In a post I wrote on 9/25/09, I asked the question, “Can You Be Religious and Feminist?” For those of you who are wondering how I’m going to reconcile my feminist principles with my new-found religion, I want to point out that it isn’t only Islam which presents problems for a feminist. Paul (who wrote much of the New Testament) is considered by many to have been a misogynist. The Judeo-Christian tradition blames Eve for the entrance of sin into the world. A common Jewish prayer thanks God for not making the male petitioner a woman. Men and women in many religions are separated socially and in religious services, presumably because women are too much of a distraction. And these are the milder problems that the major religions have made for women.
In other words, religions have almost always given women a raw deal. But in most cases, the religion itself, when stripped down to its basics, is not anti-female at all. So why do so many religions come down so hard on women?
The answer seems obvious to me: because the men are usually in charge of interpreting what God supposedly means when it comes to women. They assume the role of God in telling women what they are allowed and not allowed to do. When studying the texts of any religion, people are often surprised at the disconnect between what the texts say and what men teach. Or the way that certain portions which are relatively minor are elevated to major status when they’re taken out of context.
For example, in Islam, both men and women are instructed to dress modestly, but somehow women became the ones who are focused on in this area. In Christianity, the husband is instructed to take care of his wife the way Christ takes care of his Bride, the Church. That’s a pretty tall order. So why are real life wives so shabbily treated in much of the Christian world?
This is why I am a feminist. Because I believe that it is not religion, law, politics, medicine, government, science or business per se that relegates women to the background. It is the men who want to create and hold onto positions of power in each of these fields who make the rules that push women out. The only areas in which women have traditionally had any degree of power are those in which men have no interest: taking care of and teaching young children, cleaning up after others and doing the day-to-day caretaker work for the sick and the elderly. And even then it is often men who own and run the companies they work for.
I don’t mean that men are the bad guys. They are born to take charge and once they have that power, they don’t want to let it go. Not only that, but women can be just as abusive when they have power (think “The Devil Wears Prada). Who is it that said that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”? Human beings like to become like God. The problem is, when they do, they are much more tyrannical than God would ever be. They scheme and fight to hold onto their status. But God doesn’t have to do such things, by the mere fact that He is God.
Even if you don’t believe in God, it’s not hard to recognize the human impulse to make gods among us. It’s as if we’re comfortable putting anyone and anything up on the pedestal except for the real God. So we worship celebrities and material possessions and fame and money and sometimes our ministers or priests or rabbis or imams or scholars. And instead of listening to and following the real God, we enslave ourselves to the gods we have made.
Freeing women automatically frees all of us from our human masters. As a society’s women go, so goes the society. That’s why it’s so important to see women with the unbiased eye of God and to treat them accordingly. God made all of us and has a vested interest in seeing all of us exercise our free will. When women are all caught up in obeying humans, they lose their potential to be Children of God.