Making the Future Female

Posts tagged “gender

DIFFERENT BUT EQUAL Revisited


THE MOST DIVERSE CLASSES ARE THE BEST

Me with some colleagues from around the world

Gender and International Human Rights MA 

Coventry University 2010


WHAT SEX IS YOUR BRAIN?


These tests are really fascinating – please have a go and post your scores. I got 57 in each test. 🙂



The Bollocks Book for Girls and Boys!


How Culture and Religion Oppress Women


Gender, religion and culture are foundational social constructs but are not of the same level. Culture is a macroscopic concept and therefore subsumes religion. As Raday argues, religion derives from culture and gender derives from both religion and culture. (2005: 665) The word “culture” has been described as “one of the two or three most complicated in the English language” (Williams 1988: 87). Kuper described it as “a way of talking about collective identities” (cited in Raday: 666) and can be seen as falling into two categories, ideological – what is thought, valued and believed and social culture – how people are organised. Culture is not always homogenous and does not necessarily map one-to-one with the constitutional realm, but can have three levels. There can be ethnic and religious differences, dominant and minority subcultures, a diversity of institutional cultures and an international culture of human rights all overlapping within the same national boundaries (Raday 2005: 667). Raday distinguishes between dynamic and static forms of culture, arguing traditional and patriarchal forms tend to resist change and moves towards gender equality (2005: 667)

Religion is an aspect of culture, although it is not easy to define the concept. Most arguments regarding the clash of gender equality and religion have been made against the three main monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism (Raday 2005: 668). Monotheistic religions are characterised by canonical texts, authoritative interpretations of doctrine and a formal structure to preserve the organisational ideology and ethical rules regulating the lives of individuals and communities. But these fundamental texts are in conflict with the basis of human rights legislation and doctrine which is humancentric and focuses on the responsibility and autonomy of the individual (Raday 2005: 669). Human rights doctrine works from the premise that the state has ultimate authority but must be prevented from abusing individuals. The opposite is true with monotheistic religions which are based on individual subjection to the will of the Supreme Being and transcendental morality.

Although culture and religion are often treated as different concepts, Raday argues that they have a lot in common when contrasted with human rights (2005: 670). But it is the leading global religions as opposed to cultures which codify custom and practice into texts which are then claimed to be outside history and culture. Raday cites the examples of the Vatican and the Organisation of Islamic Conferences as religious groups with a great deal of temporal power (2005: 669). Gender has been described as denoting the historical, cultural and social distinctions between women and men (Curthoys 2005: 140) Gender identity develops from normalised behaviour imposed on women and men by religion and culture. The history of gender in religion and traditional culture is of subordination of women to men and women’s exclusion from the public sphere (Raday 2005: 669). Although cultural and religious practices can be separated academically, in practice they usually interact. Patriarchal relations exist within culture and religion and there is a correlation between some cultural practices and the religious situations in which they are found (Raday 2005: 676). Raday gives the example of the cultural police in the Islamic Republic of Iran, who in an attempt to develop a culture of chastity, forced women to wear the veil in public places even though there is no clear religious command to do so. 676 The clash is between international human rights law and norms of culture and religion which promote and reinforce patriarchal values and fall back on the claim of religious freedom or cultural tradition. Giving it into any of these claims could result in an “infringement of woman’s right to a quality” (Raday 2005: 676).

So-called cultural practices which preserve patriarchy and discriminate against women include; female genital mutilation, the sale and forced marriage of daughters, the dowry system, preference for male children, female infanticide, polygamy, the power of husbands to discipline wives, marital rape, honour killings, witch-hunting, gendered division of food and restrictive dress codes (Raday 2005: 667). Examples of cultural issues found in signatories to CEDAW which conflict with human rights doctrine gender equality include: the elimination of polygamy in Algeria, polygamy, forced marriage and female genital mutilation in Cameroon, food issues for rural women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, domestic violence and discriminatory religious and cultural practices in Uganda, dowry, sati and devadsi practices in India, illegal sex selective abortions and family planning in China and laws discriminating against women in family and marriage matters in Indonesia.

Some feminists have argued that religion is a major source of female oppression and inequality and that most if not all religions are gendered and oppress women. In Christianity, the Supreme Deity is considered to be male. Several of the early church fathers such as Tertullian, Jerome, Ambrose and Augustine made misogynist writings which served to reinforce stereotypical gender roles (Skeptics Annotated Bible 2011). The story of the Virgin Birth promotes the idea that a woman’s body is a dirty and sinful thing and is not a proper origin for a spiritual being. The Roman Catholic Church does not ordain women and excommunicates those who attempt to become priests. It opposes family planning and birth control and does not believe in a woman’s rights to decide on abortion (Skeptics Annotated Bible 2011). Many protestant churches do not ordain women either and many believe in the wife’s submitting to the husband. In addition, many protestant churches teach that women should dress modestly but do not impose the same values on men. Other Christian denominations such as The Church of the Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons, formally allowed polygamy and still have not had condemned the practice. The Mormons do not ordain women and teach that a husband is master in the home (Skeptics Annotated Bible 2011).

In the Hindu religion, the Supreme Being is also considered to be male. In cultural practices dating back many thousands of years, widows are shunned as bringing bad luck and forced to live on the edge of society, alone (Skeptics Annotated Bible 2011). Widows were also supposed to shave their heads and never remarry. In the religious practice of Sati, windows were burnt alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands (Bowker 1997: 430). In Devadsi, girls are dedicated to a deity or temple and forced to become religious prostitutes for Upper caste members.

In Islam, menstruation is considered to make women unclean (similar conditions pertain to Christianity). Muslim women are expected in many societies to wear a veil due to the command in Sura 24 of the Koran for women to dress modestly (Skeptics Annotated Bible 2011). Honour killings are also traditionally carried out by adherents of this faith, where women are murdered after being raped or assaulted because they are considered to bring dishonour  on the family. Also the practice of female genital mutilation is associated with Islamic culture although it is not mentioned in the Koran. Under Shari’a law, a man can divorce his wife by repeating the phrase “I divorce you” three times, although this cannot happen the other way round (Skeptics Annotated Bible 2011). As a woman’s testimony is worth only half that of a man’s (Koran Sura 2) allegations of rape can only be proved if four male eye witnesses testified the assault occurred. The Prophet Mohammed, according to the Hadith (sayings and traditions of the prophet) married Aisha bint Abu Bakr – a prepubescent girl of nine years according to some accounts. This is considered important as 25% of all the Yemeni females marry under the age of 15 and several other Arab countries have not signed CEDAW (Skeptics Annotated Bible 2011). Finally, polygamy is legal in many Muslim countries and not condemned in the Koran.

Menstruation is similarly described as unclean in Judaism. In a male orthodox prayer, Jews say, “Blessed is He that did not make me a woman” (Skeptics Annotated Bible 2011). Orthodox Jews, like their Islamic counterparts in Iran, have set up modesty police who assault young women and men if they are showing too much of their bodies on the streets. In Jewish religious law, a woman cannot be divorced from her husband unless she receives a certificate from him. If this does not take place, she cannot get divorced (Skeptics Annotated Bible 2011). Men are allowed to pray at holy sites where women are not and orthodox Jews do not allow women to recite prayers in the synagogue.

Anderson, B., (2000) Joyous Greetings: The First International Women’s Movement 1813 – 1860.

New York: Oxford University Press

Anderson, B., and Zinsser, J., (1988a) A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present. Volume 1 London: Penguin

Anderson, B., and Zinsser, J., (1988b) A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to  the Present. Volume II London: Penguin

Bowker, J., ed. (2005) The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford University Press: Oxford

Calef, S., (2009) ‘Charting New Territory: Religion and the Gender-Critical Turn.’ Women, Gender and Religion. eds. Calef. S., and Simkins, R., Journal of Religion and Society (Supplement Series 5)

Chowdhury, S., (2008) ‘ India’s Premier Pays Lip Service To Villagers.’ FT.com [online] available from http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4da491c8-b7e5-11dd-ac6d-000779fd18c.html#axzz1LHqkWYno>[04/05/2011]

Daneshkhu, S., (2006) ‘US Lags Behind in Gender Gap Studies.’ FT.com [online] available from <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fcccb534-7991-11db-90a6-0000779e2340.html#axzz1LHqkWYno>[04/05/2011]

De Beauvoir, S., (1997) The Second Sex. Trans. ed. by Parsley, H., London: Vintage

Donnan, S., (2006) ‘Indonesia Brings Debate on Polygamy out of the Shadows.’ FT.com [online] available from <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/054c77b4-def9-11da-acee-0000779e2340.html#axzz1LHqkWYno>[04/05/2011]

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Gardner, D., (2010) ‘Study Charts Values Across the Mediteranean.’ FT.com [online] available from

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Greer, F., (1992) ‘Feminists: Rights Bill – Wrong for us.’ Jerusalem Post [online] available from <http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/jpost/access/99778595.html?dids=99778595:99778595&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Dec+27%2C+1992&author=Greer+Fay+Cashman&pub=Jerusalem+Post&desc=FEMINISTS%3A+RIGHTS+BILL+-+WRONG+FOR+US&pqatl=google>[04/05/2011]

Izenberg, D., (1990) ‘One Step Nearer Equality.’ Jerusalem Post [online] available from http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/jpost/access/99245697.html?dids=99245697:99245697&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Oct+26%2C+1990&author=Dan+Izenberg&pub=Jerusalem+Post&desc=ONE+STEP+NEARER+EQUALITY&pqatl=google>[04/05/2011]

Marin, R., and Morgan, M., (2004) ‘Constitutional Domestication of International Gender Norms.’

Gender And Human Rights. Ed. by Knop, K., London: Oxford

Mulholland, H., (2007) ‘Religion no Excuse for Gender Inequality, says Cherie Booth.’ Guardian Unlimited

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Oakley, A., (2002) Gender on Planet Earth. Bristol: The Policy Press

Oakley, A., (2005) The Ann Oakley Reader: Gender, Women And Social Science. Bristol: The Policy Press

Raday, F., (2005) ‘Culture, religion and gender.’ Journal of Religion & Society. Supplement Series 5 The Kripke Center ISSN: 1941-8450 [online] available from <http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm>[04/05/2011]

Skeptick’s Annotated Bible (2011) [online] available from <http://skepticksannotatedbible.com/>[04/05/2011]

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against Women.’ Fourteenth meeting New York, 23 June 2006 [online] available from <http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm>[04/05/2011]

UN (2011a) ‘Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.’ United Nations division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs [online] available from<http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/>[04/05/2011]

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Williams, R., (1998) Keywords:  A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. London: Fontana

World Health Organization (2011) ‘Female genital mutilation’, Fact sheet No. 241 (2010) ‘Key Facts’ [online] available from <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/>[04/05/2011]


Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)


 

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women.  Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm

The Convention defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”

By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including:

  • to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
  • to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
  • to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.

The Convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life — including the right to vote and to stand for election — as well as education, health and employment.  States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Convention is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations.  It affirms women’s rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children.  States parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women.

Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice.  They are also committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.


The Problem and a Solution…



A film about my book


Click here to see a short film made to explain my novel.

The soundtrack doesn’t kick in until about 25 seconds.


A gun is a weapon with some woman’s child at both ends


Marx said history was the record of the struggle between classes, but it’s also the record of the War on Women, for women are always on the losing side; a gun is a weapon with some woman’s child at both ends.  There’s never been a time when there wasn’t a War on Women.

Greece, the cradle of so-called democracy, didn’t allow women to vote; Rome’s power was built on violence and was ruled by a succession of Emperors. It evolved to become the Roman Catholic Church ruled by a succession of Popes, while the Anglican Church was founded on the murder of women.  Christianity is one of a triumvirate of misogynist religions that claim God’s male and whose books sanction violence to women.

Feudalism was based on the Great Chain of Being with God at the top, man next and women below with the animals. With industrialisation women were forced into factories, mines and prostitution.  Britain and Germany grew rich and spent the money on arms, causing two world wars. Men claimed women couldn’t be trusted to vote and resisted equality everywhere.

Women have been held back in employment and education, are still paid less, are abused and ignored while at the same time caring for more people, never starting wars and rarely using violence.  The latest instalment of the War on Women is rightly receiving attention as US females protest attacks on their reproductive rights – but let’s not get confused – this is just another skirmish in an ancient conflict.


Womanifesto Revisited…


Why The Future Must Be Female

After a half century of living in families and being in relationships, studying social sciences and women studies, watching documentaries, dancing, reading brilliant books, working in business and management, bringing up children, feeding the birds and talking to nearly everybody I meet, I find myself working as a volunteer for BSWA, after being made redundant in the current recession.

To me, it seems crucial to ask why there’s a need for organisations like ours; in other words, why should women and children suffer violence, sexual abuse, second class treatment and neglect? This is a global problem and occurs under all religions and none, and across various political systems. Also, why do tens of thousands of babies die each day from preventable causes?

What follows is my explanation of this situation and some suggestions to improve things. As a social scientist I’ve learned that people are moulded by their social environment.  In other words, the system makes us.  By the system, I mean the whole complex of cultural, religious and traditional values taught to every member of society.

Over the last 10,000 years, the growth of agriculture and urbanization led to a greater and more fixed sexual division of labour and coincided with the rise of kings and emperors. These male leaders derived their position and power from the control of the military forces of their society – indeed, rulers the world over still form very close relationships with the armed forces. Evidence for this can be seen when visiting dignitaries are shown the crack troops of the host nation and the links between the British so-called royal family and the various branches of the military.

The idea of an invisible father god, as seen in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, can be seen as divine justification for the violent and patriarchal policies of these rulers. Consequently, the Feminine has been repressed in most aspects of life in an effort to portray the Masculine as everything.  Evidence for this can be seen in the narrow range of roles traditionally offered to women in art, literature, adverts in magazines and newspapers, on television and in films. Also most popular stories feature male heroes who use violence to achieve their ends and win the passive woman as a trophy. The James Bond films are perfect examples of this narrative form. This fictional sexual objectification of women leads directly to real women being abused.

If our society sanctions male violence and sexual abuse of women in so many ways, it’s hardly surprising that real women and kids suffer the physical and mental outcomes. Sex sells, yet Reproduction is rarely mentioned – the process that makes more people is either taboo altogether or mythologized. Look no further than the “Garden of Eden” or “Virgin Mary” stories for obvious examples.

So this is the history (His-Story) of the two overlapping hierarchical power structures in modern society. There’s the pyramid of actual power which finds its pinnacle in the permanent members of the Security Council of the UN – the richest and most heavily armed and arms-producing nations in the world. And the other is the ideological pyramid, where male religious leaders such as popes, patriarchs, imams and rabbis reinforce stories of all-male divinity and tell women they don’t own their bodies.

Sadly women and children are usually found at the bottom of both pyramids and therefore have little power in traditional societies. In wars, natural disasters and political events like contemporary ‘Austerity cuts’, women and children are the worst affected. Even when women manage to achieve success in the worldly hierarchy, they are still attacked ideologically for being a woman.

The existing order is based on violence or the threat of violence, but as violence creates more violence this is obviously counterproductive. Violence in all its forms must become a thing of the past.

We need the non-violent global adoption of Female Values and Perspectives with a corresponding paradigm shift in human affairs. By this we mean cooperation rather than competition, with society organised to protect its weakest members, namely women, children and the elderly.

At present production is governed by the so-called Free Market. Babies are left to die when they are seen as having no economic value to the system. They are surplus to the requirements of capitalist production. However there can be no production without people – and people are created by reproduction.

Therefore whoever controls reproduction controls the future.

This explains why religions and other bastions of male power have worked so hard to regulate female sexuality.  The rulers need our children for their wars and as workers but they won’t acknowledge our power of reproduction. They can’t let the women speak out.

We’re saying it is time for the women of the world to build a global consciousness of themselves, their power and their role in managing human affairs. For too long, women have been divided; but if all the women’s groups come together as one network, anything can be achieved.

When women manage reproduction, the risk posed by overpopulation – probably the biggest challenge facing humanity – will quickly diminish and our species will no longer threaten all other life on the planet.

Women give birth to all humans but have little say in the management of our planet. However as females build a global consciousness they will refuse to bring children into a world where girls will suffer domestic violence and sexual assault. Why should their children work for slave wages or perish in wars or starve or die of thirst – if women see this future, they’ll refuse to bring more kids into the world. Why would they give birth to babies in a society that abuses most of the people, most of the time?

We’ll need new politics for this new society and we’re calling it Lowerarchy.

Lowerarchy is the opposite of hierarchical organisation. In the Lowerarchy there will be no need for leaders as there will be no nations to lead. Local people will decide for themselves how to live and manage resources.

Then artificial national boundaries can be dissolved, and with no nation states to defend, armies will become redundant so can safely be disbanded. Likewise, security services can be dismantled as we would all be on the same side.

If we want a world where everybody truly feels equal, then let’s reflect that in the economic sphere.

We suggest a One World, One Wage policy.

It’s a simple plan. Everybody gets paid the same salary. So cleaners get the same as bankers, teachers are equal to dinner ladies and mums are valued as much as soccer stars. And as we truly are all in this together, obviously those that can’t work will be cared for – that’s what society’s for.

And the alternative?

Catastrophic overpopulation, continued unfettered competition and the commodification of everything, wholesale destruction of the natural world, mass extinctions, more pollution and greenhouse effects on the climate, continued violence against women and children, a further widening of the gap between the rich and poor, loss of civil liberties, wars over resources, famines and the likely destruction of the species.

It’s time we changed the way we live – it’s time to make The Future Female…

Sooz