Foolishness? or Misogyny?

Perhaps both in equal measure – foolish misogyny from a misogynistic fool.  Yes, Steve Fielding I am taking about you. Do you seriously believe that

“Drug addicts and welfare cheats can go out there and get themselves pregnant and then after 20 weeks have an abortion and still pocket the Government’s cash,” he said.

Family First Senator Steve Fielding has been condemned by other senators for suggesting women might have an abortion after 20 weeks to try to claim paid parental leave.

I have to wonder if you are serious – do you really believe that women are cunning and calculating enough to get pregnant, then have a late-term abortion, then claim that it was a stillbirth and then OMG! shamelessly take the government’s money. Kinda a lot to go through for the minimum wage for 18 weeks, I mean, the supposed diabolical pregnancy would last longer than the cash flow.

But perhaps you are serious, after your religion has inculcated you with the belief that women are responsible for the entry of evil into the world, and I suppose that if that’s the basis of your twisted logic, I can see how you might seriously think that masses of evil women could rort the system in such a manner. Seriously, though, when Barnaby Joyce is telling you that what you are doing is contemptuous [perhaps he meant contemptible?] then perhaps you really should take a long hard look at yourself.

I wholeheartedly agree with News with Nipples who awarded you the Tony Abbott Budgie Smuggler award for Excellence in the Field of Misogyny. So take your award and go listen to the angels.

For this guy, I’ll make an exception

I don’t generally think that footballers (particularly those of the NRL variety) make good role models. But standing up for yourself and for your family, against systemic racism and against one of the League’s most charismatic personalities – well I rate that.

I suspect – as we have seen before when high profile people get named (such as his brother, who could forget that episode?) – that Andrew Johns will be a symbolic scapegoat for systemic attitudes that he alone is not responsible for. So he’ll be scrapped from his job, hidden out from the public eye (or maybe not), and later, months down the track when people forget exactly what he said he’ll reappear (like his brother and that god awful show) unchanged, and unrepentant.

But in the meantime, let’s not forget that Timana Tahu, stood up, and walked away from, the racist bullying tactics of not his enemies, but his friends.

One thing that irks me though, is that the NRL hierarchy seems to find it easy to disavow racism and make it clear that its not acceptable. If only they could be that intolerant (heck I’d settle for even recognition) of sexism and misogyny.

The Down Under Feminists Carnival is here!

And I do mean literally here! Because this month I am pleased to be your host for the 21st Edition.

So let me pour you a cuppa (how do you take it?) and let’s enjoy this over high tea, shall we?

Well that’s January been and gone. What has happened in the last month?

It seems to have been a quiet month on the blogging front, what with the summer heat and rain and holidays and back to school and the myriad of other things going on this time of year, but there is still plenty to enjoy in terms of feminist writing.

The New Year has been seen in:

And we’ve been wished a Happy New Year! by Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty. And there has been some farewells too, leading Queen Emily to question The legacies of trans-exclusive feminism at her post at Hoyden About Town.

There has been some great discussion about things relating to the domestic sphere – the home, house and family concerns.

Tansy Rayner Roberts has been Writing While The House is Messy at tansyrr.com.

Parenting is a perennial topic, and January saw discussion of the added complexities when the parenting is being done by a step-parent. Stepmum Of The Year wonders Rights? What rights should step parents have? and Stef at A Touch of the Crazy is inquiring Does stepparenting = step-mothering?

Meanwhile, Sophie at 2 B Sophora paints a poignant picture of One woman and her guard.

As usual with feisty feminist writers there has been some great posts relating to Race, Rights and Identity

A shiny new coin muses on taxes and toilets. Tigtog, at Hoyden About Town, looks at Complacency, Indifference and Intent (or lack thereof) in terms of the discussion around the attacks on Indian students. Chally makes it clear that Disability is not your analogy at Zero at the Bone, and she examines The Privileges and Pains of Passing. Stephiepenguin examines her racial identity and muses and it looks like… posted at 天高皇企鹅远.  In examining identity and insults girliejones wonders Do some insults hurt less?

January 23 was Blogging for Choice Day  – this year with the theme of ‘Trust Women’

Deborah – In a strange land,  asks that we  Trust women, and Tigtog was also Blogging for Choice,  at   Hoyden About Town.

In addition to trust, respect was also a bit of a reoccurring theme this month.

Chally reminds us of The importance of women’s friendships at Zero at the Bone.  Deborah In a strange land sends a Note to Mike Rann: the title is “Ms”. Pharaoh Katt asks that we respect children and their bodies and not  Name and Shame them at Something More Than Sides.

The disrespectful and denigrating of image of the older woman as the ‘cougar’ seems to be an increasing presence in popular culture and thankfully this is being critiqued.  Fuck Politeness writes of Karaoke and cougars. Julie at The Hand Mirror suggests that there has been Vileness, and a bit of irony, from Air NZ and she gives us More on Air NZ’s cougar rubbish. The Luddite Journo asks why Those damn cougars just won’t lie back and think of England ?

Posts pertaining to politics and activism.

Deborah at In a strange land gives us A fabulous resource for feminists, womanists, disabilism activists, equality activists. January’s been an interesting month politically and Rachel Hills at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman has Sex advice for my future children… inspired by Tony Abbott. At the frogblog,  Catherine Delahunty asks Will Cathy Taewa get answers from Paula and Nick?

Posts pertaining to Body image and Sexuality

The bad news, according to The Dawn Chorus, is that Female Ejaculation Doesn’t Exist.   Also, did you know that Jennifer Hawkins does ‘real beauty’ wrong – In case you hadn’t realised blue milk examines the fallout from ‘that’ magazine cover.

Posts pertaining to fashion and rape culture – unfortunately paired together because all you need to know about rape culture has been encapsulated on some men’s T-shirt

(trigger warnings for the links to the posts in this section)

Chally, writing at Feministe looks at the offending and offense shirts in Today in selling misogyny and LudditeJourno has learnt that from said fashion items that It’s not rape if you yell surprise. If that’s what being sold and worn does the existence of such Virtual realities: Sydney University’s “pro-rape” Facebook group surprise anyone? It doesn’t surprise Chloe  at Feministing.

The dismissal from court of a particular gang rape case has led to Emma Hart at Public Address fantasising about chocolate mousse aerosol cans so that we can get All Together Now.

The rules of consent still apply in a group sex situation. Which is why it also doesn’t help when, at the other end of the spectrum, people say that women can’t consent to group sex, or will only do so under social pressure, or maybe only think they do because they’re buying into a male viewpoint. Both viewpoints assume that group sex is always one woman and a group of men. Both remove the emphasis from whether the woman said yes or no – because how can I have the ability to say no unless I also have a meaningful ability to say yes?

Of course, someone has once again blamed Feminism for the rise of raunch culture, but the news with nipples has been writing about Feminism and dolls in order to set them straight.

Posts pertaining to the Media and Movies

Rachel Hills presents Sex & The City and the great (feminist?) quest for love at her blog Musings of an Inappropriate Woman.

Lauredhel gives us Arsevertising*: Will You Be Ready For Your First Time? posted at Hoyden About Town. And she also examines That Homebirth Study in South Australia that was blatantly misrepresented in the media, also at Hoyden About Town.

Tansy Rayner Roberts  at tansyrr.com gives us a review of The Princess and the Frog.

Miscellaneous Musings

Kiwi back in Sydney! gives us a lovely walk through the Melbourne: CERES Garden. Jo Tamar at Wallaby has been Talking about mansplaining…. While meganwegan at Craft is the New Black reflects on Honesty, Anarkaytie gives us a Follow-up to academic feminism to be found at Anarkaytie’s Weblog.

Writing and Sci Fi

girlie jones not only looks at  the latest in female presence in SF ToCs but she asks do You know what’s fun to read in the debate on gender disparity in SF? .

And to see the carnival off, Whileawaying invites us to a Book Launch!

Well, its been lovely hosting you. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the tea and the writing.

Next month the carnival will be at Fuck Politeness‘ place. And don’t forget to submit (see here) – your own posts and those of other down under feminists that you’ve enjoyed reading this February.

Come on people, this is not just about Matty Johns

So the Footballers and sex 4 Corners story, is generating a hell of a lot of conversation, everywhere.  Lots of newspaper articles, opinion pieces (actually I like this one), twitter (via Lauredhel), and facebook groups supporting Matty Johns have sprung up like weeds over night.  (You could for instance join the “Give Matt Johns his job back” Group.  I decided against providing a link, the comments there are just to horrible).  This facebook status update will suffice to demonstrate the attitudes that I’m referring to:

*head desk*

*head desk*

These people need to read this and take a long hard look at themselves.  All these conversations and for many it has been reduced down to: “Oh! The injustice of it all!  Poor Matty Johns!”

Ok, so John’s has been stood down (note: not fired) from a channel concerned with not alienating its large middle class female audience, and the NRL which is seeking to be seen to doing something about this problem.  But what, exactly, is the problem?  It is not just about Matty Johns – nothing more to see here folks, he’s faced the music, let him hang his tail between his legs and disappear from view in the shame and ignominy he deserves.

This is waaaay  bigger than one man, no matter how high his profile.  As has been noted by bluemilk, the New Zealand case was just the tip of iceberg, 4 Corners were spoilt for choice.    There are a hell of a lot of footballers implicated here, all keeping quiet and hoping that Johns’ fall from grace will keep the spotlight off them.  The 4 Corners program mentioned other incidences involving not just the Sharks, but also the Knights and the Bulldogs.  And I’d bet my two front teeth that there’s plenty more that the media haven’t gotten a wiff of.  While David Gallup is taking a strong stance on this about reforming the NRL it is not going to be easy to address an ingrained cultural problem.

It seems some players don’t like hearing that the practice of treating women like shit is no longer going to be tolerated.

“It’s fine for David Gallop to come out and say you can’t have group sex but the last thing blokes will be thinking about on a Friday night at the club is David Gallop,” said the player, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I don’t know how a chief executive can come out and say we can’t have group sex if it’s consensual. It’s like discrimination because that is a person’s private life. It’s like saying you can’t be homosexual, or you can’t have such-and-such sexual preferences. How can he tell us what we can do in our private lives?

We already have so many rules: we can’t drink on these days, we can’t go to these places, now we can’t have group sex. About the only thing we can do these days is go to club functions, and just hang around other players. That’s just isolating us more from the rest of the world, and it could lead to even more violent acts.” [Emphasis mine]

Oh Boo-hoo, you poor thing.  This is the culture of privilege, selfishness, greed, aggression and hypermasculinity that we are up against.  And many pockets of the general public support these guys and their life in the privileged bubble.  And they display no empathy towards those that are used, abused and discarded.   Rather than victim blaming I suggest people read this.

What’s the difference between group sex and gang rape?

These are my confused thoughts on a complex topic.  I do not speak for all feminists although my thoughts are informed by a feminist perspective.  This post, which is probably attempting too much, is on the one hand about a group sex/gang rape case that took place in New Zealand in 2002.  On the other hand its about the dangerous mix of football, sex, success, fame and glory and the adulation of aggression that takes place in our sports loving culture. (If in regards to the case of “Clare” from New Zealand you are going to engage in some victim blaming, I suggest that you read the following link and comment when you aren’t going perpetuate Rape myths)

After reading this news story, (which really was just a “heads up” about this 4 Corners program about footballers and sex;  transcript here, the program can be watched from here -but only for the next four weeks) about a “group sex” incident in New Zealand involving football personality Matthew Johns,  I got thinking about the fine line between group sex and gang rape.  And I had a few thoughts.  

(The 4 Corners program discussed various aspects of the footballers and sex issue, and one of the most disturbing parts of the program was a description of the events in New Zealand in 2002, involving member of the Cronulla Sharks and a young woman the program calls “Clare”.  She was nineteen at the time, and while waitressing she was invited back by two players to their room.  About a dozen players ended up in room, and the events so traumatised Clare that seven years later she is still suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress)

Consent

Consent is obviously a key issue.  Absence of “No” does NOT mean that consent took place.  For this reason it is illegal to have sex with someone who is unable to say “no”, someone who is unconscious or asleep for example.  Just because they didn’t say no, doesn’t mean that rape did not occur.

Just because a man does not believe that he raped a woman does NOT necessarily mean that he did not. ( From Tigtog’s post on rape myths: “One in 12 men surveyed in this study admitted to acting in ways that satisfied the legal definition of rape or attempted rape, with 84% of these men believing that what they had done was “definitely not rape.”).  So in terms of the group sex cases discussed in the 4 Corners programs, just because the guys involved don’t believe that rape took place, doesn’t mean that it didn’t.

So if we are discussing the New Zealand case we have to consider whether a young woman is truly able to consent when surrounded by big, strong, football players? (From the transcript of the program: CLARE: “They were massive, like ah big Rugby players, I felt that I just had no idea what to do.”).  Consider this comment from this blog discussing the story:

Lisa S : I don’t believe it is “man bashing gone mad”. In the instance of the girl from new zealand it is very, very hard to get out of a situation like that, especially when there are a pack of men who are very large, and are “egging” each other on. In fact it is terrifying. I was followed into a bedroom once at a party by three rugby players. I had been speaking to one, (briefly because it wasn’t a very interesting conversation), I went to get my jacket from a room, and they followed me in. I was lucky that a friend had seen them, and came and got me. Why is it always about the woman having to take responsibility, when is going to mens turn to actually decide to not participate in that behaviour as well.

Her presence in the room does NOT equal consent.  If two guys say “Come to our room for a drink” and someone goes to their room for a drink, the drink is all they consented to.  Presence does not equal consent.  And while I’m on the topic, a drunk woman does not equal consent, flirting does not equal consent, skimpy clothes does not equal consent.  No woman, EVER, asks to be raped.  No matter what she’s wearing, where she is or how much she’s been drinking.  In this case it seems that something along the lines of “come to our room for a drink”, really meant “come to our room for group sex”, which really meant “come to our room so you can be the prop for our homosocial bonding session”.  This young lady certainly did NOT deserve what happened to her just because she did not understand the coded messages that were really being spoken.

If and when a girl consents to sex with one guy it does not mean that she is consenting to sex with any and all companions that he has with him.  This reminds me of this case, and I feel that the old virgin and whore dichotomy continues to run its insidious thread through society.  It seems that some pockets of society continue to hold the false belief that if a woman is willing to have sex with one guy than then it means that she is open to all comers whether they ask her or not.

Privilege (Message to the people of my town)

Just because someone is a famous football player it does not mean that every woman that they meet wants to sex with them.  (Granted a proportion do, but by no means all).  It is an abuse of privilege to presume that that is the case.  It is an abuse of one’s position to use it to degrade women, to make someone dress in bunny ears and give an entire team head jobs [example from 4 Corners].  It is an abuse of privilege to defaecate on the floor of a crowded pub, because you’re a famous hero in your town, and no one can touch you [local anecdote]. Its an abuse of privilege to grab a woman’s wallet and throw her money away because she winced when you hit her broken shoulder and you didn’t like that reaction [happened to a friend].  It’s an abuse of position to enter an unlocked woman’s room and expect that she is going to want to have sex with you because are you – young, famous, and hot [from the program].

We enable these behaviours when we as a society, excuse them.  When we apologise for rapists and blame the victims.  When we let young men get away with their anti-social behaviours, and excuse them as though they had no control over their actions.  When we laud them as heroes and praise them for their aggression, the fact that they are ” risk takers”.

From the transcript of the 4 Corners program:

STEVE BURRASTON, CEO NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS: These guys are pumped up, they are playing a very aggressive game and they are putting their bodies on the line, it’s fearless. It’s not as bad as going to war and I wouldn’t suggest that, but it’s probably like the old gladiator days and they get out there and they belt the hell out of each other and there’s probably no other game that is like it…When we want them on the field we want them to be aggressive. They’ve got to make tackles, they’ve got to be fearless, then we want them to do things that other people don’t do. So we attract an aggressive, young, risk taking male.  We give him a shower, put a suit on him and then say now we want you to be, you know, a submissive male. We want you to go out there and not have any problems, it’s very difficult to do that. [Emphasis mine]

Ok Steve, I know that you are trying to change the culture of the Knights and educate those young men, but sending the message that putting on a suit and acting in accordance to the norms of common decency is being a submissive male, is just not helping your cause.  You know that the men can follow the rules on the field, well do not excuse them for breaking the rules off the field. Most players do the right thing, get rid of the ones that don’t and if the team has too lose a valuable player, so be it.  A small price to pay to save further women from being raped, and it would be a decent contribution to stopping the perpetuation of a this particular culture.

The way Steve and others speak about these guys it sounds as though they are bulls being bred to fight, and we wonder why they behave like animals.  As human beings, we have control over our actions and that is one of the things that seperates us from the animal kingdom.  Elite sporting stars should be held to the same standards as everybody else, not excused on the basis that they have to take risks on the field.  Some football players manage to separate their on field and off field behaviour quite well, so it can done.  Footballers are not a special species that need protection and apologists for their down time antics.

Respect

One of the saddest aspects of the program, of the whole situation, is that these guys need an education program to learn how to treat women.  And from the glimpses we got in 4 Corners it doesn’t seem like the classes are working. SIMON WILLIAMS, NYC RUGBY PLAYER: It’s not during the act, it’s the way you treat them after it. Most of them could have been avoided, if they had put them in a cab and said thanks or that sort of thing not just kicked her out and called her a dirty whatever. It’s how you treat them afterwards that can cover a lot of that stuff up.

FAIL.  Sorry, pal, its not how you treat them after that can cover a lot of that stuff up.  Its how you treat them before, during and after.  Its how you view women.  It is about having respect for women and treating them as fellow human beings.  Treating their sexuality with the respect that you treat your own.  It not treating them nicely afterwards in order to prevent a rape call from being made.  Its treating them well with every interaction and respecting women so there’ll be no ambiguity, because you won’t be able to rape them, because you respect, care, and love women and their well being is important to you.

I’m not saying don’t have fun.  Lots of respectful consensual fun can be had by all.  But at the basis is respect.  Women are not playthings to be handed around between team mates.  Women are not tools for your homosocial bonding.  They are not the spoils of victory, they are not reward for your glory, props for your homoerotic fantasies, their bodies are not yours by right.  They are living breathing human beings who deserve to be respected as such, and not degraded because “sharing” with your mates is more important than their dignity, because it is not, ever.

Apology

From the transcript (Excerpt of footage from television apology on THE FOOTY SHOW)  MATTHEW JOHNS: It caused all parties enormous pain and embarrassment.  Um, for me personally it has put my family through enormous anguish and embarrassment and has once again, [sic] and for that I m just, can’t say sorry enough. There were no charges laid. But there has been a lot of pain and embarrassment to a lot of people.

PAUL VAUTIN, FOOTY SHOW HOST: Alright mate, well said. Alright, let’s get on with the show. (End of Excerpt)

This is not an apology.  This is damage control for Matthew Johns, for the Footy Show, for the NRL.  This is saying what had to be said, so we can all get on with our lives and pretend that the story was never brought to the light of day.  This was an apology to his family, to those that he cares about.  This was not an apology to Clare, because he couldn’t give a shit about this poor young women whose life he was a part of traumatising.  This is a fauxpology and simply does nothing to counter the pain and suffering of the real victim here.  This apology is insulting, so Fuck you Matty Johns, fuck you Footy Show and fuck you anyone who thinks that that measly weasly apology goes anywhere towards addressing the harm done here.

Want more from elsewhere?

From the Dawn Chorus

I was pleased to see training for rugby players about consent and sexual violence but despair that such training is necessary at all.  Such ‘education programs’ further perpetrate the notion that acts of sexual violence can be attributed to a lack of knowledge or willful ignorance of what constitutes sexual assault or consent. Surely respect for women at a deep internal level is not something which can be taught. Further, I shudder to think how one tabulates whether such programs reduce the instances of sexual assault against women.

‘One of the Boys’ Discussion from a man’s perspective

Perhaps this whole emphasis on team bonding and ‘one in, all in’ from the sporting field is translating to an inability to switch off that mentality when the game is over. If so, it is a worrying indication of what team sport is doing for our young men. Far from being a positive influence on our lives, if this is the culture that team sport is engendering, it is indeed a worrying thing.

From Tigtog ‘Elite male athletes and homosocial bonding through sexual coercion of women’

So often we hear “women are throwing themselves at these men, they don’t need to force anyone” (how revealing is that phrase I’ve emphasised with italics – we accept that some men need to, do we? or that a need might make it “OK”?). This is crap. The idea of men turning to sexual coercion out of sexual desperation is simply not an adequate explanation – men turning to sexual coercion due to their sexual expectations, their sense of entitlement due to their status, explains so much more.

ABC’s Background reading and support links

As we used to say back in highschool – “Duh Fred!”

We should have said sorry: Abbott

Opposition spokesman for Indigenous affairs, Tony Abbott, has admitted publicly for the first time that the Coalition made a mistake by refusing to apologise to Australia’s Indigenous population.

The former prime minister, John Howard, repeatedly defended his decision not to say sorry to Aboriginal people during his 11 years in power and criticised the Federal Government’s historic apology to the Stolen Generations last year.

Addressing a social services forum in Sydney, Mr Abbott was applauded when he publicly admitted the Coalition should have said sorry while in government.

“It was a mistake for us not to apologise to Aboriginal people,” he said as the crowd applauded.

“And I’m pleased when Kevin Rudd did decide to apologise that he was strongly supported by the Coalition.”

He was speaking as the Government officially adopted the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples at a ceremony in Parliament House, reversing the decision of the previous Government who voted against it in 2007.

What I’m not clear on is whether Abbott is implying that they should have done it as a vote winning political move, or they should have done it because its the moral thing to do.  For the rest of the article goes on to say that the Opposition are declaring the Government’s decision to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of  the Indigenous Peoples, a “grave error”.

What I am clear about is that  the ABC News comments thread is proving to be excellent blog fodder.  While a few commentators shared a reaction akin to mine, some, probably diehard JWH fans, were not happy.

Concerned Aussie: Already the socialist ALP party is dragging this once great country to the far-left, so much so that we have right-thinking politicians like Abbott succumbing to the do-gooder mentality.

Tony Porter: Dear Tony,
You and I were not in OZ when the stolen generation debacle happen so don’t apologize but make sure that any help given to the indigenous or part indigenous people at this time will not come back and bite our descendants on the bum.

regret: Whats wrong with you Tony Abbott? Why do you have to rehash the past? I admired John Howard for his stance on this issue, its a pity the rest of the govt. at the time didnt get behind Mr Howard and explain that he was right in his wording.

(Do I even live in the same country as ‘concerned aussie’?)  On the, most assuredly slim, basis of a comparison between the reaction to this story and the reaction to the story about a report the lifetime earnings gap between men and women, it seems that misogyny‘s more acceptable than racism, in terms of how people comment.

Thats me in the corner losing my religion

So as I said in my last post in relation to this story, ‘there goes the last lingering threats of my Catholicism’.  Of course the Catholic Church has a history of being criticised by feminists, but before writing the whole institution off as completely worthless, I should make it plain that it was through the Church that I came to my feminism.  I think that I mentioned elsewhere that I had a happy childhood, and my education in the local catholic schools was a big part of that, as was Sunday school and church.  Church lent a happy rhythm to the week, and I loved the ritual of the Catholic service.  I remember singing hymns loudly and proudly and when I made my first communion I was one of four students chosen to stand with the Priest explaining to the congregation why the service was like the Last Supper.  I enjoyed my faith, it was a source of comfort to have a belief in a God of love, to have a friend in Jesus.  I remember praying fervently as child during times of distress and when I was quite small I even toyed with the idea of becoming a nun (until a friend of mine laughed, but she would laugh –  she was the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister and they don’t believe in nuns).  I was such a devout little girl.  So what happened?  When did I start ‘losing my religion?’

During my teens I started to realise that life wasn’t as black and white as I had thought.  I was involved for a number of years with a youth group which gave me very clear insights into the human element of religion.  The power plays, the jockeying for leadership, the righteous judging of who was committed enough, I began to see that shared faith or a common belief isn’t enough to unite a disparate group.  Some of the group were committed young Catholics and were trying to help other teens with their faiths, others were committed young adults trying to meet other teens, most of us I suspect were both.  In that time I experienced deep spiritual moments and deep human hurts.  It was in this that I got a sense of how deeply humans can scar one another without even meaning to.  But that’s not why I lost my faith.

I’ve always felt that there is something deeply wrong with society’s treatment of women and there has long been a burning sense of justice in my heart.  Gender Studies at uni gave some formal understanding of the system of the patriarchy that we are swimming in, but I was still attracted to the Church, even though it was becoming increasingly clear that the Church was thoroughly patriarchal and not going to change anytime soon.  Women weren’t going to be ordained so why stay in a church that limited women’s expressions of faith in a way that it did not limit men’s?  I thought for a time that it would be ‘easier to burn the castle down from within’.  So I stayed in the Church, and got married in the Church.  The Catholic Church, to my mind, has a strong sense of social justice and this aspect of the Church is something I’ve always loved and has in part shaped me.

It was history, finally that caused me to walk away.  Through my studies I have learned that the Bible is not the cut and dried document that I had believed it to be.  Different threads of interpretation run through the Bible, and it is a compilation of many authors and editors and translators and long forgotten oral traditions. There an environmental ethic in there, if you look past the ‘new heaven and new earth’ of Revelation (if there’s going to be a new earth than it doesn’t matter what we do to this one).  There’s a feminist message (Jesus praised Mary over her sister Martha for scriptural learning, befriended a Samaritan woman, saved an adulterous women, etc) too if you overlook Paul’s letters.  Just as the Bible is far from being a homogeneous document so the Church is not homogeneous.   I realised that  major theological decisions were made by a bunch of men coming together and arbitrarily deciding ‘stuff’ and making it ecclesiastical law.  Thousands of people have died because of differing interpretations of pure conjecture.  Books and people put to the flame for heterodoxy.  So when it finally occurred to me that my childhood beliefs were the result of closed doors power plays by political bishops of ages long gone, well these things stopped making sense to me.  The trinity, transubstantiation, the unbroken status of Mary’s hymen, tricky answers to questions that should not have been asked.

I learnt about the architects of the Church, the Early Church Fathers, men like, Augustine (pictured), Jerome, Philo, Tertullian and Thomas Aquinas who each had their own twisted version of Aristotelian logic that they brought to the Church.  These men shaped the Catholic Church and imprinted their misogynistic mindset upon the developing theology.  Understanding the humanity of those that shaped the Church is what has compelled me to walk away.  When people take seriously the notion that women are ‘the devil’s gateway’ (Tertullian) and use that understanding as the basis for a theological stance how can that institution ever be reformed – with the founding epistemology so deeply ingrained with dualistic and misogynist beliefs about the world.

Not sure what I believe anymore, but I do know this, as I work it out I won’t be trying to foist it on anyone else.  Maybe reading about other ways to be Catholic has made me pause to think about my relationship to the Church, or maybe I’m just fed up with the tragic injustice of it, but I’m going to come back to the topic and post about the Church’s teaching on sexuality shortly.