What is it with religion and women?
When I was young one golden social rule was never discuss religion, politics or sex. I’ll leave sex alone for today.
EDIT: Nothing is this article is mean to detract from the many wonderful men worldwide who not only accept women as their equals but who fight for women’s rights. I am looking at the historical reasons why particular demographics persist in trying to subjugate women, specifically in the western world. Yes, I agree, the Middle East has quite a way to go yet.
If the USA election raised one question in my mind (actually, it raised several but one an article is sufficient) it was the weird relationship religions have with women. As regular readers know, I am an atheist and to be perfectly honest some of the things I have discovered recently have really shocked me. How can women accept being treated like second-class citizens by religion? Maybe I am just particularly uneducated in this respect but so many events of late have highlighted the question I had to look at it. This isn’t about whether a God, or several Gods, exist or not – this is about women and their role in society which in many ways is driven by their role in the prevailing religion of any given culture.
The lesson from the USA election may well be religions better get over themselves and start treating women like equal members of the human species. I read somewhere yesterday there must be Republicans wishing they’d never given women the vote and I’m quite sure there are! Just like many in the south think slaves should never have been freed.
Notice how one women is depicted as lovely, “calm” and nurturing and the other is depicted as a raving lunatic? Very impressive marketing, don’t you think?
The ratio of males to females at birth is in favour of males: 107 baby boys to every 100 baby girls globally. By the time the age range of 65+ is reached the women outnumber the men in most countries of the world, even those countries where there is still a high maternal mortality rate. Even China, a country where boy babies are considered eminently preferable, ends up with more women than men.
Of course, between birth and the age of 65 the ratio gradually moves. What is more, women vote! As the Republicans in the USA found out this week. The biggest surprise for me? Women got spoken about as a minority group in just about every media article I read. Women are not a minority, folks!
So we have established the numbers. Now to religion. We already know the Christian religion is just as much about keeping women in their place (ironing, according to our Australian Leader of the Opposition) as the Muslim religion. For a personal experience of Fundamentalist Christianity, read Jane Douglas. Difference? Christians don’t wear the hajib.
Jane highlights some Christian “laws”. Here are two:
1 Corinthians 14:34 (KJV)
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.
1 Timothy 5:14 (KJV)
I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
How on earth Christians get off criticising Islam about the treatment of women is beyond me. It might come as a surprise to many to learn that most Islamic men treat their women very lovingly, even if they are not considered “equal” in the sense we westerners view equality. Aisha Ashraf writes about Islam very well, visit her and perhaps start with The truth about Islam. Change will come in time, as it did for Christianity.
What about the Jews, another fairly major religion. I discovered today the Jewish religion is very similar to Islam. Makes sense, they originate from the same part of the world. Culture has more to do with religious laws that anything any God ever said! Try the Laws of Tznius on for size!
B: Covering Hair in Privacy:
The Poskim (Rabbi’s that rule the law) write that even the lenient opinion (that maintains that she is not halachically (by law) duty-bound to cover her hair in privacy) agrees that it is an extremely praiseworthy act of tznius (modesty) for a woman to cover her hair whenever possible (even in bed). This is evident from the story of Kimchis. This outstanding woman merited having seen seven sons who all became Kohanim Gedolim (High Priests). When asked what notable deed she did to merit having such children she answered, “The ceiling beams of my house never saw the hair of my head”. This means that even when she wished to comb her hair she would avoid exposing the hair properly. For example, she combed the hair under a shawl that lay loosely over her head.
This was an outstanding act of tznius (modesty) and it is certainly not expected of the average woman. However, the basic idea of reducing the exposure of hair to the absolute minimum is certainly to be learned from Kimchis, and her ways should be emulated as far as possible. As a result of this particular form oftznius (modesty), a woman could merit to have children who are great Talmidei Chachamim (Torah Scholars).
On another site I discovered this:
There are several levels to the observance of physical and personal modesty (tznius) according to Orthodox Judaism as derived from various sources in halakha.
- A person should not dwell on lascivious or immoral thoughts.
- Avert one’s eyes from staring at members of the opposite sex, particularly at any part of the female anatomy.
- Keep most of one’s body clothed in respectable clothing.
- Avoid the company of uncouth individuals and where an atmosphere of levity and depravity prevails.
- Avoid looking at pictures or scenes that will be sexually arousing.
- Avoid touching a person of the opposite sex (i.e. by observing negiah), especially in a lingering arousing manner (shaking hands very quickly in greeting between sexes is a point of dispute, and depends on customs).
- Do not wear the clothing of a member of the opposite sex.
- Do not erotically hug (chibuk) or kiss (nishuk) your spouse unless you are in private and when the wife is definitely not a niddah (“menstruant”).
Jewish or Muslim? I wouldn’t be able to tell unless I knew the site I was on. Never mind, I’m an atheist, I can’t be expected to know. Wrong – I should know. ALL women should know this stuff.
I came to this via a report of people in Israel assaulting a female fire fighter. Why on earth would people do that, I wondered. Check the comments on this article - it seems Jewish women are not supposed to do anything that can be done by a man. As far as I am aware, the only thing men can’t do is get pregnant and give birth, so I guess if I were Jewish I wouldn’t even have to wash dishes or cook. Much less iron clothes! Hmm… starting to sound like a damn fine religion, actually!
Back to Christianity. These right-wing Republicans had a field day trying to control women’s bodies based on their religious beliefs. What bothered me even more was the women who brought into this nonsense, Tweeting about the slut pill as if the contraceptive pill was the devil’s own drug.
Now, of course, it is difficult to know what these people object to more, the contraceptive pill or the HPV vaccine Gardasil! That is also being referred to as “the slut pill” by those against subsidised medicine or for the control of women’s bodies – take your pick. Matthew Herper of Forbes looks at some of the arguments in his article Here Is How We Know Gardasil Has Not Killed 100 People.
This isn’t just about damn voting – this is about whether women live or die, have 10 children or one. This is not a game and men must not make these decisions “on our behalf”. Religion must not make these decisions on our behalf.
Why do religions teach the suppression of women? I’d suggest the reason is primarily economic, except male control seems to pre-date economies and perhaps even religions.
The bigger question, surely, is why did women ever accept this nonsense? We are the life-givers. As the old saying goes, you can always be sure who your mother is….. I just do not understand how women became enslaved in the first place. Because we are physically weaker, generally? That just doesn’t make sense as there are many other ways of defending ourselves against oppression. The more I consider the religious treatment of women, the more I am astounded ANY woman believes in any religion at all. Would African-Americans vote to bring back slavery?
What initially inspired men to subjugate women? Control over the production of the next generation? Ties back into economics, really. I also recognise that many, in those days of yore, believed they were doing the right and noble thing. We learn over time. We change. Clearly not all of us though. This just in:
As you can see, I asked for links. A Jezebel.com article is the best summation available.
Whatever the history, which despite the many, many dissertations out there, we will probably never truly understand the WHY, those times are over.
I once read The Shore of Women by Pamela Sargent. Damn good book and I would not be at all surprised if one day something similar comes to pass on Earth!
Having expelled men from their vast walled cities to a lower-class wilderness, the women in this futuristic universe dictate policy and chart the future through control of scientific and technological advances. Among their laws are the rules for reproductive engagement, an act now viewed as a means of procreation rather than an act of love.
EDIT December 31, 2012 In light of the horrific rape in India, where the victim was disemboweled, I am adding the following article to illustrate in 2012 nothing has changed.
“Is it possible that all of a sudden men have gone mad? We don’t believe it,” Corsi wrote.
“The fact is that women are increasingly provocative, they become arrogant, they believe themselves to be self-sufficient and end up exacerbating the situation,” he said.
“Children are abandoned to their own devices, homes are dirty, meals are cold or fast food, clothes are filthy,” he added.
Women the world over should be OUTRAGED at such nonsence. http://teamoyeniyi.com/2012/12/29/i-am-woman-hear-me-roar/
Related on this site:
- Why I am an atheist
- I am an atheist and we don’t live in Kentucky
- Equality does not mean sameness
- Sexism, misogyny, gender equality: what does it all mean?
- What the hell is happening to the “civilised” western world?
- Independent Woman “Syndrome” – Another attack on women?
Related , other sources:
- Collected Quotes about Women (this is a MUST read! – archiearchive.wordpress.com)
- A World Untouched by Civilization (jewishpress.com)
- A Buddhist and a Hindu Walk into the Congress… (religiondispatches.org)
- A new way to look at “Religion gives people comfort, so don’t take it away” (pretentiousape.wordpress.com)
- Romney feels the scorn of women’s fury (theage.com)