Sexism and Religion: An Unholy Link

Last week the first female bishop in England was consecrated at York Minister Cathedral: Libby Lane, now Bishop of Stockport. Yay us right? Except – there are already female bishops in multiple countries: New Zealand, United States, South Africa, Iceland, Sweden and Germany. England was playing catch up. During the service a man, later identified to be Rev Paul Williamson, actually shouted out in response to the Archbishop of York’s question of whether Libby Lane should be made a bishop, saying ‘No. It’s not in the Bible.’

I hate to be pedantic but there are a lot of things that are not in the Bible – the acceptance of gay marriage and the prevention of slavery for instance. Just because they are, in some form, in the Bible does not make them right in any manner. I mean, was that genuinely his only argument? The degradation of women is in the Bible so we must continue to practice it all these 2,000 years later? That is how they justified slavery in 19th Century America. They also speak of stoning people in the Bible should we begin this practice again?

I don’t know when people are going to appreciate that women are continually set-aside as second-class citizens, and I don’t understand why it doesn’t seem to really bother anybody – especially women. The first female bishop not appearing in England until 2015 – and this is supposed to be a celebration? It’s disgusting in my opinion that it has took this long and that nobody is more surprised or shocked about this staggering lapse on behalf female rights.

Take the photograph of the leaders of the world united in Paris for the Je Suis Charlie Rally a few weeks ago: an ultra-orthodox newspaper in Israel actually edited Angela Merkel out of the image they printed, along with the Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. They were the only three women present – in a sea of men – and they were removed.

The Guardian said that the paper’s editor Binyamin Lipkin gave the explanation that the newspaper was a family publication with an intended audience that included children and he couldn’t include the women, as they would tarnish the memory of those martyrs killed in the attacks.

Seriously?

And The Guardian seemingly accepted this explanation without implication of critical comment, which I saw or was aware of. There was no statement of incredulity as would accompany a comment by a UKIP member that the hurricanes in America were penance as a result of gay marriage. Note – I am implying they would be quick to criticise UKIP not that they would be quick to stand up for LGBT rights.

That women – who are apparently meant for the home and to make children – are not a welcome sight on the front page of a paper designed for the family sounds ridiculous to me. That they should even be so offensive as to devastate the memory of the victims simply by being present in the march astounds me beyond belief. How could three women that are non-orthodox non-Jewish world leaders, and who were fully clothed up to wrists and ankles in trousers and thick coats, be this offensive?

I do not profess to have any knowledge of Orthodox Judaism – maybe they should have had their hair covered to have been acceptable – but these women are international world leaders. The religion of another culture cannot be imposed onto them with the self-editing of the editor of a small newspaper in Israel. If it was solely due to a lack of hair-covering why not digitally impose a scarf, as Iran did when showing on their front pages the female Iranian National, Maryam Mirzakhani, who was the first woman to win the American Field medal for math?

And, never-mind their removal (which I did actually see mentioned in the papers), but why wasn’t more indignation evident regarding the editor’s reasoning behind their removal? I dread to imagine that editor’s reaction to the ordination of Libby Lane.

What is truly ironic is that the printing of the photograph in itself was an endorsement of the rights that the leaders were marching for – secularism and the right to democratic freedom of speech. Yet they removed the women in a blatant show of anti-democratic anti-secular anti-freedom-of-print behaviour! And no one really minded! To be honest, the fact that there were only three women to start with should have been a red flag to the incredulous lack of female representation in powerful positions around the world.

The hand of women is continuously pushed downwards by the world and no one stands up and shouts about it. We just accept it.

Of course 80% of the worlds political elite, leaders, monarchs, religious leaders, religious figures, deities, and politicians should be men. Why is that anything strange?

And why should we change it? In fact, we should emulate Rev Paul Williamson and put actual effort into preventing this status quo from changing!

Religion is one of the main justifications of the prevention of women from succeeding in all of the above-mentioned roles. Misogyny is something that unites nearly all religions across the world. For instance, we stand in the West under the umbrella of Christianity and turn our noses at Islam, which we see as incredibly backwards regarding the treatment of women. But in fact, The Koran encourages female independence, intelligence, and strength. The veil is rarely mentioned as a form of covering, and definitely not in the suffocating-of-women context that we regard it now. (See Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s book ‘Refusing the Veil’ for a very good argument on this subject, and my source of said information.) It is the Bible that more clearly advocates inequality.

Basically, all religious texts are subject to our lowly human interpretation, none create inequality simply by existing: we have created this inequality and we alone must fix it. Religion has a place in the world – for sure – but it must be set aside when we are considering the creation of a just, fair and equal society for all genders.

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2 responses to “Sexism and Religion: An Unholy Link

  1. Pingback: Why Can’t I be Seen AND Heard? | Abstractions of Life·

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