Man’s Dominion

by Guest Blogger

Guest post by Sheila Jeffreys

I wrote my new book, Man’s Dominion: the rise of religion and the eclipse of women’s rights, because I was concerned that it had become more and more difficult for feminists within the activist movement and within universities to criticise religion. When I became a feminist in the 1970s it was well recognised that the misogynist ideologies of the three middle-eastern monotheistic religions formed the very foundation of male domination. Religion provided the justification for subordinating women through various versions of the myth about Eve unleashing sin on the world and causing the need for Jesus to die. Religion provided a how-to guide to keeping women down, through rules of modesty, obedience and male headship, and notions of women’s innate disgustingness. These ideas are common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The feminist critique of religion seemed unimpeachable to me, when I discovered it in the 1970s, because I had been an atheist since I was 12 years old.

I was sent to Methodist Sunday School when I was a child and won prizes for good attendance. I’m pleased that I had that experience, because I gained a familiarity with Christian religious ideas which has been most useful for understanding their role in subordinating women. I started to get doubtful in my first year at secondary school, and would lie in bed at night wondering about whether god existed. Then at the end of that year my best friend, Lynn Humphries, a tall strong girl with a long brown plait, died of what was called an ‘enlarged heart’ and could doubtless be cured these days. I was much affected by her death, and decided that if god could not keep Lynn alive then he was not useful. I proceeded to make trouble in religious education classes, but I was lonely in my views. Atheism was not spoken of at my school in the early 60s.

When I became a feminist in the 1970s I found that all the books I was reading, Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, Eva Figes’ Patriarchal Attitudes, Mary Daly’s The Church and the Second Sex and Beyond God the Father, were strongly critical of religion and saw it as fundamental to women’s subordination. The pernicious nature of religion in underpinning women’s subordination, as well as war and persecution throughout history, seemed so clear to me that I found feminist analysis of religion often too obvious and scarcely necessary, because surely all this did not need pointing out. For an atheist like me, feminism fit like a glove.

You can imagine my astonishment when, from the late 1980s onwards, the feminist critique of religion became less prominent until it all but disappeared. One reason is, of course, the backlash against all feminist ideas in this period, but there were two other causes. Fundamentalism was on the rise and was such a clear threat to women’s rights that feminists focused their energies on opposing the most extreme versions of religion and toned down their critiques of religion in general in order to unite against a clear and present danger. But also, the ideas and practices of multiculturalism served to protect religion from criticism. Multiculturalism morphed into multifaithism. Governments funded and supported religious groups and outsourced public services to them in order to cut costs, and, purportedly, in the name of creating social harmony and fighting racism and discrimination. This made criticism of Islam, in particular, very difficult and likely to occasion accusations of racism, or ‘Islamophobia’. The other, earlier, versions of this religion, Judaism and Christianity, have been shielded from criticism behind the idea that not just culture, but religion also, must be respected, rather than roundly rejected.

The growing hostility towards the criticism of religion is clear in the accusations by cultural relativist anthropologists in women’s and gender studies journals that those very brave women who criticise Islam are orientalist, racist, or Islamophobic. Readers of Rad Fem Hub will be very familiar with how accusations of being ‘phobic’, or having an unreasonable fear or hatred, are used to protect ideas and practices from feminist criticism. Thus radical feminists are regularly guilt-tripped by being accused of transphobia, or whorephobia, if they criticise transgenderism or men’s prostitution abuse of women. In relation to Islam the critics who are attacked in this way include both women who remain practising Muslims, such as Irshad Manji from Canada and Fadela Amara from France, and those who have rejected religion altogether such as Maryam Namazie who heads the One Law for All campaign in the UK against incorporation of Sharia law into civil law. I argue that feminists should give the strongest possible support to women such as these, who receive death threats and insults for their criticism of religion.

In the book I discuss all these developments, and show how religion has come to play a much more prominent part in public life, being used to trump women’s rights as human rights at the UN, and to prevent the protection of women and girls from practices such as covering, forced marriage and polygamy. I hope that the book will reinvigorate the feminist critique of religion and encourage activism against its increased influence. It is not just those varieties of religion usually defined as ‘fundamentalist’ that need to be opposed. The vast majority of religious practice in the world remains profoundly patriarchal and true to its origins. Women are kept out of places of worship, or confined behind barriers so they cannot contaminate men’s rites, they are forbidden to speak or excluded from the priesthood, they are subjected to humiliating rituals of cleansing when they menstruate or give birth so that men may penetrate them without being polluted, they are bidden to be covered and obedient, they are required to accept unwanted penetration and childbearing.  Though many women have struggled in the last four decades to ameliorate the severity of the womanhating and discrimination that inform varieties of religion they have some allegiance to, there has been little substantial change. Religion remains the bastion of male domination.

I do not consider myself to be part of the much trumpeted ‘atheist movement’ of the present, spearheaded by rationalists and scientists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. These men use rationalist arguments and scientific ideas to argue that god does not exist, and that no idea of god is needed to explain the world. But feminists have been quite suspicious of both the rationality and scientific objectivity that such male thinkers make claim to. Dawkins’ scientific triumphalism fails to appeal, and most of the time seems to be stating the obvious, to feminists whose concerns about religion are not whether god exists, but the fact that religions promote misogyny, and truncate women’s opportunities, in countries throughout the world. Though I hope that this book will contribute a feminist perspective for those involved in the atheist movement who are prepared to include the issue of women’s equality in their ruminations, it is not directed to the ‘new’ atheists so much as to all those concerned with women’s rights who have felt that they should curb their fury so as not to offend and be disrespectful to religion. Disrespect is crucial. Disrespect for the cultures, values and institutions of male domination is the very foundation and sine qua non of feminism. Since religion is crucial to the construction of cultural norms in every culture, disrespect for it should be the natural amniotic fluid of feminist thought and activism.

Sheila Jeffreys is an academic and writer, originally from London, who teaches in Australia. She has been a rad fem activist for 38 years.

40 Responses to “Man’s Dominion”

  1. Fantastic and impressive Sheila…….at last a voice of sanity want to read more and more…..

  2. The male-led atheist movement is just as sexist as any other group. Richard Dawkins made some very dismissive comments about atheist blogger Rebecca Watson when she explained (in a rather feminist-lite way) why she was uncomfortable about being chatted up by Random Dude in a hotel lift at 4am. So basically, even atheist dudes enjoy their sexism too, once again proving that women cannot align themselves with any male-led movement.

  3. I am an immigrant and I am sick of multiculturalism and being acused of “islamophobia” (which is not a word at all). I compare it to transphobia since several years now though it is not exactly the same.
    In my class at university we discussed cases of 13-years old girls being married (=repeated rapes) as a cultural value. And people tried hard to figur out whether this was ok or not. Have they no compassion at all? Of course I spoke out against this to my female(!) prof.. The leftists I used to hang out with accepted me to make fun of christianity and to be critical of it. But they claimed it was racist to say the same about islam. And this is why women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali (or feminists from Turkey like Serap Cileli etc.) don’t associate with the left any longer. Neither do I. Religion = culture = system of men oppressing women. It’s still the same abuse and crime no matter what the victim’s origin is. And none of this is a reason to deal with liberal men anyway. A leftist male cabaretist in Germay suggested that muslim customs should be left alone because German men are just jealous of the Turkish men. Well, he’s not the one getting raped, impregnated, beaten up or killed, is he?
    Rape is wrong. Murder is wrong. And the other things, too. This is racism and othering when one thinks that people of certain origin may be rightfully abused by certain other people of a certain origin. But because it is women and girls of colour who suffer from it mostly (and homosexual women and men of colour), their suffering is ignored. These are people whose humanity is denied easily. But men of colour, their maleness is accepted. Noone would want to take away their entitlement to commit these crimes. Because the victims don’t count! They are women, homosexuals, children – of colour. AND because the Western men commit similar crimes, too. They just want to intimidate women by showing that it could be worse.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deoknt3uocY That’s how sick it is.

  4. Religion provided a how-to guide to keeping women down, …

    Oh, yes. And having been raised agnostic but with a healthy dose of Probably not!, feminism is the only *religion* I’ve ever put any faith in. And, like you Sheila, I feel it is absolutely necessary to continue to call out Religion for the damage it does, and has done to women and girls regardless of the mainstream jeers of x-phobic.

    Something in particular that I’ve spent some time learning about is the rise of the fundamentalist splinter groups of “Quiverfull” in the United States (with a rather populous contingent in Australia as well) that came but moments after the swelling of the Second Wave along with the introduction of legal abortion and the Pill. It was a call to women to revel in their “natural, God-given” fertility and to produce as many Xtian warriors (and “helpmeets”) as God saw fit to “bless” the “head” with, and for a lot of young women in the 80s this seemed by far the better choice than emulating Madonna, the Lonely Career Gal or the working poor/back-to-school divorcee with latch-key kids.
    Quiverfull promised a committed husband, happy children and a safe haven from which to a woman’s work and as a bonus, she had Jesus in the role of what Dworkin called the “brother lover”.

    But at No Longer Qivering ( http://nolongerquivering.com/ ) women and girls who have exited various dominionist religious groups tell their stories of extreme emotional, physical, and sexual/reproductive abuse at the hands of “Godly” men. BDSM/sex-positive ‘culture’ drools with anticipation over the Daughters of these cultic sects and even “egalitarian” homes, perfectly groomed by their rigidly enforced religious submission, but who think they have found their escape by expressing their ‘freedom’ through what had been a forbidden sexuality; they jump out of the frying pan and directly into the fire.

    (Will <Men’s Dominion be available for Kindle?!)

  5. Great work here. Unfortunately, we have a whole new generation of women running over to schools of religion to get PhDs, and the solid exodus from religion ended. We’ve got passals of lesbians getting ordained right and left, even a few bishops these days.
    And these liberal women are supporting the liberal men. They are still afraid of radical feminism, still quite afraid to attack the very foundations of the world’s religions. I guess they want jobs, and religious jobs in liberal churches seem to be interesting to them.
    Teaching at liberal seminaries is all the rage of liberal women too.

    So we’ve got some real problems just getting these ideas across to supposedly educated women who believe that religions can be liberal or that awful word “empowering” to women. Do women never learn?

    It’s scary to watch fundamentalists rule the roost in blatant fashion, to produce anti-woman doctrines all over the media, but hey if it is done to women it isn’t a profound violation of human rights because women aren’t human according to all men.

    Religion remains a strong force in the world, and the challenge of feminism is to provide an alternative…. and since religion eat up women’s “volunteer” time, the “good works” go back into the very places that hate women to begin with.

  6. good point about eating up womens volunteer time sheilaG. thats so true and its such a deliberate con.

  7. I recently purchased a copy of Man’s Dominion and already I have bookmarked innumerable pages. I cannot recommend the book highly enough because Jeffreys very succinctly analyses how and why religious fundamentalism is once again on the increase and as always men are using religion to maintain their pseudo right to dominate and control women, their bodies and their sexualities.

    If you have ever wondered how to understand the controversies surrounding the hijab then read Sheila Jeffreys book because Jeffreys provides extracts from Muslim feminist women who explain precisely why the rise of the hijab is occurring and why left-wing men believe criticising Islamist religion is not appropriate. Read the book too in order to understand precisely why the UK, Australia and US male-dominated politicians are working hand-in-glove with the religious patriarchs in order to garner votes and of course women apparently do not vote because these politicians only see men as the default humans.

    As Sheila Jeffreys says and I agree with her – religion or rather men’s version of religion is being used to trump women’s inherent human rights because men’s religion is supposedly above criticism and it is right that men should continue to dominate/control and view women as men’s disposable sexualised commodities.

  8. Hi everyone. I’m de-lurking to comment on this post. As a former christian, it took me years to finally realize how damaging christianity really is to womyn. I denied it and comforted myself by saying “Well, I don’t believe in THAT doctrine.” But even if I didn’t, so many others truly did. A guy I knew once said out loud, in a group of people, without a shred of embarrassment, “Women are really here in order to serve men.” I was invited to a women’s bible study where we were lectured on how in marriage, women have to submit to their husbands, so we should be looking for a man we would “submit to.”

    A friend of mine was told “There are scriptural reasons for women not to be leaders in the church.” Yeah, to keep them out of power. To uphold the status quo. To keep them from teaching against those very doctrines that are used to keep us down. They make it so blatant. They (other christians) always backed up what they said with verses from the bible. I guess if it’s in a book written 2,000 years ago we should still follow what it says, right? (sarcasm) I am ashamed I deceived myself for so long. But over time I came to my senses. There is no defending a system of belief that preaches womyn’s subordination. Or that homosexuality is evil and wrong. I don’t know as much about Islam and Judaism, but from what I understand, they are as patriarchal as christianity.

    What do you think about religions that are not patriarchal in nature? Like Wicca or other earth-based faiths.

  9. God Speaking to Mohammed

    I.
    really jammed Arab men
    allowing women to own property
    the most important potential event
    in a thousand years –

    but the men worked it out
    they seclude the girl children
    then marry them off quickly
    to their cousins
    the girls don’t even know how much they had –
    and then they are covered
    and then they cease independent existence –

    II.
    and God speaking through Mohammed said, submit, Men,
    bow down like a woman, butt in the air –

    not so bad
    they could still be gods to half of humanity-

    at least God spoke to Men.
    Women are only spoken of
    as objects, by God in the Koran.

    Don’t tell me it has changed.
    I have learned to read.



  10. well put Tiptree

  11. Thanks, Yba wife, and thanks for defending the woman who was raped…

  12. I’m an equal opportunity bigot. I despise all patriarchal religions and am not shy about saying so. A few years back, I turned the Ms. boards upside down when I went after religion. I mean, WTF is a religious category doing on a feminist board? Christian feminist is an oxymoron. Judaism is a real barrel of laughs when you try to critique it. Jew, you see, is both a religion AND an ethnicity and they will switch from one to the other as it suits them so they can shield their woman-hating religion from critique. Favorite ploys to silence you: you’re a racist. Remember the holocaust. Good thing I’m politically incorrect and immune from such things. Piss on racism and the holocaust, that’s already been covered. What hasn’t been covered is what’s up with this religion in which it’s chanted every day in the morning prayer, “Thank god I’m not a woman.”

    The fact of the matter is, more people have been killed in the name of god than for any other reason in history. Altho I contend that being female is the # 1 reason and god would be # 2. They just don’t count the bodies of women, children and livestock is all. But at any rate, religion is not just about believing in little invisible fairies in the sky. Truth be told, I haven’t found any religious dude, priest, minister, rabbi or otherwise, who believed in such things yet. Religions, you see, are much more than that. Religions are political and economic systems. THAT’s what men believe in. Systems in which they can exercise power and control.

    It is time patriarchal religions were recognized as nothing but organized, misogynist, hate groups that need to be abolished. I don’t want to hear this noise about free speech and freedom of religion. I could care less what the voices in men’s heads tell them. Hate speech is not a right. Subordinating and disenfranchising half the population is not a right. Denying women sovereignty over their own bodies and lives is not a right. And men whispering to children in the darkness of a confessional is beyond creepy. It’s downright child abuse.

  13. Dawkins’ scientific triumphalism fails to appeal, and most of the time seems to be stating the obvious, to feminists whose concerns about religion are not whether god exists, but the fact that religions promote misogyny, and truncate women’s opportunities, in countries throughout the world.

    Seriously. Who gives a shit if “god” exists? Let’s talk about here & now: women on EARTH. To truly appreciate the depth of misogyny inherent to all major religions is to realize that any kind of “ethical” or “moral” structure they purport to offer is fundamentally, irredeemably corrupt. It has always amazed me that the undeniable woman-hating in the Bible did not seem to negatively impact its overall credibility/authority on “right” and “wrong.”

    Related: over the weekend my aunt was praising the book When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone. I think it really resonated with her; she was very animated about it. 🙂

  14. Oh, and YES TO ALL OF SHEILA JEFFREY’S BOOKS ON KINDLE! Please.

  15. I’ve just ordered the book. A revived critique on religion is long overdue!

    In a world which is now polarized into “Western” and “Islamic”, Moslem women are forced to choose between loyalty to their “people” and critiquing their own religion. The more Western media demonizes Muslims, the more fiercely loyal Muslim women will become to Islam.

    Islam did a lot of good for women 1400 years ago: Muslim women were among the first to own property, the first to be guaranteed inheritance money— long before European women had anything comparable. I’ve read about “The Verse of the Knock” in Shariah, which talks about if a husband has been working away from home, and returns without warning, he is required to knock on his own front door three times, so that his wife can allow any lover to disappear out the backdoor.

    Islamic apologists argue that the religion itself is beautiful, but it’s *people* that distort it, but it’s definitely now time to move the discussion forward.

    Many strong, educated muslim women live freer lives than their western counterparts… but jump through hoops to justify writings in the Koran that cannot be justified.

  16. ” the ideas and practices of multiculturalism served to protect religion from criticism. Multiculturalism morphed into multifaithism. Governments funded and supported religious groups and outsourced public services to them in order to cut costs, and, purportedly, in the name of creating social harmony and fighting racism and discrimination”

    Multiculturalism has been a real poison for women – under this nice and benign supposedly anti-racist and “pro-diversity” term, what it masks is that the cultures it designates are only male cultures, that is, different expressions of male appropriation of women, their bodies, their work and reproductive power. As anything patriarchal, it’s never been of any interest to us and is always directly harmful.

    What’s even more laughable is that it doesn’t even do anything to change the racism (between these classes of men) it pretends to fight, since coexistence of different groups has never meant absence of hierarchy/domination/exploitation. It’s just a liberal hoax, as usual. Where I work, so many firms pay for communication consultants to get them a pretty “multi-culti diversity label” to pretend they’re doing something against discrimination. They hire a few token minorities, show images with women (feminised of course), arabs and disabled people, hire legal consultants that help them to take advantage of all the possible legal loopholes and make sure they’re completely covered so not to be bothered by unions or pesky employees reclaiming some rights. they never give a damn about discrimination (let alone patriarchy), all they want is to continue to exploit, destroy, and not be hindered.

    “But at any rate, religion is not just about believing in little invisible fairies in the sky. Truth be told, I haven’t found any religious dude, priest, minister, rabbi or otherwise, who believed in such things yet. Religions, you see, are much more than that. Religions are political and economic systems. THAT’s what men believe in. Systems in which they can exercise power and control.”

    Haha! Nice one : D
    I’ve always felt that religious institutions were a pile of snotty bogus and monumental lies. I remember going to church school on weekend and rolling on the floor out of laughter with my sister when they would read the bible. Eveything seemed so stupid, like an endless joke.
    These religious institutions have nothing to do with god, but all with male supremacy and destruction / expropriation of women. Not only they’ve always been patriarchal, but they’re probably the first organised women-hatred propaganda machines that ever existed. Patriarchy IS a religious insitution.

  17. Religions are a threat…. they are simply another form of male power used to keep women in line. And it’s all about male power and male gods… women get sucked into these things because they seemingly mouth peace and compassion… that’s the bait to hook women into being controlled by the male monarchs… popes, bishops, imams, rabbis….The threat of hell is something men in power use to control less powerful men, and all women. And it’s quite open and obviously presented by fundamentalist talk radio nationwide. The man is the head, woman is the helpmeet of men… women submit to husbands…this stuff is openly preached on the airwaves constantly. Women believe this nonsense. Slaves obey your masters… well they don’t openly preach this anymore, because ahem, men were slaves. It’s ok to preach female inferiority and to mask it with “love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage” … romance is the bait to the Christian het woman, true womanhood, serving your lord and master… all puts more money and more power into the pockets of these petty little preacher dictators who will say a bunch of really dumb stuff to control women in every way they can. That’s all it is, male power and abuse of power.

  18. “Islam did a lot of good for women 1400 years ago: Muslim women were among the first to own property, the first to be guaranteed inheritance money”

    Perhaps early Islam did improve things for women or perhaps it embraced laws that the Arab people had in place before Islam came onto the scene. I know that prior to Islam the Arab people worshipped three goddesses who had shrines at Mecca: Al-Lat, Al-‘Uzza and Manat, as well as a moon god who once would have been the son of this triple goddess, but due to the encroachment of patriarchy was called their father.

    All patriarchal religions, pagan or christian, had one purpose; to overthrow the previously women focused societies, remove women from the temples and replace them with men, and to justify atrocities against women, children and other men through war. “The Lord” in the old testament approves all these things!

    Thank you for this post Sheila.

    “Religion provided a how-to guide to keeping women down, through rules of modesty, obedience and male headship, and notions of women’s innate disgustingness.”

    Men have disgusting eyes.

  19. “Perhaps early Islam did improve things for women or perhaps it embraced laws that the Arab people had in place before Islam came onto the scene. ”

    That is possible isn’t it. The way they tell it, tribal desert Arabs were burying their baby girls in the sand before Islam came along and improved their status. Then again…

  20. But Persian women’s status fell so much when Islam was introduced there.

    I remember an interesting case 8 years ago of an ancient mummy being found on the Iran-Pakistan border. It was a female body. Both countries of course wanted to claim it as their own and had to put their case forward.

    It was proven that the mummy was Iranian because the woman was clearly of a very high *status*, due to the fact it was buried alone (not with a husband), surrounded by riches, amongst other signs.

    Ironically, in order to get the mummy, Iranians had to prove that women’s status in society was much higher pre-Islam. It was easy to prove.

    I was laughing at that.

  21. The christians were always accusing goddess worshipping societies of child sacrifice. Witches were accused of eating babies, as well as blighting crops etc. Yet child abuse and child torture were, and still are, commonplace among priests.

    Here is and example of what “good” Catholic men did to the waldenses (another christian sect). Anna Charbonniere was impaled and carried like a banner on a pike from San Giovanni to La Torre. Scroll down to see the image of this poor young woman: http://wapedia.mobi/en/Waldenses, if you can stomach it.

  22. And do you remember that story from the old testament, when a man offers his daughter to a bunch of gangsters in order to safe a stranger who is his guest? A christian woman who wants “religious feminism” argued that feminists should find a non-misogynous way to deal with stories like this one…

  23. Very glad for this post, thank you. Absolutely, criticism of religion is a must. I also think it’s important to be clear about the intents and ideas behind “atheism” as distinct from the intents and ideas behind criticizing institutionalized misogyny. The concept of atheism is all about whether god exists and critiquing the human need for ethereal sky daddies (or mommies!) with power over and compassion for humans and blind faith in same. Of course it matters to atheists whether god can be proven to exist. The whole endeavor is this simple: to prove that there is no basis for blind faith in sky daddies because sky daddies don’t exist. Atheism has common elements with the critique of human institutions that use whatever means they have at their disposal to subjugate some portion of the human populace (such as the understanding that blind faith of any kind leads to bad things). But as we know, they aren’t the same thing entirely (thank you for making this abundantly clear to your acolytes, Richard Dawkins) and there’s a problem if we’re not careful to distinguish between them. Plenty of very smart, very radical women do believe in things based completely on faith, books and stories written by humans, and things they were trained to as children. I think the interesting discussion is whether radical feminists can critique the institutions that are based on those things, without critiquing the very basis itself (the existence of things that can only be “believed” and not “proven” through “rational” means). I’m not interested in defending atheism or faith or rationalism (I’m agnostic on all, LOL); like all things radical feminists take on, we need to go all the way to the ends of the ideas and not get bogged down in whether elements of modern religions — or atheism — have been good for women or not. Plainly, being human institutions formed with and in the patriarchy, they haven’t been and they aren’t and they won’t be. It’s our core endeavor to expose and criticize patriarchal institutions and every bulwark that keeps them intact, including blind faith of any kind. And perhaps even faith of any kind, including faith in science and rationality.

  24. I think religion is really about politics, not blind faith. You can walk out into nature and feel your spirits raised, whether you attribute the sensation to deities or not, it is a powerful feeling which can be exploited for political purposes. Women were the first to understand this because the world is beautiful in their eyes, they used this understanding for political good— to hold power balances and create a balm for emotional pain and grief. They also mixed their scientific, spiritual and political observations of the world to create meaning and advance knowledge about nature, which is why they intertwine animals and stars with spirits; people absorb knowledge better when their emotions are involved in the learning process.

    Not all religions hold that a deity will answer their prayers, most ancient religions talk to their ancestors and erect stones to them, in a similar way we visit the gravestones of our relatives today.

    The majority of people were converted to patriarchal religions by the sword, take the sword away and we witness diminishing congregations. The recent upsurge in patriarchal religious dogma is political and, as Sheila says, supported by cultures which have not yet had an opportunity to achieve a functioning degree of democratic freedom; it is part of the backlash against feminism.
    Women can be persuaded because christianity promises love in exchange for subservience, subservience inspires contempt not love, but women buy into this because they are desperate for a practical solution to their generic problem of being female under patriarchy. Desperation is a key component of control, poor people play the lottery and believe in rags to riches stories, women worldwide are the poorest people of all.

    Like feminists who have lost faith in feminism, women often remain in the church long after faith has gone; out of habit and to maintain their social networks.

    I don’t think there is such a thing as blind faith, only indoctrination, desperation and maybe a vision or two, which quite rightly can’t be understood as scientific because such things cannot be convincingly demonstrated to others.

  25. Dworkin’s “Right-Wing Women” was never translated into German. Here is a quote from it for possible young readers like myself:

    “Religion is fundamentalist, orthodox, essential to the Right’s political agenda. The moral order and the social order are supposed to mirror each other: authority, hierarchy, and property are God-given values, not to be compromised by secular humanists, atheits, or liberals who have [from the rightist’s point of view] perverse ideas about equality. In the U.S., religion is a political arm of the New Right. Anti-abortion political action is organized in churches; gay-rights legislation is defeated by religious leaders organizing against sin; equal rights legislation for women is opposed on theological grounds. The husband [= to husband] is likened to Christ, and legislation is introduced in the U.S. Congress to see that the simile becomes enforceable public policy. Battered women are called “runaway wives” [http://scumorama.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/things-that-run-away/ ] when they do get away and are denounced for being insufficiently submissive: escape is immoral. Sexually harassed women are faulted for not being “virtuous”. Depictions of men and women in school books are supposed to conform to fundamentalist dicta for men and women: the wife is to be shown in the full splendor of her domesticity [domesticated cattle]. The family is intended to be a feudal unit in this political passion play: and religion is a fundamental and politically effective tool in this program of domestic repression and social control.”

  26. I need to order Sheila’s new book (great post, btw 🙂 ). A renewed radical feminist critique of religion is very much needed these days. I hate it when Catholic womyn start becoming all apologetic when we start criticising “their” religion, just like my mom; she’s being so brainwashed by Xtian crap, it’s unbelievable…

    I cannot stand patriarchal religions, though I have to say that Patriarchy is in fact the world’s dominating religion, including in secular social groups. I remember Mary Daly saying something like this in Gyn/Ecology. I agree that religious men use their bible, koran, etc to attempt to justify the subordination of womyn, but I can also see that many atheist men also use pornographic, PIV-centric, Freudian, capitalist, male-centric or trans, etc (you name it) ideologies to attempt to justify the subordination of womyn also… All those male systems clearly have to come down (and be destroyed) so that womyn could finally be freed from male oppression…

    It’s ok to preach female inferiority and to mask it with “love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage” … romance is the bait to the Christian het woman, true womanhood, serving your lord and master

    Goddess, really, this is not much different from any other BDSM scenario…

  27. Bravissima, Sheila!
    Robin Morgan

  28. *”Goddess, really, this is not much different from any other BDSM scenario…”*

    Took the words right out of my mouth, MarySunshine. And especially ZEph’s quote here:

    “Women can be persuaded because christianity promises love in exchange for subservience, subservience inspires contempt not love, but women buy into this because they are desperate for a practical solution to their generic problem of being female under patriarchy. “

  29. And OMG, it’s Robin Morgan 🙂 🙂

  30. What an very interesting post,Sheila.Thank you,and great posts the rest of you.Still very new here and trying to read all the stuff here.
    I agree,i’m a catholic myself (not going to church etc anymore) and they think abuse,child abuse etc,is normal
    I’m a victim of child abuse and everytime i tried to go there for help? They just laughed and told me he had the right to do that because he’s my father.So he had the right to hit me,so hard that i’m having pain in my left elbow forever,because he hit me with a chair.Is that his right?And that he wanted to kill me with a knife and then i hit him back cause i had enough of the pain?
    Later when i told my Catholic family what happend to me they said,it can’t be he’s so nice,a good catholic
    Still angry about that.

  31. Carpenter- *hugs* typical case of Catholics trying to cover up child abuse, especially girlhood abuse by men. There are actually a few scenes of girlhood abuse being portrayed as ‘right’ in the Bible itself, e.g. the one with the man sleeping with his two daughters in the old testament…

  32. Absolutely great work Sheila!!! I just received your book today

  33. Maggie *hugs back* thank you.
    I know that story and it’s an awful story,ugh.
    It will always be a part of me,the pain ,the scars etc.I’m healed,kind of but some people will always tell you he had the right to do that.The beating,etc.I remember,this year,i had an argument with an Catholic on a forum,it was really awful. She said child abuse is not common amongst priests etc and it made me sick,i couldn’t sleep for days and i cried again like i did in my childhood.The nightmares and demons came back again.

  34. I can’t wait to read it!

    I think that feminists have been given the false choice of tacitly accepting multiculturalism under the liberal banner of immigrant rights or losing liberal support… We can’t pretend that culture isn’t an issue: it is in fact the whole issue.

    When someone emigrates to another country, isn’t it because they feel that their personal values are so different from the values of country in which they were born, that they want to leave? I think that it’s ridiculous that we as a culture are expected to adapt to even centrist, foreign views: no country in the world would do the same for us. I’ve known some immigrants who said that they came to America to make money, but if that’s the case then why should we care about their feelings? We certainly criticize the behavior in our own culture, but we’re supposed to bite our tongues over the brutal, and disgusting abuse of women in other cultures?

  35. I used to be Muslim, and I studied classical Islamic law and other nonsense for a good portion of my life. Yes, some Arabs did worship goddesses, as well as male gods, prior to the advent of Islamic monotheism in the peninsula (there were already Jews, Christians and Manadeans in the Peninsula, who obviously were followers of the Biblical god). Allah was called the father of these goddesses by the pre-Islamic Makkan Arabs; however, in Islamic theology and belief, “Allah” has no gender at all. Of course, Allah is always on men’s side, but to say that “Allah is male” would be incorrect from an Islamic perspective. The singular and plural “he” in Arabic encompasses both sexes, while of COURSE the singular and plural “she” is XX only. The names of god in Arabic are both feminine and masculine (in the language). Rahman, or most merciful, is a feminine word, while al Muthill, the one who bestows dishonor, is masculine (ha).

    However, worshiping a goddess or a genderless god doesn’t mean that pre-Islamic society was necessarily more progressive for women. I think it was probably a wash. There were bad things and there were good things. The things that many Muslims & their apologists claim about women’s rights in Islam were already present prior to Islam in peninsular culture. Khadijah, the first wife of Muhammad, owned property and ran her own business — and did so PRIOR to the advent of Islam as well as after it. Many of the customs we dislike in Islam – full face veiling, purdah – were adopted from cultures that Islam ran into on its way to world domination, like Persian culture. Yet they are justified and enshrined in shariah. More like “improvements” on Arab-Islamic customs that restricted women’s movements before it ever left the peninsula. After all, the wives of the prophet that came after Khadijah’s death veiled themselves and were secluded as well — meeting Persian culture just extended that “right” to all women (or middle and upper class women) instead of the apostle’s wives.

    What did Islam improve in the lives of peninsular Arab women (and then, as it spread, other women) 1400 years ago? Other than telling d00ds to stop burying newborn baby girls alive, and promising them more heaven points if they kept them alive till adulthood (when they could be married off)? It reformed divorce rules, but the advantage was still, as it is today, in the hands of men (contrary to claims, women do *NOT* have the right to initiate a divorce in Islam, not then, not today. Petition for release is not guaranteed and requires the wife to pay the husband). It placed limits on how severely a man can beat his wife – but still tells men now and forever that it’s okay to beat them if they are disobedient (4:34). It gave women the right to refuse consent to a proposed marriage, but marriages are still arranged and women are still unable to contract their own marriages no matter their age or intelligence – a male guardian must do it for her in order for it to be a religiously valid marriage.

    These things are still alive and well and enshrined in law in most Muslim countries today. More than that, they are practiced as customs in western Muslim communities.

  36. “When I became a feminist in the 1970s it was well recognised that the misogynist ideologies of the three middle-eastern monotheistic religions formed the very foundation of male domination.”

    I think this is the single most implausible statement ever made by Sheila Jeffreys. Here I, a radical feminist, disagree strongly with the other radical feminists.

  37. how cryptic, KG. care to elaborate?

  38. E-mail to CBC.ca/tapestry

    Please consider interviewing Sheila Jeffreys. Her new book is Man’s Dominion.

    https://radicalhubarchives.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/man%E2%80%99s-dominion/

    With thanks for your remarkable program. I podcast then listen as I do housework.

    (I thought to cover a couple demographics there). And yes, seconding please, books online
    in Overdrive, Adobe or Kindle, for vision aid as well as convenience.

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