Friday, October 12, 2012

Margaret Farley's Just Love: Radical Effect of Women's New Self-Understandings on Sexual Ethics

And, as a counterpoint to the excerpt I have just posted from Joanna Brooks's The Book of Mormon Girl, the following passage from Margaret Farley's Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (NY: Continuum, 2006) leapt out at me as I read it yesterday:

Women's new self-understandings have had an extraordinary effect on the perception of sexual norms.  Long centuries of the kind of failure of vision that allowed sexism to flourish in spite of the seemingly best moral insights of major religious and philosophical traditions have made many women doubt the validity of almost all past teachings regarding the morality of sex.  Women have recognized firsthand the irrationality of sexual taboos whereby, as Freud commented in regard to beliefs in the defilement of menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth, ". . . it might almost be said that women are altogether taboo" (p. 6, citing Freud, "The Taboo of Virginity [1918]," in The Collected Papers of Sigmund Freud, ed. Philip Rieff, 8 [NY: Collier, 1963], p. 75).

You do see, of course, the primary point Margaret Farley is making here?  This is that if religious and philosophical traditions can have been so fundamentally wrong for so long about something so basic as women's equality with men and women's right to the same opportunity for self-fulfilment and self-advancement as men, then potentially everything in these religious and philosophical traditions needs to be re-examined.  Re-negotiated.  Re-valued and re-weighed.

And this is what terrifies the men ruling the LDS and Catholic churches, and, truth be told, the structures that continue to organize economic and political life around the planet.  One possible response to the recognition that we've been very wrong for a long time might, of course, be to entertain wide, inclusive conversation of how we've been wrong, why we've been wrong, and what we might do--together, as a human community or a church community or a political party--about it.

Another response is, of course, repression.  And when repression appears to work in the short run, then it will always be tried as the first and automatic response of any ruling elite that does not intend ever to relinquish its power or open its structures to outsiders . . . . 

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