While Ireland may no longer be such a harsh place for unmarried pregnant women, the stigma persists [#quickhit: link]

Agnes always assumed that her mother would be supportive if she got pregnant, but just as she was working up the courage to break the news, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now there is so much stress at home that she knows there will never be a good time to drop the bombshell and so she refuses even to think about it.

Eileen sometimes wishes that people would stop talking about the mother and babies scandal because she is in a black hole and the constant handwringing and recrimination on the radio is making her feel overwhelmed.

Her recently laid-off husband has stopped opening the bills, her teenage son has stopped asking if he can go to college, and she can’t face the prospect of another baby at 42.

Every so often, Ireland is transfixed by revelations and reminders of the mothers and babies so cruelly treated by a society with no place for women who got pregnant outside marriage.

But amid all the tut-tutting, hundreds of Irish women continue to hide pregnancies. “Concealed pregnancy has not gone away: it just has another face,” according to Sylvia Murphy Tighe, a former midwife and public health nurse who has been told stories similar to those of Agnes and Eileen.

On The Irish Times.

Today in terrifying: How Scientologists Are Sneaking Their Way into Schools to Spread Their Propaganda [#quickhit: link]

Not sure which scares me the most: Scientologists or flesh-eating snake-rat-mice-spiders.

By its own estimate, Foundation for a Drug Free World, an education non-profit, has visited at least 20 percent of New York City’s schools, public and private. That’s over 14,000 children, it says, mainly in disadvantaged schools in outer boroughs. Drug Free World has won accolades from the City Council and the state Senate and been featured by over a dozen local publications, including the Daily News.

But in two recent presentations witnessed by a City Limits reporter, the organization—which is connected to the Church of Scientology—presented information on the dangers of drug abuse that had little basis in fact and could be traced to the works of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

On Alternet.

Why Being a Muslim Woman Makes Me a Better Feminist [#quickhit: link]

feminism - Saudi Arabian woman veilReally important piece below on being Muslim, wearing a hijab and being a feminist, and how Muslim women’s experiences are often very misunderstood by western feminism.

For many, it seems that the words “Islam” and “feminism” cannot coexist. As Ramadan, the month of Islamic fasting, gets under way, questions about how Muslim women “cope” with their religion often re-emerge. The challenge many of these women now face is explaining how being a Muslim does not mean they cannot also be feminists.

Despite understanding that millions of people from all walks of life follow Islamic tradition, we still assume that Islam is one singular entity. It is important to remember that there are many different Islams just like there are many different Christian, Buddhist, or Hindu traditions. That is why some Muslims are fasting this month and some are not, and why some women wear a niqab (face veil) and some don’t.

The hijab, or head covering, remains another popular point of contention. It’s remarkable that a headscarf, which actually symbolizes a very powerful feminist message, has been linked to patriarchal oppression in the Western world. I wore the hijab for many years, and no, I was not forced to do so. In fact, my decision to wear it was probably my very first conscious step towards becoming a feminist.

There are two messages the hijab is meant to convey, the first of which is very simple: the hijab is a physical representation of the woman’s faith. She is wearing it to identify herself as a Muslim woman. The second message the hijab symbolizes is that a woman’s body is her business. How she dresses and what she looks like is a personal choice and has nothing to do with anyone else. By wearing a hijab, a woman is saying that she is a Muslim, and that her physical being does not belong to anyone but herself.

Of course, that is to assume she has worn it willingly. Some women are indeed forced to wear a hijab, but to judge all Muslims based on that minority is unjust and irrational.

Rest: Why Being a Muslim Woman Makes Me a Better Feminist.

‘Hobby Lobby’ Is Just the Beginning: A Flood of Corporate Religious Objections Is Coming [#quickhit: link]

In order to find corporations can exercise religious beliefs, Alito must conflate two very different scenarios. The first involves cases where the legal interests of employers and employees are largely aligned against those of the government; the second includes cases like Hobby Lobby, where corporate interests are trying to hide behind constitutional protections to deprive their employees of their rights. It’s a quick, but important, conflation that makes it possible for Alito to continue in the rest of his opinion to ignore the interests Hobby Lobby employees have in being free from religious discrimination by their employer.

With that judicial sleight-of-hand accomplished, Alito moves on to the larger question of just how a corporation can exercise these newly found religious rights. As it turns out, corporations practicing religious beliefs is remarkably simple, and just because a corporation seeks to maximize profit doesn’t mean it can’t do so in the name of religion:

While it is certainly true that a central objective of for-profit corporations is to make money, modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else, and many do not do so. For-profit corporations, with ownership approval, support a wide variety of charitable causes, and it is not at all uncommon for such corporations to further humanitarian and other altruistic objectives. … If for-profit corporations may pursue such worthy objectives, there is no apparent reason why they may not further religious objectives as well.

Did you catch that? If some corporations can support charitable causes, Justice Alito reasons, why not allow others to pursue religious causes such as avoiding complying with federal law?

On rhrealitycheck.

‘Hobby Lobby’ Is Part of a Greater War on Contraception [#quickhit: link]

Emphasis added. On rhrealitycheck:

Hobby Lobby’s complaint in the case that the Supreme Court decided on Monday morning is that the company and its founders don’t think Hobby Lobby employees should be able to spend their own earned insurance benefits on contraception; the company wants to be able to offer a plan that doesn’t meet the minimum federal requirements on contraception coverage. Hobby Lobby argues that even though there is no scientific evidence to back this contention up, contraception methods like the intrauterine device (IUD) and emergency contraception work by killing fertilized eggs, and they claim to believe that a fertilized egg is the equivalent of an actual baby.

That’s the ostensible reason. However, it’s important to remember that Hobby Lobby is not acting alone. Rather, the company is the official plaintiff (along with the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation) in a case that is part of a larger legal attack from the Christian right on contraception access. While contraception is largely non-controversial among the general public, chipping away at contraception access—particularly when it’s female-controlled, and particularly when it’s used by young or low-income women—has become a major part of the anti-choice agenda.

Make no mistake: They are coming for your birth control. [Read the rest.]

Feminism and Fundamentalism: Two Sides of the Same Coin

On theamericanconservative.com: Feminism and fundamentalism have at last, if unwittingly, converged on a significant social issue: the hyper-sexualization of women. At face value, the arguments are diametrically opposed. One argues for carefully guarding the female form, the other for freeing it from all constraints, including tradition—and clothing. The irony, though, is that they represent two sides of the same coin. Both end up focusing on sexuality to the exclusion of all else. Dannah Gresh in Christianity Today makes this point using two dolls: “I have two Barbies in my office. The American Barbie wears a mini-skirt and a low, cut tight bodice that pushes her breasts upward. … The other, a Muslim Barbie named Fulla, is dressed in a burqa.”

She concludes that both modes of dress “raise awareness of a woman’s sexual nature and reduce her to being a mere body.” She also notes also that in some Christian circles, the women “might as well wear burqas.” The Muslim and Christian fundamentalist attitude stigmatizes sexuality, regarding it as shameful; feminists idolize it, holding up promiscuous behavior and dress as the pinnacle of female achievement.

Rest: The American Conservative.

Purity Culture, and Male Entitlement to Women’s Bodies

And it is precisely this attitude of entitlement that the modern evangelical church deems holy and good.

Purity culture is a function of the larger culture of male entitlement. In many ways, purity culture is more dangerous because it bathes entitlement in holiness and God-given gendered roles. Women exist to marry men and to continue the propagation of Christianity via their children. Women are first the property of their fathers, and then their husbands.

Such entitlement starts early. When young people hit puberty, the divide begins. Men must protect themselves from lust. The only way to do this is to ask women to dress in modest ways. Such instruction is given as part of the holy Christian duty—we must take care not to make our brother stumble into sin, so cover up that cleavage, ladies! Men are told to restrain, but the burden for men’s thoughts rests on the bare shoulders of ladies. Women are instructed to ask the men in their lives—their brothers, their fathers—to judge their clothing before going out. This method trains women to respond and adjust to male commentary on their bodies as a natural part of their lives.

Boundaries and consent never enter into the lessons of male entitlement to women. Women are not trained that they can say no—any discussion of consent is given in the same breath as “boys will be boys.” This teaching has had and will continue to have disastrous consequences for men and women alike.

Rest: rhrealitycheck.

I may be excommunicated from my church for asking for equal rights

Women aren’t allowed to be ordained as priests in the Mormon faith. Because I created a movement to advocate for ordination and equality, I’ve been ordered not to pray aloud.

Punishment by silencing and outcasting.

On theguardian.com:

On Sunday, I will be tried in absentia for apostasy by the leaders of my former congregation in the Mormon church. I face potential excommunication for the simple act of opening my mouth and starting a conversation about gender equality in the church and the deep roots of this institutional inequality.

My grave situation is another example of how silencing women has long been a top communications priority for patriarchical institutions, both literally and figuratively.

In the Mormon church, all positions of authority and leadership require ordination to the priesthood – and no women can be ordained, though the vast majority of male members, age 12 and up, are. This means that no women can lead any official rites and ceremonies, despite the fact that there is no specific Mormon church doctrine explaining why women are not ordained.

In early 2013 I felt inspired to create a movement seeking equality for and ordination to the priesthood for Mormon women. The backlash was fairly immediate from many more orthodox members of the church, but my congregation’s leaders in northern Virginia said nothing to me for over a year.

Rest: theguardian.com.

If shame has gone, why do we use secret abortions in England to preserve the myth of holy Ireland?

‘Most “fallen” women knew well enough that they were expected to create a narrative of disappearance, usually one that involved the boat to Holyhead.’ Photograph: HJ Allen/Evening Standard/Getty Images

‘Most “fallen” women knew well enough that they were expected to create a narrative of disappearance, usually one that involved the boat to Holyhead.’ Photograph: HJ Allen/Evening Standard/Getty Images

The Irish psychosis whose latest expression is thousands of dead babies in unmarked graves is a compound of four elements: superiority, shame, cruelty and exclusion. The Taoiseach last week called the deaths of those children “yet another element of our country’s past”. Are we so sure that these forces are not also our country’s present?

The superiority complex in Irish society came from the desperate need of an insecure middle class to have someone to look down on, an inferior Other against which to define its own respectability.

In 1943, the Joint Committee of Women’s Societies and Social Workers compiled a well-meaning memorandum on children in institutions. It noted of those in mother-and-baby homes that “These illegitimate children start with a handicap. Owing to the circumstances of their birth, their heredity, the state of mind of the mother before birth, their liability to hereditary disease and mental weakness, we do not get, and we should not expect to get, the large percentage of healthy vigorous babies we get in normal circumstances. This was noticeable in the institutions we visited.”

These were humane and compassionate reformers. And it seemed obvious to them that children born out of wedlock would be physically and mentally weak and that “we should not expect” them to be normally healthy.

Rest: irishtimes.com.

The Hidden Curriculum in Evangelism: Patriarchy

This isn’t an issue that I’ve read a great deal about. Certainly in Britain (and perhaps the rest of Europe), there is not a lot of evangelism on campus. Below is a guest post on feminismandreligion.com about the real interests behind such a movement on campus: patriarchy and the subordination of women. It’s ironic, then, that it seems to be thriving in supposed “seats of learning”.

A good evangelist, especially in college ministries, acts as if there is no agenda to his or her evangelism. It’s very, “Do you want a cup of coffee? How are your classes going?” with a lot of understanding head nodding. The goal is to stay cool and not seem threatening (even though eternal damnation is at stake). A good evangelist then finds the opportunity to advance on whatever personal problem the interlocutor divulges, and the solution from the evangelist remains constant: “You need to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.”

A ‘good evangelist’ does not believe this interaction is an agenda at all, as evidenced by new slogans popping up in evangelist circles. There is “Jesus without Religion,”“I am Second,”“H20,”“Freedom Churches,” etc. All of these evangelist slogans attempt to portray “real” Christianity as something other than doctrine, simply a relationship with God, a freeing experience, a nonthreatening choice.

There are of course problems with this position. Some are obvious and practical; the printing press was invented in the 15th century, so bible-only, church-free Christianity is only possible on the backs of technology and literacy education, not Jesus. Other problems are theoretical; I argue that the bible is fundamentally a doctrinal set of rules, so doctrine-free religion is an oxymoron. Finally, some problems are ideological; there is complex ideology to evangelism, but one to frequently go unnoticed is its heavily patriarchal agenda.

When I use the term ‘patriarchy’, I do not only mean that men are the ones to take on leadership roles. I also mean that in a patriarchal system, women are subordinated and oppressed both knowingly and unknowingly, through economics, politics, and cultural discourse. I also do not use the term neutrally, as if patriarchy and matriarchy are equal systems that can be implemented either/or, unproblematically. When I use the term ‘patriarchy’, I am referring to a system that advances men’s interests to the detriment of both women and men as individuals, and also nation-states and the environment.

The fashion of today’s evangelism is this low-key, “come as you are” vibe, often with “hipster” inflections in order to appeal to a mainstream demographic while appearing outside of the mainstream. The film God’s Not Dead, and most college ministries, market Christianity in fashionable ways that make it “feel” nonthreatening and fun, with their focus on camping trips, sports, and coffee shop conversations.

Rest: The Hidden Curriculum in Evangelism: Patriarchy by Erin Lord Kunz.

Iranian Women Snap ‘Stealthy’ Photos Free Of Hijab [#quickhit: image]

Iranian Women Snap ‘Stealthy’ Photos Free Of Hijab

An unveiled young woman stands in front of a sign that reads: “Sisters, observe your hijab.” Another with red hair and dark glasses stands next to the ruins of Persepolis, while two others, also sans hijab, dance happily on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

They are among dozens of Iranian women inside the country who have posted their hijab-less photos on a newly launched Facebook page to share their “stealthy” moments of freedom from the veil.

The administrators of the page, titled “Iranian Women’s Freedoms Stealthy,” say they do not belong to any political group and that the initiative reflects the concerns of Iranian women who face legal and social restrictions.

The page is the brainchild of exiled Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, who says she’s receiving scores of unveiled photos of young and old Iranian women who want to share their brief moments of freedom from the hijab with others

Page administrators say all of the photos and captions posted have been sent by women from all over Iran. Launched on May 3, the page has garnered more than 27,000 likes.

Rest rferl (HT:  Being Feminist, facebook)

I’m always uncomfortable when I see pictures such as these because of our (Western) eagerness to colonise the bodies and practices of women of colour. I find it hard to identify if such acts are liberating and empowering or, rather, a capitulation to Western values and culture. (See, for example, research evidence which suggests that we in the west have little understanding of the experiences of women of colour – in this case, their wearing of a veil – yet we are quick to assume that a veil is oppressive, patriarchal, and unacceptable.)

Purity Balls, Plan B and Bad Sex Policy: Inside America’s Virginity Obsession

There is little that gives me the creeps as much as the purity movement. Aside from all of its paedophilic undertones (from below: Laila and Maya Sa up there are seven and five years old, respectively – the portraits could be mistaken for wedding or prom pictures), the trend represents everything that is wrong with patriarchy and the extremes of Christianity.

This narrative of good girls and bad girls, pure girls and dirty girls, is one that follows young women throughout their lives.

On Alternet:

The men and girls in the photos hold hands and embrace – the young women are in long white dresses, the men in suits or military regalia. If some of the girls in the pictures weren’t so young – Laila and Maya Sa up there are seven and five years old, respectively – the portraits could be mistaken for wedding or prom pictures. What they actually capture, though, are images of those who participate in purity balls – father-daughter dances featuring girls who pledge to remain virgins until marriage and fathers who promise to protect their daughters’ chastity.

The images from Swedish photographer David Magnusson’s new book, Purity, are beautiful, disturbing and tell a distinctly American story – a story wherein a girl’s virginity is held up as a moral ideal above all else, a story in which the most important characteristic of a young woman is whether or not she is sexually active. This narrative of good girls and bad girls, pure girls and dirty girls, is one that follows young women throughout their lives. Purity balls simply lay that dichotomy bare.  In a clip from a Nightline Prime episode on these disconcerting events , a father tells his braces-clad daughter, “You are married to the Lord, and your father is your boyfriend.” (Update: As part of a purity event over the weekend sponsored by the Las Vegas police department, one of its officers told girls that if they had pre-marital sex  they would end up rape victims, gang members, drug addicts or prostitutes.)

Rest: Alternet.

Purity Culture as Rape Culture: Why the Theological Is Political

Excellent piece on RHrealitycheck.

When I was 14 years old, I stood in front of my 800-member Baptist congregation with my parents as they handed me a small diamond ring we’d bought together at Walmart. Before the church body and before God, I pledged that no man shall touch my special places until after we had said “I do.” I pledged to keep pure.

Thirteen years later, I still wear the ring on my right hand, but now it is simply out of habit. It doesn’t mean anything to me anymore besides being the nicest piece of jewelry I own. I grew up in evangelical purity culture, and like many of my fellow millennial Christians, I’ve left it behind.

In evangelical America, a woman’s potential relationships and sexual choices are of paramount importance. Relationship guides and purity pledges are a cottage industry in evangelicalism, but the influence reaches far beyond just evangelicals. During the recent government shutdown and the ongoing battle over the Affordable Care Act, we’re seeing the far-reaching effects of a theology in which a woman’s purity is the most important part of her life.

[...]

Purity culture, in the evangelical world, is nothing more than an elaborate form of rape culture. But it is rape culture embedded so deeply that rooting it out requires challenging the very forms of Christology upon which many evangelicals have built their beliefs. In other words, making the change to believe in bodily autonomy and unassailable agency of the individual means changing how one views all aspects of faith. This conflict, naturally, is why traditional feminism and Christian evangelicalism are often so at odds. The challenge of bodily autonomy is, for many conservative evangelicals, anathema to their very belief structure.

To understand purity culture as rape culture, we must understand why bodily autonomy is such an issue. For the evangelical, “dying to self”—or sacrificing one’s selfishness for the greater good of the Gospel—is one of the highest honors one can have. This is often interpreted as subsuming one’s desires, one’s individuality, into the will of God. Cobbling together ideas like “God’s ways are higher than our ways,” and the Apostle Paul’s assertion that what looks like foolishness to the world is wisdom for the Christian, evangelicals lay claim to life in an “upside-down kingdom,” where being last means they’re really first. [Rest.]

Islam and feminism: British Muslim women don’t need the West’s version of feminism, OK?

This is a really important piece about the attempted colonisation by western (white) feminists of women of colour and the imposition of very western (and white) feminist ideals on women of colour.

Everyone loves Malala Yousufzai, right? Fearless, inspiring and courageous, she is the kind of female icon that asserts the need for women to have justice and rights – arguably a ‘feminist’ viewpoint – and which has won the admiration of western feminists.

Whatever your opinions of Yousufzai, one part of her core identity rarely discussed in feminist circles is that: she’s a proud Muslim and sees her faith as a driver for the change she preaches. Yet the feminist movement as we know it today, born in the West, asks women of faith to leave their religion at the door. Want to join the feminist club? Then you’re asked to leave the world view that inspires you, makes you want to be a better person, and abandon the very principles that drive you to fight for justice and rights for women.

I understand why many feminists in the West might have this knee-jerk reaction: religion has often been co-opted by the powerful to hang on to their privilege and oppress women, and the European religious context where feminism was born was part of the movement’s formation.

This rejection of women of faith is a symptom of a core problem the feminist movement faces today: that it has come to embody only the concerns of white, middle-class women from the West. Everyone loved Sheryl Sandberg when she told us to ‘Lean In’, but some say her self-help guide was aimed at a handful of already highly-privileged women. Working class feminists rarely get a look-in. [Rest.]

Author: Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is a commentator on British Islam and Muslim women and is the author of Love in a Headscarf. She can be found blogging at spirit21.co.uk and tweeting @loveinheadscarf

purity myth

purity myth.

There are few things which make me feel as sick to my stomach as these.

Purity Balls, where a daughter’s worth is determined by the state of her hymen, are currently all the rage among America’s Christian extremists.

Purity Balls are creepy religious ceremonies infused with ritual father-daughter incest where daughters who have just begun menstruating are formally instructed that they “are married to the Lord” and that their father is their “boyfriend.”

It’s like a wedding but with a twist: Young women exchange rings, take vows and enjoy a first dance…with their dads.

At the Ball, which resembles a giant wedding ceremony, girls around the age of 12 wear white gowns and pledge to remain ‘pure’ until their wedding day. The girls symbolically ‘marry’ God, and promise their father they will remain a virgin until they are wed.

[…]

To make it all official, the father signs the following contract, witnessed by his daughter:

PURITY COVERING AND COVENANT

I ………’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father.

I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and my family as the High Priest in my home. This covering will be used  by God to influence generations to come.

[Rest.]

“Jean tells me from the outset I have three options

Jean tells me from the outset I have three options. “Keep the baby, and be a parent. You have a termination. Which obviously has consequences. Or you take the brave option… for adoption.” Nothing new so far, but then Jean throws me a curveball. She tells me, in no uncertain terms, that abortion has “been linked to crime”. This is a new one. Education for Choice have had reports of mystery shoppers being told they will contract breast cancer, but this is new territory. She waxes lyrical about the grief, anger and trauma of abortions having often led to women acting on those emotions and committing crime; “the anger it gets so bad that it can lead to crime… it’s definitely, definitely linked.

- Undercover at One of the UK’s Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Clinics

Unbelievable misinformation.

child bride

child bride. (bust_magazine)

image

In honor of International Women’s Day (IWD) coming up this Saturday March 8th, Catapult – a crowd-funding website championing the empowerment of women and girls – created a series of photos as a part of a visual campaign depicting the growing global epidemic of sex slavery, child slavery, and child brides. The campaign created mock magazine covers, nearly identical to the well-known pop-culture magazines we see stuffed into our newsstands. These covers illustrate the reality of some girls across the world—abuse, fear, and oppression—making the real cover stories from magazines like Seventeen and Good Housekeeping even more embarrassing than they already are. The mocks the headlines we do gawk at, by highlighting the stories we tend to ignore. [Rest.]

Sunday feminist roundup (23rd February 2014)

- Syrian girl is stoned to death for having a Facebook account (No Country for Old Women)

- Street Harassment – A Trivial Issue? (The Belle Jar)

- The problem with ideological purity (We Mixed Our Drinks)

- One of the best posts I’ve read in years: “Why Won’t You Educate Me About Feminism?” (The Belle Jar)

- “It’s Just Socialization….” Revisited (The Arctic Feminist)

And now the best of the quickhits:

Sunday feminist roundup (16th February 2014)

This week.

- Catholic dominance over hospitals endangers women (feministe)

- Teenage feminism – coming to a blog near you (The F Word)

- On SWERFs, TERFs and good girls (glosswitch)

- A Letter to My Son about Porn (Everyday Feminism)

- Sexual Identity and “Nigerian Culture” (The Feminist Wire)

- Oppression against women is much more nasty, brutal and barbaric (No Country for Old Women)

And the best of the quickhits this week: