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Patriarchy vs. Value Part V

3 February, 2011

For most of human history, male and female had a role to play to ensure the survival of their “familia.” There must have been those who rebelled against the established role, but for the most part life was brutal and short and the species was driven, like all species to do their part. The Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity deeply codified those roles and embedded them so deeply into the minds of their followers that to disobey brought shame to the follower, shunning, and sometimes death. This pattern begins with the idea that Adam was God’s first choice and that his inability to resist either Lilith or Eve was still somehow their fault and the cause of the expulsion from Eden. All three religions challenge women to keep modest, bear children, stay at home. Oh, and to be subject to their menfolk.

Women had little choice; what options were there for them. What is now called “woman’s liberation” came at a slow pace, if it came at all. And the price paid for it was steep. Even when the Industrial Revolution began to free women from their assigned role and women could actually earn wages of their own, women were not all free to enjoy their benefits. Some remained single – “old maids” or spinsters. Married women usually still had household chores to do and babies to have and raise. Birth control, even by natural means, and abortion were strongly forbidden by church and society. Many women died trying to exercise those options.

What did/do women want? To be equally valued and equally free to make decisions for themselves. Society and religion still stand in the way of most women. Women also stand in the way of other women, depending on their own social mores and religious upbringing to criticize and demean other women for their choices. Many women have achieved independence and success in their careers. Many have achieved independence and success in their marriage. But there is still much unhappiness about the pace at which this has been accomplished. Why? – religious beliefs in the strength of men and the fallibility of women in all three Abrahamic religions (The U.S.is just as much a religious patriarchy as Israel and all Muslim countries).

How often do you hear or read women criticizing the way other women dress and intimating that they are “asking for trouble” as though they are to be blamed for being assaulted, raped, or murdered because they enticed the male “beastie?”  Why should a woman have to pretend that being beautiful isn’t as much a gift as being smart, or talented, or wealthy, or driven by a need to success?  Why do women enable the idea that women is the cause of all evil in the world?

It will take more than an argument or rational discourse or even a blog rant to undo the mind-warping effect these two beliefs have had and will continue to have. We need a 12-step program to help the adults and we need to do the very best we can to empower young women to believe that they can and will be the best at whatever they choose to be.

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