Archive | March, 2012

Tradition as justification

27 Mar

The president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is a much-beloved figure in the Western world, symbol of advancement for women and progressive ideas in the developing world. Upon beginning her second term as the President of Liberia, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite her country’s persistent lack of economic growth and its depressing lack of possibilities for its people, Sirleaf remains a figure of hope and belief in change for American and European governments.

So, it was quite a surprise to many of her high-powered supporters to discover, in an interview with The Guardian, that Sirleaf not only does not support the rights of Liberian citizens who may be gay, she is also the head of a government that is currently increasing its anti-gay legislation. When asked about this by the reporter, Sirleaf replied that there are “certain traditions in our society that we would like to preserve..”

A female president of a formerly desperately war-torn country that was originally founded by freed slaves, invoking “tradition” as a defense of laws or aspects of her culture which propagate violence, oppression, and hate is so rife with contradiction as to almost be funny. Absurd is perhaps a better term. The absurdity of using the monolithic, so-broad-as-to-be-meaningless, backwards,  repressive and regressive justification of tradition as reasoning behind hate legislation attempts to provide an immediate barrier against questioning or dispute. Further, the usage of the term implies that to question Sirleaf and her government’s hate legislation is to engage in Western imperialism. “This is the way we do things here”: meaning, don’t be bringing around your colonialist paternalism to our country.

But the defense of oppressive laws and cultural practices as “tradition” is a complete canard. The tactic is reminiscent of that used to maintain the practice of female genital mutilation in some areas of Africa; a practice that is still rampant throughout the continent. To oppose slicing off parts of a female’s genitals, to oppose the imprisonment of a gay man or woman simply for their gayness, to oppose the use of legal and violent threats against gays who attempt to step out of the closet, to oppose the torture of children accused of being witches: to engage with the voices of opposition against these oppressions–these “traditions”–is not to assume the position of paternal imperialist, but to maintain the belief in the rights of individuals, wherever they are, to live without fear, oppression, hatred, and violence. Opposition, resistance, and questioning of these policies and practices of violence and hate cannot be attributed to  “Western” ideological bullying, but as a way to raise one’s fist and voice in solidarity for universal rights.


The meaning of religious freedom

17 Mar

Much has been made of the extraordinarily short-sighted, clueless panel of religious leaders organized to testify before Congress in the ongoing  health coverage for women debacle. Not a single woman on the panel, and not a single woman allowed to testify: the Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke notoriously being rebuffed.

But, I would like to mention something else regarding this catastrophe, something that has not been overtly noted as far as I have seen and read. Yes, as any slut can tell you, reconstructing the health coverage for women mandate as an attack on religious freedom is a brilliant political manipulation; but what’s getting left out here is the misinterpretation of the fundamental meaning of religious freedom.

Religious freedom is not the inherent rights of the major religions–be they Christian-based, Judaic, or Muslim, to flex their beliefs in the public sphere as much as their individual God mandates. Religious freedom instead regards the rights of individuals to practice their beliefs according to their affiliation and their spiritual investment—as long as her or his rights do not impinge upon the rights of others.

The enforcement of a broad-based health coverage plan for women who work is not an inducement to a rabbi, imam or priest to turn against his (!) God, but to insure that this other person receives the rights that she deserves. Neither Jesus, Abraham nor Muhammad would turn this down.

Further, to look at a church, temple or synagogue as having fundamental rights is to regard these corporations, these buildings, as possessing personhood. Like the corporation, like the teeny bundle of cells in a womb, these “persons” are more and more in possession of rights that are being stolen from the female person. Further, to consistently position the individual rights of individual females as in opposition to the rights of church dogma and clusters of cells is to re-frame the debate, rendering the rights of the former debatable. A woman’s rights as an individual are not debatable: she is a citizen under the state, a person; thereby her rights -not the rights of the church or the potential cell development in her uterus- are what matter.

The Republican Party and its “War on Women”

7 Mar

Today, at his first press conference of the new year, President Barack Obama was asked where he stood in terms of what, as many within the Democratic Party have suggested, has become a kind of political, legal and cultural war on America’s women.

(For some examples on this war, check out:

Obama, as one might guess, equivocated somewhat, using semantics to deflect where he might actually stand against what has increasingly become the Republican party’s hardline against contraception, social services, domestic violence, education, and female freedom.

It doesn’t take a slut to realize that the outcry against contraception as included in one’s company-provided healthcare plan–with its loud opposition to government intrusion, falls afoul when considering  just a few of the Republican party’s recent propositions nationwide.

1) Intravaginal ultrasound mandate for those females considering abortion.

2) State amendments forbidding same-sex marriage.

3) Declaring the tiny cells beginning to form after a sperm reaches an egg a “person” and therefore inviolable.

Propositions such as these are founded and forever reliant upon GOVERNMENT INTRUSION, providing the lie to any declaration of ideology based on less government. Increasingly with Republican Party politics, it is not about less government, but about the same-size government enforcing a very particular ideological agenda.

Passing laws forbidding individuals to make their own choices takes just as much government as laws that protect and/or support these “dangerous” individuals.

Using a word like “war” does raise the stakes to a histrionic degree, so Obama was likely justified in his hesitancy. However, even a brief perusal of the past year’s state and national Republican-sponsored bills undeniably suggests that an insidious, misogynist, self-serving and hateful agenda has surged in prominence in the Republican mainstream political system.

Don’t wait for the draft! Educate yourself and your loved ones, vote, participate, and fight against the national Republican party and its violently patriarchal platform.