Feminism and religion – can they co – exist?

This article in Ravishly got me thinking about feminism and religion or spirituality. Many religions – especially Christianity and Islam have come under fire in recent decades over how people, especially the leaders, view and treat women. There is no doubt that there has  been – and still are women treated atrociously in the name of religion – the sex slavery carried out by ISIS in the Middle East is an obvious modern day example. Earlier this year, Herald Sun columnist, Rita Panahi, herself of Iranian – Muslim background – now proclaimed atheist, slammed the celebration of the “burkini” in the Olympics, arguing that it was a form of oppression, and women in Islamic countries had no choice but to wear such restrictive garments. When the French government tried to ban the burkini across the French beaches, it was met with a push back from some Muslims. Columnist for “The Conversation”, slammed it as “politically convenient”. 

 

Christians haven’t escaped criticism. The “purity movement” that dominated American Christianity in the 1990’s and in Australia, trickled in some churches in the way of books, speakers, etc, has received a backlash from Christians and non – Christians alike. Organisations like the American Congress of Obstetrics even went as far as saying that people who grow up in such a culture of shame and are extremely misinformed about their bodies and sexuality during their development suffer similar symptoms to child sexual abuse and incest victims.

Due to strict views to warped views on sexuality and gender, many religions, including Christianity, have failed to protect women from domestic violence and have failed to bring justice to sexual abuse victims. Yazidis in Iraq have also had to reevaluate their views on virginity and sexuality after a number of women have escaped being captured and sold into sex slavery by Islamic State. Over the centuries, issues like modesty, the role of women in public life, the role of women in churches, (i.e. the great Catholic and Anglican divide) and the role of women in marriage are all topics that have plagued the Christian community in the West in one way or the other. Sound oppressive? I’ll let you make up you’re own mind.

Feminism vs religion

Issues like the ones I mentioned above, and issues such as the rights of women in regards to abortion are the barriers between feminists and those who claim a certain faith – especially those who are practising a conservative branch of that faith. It makes anti – sex work advocate, Melinda Tankard – Reist so polarising. Some people claim she’s a feminist, but yet, is conservative and pro – life. There has been a hostility between feminists and people who practice a faith – something that Ravishly columnist, Christine Stoddard, strongly criticises:

All that being said, I cannot stand when people bash, dismiss, and generalize (sic) religion, with no understanding or appreciation for people of faith. It’s true that religion is not perfect and it’s true how some people misinterpret religion is vile- just look at the Westboro Baptist Church and ISIS. But how can you say that the Catholic Church’s charitable refugee relief isn’t necessary? The Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration and the Movement of Peoples is beautiful.

As I pointed out above, Christians in particular are Christians themselves are starting to speak up about rights of people regardless of gender and even arguing using Scripture itself. People are starting to hit back at the sexism that has been, quite frankly, quite prevalent in some Christian circles. I think this has particularly come about because of the increasing of exposure of sexual, emotional, spiritual and physical abuse that both men and women have suffered at the hands of religious leaders, other people in their church or even spouses. Both conservative and progressive Christians are starting to have a frank, overdue discussion about how both men and women are to be treated. It needs to keep going.

Since the invasion of northern Iraq by ISIS, the Yazidis, who like Christians, have long held a traditional, black – and – white view about sex, have had to reevaluate their beliefs, especially on virginity. The traditional Yazidi view saw women who had “lost their virginity”, (i.e. had ANY form of sex, including rape), stigmatised and shunned by society.

So, can you be a feminist and religious? Well, maybe it depends hon who you interpret your branch of faith and what you view feminism to mean. But to me, if you believe in a God that created the universe and everything in it, including people, it’d make sense to stand up for the rights and dignity of all people.

Do you practise a religion or spirituality and do you identify as a feminist?

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Why Don’t More Feminists Speak Against Atrocities Happening To Women and Girls In The Middle East?

Trigger Warning: This post deals with sexual abuse. Proceed with caution if this is triggering for you. 

Rape, torture, a young girl being executed by hanging for ‘adultery’ because she was a rape victim. These are realities that women face in the Middle East. No, I’m not talking about the Middle Ages. It’s been happening this year. Right now. Unfortunately, many feminist and most of the mainstream media have been silent on these issues, or have only. mentioned it once with no action, nothing.

There could be a number of reasons… no… excuses as to why everyone is usually silent. These may include, fear of causing offense to the Muslim communities, fear of violent retaliations against Muslinms, ignorance of what’s going on… people could probably make their own list. Yet, women suffer, Muslim, Christian and, on Iraq, Yazidi.

Pollitical correctness has gone too far. Sure, most people don’t want violent attacks to occur against people based on their race or faith. I get that. But what the likes of IS and other Islamic fundamentalists/ extremists continue to do to others, including women and children, is beyond barbaric and needs to be condemned.

Virginity, Sex and Misogyny

Trigger warning: rape, victim blaming, body shaming. Proceed with caution if any of these are triggering for you. If needed, please get help.

I’ve written in the past in my blog Asexuality In A Sexual World about my problems with the over – emphasis on the importance of both sex and virginity, especially when most of the pressure falls on women. In many conservative/ Fundamentalist cultures, the virginity of a woman is mandated until she gets married. Any woman who doesn’t remain a virgin is at risk of being shunned from her family and community, or even worse, executed.

This emphasis crosses cultural boundaries. The emphasis is present in both Fundamentalist Christianity and Fundamentallist Islam. Most recently, Indonesia has come under scrutiny when Sharia Law police demanded “virginity tests” on women before they can enter school (or I have heard also, before women can join the police force). This is meant to a humiliating procedure which basically includes insertion of a hand inside the woman… I’m guessing to see if the hymen is intact. Anyone with any medical knowledge would know that the state of the hymen is not a strong indicator of virginal status. Hymens can change and stretch (rarely snap or rupture), in sport, inserting tampons, horse riding or a number of other activities. With these activities, the hymen is likely to stretch to the point when a woman does have sexual intercourse, it isn’t guaranteed that she’ll bleed.

But has anybody actually wondered why this was ever an issue? Firstly, in many ancient cultures, a future husband of a woman was to pay a dowry (I think it was usually a monetary payment), to the father of the would – be bride. If she was a virgin, the dowry that the would – be husband offered was higher. Also, women were mandated to be monogamous to a single man so that he knew who his children were (pre – DNA testing obviously). So that would be why, even in cultures (including Islamic sects) that do permit polygamy, it’s always polygny ofr men (multiple wives) and rarely polyandry (woman with multiple husbands, although not completely unheard of, it’s definitely not as heard of).

 

So, come forward about a thousand or so years, and, let’s be perfectly honest, the issue is still there. Most recently, as I wrote before, Iran came under fire after a young woman was executed for “adultery”, when in reality, she’d been a victim of rape. There is still shame for rape victims in some Fundamentalist Chrisitan circles as well.

This needs to stop! HOnestly, it just does! Nobody should be put through any of what I noted up above. The plain misogyny (in these cases) is sickening. Why can’t people just stick to facts (about women’s bodies, etc) rather than myth and stop the humiliation and the evil treatment of women? It should just stop. Period! It’s 2015 for goodness sake!