“Religious Freedom” is Code for the Sanctioned Removal of Women’s Rights

by smash

-Jan Brewer, Handmaiden of the Patriarchy-

US  residents may have noticed the recent War on Women being perpetrated in this country using the excuse of “religious freedom” to justify this rollback of women’s rights.

For the most recent installment of this assault on our rights, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer recently signed House Bill 2625, which authorizes employers with religious affiliations to refuse to cover contraception on their employees’ health insurance plans.

States Brewer about the bill:

In its final form, this bill is about nothing more than preserving the religious freedom to which we are all Constitutionally-entitled.  Mandating that a religious institution provide a service in direct contradiction with its faith would represent an obvious encroachment upon the 1st Amendment.

Radical feminists know that “religious freedom” and women’s rights are in conflict. As Sheila Jeffreys says in her excellent book Man’s Dominion:

religious patriarchs are increasingly using rights talk to defend their subordination of women and girls. They justify the harms through the ‘right to religion’. (page 8).

This is exactly what is happening with respect to Arizona’s HB 2625. Women’s rights are not seen as important as the “right to religious freedom”—which is, in essence, the subjugation of women through, among other things, taking away our right to be free from unwanted pregnancies.

Radical feminists fight for women, and recognize that patriarchal religions are harmful to us. We know that the term “religious freedom” is code for the sanctioned removal of women’s rights. We see that religious freedom is not compatible with women’s liberation.

As Jeffreys says elsewhere in her book:

“Religion gives authority to traditional, patriarchal beliefs about the essentially subordinate nature of women and their naturally separate roles, such as the need for women to be confined to the private world of the home and family, that women should be obedient to their husbands, that women’s sexuality should be modest and under the control of their menfolk, and that women should not use contraception or abortion to limit their childbearing. The practice of such ancient beliefs interferes profoundly with women’s abilities to exercise their human rights.” (bold mine, page 5-6)

Radical feminists can see the patriarchal reversal here. “Religious freedom” is in fact female subordination. We reject the “right” of patriarchs to dominate and control women through “religious freedoms”, and we disrespect their religious traditions. As Jeffreys says:

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. (page 5)

12 Comments to ““Religious Freedom” is Code for the Sanctioned Removal of Women’s Rights”

  1. Brava! Also, it is infuriating how they make it all about tolerance (!) of religion and accuse us of being bigotted because we question traditions and they do not (you read correctly). As if tolerance of misogyny and oppression was a legitimate value. What a mindfuck. It applies to Islam and other religions, too.

  2. “As if tolerance of misogyny and oppression was a legitimate value.” Exactly!

  3. Sure, but this is only PART of the problem. The other part, the other 10 points, is the progressive left
    which supports pornography, prostitution, brothels, ‘slut’walks and males in women’s studies chairs.

  4. No doubt, Doublevez.

  5. Let me state my politics first: I am extremely pro-choice for abortion, and for access to all forms of contraception for women. And yes, I want to fight these hypocritical jerks………….

    ……….BUT……. if they disallow payments for everything, you can still go to the store and buy CONDOMS and SPERMICIDAL GEL.

    Your husband/boyfriend/significant other doesn’t like it? Too damn bad! It’s YOU who’s going to suffer the pregnancy!

    You don’t have to sit there all helpless at the ‘whim’ of the Men in Power.

    All this money for The Pill- it’s so bad for your body. And you know who it’s really for? For THE MAN’S convenience.

    I say, keep fighting the monsters on Capitol Hill, but in the meantime, double protection: condoms AND sperm gel.

    They take our abortion right away? Ok, until we get it back, we do menstrual extractions, and the other methods from time immemorial.

    My great-grandmother was a MIDWIFE- you know what they did as well as deliver babies? Yep, that’s right, performed ABORTIONS. According to my mother, my great-grandmother was very competent at it, as she was at everything she did.

    We can’t depend on the gov’t to pay for every little thing- take it back from THEM and we don’t have to worry about it.

  6. I’m going to start a religion in which males committing PIV (yes, committing) is considered the most egregious sin. Then I’m going to start a massive company that will take over most US hospitals, like the Catholic Church has been trying to do. And then I’m going to refuse to allow my insurance plans to cover penile implants (you have no idea how many men have these) and all drugs for erectile dysfunction. BECAUSE IT’S MY RELIGION.

  7. All religions oppress women because religion is used to justify male domination over all women. Man’s Dominion by Sheila Jeffreys is essential reading because Sheila’s succinct analysis of how religious fundamentalism (it is not religious freedom) is increasingly being used by the patriarchs to maintain their male oppression of women. Differing religious patriarchs all band together to maintain their male domination over women and it is succeeding.

  8. Making female contraception unobtainable is pure female pestering. Because history shows us it doesn’t even produce more babies in the long term, so that is not the reason why religious people do it. In Ceausescu’s Romania, decree 770 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decre%C5%A3ei) made all contraception and sex education illegal. As for the birth rate, it didn’t work. First years, more babies were born. But in the 70s, economic times were harder, and birth rates simply went back to how they were before, because illegal methods were applied. But of course, many many women died applying these, and many kids still born in this era died too because of neglect. What did increase was not the birth rate, but the death of women. The men in power probably know it would work that way. This part of history should always be kept in mind when people start to blahblah about fetuses rights (or whatever).

  9. I agree that “religious freedom” is being used as a code word for “subjugation of women,” but what Christian fundamentalists are doing is the antithesis of religious freedom: they are imposing their religious beliefs on others. Religious freedom is not the problem, as religion itself is not inherently anti-female. There is a women’s religion. It is the Dianic tradition of witchcraft. Dianics are marginalized and misrepresented by Christians and by other pagans because we support women.

  10. hearthrising, Jeffreys (and I, in the article) are addressing Abrahamic patriarchal religions; IE, the “big three” religions. There is much to be said on the topic of woman-centered alternatives.

    All, thank you for your comments. If you have the time, I second Hecuba’s point that this book is essential reading. I’ve marked nearly every page for its nuggets of truth. Thank you Sheila Jeffreys for speaking the truth!

  11. I agree that “religious freedom” is being used as a code word for “subjugation of women,” but what Christian fundamentalists are doing is the antithesis of religious freedom: they are imposing their religious beliefs on others.

    Brava.

    My neighbor said it best: “The Religious Right believes that in enforcing pregnancy on us, they are inflicting the ultimate punishment for so-called sin: bodily harm and death.”

    Also, the tiresomeness of reading about this topic in the news, when the Ron Paul-bots derail with their whines about speshul fetus rights and how we evil bytchez are infringing on their right to practice their religion by saving baybees!*

    *Sarcastic spelling intentional.

  12. I don’t think any religion is needed to free women, and therefore, the focus on illegitimating religion is good. It is just too easily misused. It doesn’t matter there are also women-positive religions. It’s not that women-positive religions will free us or something. Only women-positive actions following from women-positive beliefs will.

    Which leads me to the following: adhering to religion is different from adhering to (a) (supernatural) belief(s). Belief(s) are personal. Religion is public, organized, and at least partly dogmatic. More importantly, as soon as men can join a religion, well, but it WILL be used to subjugate women.

    Theoretically you could have a women-only religion, but… why bother? Would it help us? I really don’t feel like needing to believe in any supernatural stuff to set me free.

    Also, I am a bit tired of the “what Christian fundamentalists are doing is the antithesis of religious freedom: they are imposing their religious beliefs on others”-type of reasoning.

    I have heard this all over a thousand times and more in the 00’s over here. Mainly about Islam but about other religions too. Apparently, there is some *true* Christianity or *true* Islam or *true* Judaism which is all about peace and love and stuff. And *only* the fundamentalist all screw it up. Therefore, we should not restrict religious freedom at all.

    Um, no. First of all, if it’s true only the fundamentalists kill, hate and mutilate women, why you never ever hear the “good ones” defend women’s rights in name of their religion or hear them call out their fellow christians/jews/muslims? Because they are loyal. Because of religion.

    Secondly, and this is important, even the acts of the so-called “fundamentalists” would be enough for me to totally illegitimate religion. I mean, just look at what they do.

    I have seen older women trying to reform their form of Christianity all their life. But WHY? All this effort. All this energy. Wasted. And always misused again, they didn’t accomplish anything. But even if they would, what then?

    Also, the higher classes / oppressors don’t really believe. To really believe in supernatural redemption is something for the suppressed. Like women. So they have something to cling to. So they can be kept subjugated.

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