Religion and Feminism: Part Two

By Sasha Brodskaya

Well, I certainly didn’t plan on these rants becoming a series. Nonetheless, with all the news surrounding abortion and my recent trip of Israel, I feel like I can contribute something more to the discussion about these two fields. Feel free to join in!

To start off, I’d like to apologize to all the religious feminists out there. If there is one important lesson that I learned on my trip to Israel, it is that Orthodox religion and feminism are not necessarily incompatible. The budding feminist Orthodox Jewish movement JOFA, for example, advocates that women form their own synagogues and Torah study groups to fight the patriarchal oppression and spiritual neglect they receive in all-gender Orthodox synagogues (where men and women are segregated). Such alternative forms of worship offer religious Jewish women an opportunity for spiritual education and guidance equal to that traditionally received by Orthodox men, all without violating the traditional rule that men and women not mingle and thereby get distracted during prayer sessions. Another point I should make about Orthodox Judaism is that there is a huge variety of scholarly interpretations on the meaning of the Torah and its laws. More “liberal” interpretations of the text have always existed to offer support for the feminist cause, and so I should not have (implicitly) lumped all Orthodox Jewish beliefs into a misogynist and patriarchal attitude. That is not to say that patriarchal and misogynist values do not exist in a great many Orthodox Jewish practices, but the interpretation of these values as “God’s law” is clearly not universally accepted by rabbis or Orthodox Jewish women.

Next, I’d like to chat up all you feministas out there about the meaning of Justice Scalia’s concurrence on overturning precedent in the recent Supreme Court case on Corporations and political funding, which got me thinking once again about the abortion debate. Granted, the two subjects may not appear to be related at first glance, but as one of my professors pointed out, Scalia’s concurrent opinion about overturning precedent could be a sign of drastic changes to come, a.k.a the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Luckily, public opinion is making the abortion arena some tough water to tread for now; no Justice wants to experience the wrath of our pro-choice politicians and citizens. And I’m sure the upcoming trial of abortionist George Tiller’s murderer will cross out the possibility of overturning Roe for quite some time, if the Democratic legislature and presidency weren’t already ensuring that. Nonetheless, the conservative, anti-choice majority of the Court is something that we as feminists should be concerned about, given how easily politics and politicians are apt to change in Washington. We need to win over more people on the fence for this issue, because public support for abortion is the strongest weapon we have against an oppressive and increasingly activist, anti-choice Court majority.

This brings my point full circle back to the original topic: feminism and its relationship with religion. The (mostly) religious anti-choice activists would have us believe that they are looking out for the best interests of “impressionable” young women by attempting to ban their ability to sin against God, but as wilk0268 points out in her Women’s Choice entry, such rhetoric actually implies women do not have the emotional and intellectual capacity to make these decisions for themselves. One need merely look at the actions of the activists to see the patronizing and anti-feminist attitude they have towards women; while male abortionists like George Tiller are demonized as “baby-killers”, anti-choice activists often claim women seeking abortions are only misguided and easily manipulated. If anti-choice demonstrators truly believe abortion is murder, where are their calls to send women undergoing abortions to prison? Why is there no violence against women seeking to decide the fate of their bodies by “murdering the unborn”, while plenty such violence is exercised against the “evil” pro-choice staff of abortion clinics? Certainly I am not arguing that either things should happen more often, but rather that such things do not generally happen precisely because women are regarded as morally inferior to men, needing laws and the guidance of anti-choice activists to prevent them from living a life of sin. No such forgiving attitudes are shown towards pro-choice men and pro-choice abortionists like Tiller, because men are expected to be the morally superior gender in the religion-based misogynist philosophy of these anti-choice activists. Thus, once again anti-feminist views are hidden beneath the cloak of organized religion: a cloak of organized religion that, ironically, goes against the very values of the religious texts on which it claims to be founded.


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