by Doctor Science
As you may have heard, last week a Brooklyn Chasidic Jewish newspaper, Der Tzeitung, printed the iconic "Situation Room" photo with the women carefully Photoshopped out:
After the ensuing firestorm, the publisher apologized, and explained: "The readership of the Tzeitung believes that women should be appreciated for who they are and what they do, not for what they look like, and the Jewish laws of modesty are an expression of respect for women, not the opposite."
I call that bupkis. If Secretary Clinton's and National Security Council member Tomason's faces had been pixelated into blurs -- as with the classified document sitting in front of Clinton -- that would have supported the allegation that the paper was showing respect for their modesty. But it is flat-out impossible to "appreciate women for what they do" while refusing to acknowledge their deeds, or that they did them, or that they exist.
This incident reminds me of one of the questions I keep kicking around in my mind:
Why is it that of all possible human topics, the one that conservative religious people of different faiths agree on is strict gender roles?
This was really brought into focus for me right after the 2004 US election. Jeff Sharlet posted wondering whether Gay Marriage, GOP Secret Weapon. He recalled [emphasis mine]:
In 2002 and 2003, my friend Peter Manseau and I spent about a year traveling the United States, reporting a book called Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible, a sort of spiritual geography of the nation. When we published the book earlier this year, interviewers asked us time and again: What's the common denominator of American faith? What is it that most of us share?I am arguing that the pattern Sharlet saw in America reflect something seen throughout the world: religious conservatism and the most fervent religious practice always emphasizes traditional gender roles for both men and women, and hopes to restrict or erase women from public life -- or at least to emphasize that women should defer to men.
We lied every time. We offered up sincere but misleading tributes to freedom of speech as the American devotion. We avoided the answer that had made itself as plain as the two-lane roads we drove on: The greatest common denominator of American belief is anti-homosexuality.
My co-author and I tripped over it without even looking. In the strong majority of hundreds of interviews we conducted, believers of nearly every variety volunteered their opposition to homosexuality. I'm talking not only about Christian conservatives, although it's worth remembering that that designation applies to the majority of Americans. We also heard about how wrong homosexuality is from Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, New Agers, Santeria practitioners, even Wiccans.
Most of these people are surprisingly abstract in their thinking. There may be a certain disingenuousness to the popular anti-homosexuality mantra, "hate the sin, love the sinner," but nearly everyone we met really did distinguish their hatred of homosexuality from their dealings with homosexuals.
How do I know? Because many, if not most, thought that Peter and I were a gay couple, by virtue of the facts that we’re writers and had come from New York City.
This is not true for all individuals, of course, but it is true for all religious organizations: look for "fundamentalist" or "orthodox" or "conservative" religion, and you will invariably find limitations on the rights of women & homosexuals.
Yet these religions do not agree on anything else they consider important. So why gender? Why should this issue and no other be what Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Shinto, Judaism, etc etc etc have in common?
Honestly, from my comparative-religion feminist perspective, it looks very much as though religion isn't the driving force in the relationship. What I see people wanting from fundamentalist/conservative/orthodox religion on every continent isn't a search for meaning or a desire for holiness or the answer to the basic questions of life -- it's pushback against shifting gender roles. All orthodox brands of religion have the same best-selling product: Patriarchy.
It comes in a variety of traditional colors, co-ordinated with your traditional culture and household decor!
Sorry. I promise to stop frothing when people stop acting in a way that supports Freudian theories. I hate it when that happens.
In conclusion, sauce for the ganders:
From Feministe. Can't you just feel the respect?