Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Rights of Women

Quick history review:

One hundred years ago, women in America were still marching for the right to vote.

An American suffrage event in 1913

Jeanette Rankin, the lonely female voice in Congress in 1917, was proud to vote for woman's suffrage. Her male colleagues finally approved women's voting rights in 1920, ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment more than forty years after Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton first drafted it. Men in Switzerland did not approve federal female suffrage till 1971.

Much more recently, married women in Wichita still needed their husband's permission to get a library card and women in Memphis could only get a library card in their husband's name.

In the 1980's, I grew up in a religious cult that did not permit women to wear pants (lest they cause a man to lust after them and rape them). Contraception was also considered immoral, so my mother had 15 pregnancies: 4 miscarriages, 11 births. When I realized (just a few years ago!) that women actually have equal rights with men, I was amazed. And then I discovered that those rights are under attack right here in heartland.

For example, our governor and some of our male state legislators are continually eroding, in the name of religion, the rights of Kansas women to not be pregnant. If women were making these rules, that affect only women after all, maybe I would feel differently. But these men were born with the right to never be pregnant. Why would they insist that a woman grow another human inside her body against her will?

My daughters need to know they can be whatever they want to be. That motherhood is their choice--even if they are victims of sexual violence. Even if they are minors. Even if their birth control fails. Even if they are ignorant or irresponsible. Even if they don't discover they are pregnant until 8 weeks later. And if they choose to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion, they should not have to fight a state-mandated obstacle course of shame, fear and lies

Men, especially religious men, have a long history of telling women how God intended women's bodies to be used:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another...
--St. Paul (Romans 1:26-27)
You really wrote that, Paul? "The natural use of the woman"? Oh, God. Got that straight from Him, did you? You'll be glad to know the church in Rome took it seriously. In fact, they've spread the good news all over the globe--letting it be known that the only morally acceptable place for a male orgasm is inside a woman's vagina. Yep. Thanks, Paul.

Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
--St. Paul (I Corinthians 11:9)
Of course. What was I thinking?

But others drink potions to ensure sterility and are guilty of murdering a human being not yet conceived.
--St. Jerome (Letter 22, to Eustochium 13)
How the heck? I don't think that word means what you think it means.

Therefore, women do wrong when they seek to have children by means of evil drugs. They sin still more grievously when they kill the children who are already conceived or born, and when by taking impious drugs to prevent conception they condemn in themselves the nature which God wanted to be fruitful. Let them not doubt that they have committed as many murders as the number of the children they might have begotten.
--St. Caesarius of Arles (Sermon 51, 4; CC 103, 229)

By that primitive name [Eve], says he, He showed for what labor the woman had been provided; and He said accordingly, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." Now, who among ourselves denies that the woman was provided for the work of child-bearing by the Lord God, the beneficent Creator of all good?
--St. Augustine (On Marriage and Concupiscence, Book II, Chapter 12)
 I guess no one else is going to do it...

...We see how weak and sickly barren women are. Those who are fruitful, however, are healthier, cleanlier, and happier. And even if they bear themselves weary—or ultimately bear themselves out—that does not hurt. Let them bear themselves out. This is the purpose for which they exist. It is better to have a brief life with good health than a long life in ill health.
--Martin Luther (The Estate of Marriage, LW 45)
I've seen such women. It is a heartbreaking sight.

Woman is more guilty than man, because she was seduced by Satan, and so diverted her husband from obedience to God that she was an instrument of death leading to all perdition. It is necessary that woman recognize this, and that she learn to what she is subjected; and not only against her husband. This is reason enough why today she is placed below and that she bears within her ignominy and shame.
--John Calvin (author of Institutes of the Christian Religion, cited by Brown in An Apology to Women)
So glad I don't live in Calvin's Geneva.

Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man, not to rule and command him. After the fall, she was made subject to man by the irrevocable sentence of God. In which sentence there are two parts.
    (a) A dolor, anguish and pain as oft as ever she shall be a mother.
    (b) A subjection of her self, her appetites and will to her husband and his will.
From the former part of this malediction can neither art, nobility, policy nor law made by man deliver women: but, alas, ignorance of God, ambition and tyranny have studied to abolish and destroy the second part of God's punishment.
--John Knox (First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women)

And so it goes on. From Calvin and Knox to Doug Phillips and Jim Bob Duggar. Let the women kill fleas!

Sisters, we have come far. Occasionally with the support of religious groups, more often without. Our daughters are watching us to determine their own value. For their sake, let's not give up any of our hard-won progress now.


  1. The house may be echoing with my shouts this morning while reading this. :-) Last week it hit me, like a two-by-four in the face, that My Body Belongs to ME. Nobody else, not God, not Father, not husband, not brothers or church authorities or government leaders: ME. It is mine to nourish and protect and celebrate. I've been trying to explain to Robbie why this is such a HUGE thing for me. And now all I have to do is read him your post. Which I have. And of which he has requested a copy. Now. :-) Emailing it post haste. ;-) Thank you, my friend. XO

  2. Equal Rights Amendment STILL has not been passed.