The Role of Women in Church and Households

Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
edited August 5 in Epiphanies
Here is a link to the "Priestly Genitalia etc" thread on the old website.

Feel free to add to this thread or start a new thread on a subset of the topic.

Comments

  • Does this matter these enlightened days?

    Surely men and woman can have whichever role they are suited to, qualified or want to do?
    I know some will disagree but I am inclined to quote "#me too" at them. It's about time that men learned that the world doesn't revolve around them. I'm as good or better than some men, so why should you limit me because of perceived male superiority?

    I come from a Presbyterian/non-conformist/Baptist line, so it was never really a problem in the churches I attended chuches.

    Anyone who tries quoting the Bible at me about the position of women, I can equally come back at them. Scripture states that women have isolated during their monthly, wear head covering, be confined for a certain amount of time before and after birth etc....................oh yes and we should keep slaves so that we can treat them well.
    You can't pick and choose whatever you want. You either logically think through these statements and put them into to-day's context, or you take the whole caboodle. and go back and live in 1st cent Palestine mode - no cookers, electric blankets, tube trains . Oh dear how will you survive?

    Jesus was born of a women (God didn't need to do that, He's omnipotent), it was women who were entrusted with being among the first visitors at the garden tomb. Mary was praised for taking the place of a man sitting at Jesus feet (no the normal role for a women to be a follower of a rabbi) etc etc etc.

    So let's move into 21st century Christendom, instead of trying to pretend we live in 1st cent
    Palestine. God created us as who we are. Let's honor Him by allowing women to use their God give talents (if God didn't want us to follow some of these roles, certain men complain about, then why did He give us the abilities?).

    Sorry for the rant. But it really is about time men grew up.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    As it happens .......

    I agree with you, But not all Shipmates do, or did. Sooner or later this will probably cease to be a Dead Horse, and simply become a Dead Topic. But currently, it's a Dead Horse. Hence the link to the legacy thread. That was me fulfilling my Hostly duties, that's all.
  • wh--

    Some Jews thought/think that the Messiah would miraculously be born of a man.
  • All I can add to this, which may be potentially useful but anyone is free to disagree with, is that God set the bar very high for men, and many men don't aspire to it, let alone achieve it. Where it is used at all, it is as a screen for authoritarianism.
  • I still recall my disgust at Father Fuckwit's remark to the effect that he had no problem with Wimmin, as long as they kept their pinafores on, and stayed in the kitchen.

    He retired last year, so I hope his Lovely Wife (who deserves better) gives him Hell at home.

    He, of course, only accepts priests who have dangly bits, and even then only if they put those bits in the Right Places, i.e. in their Lovely Wives, should they be Good Enough Christians (like him) to be blessed with such wives.

    :rage: :rage:

    IJ
  • He, of course, only accepts priests who have dangly bits, and even then only if they put those bits in the Right Places, i.e. in their Lovely Wives, should they be Good Enough Christians (like him) to be blessed with such wives.

    I'm pretty sure that we still frown on the putting of dangly bits in other people's lovely wives, don't we?
  • Talking of #metoo as raised by @WildHaggis , I wonder if it's possible to talk about the role and identity of women in the church without taking a hard look at the complementary role of men in a global crisis of toxic masculinity. I was reading a conservative Trad Catholic blogger on the 'feminised' church the other day and wondering what he thought a church filled with unfeminised toughened-up He-Men would look like. It reminded me of the years when 'muscular Christianity' was a trend.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    MaryLouise

    That's a legitimate discussion point in this thread and one well worth making in some detail if you want to.

    B62, Dead Horses Host
  • Thanks, @Barnabas62 . I was looking at @sionisais's comment on that bar set so high for men often reduced to being a 'screen for authoritarianism' and thinking what a troubling and uncertain time many men in ministry, leadership and in society generally have had in the last few decades as perceptions of men's roles have shifted and destabilised. I'm not interested in rehashing the polarised Dead Horses debate, but I do wonder if there is a fresh way to look at what the changing role of women signifies for men undergoing changes they could not have foreseen as boys.

    A couple of years ago, I was at a retreat where an older priest shared something of his own journey in ministry and spiritual counselling. He had been placed in a conservative, well-organised parish and was busy running a Marriage Enrichment retreat for couples from his parish. One couple asked for a private meeting with him. They began talking about the husband hitting the wife. The husband was ashamed of his actions but didn't know how to stop. The wife had fled to a local shelter for battered women on several occasions, the young children were afraid of their father. They needed help. The secrecy had to stop.

    The priest didn't know what to do. His own style of leadership was aloof, impartial, abstract. He began reading about domestic violence and was shocked at what he discovered. He referred the husband for an anger management course, he arranged meetings with a social worker to help the family, along with marriage counselling for the couple. Church resources were not enough, he felt, and he found it difficult dealing with 'secular' agencies and professions. One feminist worker at a crisis counselling centre was scornful that he knew so little about the prevalence of domestic violence.

    As well as feeling out of his depth, the priest had his own demons to confront. He had grown up in an inner-city working-class family where his father was a hard drinker and had often beaten up his wife and his sons. This was 'normal' in his neighborhood. One reason the priest had entered the seminary so young was that he was desperate to escape the chaos and violence at home. He had wanted to distance from family difficulties, and celibacy offered a quiet, orderly life. Now he felt angry and helpless all over again, unable to deal with the 'messy family stuff' in his parish. He considered studying further to specialise in canon law and avoid any pastoral ministry.

    Fortunately, his own spiritual director suggested he himself get therapy and stop running away. The priest began connecting with his parents and understanding what had gone wrong in his family, what could help them all and what was still not possible. He stayed in parish ministry and found himself able to listen out for what wasn't being said, to pay more attention what was happening to the women and youth in his parish. He needed to acquire skills that hadn't been part of his formation, he needed to set new priorities, he needed to develop a different way of being there for his parishioners.

    When he was speaking to us, he used the phrase 'limits to authority' several times, mentioning the limits of his own ignorance, the limits to what the church could offer women trapped in domestic violence, his own limitedness to help and reliance on the Holy Spirit to push him into new ways of responding. It was very moving to hear that humility and honesty.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited March 2018
    Yes. I don't think it is wrong to use the term "pathological" to describe at least some of the inherited thought patterns which have made some contribution to the subjugation of women in the church and in the home. This is a different matter to obedience to traditional doctrine, but there is a relationship between the two which is necessary to explore (as the priest quoted above did).

    We might end up veering a bit between the Purgatorial and the Horsey - but I don't mind! Let's see where we go.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    I suspect part of the attraction of Dead Horses arguments is that those entrenched positions don't change and the same points can be reiterated again and again.

    Obedience to traditional doctrines is often understood as operating against a view of male and female identities as fixed, essentialist, biological. So that there may be some nostalgia for uncomplicated interpretations dating back to a mythical time perhaps when men did not have to think twice about what it was to be a man, when someone like Billy Graham was considered ‘a man’s man’, not effeminate or emasculated or weak, unmanly, queer, goody-goody. What anxieties lurked behind those assumptions we can only imagine.

    When in 2018 we deride a world leader because his small hands indicate he may have a small penis, what assumptions are we drawing on about physical prowess, sexual potency and powerful leadership? If physical attributes point to masculinity, a deep voice and a certain build or show of strength may be necessary for someone to be considered ‘manly’. The older traditional roles and behaviours of men are now often perceived as ‘toxic masculinity’, attitudes leading to physical violence and bullying, sexual harassment, poor communicative styles, the inability to read women in social interactions and to know what is experienced as offensive or inappropriate (mansplaining).
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    So that there may be some nostalgia for uncomplicated interpretations dating back to a mythical time perhaps when men did not have to think twice about what it was to be a man, when someone like Billy Graham was considered ‘a man’s man’, not effeminate or emasculated or weak, unmanly, queer, goody-goody. What anxieties lurked behind those assumptions we can only imagine.

    <snip>

    If physical attributes point to masculinity, a deep voice and a certain build or show of strength may be necessary for someone to be considered ‘manly’. The older traditional roles and behaviours of men are now often perceived as ‘toxic masculinity’, attitudes leading to physical violence and bullying, sexual harassment, poor communicative styles, the inability to read women in social interactions and to know what is experienced as offensive or inappropriate (mansplaining).

    A couple points here. First, the unthinking assumptions about the meaning of "manhood" are inherently connected to "bullying, sexual harassment," etc. since those things are considered as either "manly" or the proper response to men who behaved in an "unmanly" way.

    This kind masculinity was inherently performative. It wasn't sufficient to simply be a man, you had to act like a man was supposed to act. If a man encounters another man who acts "weak" or "effeminate" the traditional action was assault. Otherwise you might be queer too! (and thus not really a man)

    Similar attitudes surrounded traditional views of feminity, mostly consisting of submission to and servility towards men. Assertiveness meant you weren't a real woman.
  • stonespringstonespring Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Obedience to traditional doctrines is often understood as operating against a view of male and female identities as fixed, essentialist, biological. So that there may be some nostalgia for uncomplicated interpretations dating back to a mythical time perhaps when men did not have to think twice about what it was to be a man...

    I agree that toxic masculinity is linked to the subjugation of women in society and the Church, but I just want to play devil's advocate -

    Are you arguing that either dogmatism or Biblical literalism arise from toxic masculinity?

    Are you arguing that a hierarchical form of Church governance, even one that could be reformed to admit women to positions in the hierarchy, arises from toxic masculinity? Is hierarchy itself (top-down governance by clerics, even if the clerics are supposed to listen to the concerns of the faithful) a result of toxic masculinity?
  • To understand masculinities as performative is a crucial point, @Crœsos. In the same way that heterosexuality depends on defining itself as different or other from homosexuality, ‘masculinity’ defines itself over and against the ‘feminine, what it means in religious or social terms to be womanly, feminine, submissive, compliant, a daughter, wife or mother. These roles are enacted and repeated over and over again to produce a semblance of internalized norms: this is how a girl child is dressed, this is how we dress boys; these are the games taught to a girl, these are games intended to school boys in aggression; these are unladylike words girls aren’t allowed to use, this is what a son hears his father or older brother say; this is how we train boys to become men, this is how we try to ensure they become heterosexual men and not sissies. This is how men speak, act, gesture, exert power through speech or physical behaviour. This is what men teach women in churches, this is how men come to reserve privileges of authority, leadership, preaching, theological education, etc. What may not be openly verbalised but shown in gestures and symbolic exclusions is how women are silenced and excluded for questioning these roles and privileges.

    We can’t look at the role of women in churches or the family without looking hard at what we call ‘male’ norms set up in binary opposition to female norms.
  • @stonespring, I think we'd need more than a working definition of a term like 'toxic masculinity' which is a fairly provocative term and specifically refers to a context of militarism, sexual abuse or violence against women. If we're talking about church, it might help to take a deeper historical look at how illusions of masculine authenticity and 'natural' or 'God-given' authority have been reproduced and reified.
  • The thing about dead horses, in a nautical context, is that you are saddled with one at the start of every voyage. You are flogging it until you have paid off the company for your tools and oilskins and it only goes over the side when your wages are at last your own, not 'docked' by the company to recoup their outlay.

    On the SoF newcomers find themselves restricted in what they can contribute because 'old hands' have dunit, seenit, got the tee shirt, used it to clean the motorbike and thrown it in the bin. It makes it difficult to contribute without being overawed by the wisdom of 'Foc's'tle Fathers' who have dumped a dozen or more dead horses over the side themselves and can regale one with tales of sea monsters and passages round the horn, till the late and early hours of the night watches.

    This particular 'dead horse' still has some kick in it though.

    I read some research somewhere that concluded that early homo-sapiens were a quite peaceful bunch who generally agreed early on, on a sensible division of roles to better ensure mutual survival.

    Women were more adept at social cohesion and intuitive reasoning, fruit gathering and clothing manufacture. Men concentrated their efforts more into hunting, foraging, geographical orienting, fishing etc. As a survival strategy it was clearly beneficial and became deeply engrained in the species, resulting in increased survival and population growth.

    Thus today we see some differences of aptitude generally speaking between male and female members of the human species. "Men are from Mars, Women from Venus" etc.

    Whenever resources became limited and territories encroached upon each other there would have been the likelihood of conflict but this probably did not become seriously problematic until populations grew so much that city states became established and nations learned that conquest carried reward for the victors. That seems to be when things started going wrong.

    Our evolutionary past however has left us poorly equipped for our present environment, particularly when the ancient role models are artificially enforced by tradition or religious taboo.

    The Christian faith grew out of Judaism, which grew out of various pre-existing mid eastern folk religions. The process of re-education of the human race which The Bible outlines over the course of human history is a process of 'De-Sacralisation'. Sacralisation is the process whereby mankind had adopted and devised certain rituals to try to influence forces beyond their immediate control or to regulate the behaviour of their society.

    The first desacralising reform in Biblical history was the undermining of human sacrifice as a theoretical means of obtaining the cooperation of God or the gods.

    As far as Abraham and all his contemporaries were concerned, it was a perfectly normal way of obtaining favours from God or expressing one's obedience to higher authority. The aborted sacrifice if Isaac put a stop to that nonsense, and the crucifixion of Christ put a stop to the animal sacrifice nonsense, along with many other sacred nonsenses.

    Judaism and then Christianity were and still should continue to be, movements of human reform, constantly desacralising the sacred in the interests of justice and equality. The problem is though that whenever desacralisation occurs it is soon overturned by other forms of sacralisation. The principle seems to be, when people stop believing in something, they will willingly believe in anything as long as it is something different than what they previously believed in. So desacralisation is always a work in progress.

    For some thirty years theologians and sociologists have been bringing to light the fact that early Christian thinking and the Jewish thinking of the Bible before it were not in the first instance religions that shared the foreordained element of 'the sacred'. On the contrary, they were extremely critical in relation to the whole pagan world of the sacred. It has been stressed, for example, that there was no kind of religious rivalry here but a desire to destroy the religious as such and a totally negative view of the sacred.

    Having got rid of human sacrifice, idolatry, sacrifice generally and patriarchalism, (no one could argue that the ethos of early Christianity was a definite attack on male supremacy as a sacred obligation of women to be unquestioningly obedient, supplanting patriarchalism with an ideal of spiritual equality). So overt was this attack on male privilege that it caused considerable opposition in some churches and quite a lot of later interpolations by those who opposed it, in Apostolic communications and even some of the Gospels.

    Gender equality is therefore only one issue among many that The Word has on His agenda to address over the course of history. He will continue to desacralise the cherished bastions of religiosity that mankind habitually retreat into whenever confronted with reform. Just as He drove out the temple money changers and despised sabbath sacramentalism by healing on the sabbath, He expects his disciples in every age to continue to challenge stultifying religiosity, injustice and privilege, wherever it is a cause of human or animal distress.

    ____________________________________
    In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 2 Cor. 5:19. Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Pet. 4:8.
  • Penny SPenny S Shipmate
    There was a programme on Channel 4 last night "Jesus' Female Disciples" (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/jesus-female-disciples-the-new-evidence/on-demand/66153-001) which supposedly trod new ground about the women in the NT and archaeological evidence for women in the Early Church. It was also discussed on the Radio 4 programme "Sunday" (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09y6z22). The radio programme suggested that much of the evidence had been around since at least the early 90s.

    What was new to me was a hidden church in Galilee dedicated to "Hagia Salome", and a wall painting in Naples showing a woman bishop. The radio did comment that wall paintings could show women as embodiments of the church or virtues, and more work was needed on them.

    There was also a letter from Pope Gelasius objecting to the south of Italy allowing women to practise functions confined to men, and ordering them to stop, which they did. At the same time, illustrations of women, shown in sarcophagi showing Jesus raising Lazarus, reduced Mary and Martha from main actors to very small people, to not present at all.

    This elimination of women from representation in the church, an important change when most people could not read the Bible to find them there, was dated to the time of Constantine, who was blamed for selecting a military form of Christianity as the Empire's church, but the evidence for such a form and for other forms at the same time was not presented, only a view of that very big head he had carved of himself. The development of the Early Church was squashed into the last ten minutes after a lot of driving round roads in Israel looking for the sites of Mary's tower, Tiberias for Joanna, and that cave church for Salome.
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    I wonder at what point in human prehistory we began to function as actual social groups (rather than just as kin groups, if these can in fact legitimately be differentiated from one another). After all, social roles no doubt grow out of the essential tasks of (A) survival and (B) monitoring / supervising / teaching / safeguarding offspring. These functions automatically confer some inherent authority. "That plant will make you sick; don't eat it," etc. It would make some sort of "natural" sense if members of the group observe that Thu's flint-knapping produces superior hand-axes, but Og's sharp eyesight leads to locating the best berry patches, and so on, that work got divvied up according to ability. Survival chances would appear to depend at least partly on such divisions.

    The problems seem to begin to arise when we start divvying work up according to other criteria. I'm reminded of a time when a state agency where I worked attempted to engage in "supported" work for an individual with mental retardation. Things started off well enough, I suppose, as we began figuring out what J was capable of doing, but went south in a hurry as soon as her "boss" -- the support staff person J was assigned to assist -- began offloading to J the tasks she personally didn't care for. Soon, instead of Xeroxing stuff, J was answering phones -- a task for which she was singularly ill-suited. So the experiment failed, and agency personnel congratulated themselves for "trying" and utterly rejected my diagnosis of what had really transpired.

    We see this sort of thing in family groups. Is taking the garbage out to the compost heap a rewarding and pleasant task? No? Then it will probably get assigned to the littlest kid who can be coerced into pulling it off, rather than to the individual most committed to gardening and soil amendment.

    It's easy to see that, when a significant chunk of a group's workforce routinely undergoes longish periods of time when late-stage gestation, childbirth, and nursing might interfere with, say, week-long hunting treks, the group's leadership might gradually be inclined to assign tasks on the basis of gender rather than on the basis of ability. These then get ossified into formal or informal LAW, as social customs tend to do, and here we are, still locked into this set of conflicting patterns.
  • Ohher wrote: »
    It's easy to see that, when a significant chunk of a group's workforce routinely undergoes longish periods of time when late-stage gestation, childbirth, and nursing might interfere with, say, week-long hunting treks, the group's leadership might gradually be inclined to assign tasks on the basis of gender rather than on the basis of ability. These then get ossified into formal or informal LAW, as social customs tend to do, and here we are, still locked into this set of conflicting patterns.

    A popular scholarly theory is that many, but not all, hunter gatherer cultures had prominent leadership roles for women, but that when people began to settle in one place and have agricultural harvests that yielded a surplus over what people needed to eat at one given time, wars started to break out between settlements over that surplus, which meant that armies were needed to defend them, and large-scale organization was also needed to construct irrigation.

    This resulted in the creation of a ruling class of king-priests that both provided the leadership to command armies and organize construction projects and also gave a religious justification for a code of behavior that allowed large groups of people to live and work together - and exist on different social rungs of an unequal power structure - without theft and murder within the community.

    Women began to be more subjugated as these changes happened because the militarization of society - as much as some societies did have female warriors - made being the ruler be associated with being a male in command of a usually entirely male army. The creation of a wealthy ruling class made the inheritance of wealth a concern, which meant that a man had to be sure that his children were his own and restrictions on women's clothing, movement, and other freedoms began to be more important as ways of preventing the birth of illegitimate children (women were blamed for the risk of sexual harassment and assault, as we still see today). As wealthy and powerful men accumulated property and livestock, women began to be seen and treated more as property and livestock that needed "protection."
  • Penny SPenny S Shipmate
    edited April 2018
    There was a letter in a recent New Scientist, following an article which argued that human beings display some characteristics observed in domesticated animals, and that we had presumably domesticated ourselves. (These characteristics did not include curly tails and floppy ears, but did include a supposed feminisation of features - I have seen this in the past attributed to neoteny, or a keeping of infant features into adulthood.) The letter (https://www.newscientist.com/letter/mg23731711-000-editors-pick-survival-of-the-tamest/*) suggested that there had been a breeding out, in the equal hunter gatherer communities, or the alpha male structures found in other primate groups, enabling the breeding in of the more domesticated features of other males.
    I am awaiting letters naming names. Like Trump, Putin, Erdogan, Assad, Duterte....
    *I couldn't open the whole letter. There's a paywall on the article, as well.
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    Penny S wrote: »
    There was a programme on Channel 4 last night "Jesus' Female Disciples" (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/jesus-female-disciples-the-new-evidence/on-demand/66153-001) which supposedly trod new ground about the women in the NT and archaeological evidence for women in the Early Church. .

    But, if course, it was all old hat - typical channel 4.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Ohher wrote: »
    It's easy to see that, when a significant chunk of a group's workforce routinely undergoes longish periods of time when late-stage gestation, childbirth, and nursing might interfere with, say, week-long hunting treks, the group's leadership might gradually be inclined to assign tasks on the basis of gender rather than on the basis of ability. These then get ossified into formal or informal LAW, as social customs tend to do, and here we are, still locked into this set of conflicting patterns.

    A popular scholarly theory is that many, but not all, hunter gatherer cultures had prominent leadership roles for women, but that when people began to settle in one place and have agricultural harvests that yielded a surplus over what people needed to eat at one given time, wars started to break out between settlements over that surplus, which meant that armies were needed to defend them, and large-scale organization was also needed to construct irrigation.

    Women began to be more subjugated as these changes happened because the militarization of society - as much as some societies did have female warriors - made being the ruler be associated with being a male in command of a usually entirely male army.

    The original inhabitants here were hunter-gatherers when British colonisation started in 1788 and in areas such as the Kimberleys that way of life continued until WW II. That gives us recent material to work with, and that shows that there were the male tasks of hunting, and the female tasks of rearing children and gathering. There was no militarisation of society at least in the sense of which you speak, nor does there seem to have been any ruler. The group stopped at a place in the hills during the spring time when food was available there, moved to the shores in summer to fish and so forth. No particular person made the decision, the move happened because that was when it had always happened. There were priests/medicine men but they did their tasks as an addition to the usual hunting.

  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate
    edited April 2018
    There’s another aspect to be taken into consideration when we look back at the roots of sexism and misogyny. The control of women’s sexuality and fertility is closely tied to taboo in early patriarchal and Paleolithic societies. The ‘traffic’ in women exchanged between men begins very early: daughters sold to allies, young women captured during war as a form of looting, potential husbands made to pay dowries to fathers for desirable daughters.

    Some truisms to consider, bearing in mind that specifics and prevalence varied from society to society across the ancient world:

    The connection between sexual activity and the nine-month gestation period leading to childbirth was not understood for a long time. Women could be impregnated by gods or animals in popular understanding.

    The connection between menstruation and fertility was not clearly understood. The monthly flow of blood was thought to indicate illness or ‘unclean’ bleeding, different from a wound sustained in combat, and some of the earliest taboos relate to abstaining from sex during monthly menstruation. In the same way the cessation of bleeding at menopause and the inability of women to continue to procreate led to older women being discarded or despised as barren.

    The role played by male sperm in fertility was not understood for centuries: if a woman failed to conceive, she was blamed for being barren unless her husband was obviously physically impotent. The practice of polygamy and the later establishment of the harem was to ensure that a man could have younger and more fertile wives to ensure as many children as possible, with women kept safe away from other men.

    Sexual pleasure in women was considered dangerous and leading to promiscuity and unfaithfulness. A man could only ensure that his offspring were certain to be his own by confining women. Female genital circumcision is different from male circumcision and has to do with ensuring women are unable to feel pleasure during sexual activity. Women’s sexuality was not only seen as needing to be guarded and controlled but as infantile or animal-like. Women could not control themselves and so needed to be protected and subdued.

    The establishment of prostitution for male economic profit is found in many early societies. Women were widely blamed for venereal and other sexually transmitted diseases. While groups of women may have been able to sell sexual congress on their own terms, this was rare. The struggle of women to control their own sexuality in a coercive rape culture (as we would now term many of the militarized societies of early times) led to desperate attempts to prevent pregnancy or find herbal abortifacients.

    Fears around male impotence and sterility led to women being blamed for castrating or emasculating men. The demonizing of women as religious leaders, midwives, abortionists etc, culminates in the typology of the ‘witch’ exhibiting malevolence and demonic powers threatening to men.

    Even though today we understand much more about taboos, stigmas, slut-shaming, rape cultures and the medicalisation of women’s sexuality, older attitudes and phobias persist around seeing women’s role primarily in terms of procreation or women needing to be brought under submission.
  • Penny SPenny S Shipmate
    I've been watching a Bettany Hughes programme about Bacchus (BBC 4), with her argument that we need to take account of the forces he represents, as she has previously argued about Aphrodite. Which is not the important detail. Nor is her information about the clash between the cult of Bacchus and that of Jesus, and the curious similarities between them.
    Some time before BC became AD, the Senate passed a strong law against the Bacchic cult (rather reminding me of the Acts to control Independent churches at the end of the 17th century - only five to meet at a time, for instance). The reason for this was that the cult was primarily of women, with a hierarchy of women, and a High Priestess who established the rules for membership. This challenged the established pattern of women as subservient to their paterfamilias.
    That being so, it is surprising that an Early Church kept women in positions of authority so long. Assuming they did. It was not a Roman thing to do.
    (Incidentally, the Bacchae were finally suppressed at the same time as women in the church, by our old friend Constantine.)
  • MaryLouise wrote: »
    There’s another aspect to be taken into consideration when we look back at the roots of sexism and misogyny. The control of women’s sexuality and fertility is closely tied to taboo in early patriarchal and Paleolithic societies. The ‘traffic’ in women exchanged between men begins very early: daughters sold to allies, young women captured during war as a form of looting, potential husbands made to pay dowries to fathers for desirable daughters.

    Good points. Bring a man, I am sure that I fail to see a lot of the nuances of the systematic oppression of women still at work in society today, although anyone not in utter denial can see that discrimination against women continues.

    As for the treatment of women by hunter-gatherer societies as trophies to be won in battle or as traded commodities or poker chips in negotiations among different groups, that is true from the little I know, and I am no expert on the subject. Do you know much about the diversity of hunter gatherer societies in terms of female autonomy and authority vs. agricultural societies? The idea that we were all goddess-worshipping matriarchal societies until agriculture (or until more advanced metallurgy or horseback riding or some other development) is probably reading a bit too much of one's own politics into the evidence. However, am I wrong in thinking that there was more diversity among hunter-gatherers, compared with agricultural societies in terms of how free, powerful, and wise women could be considered to be by some societies?

    Of course, there were big differences in women's rights among such agricultural societies as the Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Vikings, just to name a few in the West. And these rights changed within societies over different points in history, such as when warfare reduced the number of men relative to women in Early Modern Europe, leading to a fear of unmarried women being potential witches. But there are very few matriarchal societies that engage in large-scale agriculture necessitating irrigation or other public works and leading to surplus harvests that need to be stored and protected from enemy raids. Am I right in thinking that there matriarchal hunter gatherer societies, even if the minority, are still proportionally more common than matriarchal agricultural ones, or at least than matriarchal ones conducting large-scale agriculture?
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate
    edited April 2018
    @stonespring, the difficulty with these kinds of arguments, valid points notwithstanding, is that they are ahistorical and without precise context. Sweeping statements are useful as a kind of shorthand, but the claims are telescoping centuries and referencing very different societies.

    The general over-arching problem for me is how we account for violence against women as a persisting historic problem across cultures and places. I don’t know enough about hunter-gatherer societies to look closely at not just the division of labour and roles played by women and men in raising children, but the religio-political styles of shamanism, prophecy or healing, the participation of women and how much power they held. We’d also need to account for societies undergoing fragmentation or the stresses of war, plague, famine to understand how certain groups might have been blamed or demonized as Other.

    I’m not someone who believes in prehistoric matriarchal utopias where we simply read the presence of women as indicating non-hierarchical, democratic, liberated societies – that is essentialist ahistoric thinking. And developing rural societies that are now defined as 'hunter-gatherer' operate against a neoglobal context of exploitation. I spent a little time with the Himba in Namibia, near the Angolan border, and while their way of life may superficially resemble pastoral nomadic transhumance, the reality is more fragile and fast vanishing.

    In terms of the historic problem of ongoing sexism and misogyny, it is worth shifting the focus to how men at different times understood what they were doing and why it seemed necessary. And why certain men attempted to counter or resist other men-in-power treating women badly, to call their brothers in Christ or fellow soldiers back to ideals of respecting women, marriage or the family, to ethical behaviour as regards women, slaves and children.

    What makes it so hard for men in the church, in the law court, in the workplace, to confront or act against other men? To say: ‘This is an abuse of male leadership roles. This is a travesty of marriage. This unpaid work is unacceptable and must be stopped at once’? There is a long and problematic history of male authorities in the churches and elsewhere protecting one another and the institution at the expense of women and children, and/or colonised groups in missionary territories. An unrecorded history of men made vulnerable within male power structures, of men silenced by patriarchy and rendered helpless, oblivious even, of gay men rendered invisible and powerless, of men oppressed by anti-Semitism and racism. Easier for men often to look the other way, hang onto their own privileges at the expense of women.

    If we look at historic male figures who did resist prevalent attitudes and discrimination, you might think of (jumping forward into ecclesial tradition) men in empowering relationship with women, like Augustine and his mother Monica, Francis of Assisi and his sister Clare, Benedict and his sister Scholastica. Men who refused a father’s role and status, men who confronted dominant power groups, who saw the connections between material wealth and corruption, who recognized that ‘using prostitutes’ was wrong, men who set up alternative models for men-in-community, men who wanted their sisters to have sanctuaries where they would be safe and free to worship God in relative autonomy. Imperfect resistance but a protest against prevailing attitudes and an alternative model for men seeking to be righteous and holy, or simply decent husbands, fathers, citizens.
  • Penny S wrote: »
    The letter (https://www.newscientist.com/letter/mg23731711-000-editors-pick-survival-of-the-tamest/*) suggested that there had been a breeding out, in the equal hunter gatherer communities, or the alpha male structures found in other primate groups, enabling the breeding in of the more domesticated features of other males.

    Chimpanzees and Bonobos, both very close cousins to humans evolutionarily, have very different gender power structures. Chimpanzees seem closer to the "alpha male" structure you describe, whereas bonobos are favorites of feminist and LGBT activists for their bisexually-promiscuous societies held together by strong females. Of course, people tend to anthropomorphize primates to support their own politics, and I think it is generally agreed among anthropologists that paleolithic humans were patriarchal and moderately polygynous (one man with multiple wives, if he has enough power and resources to "obtain" them). But my whole point is that among Great Apes that are related to humans, there is diversity in terms of gender power structures.

  • stonespringstonespring Shipmate
    edited April 2018
    @MaryLouise

    You're right that it does not matter how, why, or when the oppression of women started so much as how we are going to stop it (and how men are going to use their privilege to stop it).
  • CarysCarys Shipmate
    RdrEmCofE wrote: »
    The thing about dead horses, in a nautical context, is that you are saddled with one at the start of every voyage. You are flogging it until you have paid off the company for your tools and oilskins and it only goes over the side when your wages are at last your own, not 'docked' by the company to recoup their outlay.

    On the SoF newcomers find themselves restricted in what they can contribute because 'old hands' have dunit, seenit, got the tee shirt, used it to clean the motorbike and thrown it in the bin. It makes it difficult to contribute without being overawed by the wisdom of 'Foc's'tle Fathers' who have dumped a dozen or more dead horses over the side themselves and can regale one with tales of sea monsters and passages round the horn, till the late and early hours of the night watches.

    This particular 'dead horse' still has some kick in it though.

    I read some research somewhere that concluded that early homo-sapiens were a quite peaceful bunch who generally agreed early on, on a sensible division of roles to better ensure mutual survival.

    Women were more adept at social cohesion and intuitive reasoning, fruit gathering and clothing manufacture. Men concentrated their efforts more into hunting, foraging, geographical orienting, fishing etc. As a survival strategy it was clearly beneficial and became deeply engrained in the species, resulting in increased survival and population growth.

    Thus today we see some differences of aptitude generally speaking between male and female members of the human species. "Men are from Mars, Women from Venus" etc.

    Read Cordelia Fine's "Testosterone Rex" for thorough debunking of the idea that such aptitudes can be given evolutionary significance. Gender is socially constructed in the here and now and it is often toxic to everyone - allowing men no feelings but anger which isn''t healthy for them - or for the people, especially women, who come to experience that anger as violence.

    Carys
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    Golden Key wrote: »

    Some Jews thought/think that the Messiah would miraculously be born of a man.

    The Druze think that and traditional men wear special trousers with a baggy, pleated low crotch in case it is them who'll have the privilege. (Apparently it is sudden, without warning, bloodless and painless...unlike certain other genders).
    "Just going out for a coffee and some backgammon with The Boys, dear, Be back in an hour or two"
    Returns with squalling infant
  • Leaving aside the anthropological and prehistoric reasons for gender roles in human society and the extent to which they still affect society and affect some individuals' notion of how society should be run, the shift from the heavily genderised western society of, say, 1900, to the increasingly degendered society of today has been profound and, by evolutionary standards, incredibly rapid.

    So why has it happened?

    One reason not discussed above (though it probably was in the previous thread) is the increasing focus on the individual's rights and freedoms over the last one-hundred and fifty or so years. This has been manifest in various ways: increased male and then female suffrage; employment laws protecting employees from exploitation; right to worship the God (or none) of your choice; various forms of welfare to protect the individual from hardship; access to education (albeit we have gone backwards on that one); through to the right to choose one's own role in life regardless of inherited qualities such as class, sex, and--to some degree--abilities.

    It's not surprising that the idea of ascribed roles based on attributes such as sex, class, ethnicity, age, and et cetera, is repellent to so many of us given that we have become used to the idea of the individual having a great degree of autonomy and control over their life.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    Yes indeed. The point has been made before but there is virtue in making it again. The social change, and the pace of social change, and the intuitive resistance to that change, are the driving forces behind the discussions in both Dead Horses and now here.
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