A child's life in the balance vs a family's convenience. No doubt children can be unbelievably inconvenient, but to kill them for it is wrong. I know many disagree, and would say that a fetus is not a human but an animal or even less. Yes, there are many other reasons to have an abortion than convenience, and I do not wish to make light of them as they are extremely serious. And I would support those exceptions for at least rape and the mother's life, and likely more. But as the gnomes told Gird in your own book -- wherever there is an exception in the law, everyone will try to fit their circumstances into that exception. Who will judge? Here is the hardest part, I think, and the core of disagreement. I want to believe that at heart we want the same thing -- protection for women, mothers, and the children, born and unborn. But sharply dividing camps with posts such as these make it hard to have any meaningful dialogue.
LJ's 4300 word limit says my response is too long, so it will appear in two parts.
The target of my post is in fact the current Republican Party policy, because this is the party that wants to control the United States. A secondary target is anyone--and any organization or group, religious or otherwise--whose policies make life worse for women. That includes segments of several major religions and many subgroups, traditional cultures, all races, and elements in nearly all countries (maybe all, but I'm leaving a gate open.)
You say "if there is a concerted 'War on Women' I'm not seeing it, and I think I could if it existed." What ever gave you the idea you would see it--when it has been pointed out to you and you have not seen it? A) You're male, a white male, raised Southern Baptist. That's about the worst combination you could be to "see" what's sitting right in front of you where women's rights are concerned. You have no experience in being a woman--your freedom, your right to control your own body has never been threatened. If you think the changes the GOP wants will not impact your wife...I'm sorry, you're just not seeing the coming storm. B) "small groups of ignorant kooks spouting nonsense"??? Like for instance the chair of the RNC, Republican governors in Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, etc? Republican legislatures in those states? Statements by both US and state Republican legislators claiming things such as "money is more important to men" (as an excuse for opposing equal pay for equal work), "women who are raped can't get pregnant," "women should stay married to abusive spouses," "women who think they're raped should ask their doctors if maybe it wasn't rape after all," "women shouldn't work outside the home," etc.
This is not "a small bunch of kooks." This is a concerted effort by the entire Republican Party to push women back into the 1950s. A time when my mother could not legally buy a house or a car without a man's co-signature until she went to court to have herself declared "femme sole"--the only kind of woman allowed to make financial decisions on her own. A time when women were routinely told they should not even WANT to be doctors, lawyers, accountants, scientists, college professors...and when graduate schools for the professions routinely reserved 95% of places for men.
2012-04-20 12:31 am (UTC)
Re: Part I
What makes me think I could see it? I wouldn't be the first to feel the effects of a war on women of course, but that's not what I meant. I believe I could sense such an agenda for the same reason I can see a war against illegal immigrants, though I am not one. Or a war against the environment (one of the reasons I voted for Gore). Because any 'war' requires fundraising (regardless of whether Bush and Rumsfeld recognized that), and as a perceived member of their 'base' I get my fair share and then some of those insidious fundraising lettersj for PACs and candidates. You know, the ones that spin half-truths and out-of-context quotes into a web intended more to shock and deceive than enlighten. While they typically go directly into the recycle bin, I do read them now and again for laughs. This week was an attempt to make political hay out of the comment against Ann Romney. Still, forewarned is fore-armed, and I'll have your comments in mind as I read the inevitable cloud of crap that comes with the presidential elections this year.
What I'm not understanding at this point is why you don't "sense such an agenda" with the kind of GOP rhetoric about women (which has been increasing in vitriol since the 1992 election at least, when the first Bush first lady made her remarkably insensitive, inaccurate, and rude comments about women heads of household during the campaign in San Antonio) that's now become commonplace, with the 1100 pieces of legislation introduced across the country by GOP state and national legislators intending to curtail women's freedom, women's right to equal employment status, and women's access to health care. For some reason--though you say you see the war on immigrants--you don't seem to see any of this as evidence of a war on women. Many women do.
Now generally, when someone ignores that much evidence, it's for a reason. Guessing at the reason can lead to very wrong conclusions--but I do know that in churches my brothers-in-law attended, Southern Baptist churches, preachers specifically began putting more pressure on women being submissive, silent, "under the leadership of men," and against equal pay legislation, women's right to protest domestic violence (the woman should consider how she provoked her husband to violence), etc. I watched these church attitudes--from other denominations as well--impact women's health and welfare when I worked on the ambulance and in a rural clinic--and had friends who worked in the local rape crisis center. The GOP has gathered these anti-woman extremists into its fold because they can be manipulated easily and are a solid voting bloc.
"Now generally, when someone ignores that much evidence, it's for a reason. Guessing at the reason can lead to very wrong conclusions..."
You're at a disadvantage guessing, knowing almost nothing of me while I've read all but two or three of your books and am convinced that much of how and what you believe permeates their pages. Given that the original Paks trilogy is my favorite 'book' and that I am an avid reader, for some reason I wanted to see if we could genuinely share viewpoints on a volatile topic in contrast with today's damagingly divided partisan politics.
So why might I, from your perspective, be 'ignoring that much evidence.' Some possibilities are the quantity of the evidence, the quality of the evidence, the dissemination of the evidence, my social conditioning to be blind to the evidence, or even I suppose, my intentional disregard of the evidence in favor of subjugation of women.
Quantity of evidence. Your cited 1100 pieces of state and US legislation was disturbing and compelling, but I had no context for it. The website rollcall.com states that 14,000 pieces of legislation were introduced by the 110th Congress. If we very crudely extrapolate that same quantity to each of the state legislatures, that's 714,000 pieces of legislation introduced in just 2 years. Even if all of your 1100 pieces were submitted in that same 2-year span (unlikely), only 1 in 650 would be intended to harm women. A fraction that small could conceivably go unnoticed.
Quality of Evidence. Some (presumably a minority) of the reports of the 1100 pieces of legislation as anti-women may be twisted strongly for political effect. In an earlier post, for example, you claimed Sarah Palin (I am not a fan) required rape victims to pay for their own evidence kits. The facts as reported by a CNN investigation are murky -- the police chief of Wasilla, while Palin was mayor there, responded to budget cuts by the state by charging the kits to victims' health insurance. Palin probably should have known about it, but we don't know if she knew, much less proposed the charges. Contrast that with her reaction (on this morning's CNN website) to the disgraced Secret Service officer who then posted inappropriate comments: "This agent who was kind of ridiculous there in posting pictures and comments about checking someone out," Palin said. "Check this out, bodyguard. You're fired! And I hope his wife sends him to the doghouse."
Dissemination of the evidence. Other than your blog, how should I have found these 1100 pieces of legislation? The bulk of my online news comes from CNN, which is tilting left in recent years but is still the most balanced viewpoint I've found, with the possible exception of NPR. I subscribe to a national newspaper, a regional paper, and our small town weekly paper. I usually don't have time to read everything, but if the reporting of the 1100 legislation pieces are not in those sources I probably won't see it.
Social conditioning. I surmise that a sizable percentage of the 1100 submissions were intended to curtail abortions in circumstances other than rape or particularly dangerous conditions such as ectopic pregnancies. Those submittals I would view as defense of the helpless rather than see them as attacks on women. We both agree that God will judge.
Intentional disregard. Not true, though I can't think how to convince you otherwise. I'd have nothing to gain by making myself vulnerable on your blog for your audience to inviscerate.
There is a sharp dividing line, and it's folly not to say so. In a country with a diversity of beliefs, the only way to have peace to have a clear dividing line between what is legitimate, and what is illegitimate, intrusion of theology into politics. Otherwise you have religious war, or a theocracy crushing those who do not agree. Our founding fathers had experienced religious conflict and did not want more. They wanted religious freedom--so that Baptists could be Baptists, Anglicans could be Anglicans, Jews could be Jews, Catholics could be Catholics, and Quakers could be Quakers. NOT so that any one group or collaboration of groups could dominate the others. Every group would be constrained by the Constitution, but all groups could operate within the Constitution. A Catholic bishop could excommunicate someone for disobeying a papal command--but could not throw the person in jail. A Baptist congregation could set its own standards for its own congregation, and exclude someone who didn't follow the rules--but could not charge that person with a crime. That's how it was supposed to work.
Human nature being what it is, religious groups sought secular power. That's natural. Some restrained themselves, understanding that their freedom was contingent on not impinging on others' freedom. Others did not. What we have now in the GOP is a toxic mix of religious extremism on the one hand and unbridled political arrogance on the other.
Women's freedom to choose to have or not have a particular child is just the easiest of the related issues to attack...because women are still considered inferior, second-class citizens, by far too many. Don't believe it? Take a look: prominent GOP men can call women sluts and prostitutes for having a different opinion, can call women cows and sows. Not a tiny group of nutjobs: prominent men. GOP politicians have reversed laws giving women protection against domestic violence, against rape and mistreatment after rape, and are attempting--as they clearly say--to make both contraception and pregnancy termination impossible. They are willing to risk women's lives--even see them die--because "post-born" women are less important than the "pre-born."
You ask "Who will judge?" whether a given instance of contraception or pregnancy termination is Jesus tells you that: God will judge. God judges individuals...including on the basis of how much they try to control other people. Those opposing women's freedom have judged: they judged (against all history) that a fertilized egg was first a "child" and then a "person." They judge that women who say they've been raped are lying. They judge (incorrectly) that rape can't cause pregnancy. They judge harshly, and continuously, and if you read the Gospels, you will find out what God thinks of that.
In a society that is supposedly based on granting individuals as much freedom as possible--and the right to hold their own religious beliefs--it is unacceptable for religious people to force their beliefs on someone outside their religion. It is unacceptable for them to make anyone, for any reason, a second-class citizen--not because of race, not because of belief, not because of gender.
EVERY citizen has the right to the autonomy of her or his own body. That's the basic right without which others do not exist. You have a right to make decisions about your own body. Yours. Maybe your child's, when the child is too young to decide (but you'd better be right.) You do not have a right to make decisions about someone else's body without their consent.
There is no middle ground. Either women are full citizens, with full rights to their bodily integrity and autonomy, or they aren't. Yes, allowing women to make decisions about their bodies means some will make decisions you don't like. Even that you think (and I might think) are immoral. But I, unlike you and other Republicans, am willing to grant my fellow citizens the right to make their own mistakes in dealing with their bodies, and face God in their own time. God will judge. That's who should judge.
2012-04-17 08:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Part II
(From Elizabeth D.) Part I
Theology is very important in this discussion, and I want to go there, please forgive me.
I am a member of a patriarchal religion, a Christian church. I know that the habits of the religion tend to treat women as second-class citizens, and I fight those tendencies, but the theology is genderless. In Greek, the word "anthropos" is often translated "man," but means "human," man or woman. In early Christian religion, the forms of worship were modeled after Jewish tradition, but the theology never gave God a gender, except for Jesus (both fully God and fully man - not a hermaphrodite). Gender pronouns ("He" "His" etc.) are used to signify a personal sense, not an "it." In traditional icons, there is a rule against painting the Father in the Trinity. I know a Greek Priest who described incorrect paintings as the "old man, the kid, and chicken delight." One image I actually liked out of the Lord of the Rings movie was Elrond in ancient history looking exactly the same as we see him when we meet him in Rivendale: how would the Father look "old" when He is outside of time? In ancient icons, again, often the Son is depicted as old, the Ancient of Days, because where is the beginning of time when (even in "string theory") there is a pre-existing Condition that is ever-present? Some of the ideas of before time existed were given in sermons by St. Gregory Nazianzus and St. Basil. The very early St. Irenaeus of Lyons kept the theology simple.
But what is the purpose then of maintaining any of the patriarchal stuff at all? It is that the compassion of that vast, larger-than-universe God, allowed that "His size was held by a common manger Whose fist can contain the world." and "Born as man in mortal flesh not absent from heaven remaining in the Trinity." To live life as a human, one of the genders would have to be chosen. But this was the same Person who said He would gather together people as a hen would gather HER chicks, and who had no problem at all speaking and discussing theology with women, healing women, inviting women to dinner, accepting anointing from a woman.
Look for a discussion of pregnancy in the four Gospels. All that is mentioned is health of women, curing a woman with an issue of blood (bleeding continuously; I did that for years), and allowing women to sit and listen to the Word, and telling the (male) Apostles to take up their towels and SERVE those women who normally would be serving them. There is only balance and sanity, within the context of the time. There are also directions about treating the poor widows well, and giving food, clothing, water, and shelter to the poor. The widow who gives her "mite" is the greatest in the kingdom, because it is all she had. Do not divorce the older woman, because at that time, it would mean she would die of starvation; it was not meant as a command for a woman to stay with an abusive husband. Jesus discusses husbands with the woman at the well, but He is discussing the adherence to the first five books or Torah, and that it is too easy to be superficial in understanding; he does not reject that woman. People blame St. Paul, and he could be a bit egotistical, but he and the others encouraged women to have autonomy in the churches: Lydia, the seller of purple, for example.
But a new wrong theology has crept into some churches: males worshiping not the uncreated Father, but their own created maleness. How to tell? No support for children of poor and widows. Harsh judgment. Women with no choices in life. These men want their mothers, wives, and even sisters and girl children, to obey THEM, not God. That is the golden calf, folks; lightning bolts and huge sink-holes; stuff not to mess with. They want to take away the talents of women and bury them in the ground instead of increasing the creativity for the glory of God. They want to cut off the help for a woman who might be the mother of a Saint or a future President. And they want to be the center of the reality of these women; not God. No more women Saints for them. No Lydias or Catherines or Brigits or Elizabeths or Annes or Eugenias or Bernadettes...
When we moved to this small town, I was exposed for the first time to some denominations I'd never met before. I grew up around Southern Baptists (and have Southern Baptist inlaws), Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Maronite Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Episcopalians, and Conservative Jews. I was in and out of their houses; I knew the different rules in each; I had attended both Baptist and Methodist "vacation Bible schools" in the summers. (The Baptists' cushioned, theater-style seating and air conditioning shocked me: WE sat on uncushioned wooden pews in MY church and had little paper fans with Bible verses printed on them! The Methodists had proper pews, but also AC.) In high school became friends with two LDS girls (one still my friend, though distant and I don't write often enough) and was taken to several Mormon social functions.
But I had never run into women who were actually silenced by their church. One was a woman who had suffered considerable abuse, was extremely poor, and whose husband was allowed to stand up in church and condemn her, but she was not allowed to speak in church at all. Another was a woman who also homeschooled--but whose clothing, and that of her daughters, was required by the church to be both odd and drab. As people, we liked each other, but the differences were too great to bridge--she would feel guilty and I would feel frustrated by the things we could not discuss, mention, etc. And I wore jeans, not a long skirt, and any color I wanted to.
More worrying: my mother in law became a Baptist after being widowed, due to the kindness of those at the local Southern Baptist Church, and raised her sons in that denomination. She was well-educated, and she served in teh church for decades teaching Sunday School. In the mid-70s, she reported on a change in the church--a hardening of attitudes towards women, with much more talk about silence and obedience to husbands. One of her sons joined a church on the then-extreme end of this movement, and she went there while visiting him--and was shocked. That son began showing less respect for her (and us, but then he'd never respected us) and for his wife. It was all very painful, although R- and I amused ourselves with a scheme we didn't (of course) follow--of going to that church, and just when the preacher was fulminating about women and their need to be submissive, R- would stand up, grab my hand, and appear to "drag" me from the church, saying loudly "I won't have my wife listening to this [suitable epithet.]
But my mother-in-law's story of her visit to that church, and her son's attitude toward her and his wife (obvious in a family visit after that) made me aware back then that something was changing among Southern Baptists that I had not ever seen before.
2012-04-17 08:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Part II
(Elizabeth D., part II of my post)
Now on to personal experience. I've said before that I am a rape victim. It is an emotional situation as well as a physical one.
On the physical side: Recall the war in Serbia (I don't like to, because I am Orthodox Christian, and I got into heated discussions at that time about the situation with some of the Orthodox men that didn't realize that two wrongs don't make a right... it's obvious, but people can get really ugly in war). There were many women who were raped and got pregnant. That is always the case, and has nothing to do with what a woman "wants." A woman does not need any pleasure at all to conceive; if the cervix has any opening at all it is very probable that conception will occur. The woman's body will do what it is going to do, and ALWAYS, pregnancy can bring danger in the best of circumstances.
On the spiritual side: The desert fathers divided every writing and every activity into four parts: dividing historical (physical) and spiritual, and the spiritual into three parts: allegory, anagogy, and tropology. Dictionary definitions for these are vague: my source is St. John Cassian, a fifth century monk and later abbot, and not enough space here to quote the Conference with the desert father who explained it to him. In short: Allegory is parallels in life. Anagogy is either future or a grander divine setting. Tropology is interior, past, or penitential, what we would call psychological or emotional reasoning.
Men may not understand what it is about a woman's reproduction that might be spiritual. I can remember as a little girl being very glad to be a girl. Some of the differences are obvious: in the reproductive area men go out, and whatever they do is momentary, hence they only think about the fetus, not the resulting children that take years to nurture. Women take in, and internalize (and often blame themselves) what they receive. A developing fetus is different, but part of, a woman. If the fetus arrived there because of a crime, the very BEING of a woman is disrupted. I felt dirty ("out damned spot"... Shakespeare got it right) because there was no way to remove the invading sperm and whatever sexually transmitted disease he might have given me; it took a couple years to get up enough courage to get an AIDS test (and I was negative, very luckily). The whole lovely Snow White world comes apart, because the entire reason for feeling that it is good to be created as a woman is torn away: the world seems to be wiping its feet on a rape victim.
And my husband... I couldn't look at him for a few weeks. But I got counseling, and it helped a lot. He was also devastated too, because he hadn't been home to defend me. He is clergy, but he has never ever said the horrible things that these neocons have been saying, because he knows that they are spitting on God's creation. Eve was named Eve because she is the mother of all (see Genesis), not as an insult to EVERY human after her.
And there is a final issue for me: my husband has cancer, and I am so sad that one of the really good ones is ill. I can think of a few who might benefit by the humility and pain that my husband is going through right now; I don't wish them dead, just converted to the religion they pretend to be members of.
As Esther Friesner, my friend Ellen M-, and my friend R- have said from time to time, things would be different if I (or we, or any one of us) were Empress of the Universe. (Someone did send me a certificate declaring that I was, but it was apparently issued by an ineffective authority, because I guarantee that if I were Empress of the Universe, the food I eat would give me endless energy, not weight. My sinuses would be clog-free and pain-free, and I could run up my friend's stairs without the sound effects from my knees.) Anyway...I am, in a more mature stage of life, glad that I don't have that power...even though I often wish that a different set of people got cancer or renal failure or whatever cuts their lives short. But it's not my job to decide that.
2012-04-19 03:13 am (UTC)
Re: Part II
(From Elizabeth D.)
I don't wish to be empress, just to impress upon these people that they are not looking outward but in. (My dad was a punster when he still could talk.)
There are lots of links; this is a very comprehensive proof of the war on women: