“We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” – Malala Yousafzai
A few days ago, there was widespread reporting of a new era which may be beginning in the Catholic Church based upon interviews and statements given by Pope Francis. Pope Francis’ professed stance on abortion, birth control and gays as reported in a New York Times article gives us some insight into his willingness to admit the need for the Church to reevaluate and, in some instances, reprioritize its attentions in order to bring about change. More importantly, at a recent gathering in Sardinia, he justly identified and attacked the current global economic system as the motor which creates poverty and injustice.
Like many people around the world, I was happy to learn of this. However, upon further consideration of what else he said in regards to women and the need to incorporate the “feminine genius” as well as their specific “place” in Church considerations, I became increasingly aware of a deep underlying exasperation. How can a group or beliefs system effect any positive change globally if it lacks the basic framework necessary for creating justice, in this instance, the acknowledgement of gender equality? As a result, I took to my Twitter and Facebook accounts and posted the following:
If the Catholic Church is changing its focus to eradicate poverty, it must show its commitment through sincere practice. This means that it MUST make itself knowledgeable about the root causes of and solutions to end poverty paradigms.
As the empowerment of women through education, decision-making power over reproductive rights & maternal health and equal participation in ALL aspects of society is essential in eradicating poverty, the Church has to change within. I.e., it must shed its archaic, man-made, destructive and gravely false beliefs on women. Women are not by-products of men as certain scripture implies. Eve was not made from Adam’s rib. Women are the gatekeepers of life. In the womb, all boys are girls until the change.
The Church must recognize this and understand that in order to bring balance and peace to this world, it can no longer propagate ideology and dogma that disempowers & marginalizes women and views them as by-products of humanity. The Church can no longer support policies within its ranks, in sovereign nations & throughout the international community that marginalize and oppress women.
This means women must be allowed to participate fully and at EVERY level within the church as bishops, cardinals & Popes. This also means the Church must aggressively and sincerely work to right the wrongs of millennia by ceasing its collaboration with other religious and political groups & beliefs whose goals are to oppress the physical as well as spiritually divine rights of girls and women.
Right the wrong.
As I sit here and write these words, I am becoming increasingly aware of how deeply and thoroughly I personally have been groomed to quietly comply with this theology on many levels in my daily thoughts although I am not religious. Spiritual, yes. Religious, no.
In industrialized nations, many of our mothers teach and show us that we are equal. Societal dictates and expectations based upon patriarchal Judeo-Christian theology, beliefs, ideology and policies, however, tell us we are not. We have been brainwashed to believe that physical strength and domination are the measures by which we should compare our strengths. We have been canonized as the “weaker vessel” and less worthy sex spiritually and mentally. While some women, however, willingly and gladly play these roles, we all pay the price for our willing or unwilling acceptance of a physical, spiritual and intellectual inferiority ascribed to us in some Abrahamic religion-based teachings and practices. This is evidenced by the violent physical and mental acts committed against us, the denial of full participation in education/work, the oppression of our rights to determine our reproductive rights, the unwilling acceptance of lower pay for the same work or in important fields that are dominated by women as well as the objectification of our beings.
We also continually buy into the “shame complex” which has been built around our feminine mystique. This complex makes us believe that we are somehow innately worse and more prone to “sin” than men and have problematic issues that we have to diligently work hard at to rectify. In order to be as good as or worthy of the other sex, we have to primp and preen ourselves, dye and fry our hair and skin, workout until the six pack is evident and matches the perfect onion behind not to mention plasticize our faces and breasts to get that extra attention or to hide our maturity. On top of all of this, we also should be smart, sophisticated, capable of wearing impossible heels (which make our ankles and calves look more appealing as well as lend us the much-needed height to qualify as a bombshell), capable of running a masterful household, independent but yielding, follow moral instructions well and god-fearing.
In developing nations, I can only imagine what a woman’s life and prospects are like based upon what I have read, heard and seen on the silver screen. I do know enough, however, to assume for the most part that it is not better but much worse. That is what disturbs me the most about the role that the Catholic Church wants to play in these societies to end poverty in the future. The propagation of patriarchal Catholic doctrine and beliefs will further obstruct the opportunities of girls and women. The Church will not be capable of evolving into a true home for everyone until it itself becomes a home of gender equality. And, as long as it retains its restrictive practices towards and archaic views on women, it will remain a part of the problem and neither be able to positively nor justly contribute to constructive global development goals which unequivocally and absolutely require the empowerment of women and girls.
Important links regarding gender and empowerment: