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#75410 - 06/18/06 08:26 AM Equality for women within religious orthodoxy
scarlet75
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This thread is a follow on from a debate that began in the 14 Children thread. There, I argued that religious modesty exists on a continuum of female subjugation.

This is only one element of a broader discussion. As religious communities experience higher birthrates than secular, and as societies become consequently more religious, what are the implications for women?

Is equality in orthodxy possible? How might secular women protect themselves against the imposition of religious norms?

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#75411 - 06/18/06 08:41 AM Re: Equality for women within religious orthodoxy
deborah Administrator
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Ching Shih


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Moderator's note: I've changed the original title of "women and religion," which I felt was way too broad, to reflect a more manageable topic.
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#75412 - 06/19/06 02:41 AM Re: Equality for women within religious orthodoxy
Sarai
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If a woman has made a choice to be a member of a religion which includes a dress code, how is it 'subjugation' for her to follow this code? I'd call it making a life choice of her own free will. Only if she is being forced to follow the religion (and therefore the dress codes) against her will is she being subjugated.
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#75413 - 06/19/06 03:24 AM Re: Equality for women within religious orthodoxy
dazey
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That seems an easy distinction to make, but what about young women raised in that religion, particularly if her family have chosen to limit her exposure to information about what her alternative options are? Technically, at 18, she's free to make a decision, but in the best case scenario she fears losing her family if she chooses another way of life, and in the worst, she doesn't know there are other ways of life. It seems easy to put "forced" and "chosen" in opposition, but there are many, many shades of grey there.

In response to scarlet75's original post (I'd argue that the edited thread title misses some of what she's wanting to talk about, by the way), I think there's an ongoing problem of societies not seeing a secular life as having any value of itself - it's seen rather as a lack of religion. I'm not sure how we go about constructing a way of talking about a secular identity that values it, respects its morality/ moralities and world view(s), without pretending that non-religion is just another orthodox religion.

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#75414 - 06/19/06 08:51 AM Re: Equality for women within religious orthodoxy
deborah Administrator
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Ching Shih


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 Quote:
(I'd argue that the edited thread title misses some of what she's wanting to talk about, by the way)
I wouldn't necessarily disagree, but I would also argue that it's not possible to encompass all of what she wants to talk about in one thread and keep it manageable, so I chose the focus I thought mattered most to her. Do you have another suggestion?

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#75415 - 06/19/06 09:29 AM Re: Equality for women within religious orthodoxy
Loraxe
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 Quote:
If a woman has made a choice to be a member of a religion which includes a dress code, how is it 'subjugation' for her to follow this code?
But what about hardliners versus moderates? and what about countries where religious zealots have taken over like Afghanistan in the nineties and Somalia today? I am sure these women don't want to have to choose between their religion and their personalities. Its not their chosen religion that is the problem, but other people.

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#75416 - 06/19/06 06:39 PM Re: Equality for women within religious orthodoxy
Sarai
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Ok I wasn't very clear. What I meant was - of course I know there are grey areas, but there are also situations where the woman has made a personal choice, and in those situations it is not subjugation. Scarlet75's original proposition was that religious modesty NEVER exists without subjugation, and I was saying that it can.

What needs to be clarified, I think, is whether it still counts as subjugation when the woman isn't aware of it/doesn't know any better.

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#75417 - 06/19/06 09:56 PM Re: Equality for women within religious orthodoxy
scarlet75
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Apologies in advance: am rushing to deadline, and have been operating on little-to-no sleep for the past week, so I cannot respond to the above questions as fully (or coherently) as I'd like.

Dazey, I would also have preferred a broader thread title. The present title, however, does allow for questions such as:

1) Does orthodoxy dominate all religious discourse? (ie do more liberal religiosities tend to defer to orthodoxy?)

2) Does orthodoxy dominate politico-religious discourse to the exclusion of other religiosities?

I'd answer a qualified yes to both.

Sarai, that's a good question.

I have personally known many orthdox Jewish and Muslim women who are highly educated, successful in their careers, and who are not subordinate to their huusbands.

I would never for a moment suggest that these women are oppressed in a broader sense...

BUT:

1) They live in Western societies that offer secular, civil legal protection and recourse. If they lived in Israel or Saudia, this would not be the case, and issues of choice would become moot.

2) While they may be equal to their husbands in secular society and in famiy life, they are not equal under religious law. Modesty is a manifestation of this inequality - though not the cause. This is because modesty places restrictions on the sexuality and behaviour of women that it does not place on men.

3) Whether inequality is forced or chosen, it is still inequality. The Christian woman who *chooses* to become a surrendered wife has not, in theory, been forced into anything. That does not make her position in the household equal to her husband's.

4) Choice is itself a grey area. This has been discussed previously. If a woman faces ostracism from her family or community for certain decisions, how much freedom does she really have?

I am not for a minute prescribing modes of behaviour, or implying that anti-hijab laws in France or Turkey have any place within the liberal context.

Should I ever witness a woman being harassed for wearing a head covering, I would rush to her defence, because I do not believe it is for anybody to dictate behaviours that do not harm others.

That does not mean, however, that I need to agree with the principles underpinning religious modesty, or that I think the logic defending it as equal is at all rigorous.

One more piece of food for thought:

In the Parisian suburbs, many rapes are perpetrated against Muslim women who do not wear hijab. This is at times couched in the language of "punishment." Consequently, many women wear hijab - if not to protect themselves from rape - to protect themselves from harassment.

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#75418 - 06/20/06 01:22 PM Re: Equality for women within religious orthodoxy
may14
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Well, I am an orthodox Jewish woman living in Israel and I am glad to say I don’t feel hemmed in at all! No one stops me from having a career or acquiring a degree (I am not doing it because I am sort of autodidact and non-conformist. Yes, you actually can be strictly religious and yet be a non-conformist). I dress modestly, but if I choose to do otherwise do you think someone could stop me? Israel is a democratic country, for heaven's sake! I have no problems with dressing modestly because I think revealing clothes are a symptom of male dominance, with which I refuse to put up. Subordinate to a husband? Well, I am not married yet but some of my friends are and whatever issues they have with their husbands they are surely not subordinate or mistreated. Actually, Orthodox women are usually decision-makers in a greater measure then men are.
And who says modesty is for women only? My brothers wear only long-sleeved shirts, exactly as I do. The only difference is that they are allowed to wear trousers (long) but then they mustn't wear skirts (or kilts…) given the choice I would take skirts everyday…
I can not tell you about Muslim society, but I was born and bred in an ultra-orthodox society, and I consider myself to be part of it. You want a proof that women are not restricted? I have an Internet connection; I write for an Israeli website, I take kickboxing lessons…along with other religious girls from the same background I come from. I probably know more about basketball and tennis then most women do… Forget your prejudices…you will find yielding, subordinate wives in every society, but that has nothing to do with religion, but with insecurity and lack of assertiveness. Personally, I have never known a subordinate wife. A subordinate husband, however…

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#75419 - 06/21/06 09:25 AM Re: Equality for women within religious orthodoxy
mashenka
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May14, thank you for that post! You are addressing a lot of my own questions.

Something that has been on my mind, though, is the fact that ever since I started dressing more modestly, I've been nonplussed and even upset when men try to speak to me, whereas before I was just kind of flattered and either replied or kept walking. But now I start wondering, "What am I doing wrong? I'm not dressed provocatively, why are they trying to meet me?" So to what extent do the rules on modest dress and behavior place responsibility for men's conduct on women? And how far do you go with that? Okay, I won't dance or sing in front of men, but the fact remains -- women are attractive to men...

I'm actually in Paris now, and I had a really unpleasant, shall we say, experience yesterday which I want to write about once I figure out what thread it goes in...

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