• author
    • Jesse Loren

    • January 19, 2018 in Columnists

    Gender apartheid must end

    Not all societies marginalize women or have historically marginalized, underpaid, or undervalued women. Here in the United States, much of the Southwest has been populated with the Navajo. Women are the primary leaders of the traditional Navajo culture, which not just means the culture is matrilineal but matrilocal. And in all the ancestral stories, it is the adventures of women that are heroic and celebrated. Move over, Odysseus.

    In a matriarchal society, lineage is traced through the mother along with inheritance rights, and when a man marries, he joins the woman’s family. This is sort of the opposite of Christian theology or Judeo-Christian patriarchy.

    In Anglo-Saxon society, prior to the Norman Conquest, women were gifted land in marriage from their mothers and the land remained hers to bestow to her daughters. Women had near equal parity with men until William the Conqueror installed a feudal system and re-envisioned England as a militaristic society. In feudalism, there is only room for men to be in all positions of power, and moving up generally requires being successful in battle, battle reserved only for men. William was a French-speaking foreigner and had to use might to rule. The militaristic, male-dominated society remained for hundreds of years. It has been fictionalized and romanticized for centuries. Much to our demise.

    All wrapped up in our current legal system of Constitutional Government, the rule of law, Women’s Rights, Property Rights, Worker’s rights, the Bill of Rights, is a big shadow from our Judeo-Christian and Greek-Roman influences. Remember, the Romans populated England and brought a male-dominated, militaristic form of government to England before it fell. Then through the Norman Conquest of 1066, England became more male-centered and patriarchal. When you think of the original Colonies coming to America, they were religious extremists with all the pre-packaged guilt, shame and sexism tucked into their dark robes and severe manners. That shaped who we would become. They brought their tainted past to infect our shores.

    The Puritans brought many great things, but they also brought a hostile religious, male-dominated, idea of society, with strict gender roles. Maybe that is what worked for them, or maybe it never really worked at all. In its most closed-minded forms, Christianity has been used to install male leadership, treat women as property, treat women as subjugated for obedience to father and husband, marginalized her to suffer in childbirth, and blamed her for the fall of man. If all of that wasn’t enough, the “virgin birth” has many destructive connotations. The darkest message: only one woman was ever born pure. In a Catholic context, women do not have sovereignty over their bodies, and suffering is a holy duty. Doesn’t that make you almost barf into your own mouth?

    In its most closed-minded forms, Christianity is a weapon used to empower a dominating patriarchy and make for gender apartheid. Most of our country is not part of the most closed-minded, dogmatic forms of Christianity, but it’s hard not to find elements of these aspects in churches. For example, God’s image is painted in the form of an old white guy, not a transsexual, not a light-being, not an essence, but an old white dude. It’s an iconic example of man painting god in the image of his own power to leave no room for women to imagine equality or leadership.

    There is no equal power available for women in church doctrine either. Catholic churches still hold men to positions of power, even when it is antiquated, even when it is biased, even when there are lawsuits. Some modern evangelicals use the closed-minded forms of Christianity to excuse and even institutionalize sexism and the marginalize women in perpetuity.

    None of the closed-minded aspects of the Judeo-Christian heritage sits well or works well with our Constitutional form of government or the Bill of Rights.

    Our founders knew this. They wanted religious ideals out of politics. It’s sad that religion can be used as a force to remove equality and equal opportunity from our fellow Americans. It has been done before. It has been done over and over again.

    Remember, not long ago, Christianity was used to protect the right to own human beings.  We are still struggling as a nation with that stain.

    I argue that a Constitutional form of government should be gender neutral. It should give no preference to rights or opportunity by gender or religious belief. I believe it is our responsibility as Americans to make sure we are loudly and clearly fighting to separate church from state in all functions, manners, and permutations. We should require equal representation in both the House and Senate.

    Going further, law and legal protections are in place to address sexual harassment in the workplace, but powerful men have enjoyed certain legal protections available to them in their positions of power. The right to require a gag-order when settling lawsuits. Rightfully named, the gag order allows powerful men to keep harassing and assaulting. It protects the victims’ privacy but also protects the reputation of the assailant so he can go on harassing, assaulting and raping. It doesn’t provide protection for current or future hires.

    I believe a mechanism should be in place to evaluate employment. Each company should have to report how many cases of gender bias, assault and harassment are reported each year, the cost of legal fees incurred, and the number of men involved. The bottom line for companies might be profit, but the bottom line for families is safety. Is it safe to work for a company that protects perpetrators? Is it safe to work for a company that has a large percentage of perpetrators, which indicates a corporate unwillingness to protect its workforce?

    Personally, most of my adult working life has been as a credentialed California teacher working in public school, which means my job and paycheck was guided by fair practices carved out by the Teachers’ Union. Pay was based on education and years of service. Base salary wasn’t ruled by gender, it was ruled by fair practice. Thank goodness for unions.

    As someone who looks at the workforce, I am familiar with an online site called Glassdoor. Glassdoor has inside views into companies. I would like to know how many cases of gender bias, unfair promotions, assault and harassment occur when I look for employment and I would like to know if there is frequent turnover in positions due to unfair practices.

    Like you, I am tired of the men being protected. I am tired of them earning more. I am tired of being marginalized. We need to do more, we need to be better informed about how the past has influenced our norms, and we need to make better decisions to guide the safety of future generations.  We need to end this gender apartheid once and for all.


      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • January 21, 2018 at 2:05 am
      • Reply

      We are more than half of humanity. Being subject to patriarchal domination, with all its concomitant abuses, must end. Do we REALLY have to go all Lysistrata on their asses?

    Leave a Reply to Maya Spier Stiles North Cancel reply