Monday, October 22, 2012

Gender in the News: Religion, Politics, Men, Women

A miscellany of recent news articles that have caught my eye, all with gender analysis that seems to me critically important: 

1. Nate Silver finds that the gender gap continues to grow as the ideological gap between the two parties grows.  If only women voted in the coming U.S. presidential election, President Obama would be re-elected by a landslide.  The opposite would happen if men alone voted.  As Silver also notes, women tend to take more liberal stances than men on a wide range of issues including abortion, same-sex marriage, and gun control.

2. Isn't it interesting that a bevy of "moderates" who have nothing in common except that they're all well-off white men have announced that they're pro-Romney, though their avowed political positions are more consonant with the Democratic party's platform in this election cycle?  Alex Pareene reports on these four "dudes"--Scott Adams, Buzz Bissinger, David Brooks, and Michael Bloomberg--at Salon.

Four men . . . . 

3. At Religion Dispatches, Joanna Brooks writes about the interesting discovery that, though 34% of Boy Scout troops nationwide are sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, fewer than 2% of the cases of abuse of Scouts by Scout leaders documented in the BSA "perversion files" involve Mormon Scout troops.  And so: "It is believed that LDS Church may have handled child abuse cases internally rather than reporting them to BSA officials."

Like the Roman Catholic church, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints excludes women from its priesthood.  Like the Roman Catholic church, the Mormon church is hierarchical, and only males can participate in the hierarchical governance of the LDS church.  Women are free to participate in LDS auxiliary roles and auxiliary organizations.

4. At Talk to Action, Bruce Wilson notes that the powerful and wealthy Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (check out its Board of Directors: notice anything?) is now running high-profile, full-page ads in battleground states instructing "Christian" voters to vote Republican because the Democrats have endorsed same-sex marriage.  But as Wilson also indicates, after it was noted that the BGEA website contained statements at several spots characterizing Mormonism as an unChristian cult, those statements were suddenly scrubbed from the website and then it temporarily went down, curiously, just as the high-profile ads began to be released.

A friend in Charlotte, North Carolina, emailed me yesterday to tell me the Charlotte Observer ran one of these ads in its Sunday edition.  His comment about the ads: 

Today's Charlotte Observer had a full-page ad by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association asking voters to choose candidates who respect traditional marriage, oppose abortion, blah, blah, blah.  Billy's picture was in the background and took up the whole page.  Aren't they Christ-like?  I bet that page cost $15,000, and I can't think of one single act that would be more deserving of those funds. 

In case you miss it, that final observation about acts deserving these funds is meant to be sarcastic.

5. At Huffington Post, Anat Hoffman reports that on 16 October, she was arrested by the Israeli police as she conducted a prayer service at the Western Wall to commemorate the centennial of Hadassah.  Her crime and that of the women who gather at the Wailing Wall to pray in the 12 meters of the wall allotted to women (48 meters are reserved for men)?  Hoffman suggests it's that they 1) wear tallits, 2) pray out loud instead of in whispers, and 3) read from the Torah scroll.  Though these practices comply with Jewish law, they're considered by the men running the Western Wall an affront to traditional Jewish values and to the sanctity of the Wall itself.

Hoffman asks an important question about her arrest, and then offers an answer to it:

What is the purpose of arresting a woman, interrogating her, collecting video footage of her every move, questioning witnesses and spending hours writing reports, if at the end charges are never made? I believe the purpose of this harassment and treatment is to wear down the leaders of our women's prayer group, to exhaust us into giving up our struggle for this rights.

What do these five reports have in common?  I'll leave it to you to puzzle out your own answers to that question.  For my part, it's fairly clear what they say, taken together, as separate pieces of one overarching narrative.

And it's also clear that what they say about how our world is organized is critically important for us to understand if we expect to build a human community in which every person is valued equally and has equal access to the goods of the world and to the right of self-fulfillment.  It's also very clear to me why groups as disparate as Mormons, many Catholics, quite a few Orthodox Jews, and most conservative evangelicals, who disagree wildly with each other on almost every theological front imaginable, have banded together to see that Messrs. Romney and Ryan are elected in November.

And it's clear to me what the election of those two gentlemen will portend for the human community and its chances at building a more humane world, should they that election occur.

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