Do church and state really conspire against women?
In the Irish Times Health + Family supplement on 1October 2013, on page 15 Jacky Jones wrote:
Religion and State conspire to keep women living in fear.
The second and third paragraphs of the article are as follows:
“Every religion has saints and goddesses who contribute to cultural values that may protect women who conform to what society expects of them, particularly sexually, and condone violence when women do not measure up.
“As no woman can ever be saintly or godlike, religious views of how women should be provide a never-ending justification for abuse. Catholic women have the Virgin Mary to live up to.”
I realise this is dangerous ground to tread! Given that the Catholic church does not treat women and men equally, perhaps the following questions could be addressed:
- Abuse of any person, woman or man or child, is wrong. What percentage of women agree with Ms Jones that religious views of women provide justification for abuse in their own case? What percentage of women would say that this is not their experience? Has any survey taken place to ascertain what the facts are in regard to the part played in this by religion?
- What part, if any, does religion, particularly for Catholics, play a part in violence towards women? Is it different in other Christian churches which open all offices equally to women and men?
- Ms Jones says Catholic women have the Virgin Mary to live up to. We could also say that Catholic men have Jesus to live up to. What percentage of men would say that, in their own experience, religion provides justification for abuse of men?
- Men are normally physically stronger than women, and most reports indicate that women experience more physical abuse from men than vice versa. Statistics for violence – physical, emotional, etc,, by women on men are more difficult to ascertain. What is the current state of knowledge on this? Does religion in any way play a part here?
- What positive influence does religion have in relationships between women and men? Is the part played by religion in relationships between men and women predominantly negative, or is it predominantly positive, or is it neutral?
- While we cannot always easily separate the roles played by civil society and the State from those played by religion, in what proportions do State and religion contribute to abuse of women by men? To abuse of women by women? To abuse of men by women? To abuse of men by men?
- Is it true that “Religion and State conspire to keep women living in fear”? If so, how does that conspiracy operate?
- In all of the above matters, has the situation changed in recent years compared to 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago? Has it improved or dis-improved?
That should be enough to ponder on for the moment!