1.19.2013

jimmy carter: we are calling on all leaders to challenge misogyny

Jimmy Carter:
This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities. . . .

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

. . . The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.
Read this excellent (short) piece here.

2 comments:

johngoldfine said...

I'd argue based on the results that the point of a lot of religious practice and theology is exactly what it has produced: the systematic denial of dignity and fairness to women.

So, Carter's words, fine and necessary as they are, are a voice crying in the wilderness. The problem is not that for some strange reason religious zealots have fastened on a few passages and used them to rationalize subjugating women and that therefore a change of heart among leaders might lead to some profound re-examination of religious attitudes toward women. Such a change in religious and political leaders would be nice, but I doubt it having a great effect, though it would be a fine start: the Pope ordaining his first women priests; the acceptance of women as Mormon priests; the Pope's new encyclical promoting birth control and jettisoning Humanae Vitae; the head of the Southern Baptist convention abandoning Biblical inerrancy....

I don't see that happening.

Women are where they are--better than where they were--because (and to the extent that) our society has become secular, urban, industrial, cosmopolitan, and because god is dead, and because we are humanists and relativists and believers in science.

In school I deal every day with subjugated women, but it is not religion that subjugates them or that rationalizes subjugating them. What subjugates them is a deep macho culture--utterly godless, as it happens--that snares both men and women in a web of miserable expectations about gender relationships.

laura k said...

I find Carter's statement very powerful, regardless of what the future holds. If a group of older and deeply religious men can see the world this way, we have taken a big step forward. We don't have to wait for utopia in order to celebrate progress.

Women are where they are--better than where they were--because (and to the extent that) our society has become secular, urban, industrial, cosmopolitan, and because god is dead, and because we are humanists and relativists and believers in science.

I disagree. Women are where they are because women have fought to be there. There is no natural process of urbanization and secularization that brings liberation along for the ride, in my view.

About your school, I'm sure Jimmy Carter would agree that religion is not the only instrument of oppression, merely the one he is writing about in this statement.