How religious narcissism works

Ah, the Duggars are making headlines again.  They’re little headlines but you should pay attention anyway because they are part of the pattern of religious narcissism that I have written about previously.

Jessa Duggar, the hot one, is dating courting Ben Seewald, another obnoxious Jesus freak Southern Independent Baptist.  I can’t remember where I heard this, it might have been somewhere in the free thought skeptic media, but it turns out that the Duggars follow this self-annoited preacher named Bill Gothard.  If America has a Taliban, and it does, Gothard would be its leader and his IBLP, Institute of Basic Life Principals, would be its Sharia Law.  Wait, that would have been last year.  THIS year, Gothard has resigned his position at IBLP due to sexual improprieties, as well as failing to report child abuse cases.  Yes, the man who brought America the chaste “side hug” has been accused by dozens of young women of inappropriate touching, groping and other no-nos.  Maybe their knees were exposed briefly and were asking for it.  So much for self-control. (Funny side note: while I was writing this, the WordPress autocorrect function kept replacing “Gothard” with “got hard”.  You can’t make this stuff up.)

In the Duggars’ world, the Southern Baptists are too worldly.  Yes, those teetotalling, non-dancing, patriarchical fundies are just too wild and crazy for the Duggars so the Duggar family mostly worships at home with other similar families.  Note that they don’t form “friendships” with these families.  They “fellowship”.  The distinction is significant.  That’s because if one of these families steps out of line, they have to be ready to jettison that family before the infection spreads.  It’s cold and unloving but their own salvation is at stake, so it’s necessary.

So, Ben Seewald, who is 2 years younger than Jessa, who is all of 20 or 21, writes a twitter about his catholic friend.  It’s been erased but someone has been kind enough to save the content.

“I have nothing against individuals who are Catholic. I know a lot of Catholics who are great people. What I DO have a problem with is the teaching that man can merit God’s favor through his own works or the works of other fallen men.

“My conscience is captive to the word of God. Where my Catholic friends adhere to God’s Word, I adhere. Where they depart from Scripture, I will in no way support, but will call them out because I love them and desire that they be turned from their deadly errors.”

Where to begin.  On the face of it, it looks innocent enough.  I mean, IBLP has been around for less than 100 years and is a niche sect, appealing to authoritarians and people who watch TLC and think it’s perfectly Ok to train children to be smiling, non-thinking, personality free, well behaved, chaste automatons in the name of Christ. (As my favorite aunt says, “Someday, one of those Duggar kids is going to write a book.”) The Catholic church has been around for 2000 years and has branch offices all around the world.  Catholics don’t have anything to fear from some American fundies in Arkansas.

But the debate of “saved by grace alone” vs “saved by good works” has been raging since Martin Luther.  In retrospect, Luther ignited a firestorm that to this day we can’t put out.  To many of us freethinkers or panentheist non-Christians, this debate is intensely boring and about as meaningful as how many angels dance on the head of a pin.  Really, who the hell cares whether it’s faith or good works??  Does preferring one to the other preclude you from being a good person?

Anyway, the money quote in the above tweet is:

“My conscience is captive to the word of God. Where my Catholic friends adhere to God’s Word, I adhere. Where they depart from Scripture, I will in no way support, but will call them out because I love them and desire that they be turned from their deadly errors.”

I’m sorry, who died and made Ben Seewald god?  That tweet almost sounds like it could have come from the pages of the Old Testament.

But this is pretty typical of the religious narcissist.  YOUR faith is not important to them.  Only THEIR faith is important.  They make it their business to interfere and make it their responsibility to set your ass straight.

Let’s recap: The Southern Baptists aren’t good enough for them.  They are superior to most of the denomination they consider their closest allies.  They worship at home because it’s safer for them and they can control who can bask in their reflected glory and who can’t.  They hold themselves up as paragons of virtue and expect that you show them respect for their life choices that they say are more moral than yours.  And they do not respect your boundaries as far as your life choices or religious beliefs are concerned.  Your beliefs are inconsequential and fungible, theirs are not.

I’m pointing this out now because a couple of weeks ago, a bunch of anti-choice protestors interrupted a service at a Unitarian church in New Orleans.  Amanda Marcotte wrote of the protests recently, describing the actions of the protestors:

Some of the anti-choice activists invaded the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans while members were observing a moment of silence for a deceased congregant and proceeded to abuse and harass the people inside the church. The folks from Operation Save America were hardly ashamed of this deplorable behavior, instead bragging on their website about disrupting services at the “synagogue of Satan” and making special note of haranguing the female pastor, who they called a “pastor,” in scare quotes. (But they’re in this for “life” and not because they have a problem with women!) This behavior isn’t necessarily any worse than the miseries they subject clinic patients and workers to, but it serves as a reminder that the reason anti-choice “protesters” get into the lifestyle is that they are bullies, full stop.

The protestors did not recognize the authority of the female pastor and they violated the boundaries of the congregants’ faith in a very literal way.

Now, the Unitarians are not really Christians in the strictest sense of the word.  They’re more deists or pantheist non-Christians who are respectful of Christians.  You can even be an atheist at a Unitarian church.  On the scale of churches, Unitarians are waaaaay over there on the commie left.  So, what’s going on here?  Marcotte’s theory makes sense:

There are many pro-choice churches, but the religious pluralism of the Unitarians is what really sets fundamentalists off. Indeed, there’s a strong reason to believe that the religious right is basically using the battle over reproductive rights to advance a much larger agenda against religious tolerance. And the strategy is to argue that their own “religious freedom” cannot be protected without taking yours away.

There’s an actual quote about that somewhere from one of the Christian fundamentalist imams.  I think it might be in this video from a recent free thought convention.  Found it.  Here’s the quote attributed to Gary North, former curriculum advisor for Ron Paul:

“So let us be blunt about it, we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education and no neutral government.  Then they will get busy in constructing a bible based social and political order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of god.”

But Catholics are hardly Kumbaya strumming hippies.  The church has its own authoritarian issues and, even though its members might think a bunch of red beanied single old dudes in Rome are cracked when it comes to reproductive health, it has had a significant impact on the American public through the appointment of 5 conservative Catholics to the Supreme Court.  The uber fundie independent baptist taliban in Arkansas has little to fear from Catholics.  They’re getting everything they claim they want through them.  Except that the Catholics don’t believe what they believe, and therefore, they must be “saved”.

No one is safe from this kind of religious narcissism.  First they came for the atheists and there are still laws on the books in some states that prohibit an atheist from holding a public office.  Then they came for the Unitarians because they’re all about inclusion and social justice.  They have no qualms about calling out Catholics.

When Ruth Bader Ginsberg said the 5 member majority in the Hobby Lobby case had “ventured into a minefield”, she only scratched the surface of the problem.  Political motives aside, the  conservative majority has given a tacit nod to the religious narcissists to continue to breach other people’s boundaries.  I think we’re going to see more of these protests and pretty soon, you won’t be able to go anywhere before some righteous religious person decides your beliefs need an attitude adjustment.  Countries have and are still to this day fighting religious wars.  Many people are hurt and lives are ruined over religion in other parts of the world.  For more than 200 years, we have decided we as a nation weren’t going to subject our citizens to a test when it comes to religion.  Are we now going to throw away that detente and for what reason?

What do we do about the religious narcissist?  I’m still trying to find the answer to that question.  There are some suggestions for dealing with narcissists in general.  I’ll talk about some of them in a future post.

Religious Narcissists and Ruth Bader-Ginsburg’s 8 best lines in her dissent

The religious narcissists think they have won this round but I guarantee you that this is only temporary.  Supreme Court justices die eventually.

When I talk about religious narcissists, I am referring to people who derive their self-worth and sense of superiority from their faith.  In this country, we have official separation of church and state but we worship those who worship.  Because we have a habit of deferring to the faithful, respectfully allowing them to propound on morality without interruption, religion has become another refuge for scoundrels.  Before you faithful go off on a hissy fit, allow me to clarify.  The Hobby Lobby case that was decided today does not reflect the views of all people of faith.  It reflects the views of a very narrow set of fundamentalist religious adherents whose voices have been magnified.

Let me explain why people who score high on the narcissism scale use religion to hide and how even more powerful narcissists use them to advance their goals.  To recap the characteristics of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, here they are:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance (may be shown as an exaggeration of abilities and talents, expectation that he or she will be seen as superior to all others).
  • Is obsessed with him- or herself.
  • Goals are almost always selfish and self-motivated.
  • Has troubles with healthy, normal relationships.
  • Becomes furious if criticized.
  • Has fantasies of unbound success, power, intelligence, love, and beauty.
  • Believes that he or she is unique and special, and therefore should only hang out with other special, high-status people.
  • Requires extreme admiration for everything.
  • Feels entitled – has unreasonable expectations of special treatment.
  • Takes advantage of others to further his or her own needs.
  • Has zero empathy – cannot (or will not) recognize the feelings of others.
  • May be envious of others or believe that others are envious of him or her.
  • Behaves arrogantly, haughtily.

- See more at: http://www.bandbacktogether.com/adult-children-of-Narcissistic-parents-resources/#sthash.HtiA1zJT.xqpRZ0p8.dpuf

If you can’t see how certain fundamentalist religions give the religious narcissist status, you haven’t been paying attention to Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Pat Robertson and the plethora of mega church pastors and their fan base over the past several decades.

We can argue about what triggered the events that lead to so many people to join fundamentalist religions in the 70’s and 80’s.  I think Reagan had a lot to do with it.  There was a whole swath of people in the late 70’s who were left out of the social revolutions of the mid-20th century.  They just missed the cutoff to join modernity.  There are a lot of Betty Drapers out there who were conditioned to accept the limited roles for women that the 50’s relegated them to and a lot of men who started to feel economic pressure and competition from younger women and african americans entering the workforce.  Conservatives tapped into that confusion and anger by aligning themselves with the religious right.

I went to an open house type of event sponsored by my brother’s church once and I was at once struck by the amplified emotions.  There was a band where the participants became instant rock stars, lots of heart wrenching images flashed on huge projector screens and little children were being led to small above ground pools where they were baptized.  It was unnerving.  There was too much noise, too much music in just the right major chord progressions, too much stimulation, too much MUCH.  The whole effect was like highjacking the sympathetic nervous system, to make the heart beat in time and stimulate the lacrymal ducts.  I couldn’t take it.  I felt coerced.

But that’s just me.

I walk around with type 4 deflector shields deployed because I know that a religious narcissist does not respect boundaries.  It’s part of what makes them so successful.  They feel entitled to intrude on your privacy, your morality, your belief system.  In our culture, we Americans give the religious permission to do this because we do not feel it is polite to tell them to stop.  If you do tell them to stop, you must be persistent and forceful.  You must be so persistent and forceful that they take offense. And since they call foul so often and our culture reinforces their superior moral status, they usually get away with what they’re up to.  In this manner, the plutocracy is able to use them as an engine to promote their economic agenda by coupling it with social conservatism.  I’m sure I am not revealing anything new to readers here.

The introduction of faith based initiatives has exacerbated the problem.  Now, the executive branch has the ability to give money without accountability to churches who have the power to shape their congregations’ political views.  The Republicans made the churches flush in the Bush administration but, curiously, the Obama administration has done little to dismantle the program.

So, now we have religious institutions crowded with people who do not respect boundaries and feeling their cheerios and unwittingly serving Mammon.

Today, the religious narcissists got another shot of narcissistic supply.  They are sitting high and straight and “puffed up”.  This won’t be the last time they get their hit as long as this Supreme Court is composed by these members.  Note that the three women justices are all on the losing end of each ruling.  It should be clear now that the government is being conscripted to dismantle any autonomy that women have.  If they can be forced to pay additionally for their reproductive protection, there’s really no limit what can be forced on women in the name of religion.  Why are they working outside the home at all?  Do they really need as much money as a man?  Men support families.  Women also support families but only bad women support families on their own.  Men have authority, therefore, they should be bosses.  Women aren’t supposed to speak in congregation according to Paul.  If my corporation is “closely held” and religious, isn’t that like a congregation?  Can’t this congregation make rules to suit it without the interference of the government?

It’s coming.

But, like I said earlier, it’s not all religions that behave this way.  The mainstream protestant churches, especially those who ordain women, don’t seem to behave this way.  I hope we hear from them soon. It’s only the fundamentalist sects and fringe elements that attract a disproportionate number of narcissists that we need to worry about.  Nevertheless, it’s time we start to take on the religion industry in this country and one of the first places to start is by making a big stink over the faith based initiatives.  There’s no reason we need to give the religious narcissists more power with tax payer money.  I don’t care who is in the White House.  Find another, more ethical way to win elections.

We, on the other hand, must learn to identify the narcissist in religious clothing and make them feel unwanted and unpopular even at the risk of incurring their wrath.  And, yes, they will get very, very angry.  But better an angry genie in a bottle than a content one on the loose wrecking havoc.

Deploy your shields.

In the meantime, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg writes that the court has “ventured into a minefield” with this ruling.  Among her best lines from her dissent are:

“Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.”

and

“It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”

Read the rest here.

Justice Ginsburg is right about Roe

It looks like my writer’s block is over.

The NYTimes has an editorial about Ruth Bader-Ginsburg’s thoughts on Roe v. Wade.  This is prompted by her tepid approach to marriage equality and that a grand sweeping ruling may become the new political football that provokes a backlash.  I’m not sure that’s true in this case because as I wrote in my previous post, the right has some potentially good reasons for trying to steal the gay voting bloc away from Democrats.  They may try to present marriage equality as a fait accompli to their more religious base that is dying out anyway.

At any rate, half of the gay population is already in the privileged class simply because they are men.  As long as they kept their sexual orientation under the radar, there was nothing stopping gay men from partaking of all of the benefits of being male in this society.  In a way, I think the success of marriage equality depends on men standing their ground and refusing to give up those privileges.  The fact that lesbian couples may also benefit is just icing on the cake.  So, maybe Ginsberg’s concerns are less grounded this time around.  Besides, what are the Bible Belt states going to do?  Become more obstinate, belligerent and Republican than they already are towards gay couples?  Is that even possible?

But it’s a different story when it comes to Roe v. Wade.  My theory is that Roe dealt a huge blow to the movement for women’s equality because once it was decided, many women had the mistaken idea that the battle was won.  Instead, Roe became the political football for BOTH political parties.   It’s the primary criteria for which party voters decide they belong.  It’s the fear tactic that Democrats use to corral women to vote against their economic interests as much as it is the tactic that Republicans use to rally their constituents to feel power and control over other people’s lives.

Not only is Roe a political football, it has had major repercussions in setting back women’s equality.  Because abortion has been such a cultural hot potato, we tend to see women as a collection of body parts, primarily reproductive body parts.  We are uteruses and vaginas and breasts and all of our discussion is about who gets to control those body parts.  I am not a man or a male hiring manager but I have to wonder what crosses men’s minds when they see a female colleague.  Do they consider her intelligence, determination, ingenuity and hard work or do they secretly thank god that they weren’t born with ovaries that are subject to religious and governmental regulation?  There are things the state can compel or forbid a woman from doing that men don’t have to worry about.  I cannot believe that this doesn’t have an effect on how women are perceived in all the various aspects of her life.  Maybe if she were a bit smarter, she wouldn’t have to put up with that.

I do not agree with the NYTimes editorial board that women wouldn’t have won their reproductive freedom without Roe.  This is going to sound weird but when I was on the cusp of puberty back in 1970 when New York allowed abortions, feminism was vibrantly alive and kicking, unlike 2013 when it’s barely visible, tepid and calling yourself a feminist is outré and derogatory.  You younguns don’t even know.  You had to be there.  Women were on a roll. I was brought up in a religiously fundamentalist household and yet I was a raging feminist back in the early 70s just like many of my friends.  The world was our oyster and we could do anything. The zeitgeist was definitely and defiantly feminist.  Roe brought that to a screeching halt.  If Roe had failed, there would still have been states where you could have gotten an abortion and the fight would have intensified, not slackened because the effects of abortion restrictions elsewhere would still be vividly real.

So, if Bader-Ginsburg’s concerns are that Roe short circuited the political drive and momentum for women’s full equality, then I totally agree with her.  There were a million reasons why Roe should have been decided as the law of the land but the best one is that women are free and equal persons whose rights should not be abridged simply because they have different genitalia.

Instead, what we have is a hollowed out right to abortion and no equality because we stopped fighting.

Dump Roe.  Revive the ERA.

Wednesday: Family and Medical Leave Act already compromised

I don’t know how I missed this.  It didn’t seem to get the attention that Slutgate got.  On March 21, 2012, the US Supreme Court voided part of the Family and Medical Leave Act, one of the jewels of the Clinton Administration from 1993.  In a 5-4 decision, the Court has decided that states can not be sued for violations of the leave act.  It’s an ugly ruling. From the NYTimes article on the decision:

In a 2003 decision, the court allowed suits against state employers under a part of the law that concerned leaves taken to care for family members. The case decided Tuesday concerned a part of the law that entitled eligible employees to take leaves to tend to their own serious medical conditions.

Like other parts of the law, what the court called the “self-care provision” was drafted in gender-neutral terms. The question that divided the justices was whether the law nonetheless meant to address sex discrimination.

The case was brought by a man, Daniel Coleman, who had worked for the Maryland Court of Appeals. Mr. Coleman said the state had violated law by denying him sick leave.

Maryland argued that the federal law did not apply to it because states, as sovereigns, are generally immune from lawsuits for money. In the 2003 decision, Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, the Supreme Court rejected a similar objection from Nevada to a suit under a family leave provision.

[...]

Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, said the entire Family and Medical Leave Act, or F.M.L.A. “is directed at sex discrimination.”

“Indeed,” she wrote, “the F.M.L.A. was originally envisioned as a way to guarantee — without singling out women or pregnancy — that pregnant women would not lose their jobs when they gave birth. The self-care provision achieves that aim.”

The whole law, she said, was “an appropriate response to pervasive discriminatory treatment of pregnant women.” It avoided singling out pregnancy leaves, she added, to avoid discouraging employers from hiring women.

“It would make scant sense to provide job-protected leave for a woman to care for a newborn,” Justice Ginsburg added, “but not for her recovery from delivery, a miscarriage, or the birth of a stillborn baby.”

Justice Ginsburg wrote that Tuesday’s decision was narrow or, as she put it from the bench, “at least the damage is contained.” Suits for money under the self-care provision are still allowed against private employers, she wrote, and other kinds of actions remain available against state employers.

Sooooo, you can take leave, unpaid, to care for your newborn but not to take care of yourself?  Plus, if you work for the state and you get fired for taking care of yourself (let’s say you had a complicated delivery or a stillbirth) you can’t sue the state for damages.  Theoretically, they could just fire you for not leaving the wee tot in the care of some baby nurse and getting back to work immediately, right?  You still have the right to take unpaid maternity leave but not to recover from it, have I got that right?

It should be clear by now that the worst offender on the Supreme Court is not Antonin Scalia.  It’s Anthony Kennedy.  I think Jeffrey Toobin was pretty accurate when he described Kennedy in The Nine.  He said that it took Sandra Day O’Connor to knock some sense into him.  He isn’t really a swing vote.  O’Connor, being a conservative herself, was able to talk him out of what could have been a disaster on a previous abortion bill.  But without a conservative woman on the court, Kennedy has no reason to listen to a single thing the other female justices say.  He’s into pompousness.  He loves flattery and he’s a narcissist who revels in the very idea that his one vote could mean joy or misery for millions of Americans.  He’s the Supreme Court version of He-Man standing on his desk shouting, “I have the power!”.  He’s the Joe Lieberman of justices.  Not the brightest crayon in the box but probably a bit more qualified than Thomas.  The more liberal justices will never have a chance as long as Kennedy is around.  You’ll always know where the four uber conservatives stand but as long as there’s a fleeting hope that you will be able to appeal to Kennedy’s 1950’s view of the world, that’s who all of the arguments before the court need to be pitched and we have seen time and time again that he just doesn’t think women are fully human or something.

So, here’s where we are in 2012:

1.) We have one party that is full of screaming maniacs who are definitely appealing to the white male vote and doing all they can to get women out of the workplace during tough economic times.

2.) We have another party that is also appealing to the white male vote.  Ohhoo!  You thought they were going after female voters?  No, no, no, nooooo.  See, once women got scared by Republicans acting like the Taliban, the Democrats assumed that women would come flocking to them.  So, now that they have females in their “done” pile (or so they think), they can cross women off their list of voters to get.  THAT’S why their response to the Republicans off the charts misogynism has been so tepid.  They don’t want to scare the men away.  Ladies, when are we ever going to learn to make them put their money where their mouths are before we sign on?  As long as they think you are going to their side out of fear of the Republicans, they don’t have to do anything for you.  They’ll just sit back and call Republicans meanies on your behalf and let the decimation of your rights continue with little interference.

3.) If you want to keep your job, don’t get pregnant.  Ever.

4.) If you don’t want to get pregnant, emigrate.

QED, women are fucked under both parties.

Recently, I was over at Violet’s place reading her comments section and I think her commenters, some of them may be readers here, are onto something.  Basically, the reason why women’s rights are getting eroded under Obama and why Hillary Clinton faced so much opposition among party activists is because there is this little cadre of guys in the Democratic party for whom war is THE issue.  There is no other issue that gets their attention quite so much.  Just because the hopes and dreams and civil rights of 53% of the American public are under attack does not mean that they will be deflected one iota from concentrating all of their attention on war and torture.  Now, that is not to say that war and torture are not important but I think we have given this tiny group of latent sexist assholes enough of a platform to express their views.  It’s  time they stopped bogarting the mic and realized that they are undermining their own causes when they depress and demotivate their female sympathizers.  It’s not all about them.

They are our Anthony Kennedys.

Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, Red Tent Feminists and PF Flyers

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader-Ginsburg knows what it’s like to be the only woman in the room and she tells us all about it in a piece in the NYTimes today on The Place of Women on the Court.   I’d advise reading the whole thing in the July 12 edition of the New York Times Magazine.  The link above seems to be a shortened version of the post I read this afternoon and you may not get the full flavor of Ginsburg’s feminism.  Ginsburg may come off as soft spoken but she wields a big stick.  She knows herself in the best Greek tradition and she wants you to know it too.  She is a person who expects to be recognized as such.

She has some interesting and counterintuitive thoughts on feminism as well.  This Q&A was particularly revealing:

Q: What do you think about Judge Sotomayor’s frank remarks that she is a product of affirmative action?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: So am I. I was the first tenured woman at Columbia. That was 1972, every law school was looking for its woman. Why? Because Stan Pottinger, who was then head of the office for civil rights of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, was enforcing the Nixon government contract program. Every university had a contract, and Stan Pottinger would go around and ask, How are you doing on your affirmative-action plan? William McGill, who was then the president of Columbia, was asked by a reporter: How is Columbia doing with its affirmative action? He said, It’s no mistake that the two most recent appointments to the law school are a woman and an African-American man.

Q: And was that you?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: I was the woman. I never would have gotten that invitation from Columbia without the push from the Nixon administration. I understand that there is a thought that people will point to the affirmative-action baby and say she couldn’t have made it if she were judged solely on the merits. But when I got to Columbia I was well regarded by my colleagues even though they certainly disagreed with many of the positions that I was taking. They backed me up: If that’s what I thought, I should be able to speak my mind.

Q: Is that another example of how you’ve worked with men over the years?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: I always thought that there was nothing an antifeminist would want more than to have women only in women’s organizations, in their own little corner empathizing with each other and not touching a man’s world. If you’re going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers.

Ohh, Ruth.  You are my kind of feminist.

Now, I am going to probably offend some people I hold dear and I sure as heck don’t want to dismiss their observations but the idea that men somehow envy women because of some unique quality that we possess is just dead wrong.  Maybe it was true 5000 years ago when men didn’t know the specifics of reproduction but it hasn’t been that way in a long, long time.  The history of women and their religions and the long lost matriarchy may be a very interesting subject but what motivates most people, both men and women, is power.  And since time immemorial, men have had more of it.

I attribute it to upper body strength.  Women are easily overpowered by men physically unless they are trained in self defense.  We can still see the results of the physical subjugation of women in countries like Sudan and Afghanistan where rape is used as a weapon of mass destruction.  But even in more developed societies, the physical strength advantage translates into anachronistic customs, transmitted through scripture and years of cultural indoctrination.  Men are worth more.  They get more attention in school, more opportunities to excel.  They are more believable.  They get better projects, more praise, bigger promotions.  As a result, they earn more and have more authority.  It’s just the way it is.

Some women have looked upon the patriarchy and decided it’s too big.  It’s pervasive, oppressive, demoralizing.  So, they retreat.  They look back upon the golden age when women were mysterious fertile creatures who mystified men and held their own meetings in the red tent.  A community of women, for women, about women.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s the kind of thing you want to do in your own free time.  But retreating to the company of women and insisting that it be called equal is, as Ginsburg says, antifeminist in the same way that segregation was racist.  Separate can never be equal.  (Prophylactic:  I realize that many women do not see themselves as retreating.  But there are quite a few who back off when it comes to full equality and seem to suggest that women can co-exist in some separate legally protected sphere.  Nah-gah-happen.)

If you want equality, you must stand in the middle of the room of men and demand that they treat you with respect and then hold them accountable if they do not.  Every time they screw up, they must be smacked on the nose with a rolled up newspaper until they are trained to not pee on your shoes.  They aren’t interested in your feminine mystique.  They could care less if El had an Asherah.  All they’re interested is whether they get more of the pie.  If you want your equal share, you have to demand it and act like a person first, woman later.

What Ginsburg didn’t discuss is the role of the post-feminist women who gave their support to Obama over Clinton in last year’s election.  They were equally anti-feminist because they failed to evaluate the candidates on their leadership qualities.  Their ability to turn their back on Clinton and not evaluate her fairly was supposed to somehow prove that they had transcended gender and race.  Instead, they were clobbered by race.  I found this comment by Unree at ReclusiveLeftist that sums it up:

Looking at white people over the last couple of decades, I’ve observed an increasing fraction of them eager to declare their opposition to racism. Especially white women but white men too. Commendable, I thought (and still think).

For white Americans in this demographic, Barack Obama offers a lot. He has carefully kept civil rights in general, and race in particular, away from his voting record and campaigns. He demands nothing from his white supporters. He causes no discomfort.

His greatest gift of all, of course, is fending off feminism. Obama is a boon to fauxgressive dudes and the women who want their favors. White supporters get to keep whatever privilege they now have–economic, gender-based, you name it–along with their self-label of progressive. For the cohort I’m thinking of, anti-racism is the best banner to cover up their misogynous resistance to gender justice. Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin had to pay the price.

I don’t think there is any doubt that women have taken a beating in the past 10 years, first from Republicans, then from the Democrats.  The PF Flyers who have their minds so wide open their brains have fallen out have set us back even farther.  As Ginsburg suggests throughout her interview, the struggle is not over yet and we have to continue to push forward, challenging cultural strereotypes and championing the personhood of women.

Ginsburg holds out hope.  I think she’s right that in the next generation, we are going to see the culture undergo a rapid change, discarding the stereotypes of the past.  There are more women in the workplace, with more education and with greater access to constantly evolving technological innovations.  Our presence and growing expertise will have a profound effect on the way we are perceived but only if believe that we are entitled to it.  Let’s hope that the new leadership of NOW will once again be a visible and vocal presence, demanding accountability for the gross sexism and misogyny of the past several years.   In the meantime, get out there, ladies, and be bold.  Make them take you seriously and whack them on the nose until they get the message.


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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized for Pancreatic Cancer

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Our thoughts and prayers are with this outstanding Supreme Court Justice as she recovers from surgery.

It appears the cancer was caught early, which should increase her chances of survival. Her loss would be staggering in its implications.

Here are some great quotes from Justice Ginsburg that show her brilliance, her steadfast commitment to the Constitution and her always passionate advocacy for social justice.

All respect for the office of the presidency aside, I assumed that the obvious and unadulterated decline of freedom and constitutional sovereignty, not to mention the efforts to curb the power of judicial review, spoke for itself.

It is not women’s liberation, it is women’s and men’s liberation.

So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.

The state controlling a woman would mean denying her full autonomy and full equality.

Be well, Justice Ginsburg.

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