I don’t get religious women

1 Dec

I seriously can’t understand them. Well I take that back. I can sort of understand liberal religious women and the ones that are into “woo,” but I can’t for the life of me understand the more conservative/fundamentalist ones.

Conservative religion is the bastion of misogyny, patriarchy, and chauvinism. In the name of all that is good, how can you submit to that!?!? Conservative religion views you as chattel! I am not being metaphoric there, you are literally viewed as property to be bought and sold. You are simply a beast who’s sole purpose is to provide a man with free labor and heirs. If you die in the process, he just goes out and buys a new one from some other man.

They tell you that you’re sinful, abnormal, unclean, and unworthy. How can’t you take that? How can you accept that?

They strip you of your humanity, your chance at an education, and your dominion over your body. You are an object, a piece of meat, a slave.  Your duty is to raise more children, and if they be daughters, to tear away their person-hood as well.

You must dress modestly and cover your head to show you are “under control.” In some religions you must cover your entire body, least a man sees a glimpse of skin and rapes you, at which point it would be your fault and your execution by stoning swift.

You are not allowed a voice or even a mind of your own. You are to serve in silent submission.

Now I know there are varying degrees in which conservative religious women live like this, but these views are still at the heart of how they live their lives. I just can’t fathom how such a thing can be so popular with women. Women tend to be more religious than men, as a whole. Now I know some women just attend religious services for the community support and because they believe it’s necessary for their children to be healthy moral individuals, but it still doesn’t explain how they manage to ignore this. (Or why they accept such horrible treatment)

I’m just at a complete loss. I would think women would recognize these views as abhorrent, yet conservative religion is very popular with women. Is it brainwashing? Masochism? What?

13 Responses to “I don’t get religious women”

  1. Ben Hoffman December 1, 2010 at 10:44 am #

    It may be a self-esteem problem. Some women like to be dominated.

  2. timberwraith December 1, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    I have no difficulty in understanding women who embrace spiritual practices that are non-patriarchal or woman-centered. This can provide an affirming social environment that helps a person to cope with and resist the sexist crap one endures in everyday life.

    Like you, I’m also confused by women who choose spiritual practices that actively harm them. The best explanation I have is that these women are living under a phenomenon called internalized oppression. Over time, people who live under social oppression will come to internalize the negative messages directed toward their group. Traditional religion is very effective at brainwashing people into believing completely nonsensical, negative ideas about humanity. I imagine that traditional religion is equally effective at brainwashing women into believing that they truly are inferior.

    To further compound matters, the more stress a person is under, the more likely they are going to feel a need to turn to something outside of themselves for strength. Women, being an oppressed class, are under a lot of stress. Ironically, the belief system of the church serves to exacerbate the cultural factors that induce the stress that women face, but the notion of being able to turn to the strength of a deity is attractive to those who are under great duress.

    Of equal importance is the fact that participation in a church community can grant access to a social network that provides support to those with limited resources. If you are living under greater levels of duress, that will seem quite attractive.

    Put another way, the church serves as a source of the disease of sexism, but the church is also adept at treating the symptoms of the disease. Mind you, it has no intention of actually curing the disease, but it’s happy to supply a few aspirin here and there.

  3. godlesspaladin December 1, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    That’s a good analysis or how the church operates. Hadn’t thought of it like that. And yeah, I completely understand the more spiritual feminine focused women. My ex’s mom was a witch, and I don’t mean in a derogatory sense. She leads the woman’s spirit circle at her UU church and has statues of the goddess around the house. That kind of self-affirming stuff I can understand.

  4. thesecretatheist December 2, 2010 at 12:57 am #

    Yeah, I am often confused as well. It isn’t such a major issue in the more mainline Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches, but it is still a huge issue for the SBC as a whole. The Georgia Baptist Convention even voted to disassociate a church for having a woman as the associate minister at their last meeting (just last month). While their misogyny may be more veiled than the more fundamentalist denominations that require women to cover their heads and such, it is still there and quite strong.

    Recently a friend of mine’s wife posted to FB that she has begun wearing head coverings because it is a Biblical sign of her submission to her husband. It disturbed me greatly.

    Just another example of how good the church is at brainwashing people.

  5. greengeekgirl December 2, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    Wow, secretatheist–I am really disturbed by that, too. I hope she has a good husband if she’s going to totally submit to him.

  6. thesecretatheist December 2, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    I’m sure that he had a little something to do with her decision, being the “head of the family” and spiritual leader, and very conservative (not that she wasn’t very conservative before they met from what I heard). He thinks that the “feminization of men” is going to be the downfall of our society. (Not that he is in anyway some sort of macho man, he’s a music nerd like me and addicted to German style board games.)

    But while they are crazy and conservative, I have no fear that he could ever abuse his wife in any way. He couldn’t hurt a fly (well, he does kill chickens on a stump behind their house, but I’m sure flies are left unkilled).

  7. thesecretatheist December 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    What I was trying to say, in a very rambly way, is that he doesn’t want her to submit because he actually thinks he is better than her but because they have both decided that the Bible teaches (and really, it does) that this is how it should be.

    It makes me sad that two people with obviously brilliant minds like they can still believe such twisted things as conservative, fundamentalist religion teaches.

  8. ashleyfmiller December 2, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    I think you’re overstating their ability to choose. If you’re raised in an environment where your opinion is meaningless and you are essentially worthless, how would you ever have enough self-belief to overcome your entire society? Very few women who aren’t incredibly damaged would be a conservative religious person, but the religion makes sure that they are damaged. And some women who have internalized the Madonna/Whore image of women and have been abused will find religion even if they don’t have it because it speaks to what they ‘know’ to be true about the world.

  9. godlesspaladin December 2, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

    That’s a really good point, I forgot about that. I remember Sam Harris saying something like “What does it mean to have a choice to wear the burka when if you refuse to wear it you get battery acid thrown in your face?” I guess I was just thinking about religious women who live and work in an environment where there are non fundamentalist women.

  10. thesecretatheist December 2, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    That’s the confusing thing with my friends I mentioned. Neither of them was raised in a fundamentalist, or even conservative environment. They came to this as young adults. (Actually, his parents have since become conservative fundamentalists.)

  11. godlesspaladin December 2, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    Wow, really? I’d really like to see a therapist’s notes on them…

  12. Puddingpie December 4, 2010 at 2:48 am #

    I’ve had a lot of conversations about “Catholic femininity” with various women, including nuns. (Google “Catholic femininity” sometime to ride the crazy train.) It can be somewhat counter-cultural and empowering to live in poverty communally, being accountable to no mortal man, strengthening yourself through discipline, and not feeling your self-worth is tied to salary and career status or sexuality. I’ve talked to girls who wear the hijab, and they also feel a great sense of dignity and self-respect. Again, it comes from being free of what they see as a sick, “secular” society. In Christianity at least, it comes down to the division between “the kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of man” again. There’s no “kingdom of perfectly valid alternate moral system,” like feminist theory.

    I think the “beauty in purity” thing dives off the deep end real quick, but again, it’s a reaction to what’s perceived as “secular”: artifice, cheapness, over-sexualization. There’s a Christian rock song called “More Beautiful You” by Jonny Diaz that sums it up. It actually comes off as a strangely self-affirming, feminist song.

    The other thing you see is a backlash against feminism (ya know, evil-devil-lesbo feminism!). Women are sick of being told their only value is in being powerful and “independent,” as if being empathetic, patient, and intuitive didn’t matter in the least. I’m sick of it myself. Apply for a job in finance sometime and watch the macho dick-waving. Men don’t get told, “You shouldn’t dress feminine because people will think you’re a secretary.” Or when a woman’s “being emotional,” that’s an insult, rather than a natural state.

    Anyway, that’s where you get the “men and women are different, but complementary” theories, which at least celebrates femaleness, rather than denigrating it. I’m down with celebrating femaleness. But then it goes to crazy-town. (“Women are ‘called’ to be wives and mothers! That is the most holy calling of a woman…” wtf)

    I think some conservative religious women have a longing for some (nonexistent) golden age where people had more integrity because they performed their “proper” functions. BTW, I think this actually hits the nail on the head for what skeeves me out about the SCA.

    It’s some sort of fantastical universe where men are clear-eyed, rugged, and honest, and women are naturally nurturing, modest, and “pure”, with an infinite capacity for devotion. It’s the “natural” way of things. And is it a beautiful fantasy. I see why it appeals to people. It certainly appealed to me as a kid. I know it’s just a fantasy but for some people, that’s a Master Plan. Unfortunately, any time reality doesn’t live up to this fantasy, for them, it’s not due to ordinary human frailty, it’s because modernity has “perverted nature.”

  13. godlesspaladin December 4, 2010 at 3:18 am #

    Thanks again pudding, nice insight. I think I can understand those motivations then behind wanting to become a nun, but like you pointed out, those “my duty is to be a wife and mother and nothing else” people loopy.

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