I’ve finished one of my required readings for class: Rita Gross’s fascinating Feminism & Religion. I wish I’d read this book years ago.
One of the most critical points the book makes, which was a sort of “aHA!” moment for me when I read it, was that a religion which purports to welcome and offer salvation for all can’t really be believed, when it offers hierarchical control and rewards only to half (or less) of its constituents. As she notes, this is much like writing history: if you chose to ignore the accomplishments of everyone except white upper class males, you’re going to end up with wildly incorrect and incomplete hypotheses on human behavior.
She gave a fascinating example in the current work being done to more correctly rewrite our evolutionary history so it included the accomplishments of women again. The (formerly all male) evolutionary historians found just adding in the women historians’ thoughts wasn’t enough — they all ended up having to effectively re-write everything to incorporate the differing perceptions and accomplishments of women as well. This occasioned the intellectual shift from regarding our ancestors as simple “Man the Hunter,” to more deeply understanding the true realities of gatherer/hunters: a far more complete, complex, and fascinating understanding of our evolutionary history.
This also demonstrates why the shift from androcentric (i.e. male centered) to androgynous (i.e. focused on both genders) religious & historical thought is difficult and often resisted: it’s hard to break out of mental ruts! But if we ignore that which makes us uncomfortable, we end up with self-deluding fantasies rather than an ever-closer approximation of reality.
For myself: I want truth. I may be nervous about it; it may take me a bit to wrap my head around it… but in the end, I want the truth.
In the search for that truth, it’s interesting reading objectively about the subtle discriminations of our society, as bolstered and maintained by certain religious thought. Because we’re raised with it, I believe we consider it normative, “natural,” “the way things are.” We may not initially even be able to describe it! I remember my intense frustration as a child at first vaguely sensing a sort of wrongness in how people were behaving towards each other — but not having the vocabulary to explain that frustrating wrongness. Having the simple words to discuss something is so critically important to sharing personal revelation!
As an example, I know the issues regarding double standards of treatment between females and males of all ages were thrown into sharp relief for me when my family lived in Spain while I was a child. To my child’s eye, the Spanish women were treated much like the US women I’d seen — only moreso, if that makes sense? Therefore, once I’d gotten to the point where I thought, “that’s not fair!” about Spanish discrimination… there was a growing cognitive dissonance, even to my child’s mind, in claiming it was fair to do so to a lesser degree in the US.
I couldn’t do that. I ended up having to be honest with myself and say discrimination (although I didn’t know the word for it then) wasn’t fair no matter where you were. Needless to say, pointing out these behavioral disparities did not endear me to my parents. ;)
Has anyone else been in another subculture or culture, and had a similar experience? Or been through that weird frustration of not even having words to say what they were seeing?