Archive | July, 2011

Women ordained by Roman Catholic priests: banned by the Vatican, approved by the people

28 Jul

The countries of Austria, Australia, and the United States have moved to the forefront in the struggle to open up the Roman Catholic priesthood to women and married men. Recently, an American priest who dared to ordain several women has been ordered stripped of his priesthood and excommunicated by the Vatican, and the ordained women have also been ordered excommunicated:

What is at stake for the Vatican here? Their absolute refusal to even consider the practical, pragmatic, and welcome suggestion of the ordination of women–despite the seemingly positive response to such a suggestion from Catholics worldwide–suggests an irrationality behind the rationalist defense of tradition and God’s will.

Further, sites such as and religious scholars assert that centuries ago women priests were not verboten, and thrived at higher levels within the Roman Catholic institution. Arguments such as that which insists there were no female disciples of Jesus, and therefore should be no ordained female priests rely on a specifically revisionist version of the Bible (indeed many feminist-oriented religious scholars claim that Mary Magdalene was an apostle, and that there was a New Testament book written titled in her name).

The rampant corruption and sex abuse scandal that has devastated the Catholic church and its followers worldwide would seem to suggest to the Vatican that changes are in order, relevant, and mandatory. However, as seen time and time again, bishops, leaders, and higher-ranking priests would rather continue to hide incidents of abuse and transfer the offenders rather than confront the widespread tragedy head-on. A woman as a priest is apparently more offensive, horrific, and sacrilegious than a serial sex-offending male priest. Such an absolutist, myopic position implies more than head-in-the-sand traditionalism, revealing  deep-seated misogyny, feelings of male superiority, and enormous fear of change and disempowerment.


A woman in hot pants….

26 Jul

Several years ago, an international feminist outrage occurred when an Italian judge declared that a young woman had not been sexually assaulted because–her pants were too tight to have come off involuntarily.

The case was in 1999, but have things really changed? The Sunday Magazine of the New York Times published an article last weekend referring to the recent attempt to take back “slut”-in conception and figuration.

The movement began in response to a Toronto police officer’s advice to female college students to stay safe by not dressing slutty. Since this benevolently patronizing tidbit of wise advice, women in over 70 cities worldwide have participated in “slut walks.” These parades of strumpets and trollops are revelries in skimpy clothes and sisterhood, attempts by the participants to shout out their femininity and freedom in any way they choose.

But how, ultimately, does dressing like a slut shout and provide emancipation? Obviously, any and all women worldwide should and must be able to define themselves according to their own desires, cultural positioning, and sartorial standards; whether a woman chooses to wear niqab, a full-length skirt, or short-shorts must not be a factor in the determination of safety and free will.

Further, no matter what a woman is wearing anywhere in the world, she is potentially at risk for sexual assault, therefore it is her position in society in relation to that of the male that is a millions times larger determining factor than her outfit. However, no matter what she’s wearing, if she’s assaulted, her dress will come into question, scrutiny, and blame.

So, all things said, what difference does a slut walk make? Does “dressing like a slut” signal that she wants (negative) male attention? Absolutely not. Does “dressing like a slut” incur productive, feminist, positive change? Nope.

Harrassment of Egyptian women is a problem that needs confronting!

7 Jul

The NYTimes and The International Herald Tribune publish a series of articles under the title “The Female Factor.” Topics range from countries’ varying maternal leave policies, domestic violence statistics, women in politics, street protests, and issues  surrounding gender and sexuality worldwide. Yesterday’s article concerns the rampant sexual violence committed against women in Egypt.

83% of Egyptian women reported being victims of sexual abuse, and 62% of Egyptian men reported being victimizers of sexual abuse. These numbers should be considered ballpark, given the amount of women who remain silent, and the amount of men who remain unknown.

The Egyptian protests on Tahrir Square included thousands of women, eager to take part and effect change. Such visibility was most likely not welcomed by all Egyptian men. In fact, a spokeswoman from the Muslim Brotherhood stated that women should adhere to strict dress codes and coverings, if they must be in public spaces. There has also been further criticism of women in the workplace and the public space, implying that it is her sheer visibility that renders her more likely victimized.

Comments like these are nothing more than dangerous red herrings. The truly awful statistics and the violent reality they illuminate did not appear after the protests of the late winter and early spring; therefore it is not women out in the world striving for autonomy, legitimacy, and personhood that is rendering them more likely targets for assault. Further, their persistent struggle despite the horrific odds of assault suggest instead that the average Egyptian woman is courageous.

Not just any woman will do…

6 Jul

This post is written specifically in response to the post I wrote on Sunday. Afterwards, I started thinking about the possible interpretations of what I’d written. It could potentially appear that I was implying that what was of paramount importance for me, feminism, or the culture-at-large was a female president. All that ultimately mattered was that a woman finally be elected: any woman will do.

This is absolutely not what I intended! Further, I have yet to see a female politician existing in the upper echelons of this country that I find personally suitable or desirable for the office of President of the United States. (Maybe Michelle Obama, but she’s technically not in political office.) In 2008, much was made of the fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton was gearing up to a victory as President. I gotta admit: not only did she not fill the leftist bill, Obama didn’t either. I personally supported John Edwards for the Democratic nomination; his leftist populist, labor-centric politics suited my views much more so than the lady or the black man.

I cite this personal opinion because I think it’s important to always remember that it’s not just about the demographic of the candidate. A female politician cannot assumably be any more feminist than a male politician. Her status and success can be incontrovertibly attributed to the advances achieved through feminism in this country, but that doesn’t mean she’s grateful. Clinton is a warmonger, Palin is a hater, Bachman is a homophobe and Jesus freak, Ferraro was a token.

Thailand’s newest prime minister

3 Jul

Congratulations to Yingluck Shinawatra–the first female prime minister in Thailand! Shinawatra is only 44 years old, and has only been in politics for the past few months, and is the sister of exiled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

Yes readers, we can thank nepotism for this latest victory; but before any premature judgements, consider the example of George W. Bush, and remember that nepotism is always present in politics of any stripe and nation.

In honor of yet one more woman becoming the head of state in a country that is not the United States,  here are links to comprehensive listings of female prime ministers and presidents.

Countries as far afield as Indonesia, New Zealand, Finland, Liberia, India, Mali, Argentina, the Philippines, Chile, Ireland, Nicaragua, the United Kingdom, and the list goes on.

How much longer can the United States congratulate itself for its progress, enlightenment, advancement, and egalitarianism when the number of countries in the world that have elected women as heads of state continues to elude the U.S. as a member?


DSK released due to victim’s “credibility”

1 Jul

French financier Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest today, after the hotel chambermaid he allegedly sexually assaulted came under increasing scrutiny due to lies, hedging, and half-truths.

My first thought upon reading this was not relief for DSK (he remains a cochon whether or not this particular woman was lying), nor was it sympathy or outrage for the chambermaid. Instead it’s frustration. For every victim turned liar or embellisher there are a seemingly unlimited number of women who have not lied or made up confusing stories–they have  actually factually suffered rape and sexual assault, and, if they bother to go to the police, risk facing disbelief, disrespect, humiliation, and more trauma.

Because of events like this (which achieved an enormous amount of publicity because of DSK’s position in the IMF, and the fallout between the U.S and the outraged French), any assaulted woman anywhere now faces even more doubt, scrutiny, and accusation. Because of events like this, one more woman will question as to whether or not she should go to the authorities and report her experiences. Because of events like this, misogynist douchebags like DSK will go back to thinking that their actions won’t have negative consequences.