There’s a tendency among some egalitarian minded folks to blame the state of women — around the globe and in their own backyard — on religion.
It’s my opinion, however, that “religion,” as a discreet entity, doesn’t exist. Religions (as opposed to faith, and/or the existence of the Divine) are human social constructs, and thus cannot help but reflect the human societies they serve. In fact, it’s my opinion that the frequency with which religions serve as a vehicle through which we reveal our worst proclivities isn’t the impressive thing — the impressive thing is how frequently religion has inspired us to reach beyond our worst proclivities for our better angels.
And just as you don’t need religion to be a good person, you don’t need religion to be an asshole.
Witness the experience of a 15 year old young lady attempting to participate in an atheist group (or “subreddit”) on Reddit. She posted a thread named “What my super religious mother gave me for Christmas,” featuring a picture of herself holding a copy of Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World — I discovered her story on Skepchick last night, and my hair still hasn’t come back down from where it got stood on end.
As writer and Ms. Skepchik herself Rebecca Watson says in the post:
What a cool thing to happen! A touching tale of religious tolerance. I’m sure the comments will be appropriately celebratory and, seeing as she’s 15, nonsexual. LOL.
Because yes. That is not, to put it mildly, what happened.
It took fewer than ten responses for an audience of grown men to start referring to the young lady’s bodily orifices, and from there the distance to suggestions of abduction and rape was very short indeed — liberally sprinkled, of course, with such bon mots as “relax your anus, it hurts less that way” and “blood is mother nature’s lubricant.” Not to mention “BITE THE PILLOW, IM GOIN’ IN DRY!” and “tears, natures [sic] lubricant.” And, just to add horrible to disgusting, these comments were roundly supported by the majority of the readers on the thread — as were the many insults hurled at this 15 year old girl for having the temerity to put her own face in the picture of the gift she wanted to tell people about (because — it was claimed — males don’t do that. Which, I suppose, makes it the better way to do things). (Aside from that claim being demonstrably false – a fact demonstrated amply in the Skepchik post).
Is hurling stomach-churning rape japery at a high school student as bad as sexual abuse, rape, or organized repression? No. Is it on the same continuum? You betcha.
Until we come to fully understand that women and girls are as fully human as men and boys, 50% of the world’s population will find itself at the mercy of those who would deny them their humanity. Religious creed optional.