Thursday, March 08, 2012

IWD: Politics and Religion

International Women’s Day this year – today – comes at a time when in the US, many of us feel that women’s rights, women’s health, women’s role, (add any you think missing) are under attack. From the right. From the Republican Party, which has been taken over by the radical right. From the Radical Right which has been heavily influenced by radical right Christian groups such as the Christian Dominionists , who teach that the United States must become a theocratic Christian nation that does not allow for other religious points of view. This is what underlies what some have recently called the "war on women." In the last few months we have seen this underlying cause made clear by several events in rapid succession. The Komen Fund attempted to defund breast exams – crucial to diagnosing breast cancer when it is still highly treatable. The organization under this threat was Planned Parenthood, which gives health care to women, regardless of ability to pay. Planned Parenthood has been under constant attack, pressure, call it what you want, for a number of years by organizations and politicians of the Christian right using the LIE that Planned Parenthood receives federal funds for abortions. For this non-reason, they have persisted in trying (and sometimes succeeding) in closing down Planned Parenthood facilities. A very vocal protest, backed up by the threat of withholding of funds from Komen and the monetary support of Planned Parenthood, forced the Komen Fund to backtrack on their threat. Then the Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill requiring women seeking abortions to have medically unnecessary penetrative trans-vaginal untrasound exams even if they didn't consent. Public outcry prevented Gov. McDonnell from signing the bill, but he substituted and signed a form of the bill that still requires an unnecessary medical procedure (top of the belly ultrasound). In the last month or so it has become evident that abortion is not the only objection the radical right politicians/religionists have to women’s health care. They’re against contraception too! Many of us scratched our heads over this, and then rubbed our eyes trying to wake up from a nightmare that would seem to be set in the 19th century or earlier. What’s going on? Why is this happening? Is there a tie-in with jobs being hard-to-find?  Do men resent the fact that they have to compete with women for jobs? Do they feel this "problem" would be solved if only they could keep the women "barefoot and pregnant" once more? But since that would mean less money for the household, perhaps there is a deeper, less obvious reason?

To me, in patriarchy, politics and religion are always mixed. Sometimes (like now) we are (made) conscious of it by events that make the mix obvious, and sometimes it lies just "below the radar" or in the subconscious motivations of our thoughts and actions. As I noted in a post a few years ago  many people deny or do not understand the relationship of politics and religion in history and because of this do not understand how it is interwoven at present. This despite the situation described in the previous paragraph, and despite ongoing examples in other parts of the world.  These "many people" include people who consider themselves feminists, some of whom teach courses related to women in our universities. We may have made a little progress, because there was a time when what I’ll term exclusively-political feminists did not see the relevance of religion at all. Today, in most cases in the US, both exclusively-political feminists and spiritual feminists (a term I use for spiritual-political feminists) usually agree on the problem: that Abrahamic religions have played a role in establishing patriarchal rule and their doctrines continue to play a part in sustaining misogyny. What we disagree on is the solution. Exclusively-political feminists tend to either count themselves out of any organized religion and/or be atheists. I think this is a valid personal position. But, as we can see today, it doesn’t solve the problem for our culture, for our society as a whole. Spiritual feminists point out that religion isn’t going away. It would seem that some sort of belief system that causes us to seek connection with a spiritual source or dimension is hard-wired into us. So, while atheism may be a valid path for an individual, it doesn’t solve the problem of an oppressive religious system that validates oppression of women (along with validating oppression of other groups seen as "other"). The solution that spiritual feminists see as essential is replacing oppressive religions with religions of equality. For many of us this means having female deity as primary, or imaging the divine (0r sacred) as female. We find historical justification for this, described by now in many books, and verified it seems almost daily by new archeological finds. These finds verify that in almost every culture, the divine was worshipped in female form. Anthropologists find these societies more egalitarian than those that developed after the Goddess religions were destroyed. It is no accident that Christian Dominionists attack what they call the "Queen of Heaven," which includes all female representations of the divine, including the Christian Virgin Mary. And it has become clear that what the radical right is after is the re-subjugation of women.

This International Women’s Day, in this Women’s History Month, is a good time to remind ourselves and remind others, of the importance of rooting out the misogyny in politics by going to its roots, misogyny in religion.

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At Friday, March 09, 2012 8:39:00 AM, Blogger kerrdelune said...

Bravo, bravo, bravo!


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Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.