In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Blaming “the culture”

What caused the rampant sexual abuse in the Catholic church? Why, academics, liberals, and “the culture,” of course! That’s according to Sen. Rick Santorum, at least.

It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning “private” moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

I love it when those good ole “personal responsibility” conservatives blame “the culture” (read: liberals, feminists, gays, “the media,” and, apparently, people who read books) for the actions of individuals.

Know the Lord

With summer classes afoot, I’ve had to let a few principles go.

E goes to a summer camp in the morning and then with my mother in the afternoon. This week, my church-going mother agreed to work the church’s Vacation Bible School, a somewhat innocuous five-day sermon complete with crafts and coloring books. Ethan goes with her. They learn a new Bible verse every day.

I’ve never been big on Biblical verses, and even when I was a good non-atheist church-goer preferred the abstract rendering of God and Holiness to textual representations of Christ. I decided when Ethan was born that I would allow him to choose if, when, how and whether he wanted to take part in an institutional faith. I wouldn’t push him in any way. Ethan appears to be a mini-heathen in the making. He goes to church with my mother on occasion and I answer his questions as best I can, biting my tongue more frequently than I should.

He is, most of all, obsessed with the idea of a soul. What is a soul? Where does it come from? Can I find it?

I tell him that soul can be found everywhere: music, movies, trees, the fish pond, in himself, everywhere. Not just in church. Last night when we rode our bikes to campus for ice cream, we sat outside and I told him that if anything didn’t make sense at church to ask me or Grandma about it. He told me he doesn’t believe everything they say. “I don’t either,” I told him, “but there are some important lessons there.” We talked about kindness and charity and love and how all people have the potential for such, not only those within church walls, and how these things should not be confined within church walls. He seemed satisfied.

The other day my mom was discussing the day’s Biblical lesson with Ethan. She too wonders how much he has internalized the things they teach in church, albeit for different reasons than I.

“E, do you remember the verse for the day?” she asked.

“Know the Lord,” Ethan replied dutifully.


“But the only Lord I know is Lord Vader. And he’s evil.”

The Godless Professor

Right-leaning New York rags like the Sun and the Daily News are all up in arms about the possible appointment of an atheist to chair the sociology department at Brooklyn College. Katha Pollitt takes on the issue beautifully. The professor, Tim Shortell, can be a little offensive (he refers to believers as “moral retards”). But, as she writes,

Besides, so what if Shortell’s essay is offensive? Brooklyn College is a public, secular institution, not a Bible college. The Sun claimed Shortell’s disdain for religion would cloud his judgment of job candidates, but there was never any evidence that this would be the case. No student ever complained about his teaching; his colleagues trusted him enough to elect him to the post; the student work posted on his website is apolitical and bland. Predictions of bias, absent any evidence, are just a backhanded way of attacking his beliefs. You might as well say no Southern Baptist should be chair, since someone who believes that women should be subject to their husbands, homosexuality is evil and Jews are doomed to hell won’t be fair to female, gay or Jewish job candidates. Or no Orthodox Jew or Muslim should be chair because religious restrictions on contact with the opposite sex would privilege some job candidates over others.

But nobody ever does say that. As long as a believer ascribes his views to his faith, he can say anything he wants and if you don’t like it, you’re the bigot.


Link to me, or the Bible gets it!

Alright, people, I’m gonna get tough. You know what I want, and you’d better give it to me.

I’ve got a bible here, and a 44oz. Diet Cokeā€¦lots of liquid containing a diuretic, to boot. In about an hour, I figure my bladder is going to be pretty full. You know what could happen.

Pope speaks out on fertility treatments

No surprise here. The current Italian law is incredibly restrictive; it “bans donations of sperm and eggs, defines life as beginning at conception, and allows fertility treatment only to married heterosexual couples.”

It ramins to be seen how the Italian people will react to this move. One thing that has always been interesting about Italy is that, while its people are deeply religious and overwhelmingly Catholic, there is a strong resistance to the intrusion of religion into the political sphere. And there has been an equally strong push by the Catholic church to do just about anything to maintain its influence over the populace — even its opposition to abortion didn’t really begin until Papal states shrunk and a decline in the church’s political power became obvious.

The church has the right to issue whatever boycotts it deems necessary in preventing people from donating sperm and eggs (gotta protect potential life, right?). I think it’s unfortunate that they are choosing to dedicate such energy to preventing people from having children, but that’s their call. But when an organization is dealing with a wide range of issues and only has access to limited resources, don’t they usually focus on the most important issue/s? I understand, they think fertility treatments end life. But how about taking a louder stand against the invasion of Iraq? That hasn’t been the most life-affirming mission. Or calling on all Catholics to petition the UN and their own governments to do something in Darfur? How about mentioning the Church’s opposition to the death penalty (something that many Christian and “pro-life” groups out here manage to conveniently forget)? Hell, what about the 78,000 women (probably more unreported) who die of illegal abortions every year? What about the 12 million street kids in Brazil — a country where the Catholic church has been instrumental in limiting access to contraception and sex education and illegalizing abortion (which means lots more dead mothers and orphaned children)? Priority, I guess, isn’t being placed in protecting real, actual, living people — it’s being put on getting into a political fray intended to block families from having children.

Excuse me if I’m a little testy tonight. But given the current state of things, I think any feeling person would be. (p.s., please excuse the typos — I’m sure there are many. It’s after 3am, and I’m so tired I’m seeing double. Plus, I’m pissed, and that doesn’t help).

Restoring virginity

Doctors who “repair” women’s hymens are being threatened, apparently, by people who judge women’s value by the state of their hymen. While the stereotype of someone getting this surgery is a veiled Muslim woman, that isn’t entirely accurate.

Young also said that it’s not just women with Middle Eastern backgrounds seeking the surgeries. There has also been an increase in the number of women requesting hymen repair from both the Orthodox Jewish and Christian fundamentalist communities, as well as from women of all nationalities who want the surgery as a sexual enhancement.

“Within the fundamentalist Christian population as well there has been an apparent recent movement towards ‘traditional family values’ and there is pressure put on women to be virgins,” Young said.

Hymen repair is “sexual enhancement”? That’s odd to me… I don’t really understand how having a piece of tissue torn is sexually pleasurable for anyone, especially when that tearing comes complete with blood spillage.

So what exactly is hymen repair?

Typical hymen repair surgery involves stitching the remnants of a torn hymen together and inserting a gelatin capsule that contains a blood-mimicking substance. After the hymen has been surgically repaired, a woman will bleed the fake blood the next time she has sexual intercourse. The surgery, which costs from $2,500 to $4,500, is performed on an outpatient basis. Healing can take from a few days to a few weeks.

Fake blood. How sexy. The article is interesting, but what nags at me is the fact that no one really discusses the real problem: the fact that women’s hymens are equated with their purity, value and general worth, and the fact that women are ostracized and sometimes even killed for making their own sexual decisions (or for having those decisions made for them). While I obviously don’t believe any doctor deserves to be threatened or killed for doing their job, I would hope that this problem is being more seriously attacked at its roots. And I would also hope that these doctors are offering their patients information about domestic violence and family abuse resources. If a woman comes in and is afraid of being beaten or killed for having sex, repairing her hymen isn’t going to solve the problem.

Fun With Intelligent Design

This Alternet article gives some helpful hints to science teachers forced to teach intelligent design in addition to evolution:

Intelligent design is not creationism per se. It holds that higher forms of life are so complex they must have been created by an unspecified higher power. The key word here is “unspecified.” Many school board members who support an intelligent design mandate believe that higher power is Jesus. But they aren’t forcing anyone to teach that in schools.

What they do require is that teachers offer a critique of evolution and suggest alternative theories about the origins of life. How might a good science teacher comply with these new directives without compromising their principles or their dignity? Or to put it slightly more aggressively, how might a biology teacher educate his or her students while at the same time teach meddling school board members a lesson?

…I recommend that biology teachers begin by discussing Elisabeth A. Lloyd’s decidedly scientific book, The Case of the Female Orgasm. No school board member should complain. The book’s subtitle, “Bias in the Science of Evolution,” clearly fits with the new requirement that teachers critique evolutionary theory.

Darwinians can explain the male orgasm. After all, the male ejaculation is necessary for the survival and perpetuation of the species, and if giving the male great pleasure while doing so promotes that, then natural selection would eventually endow the male orgasm with that characteristic.

When it comes to the human female orgasm, however, evolutionists are stumped. No other female of the animal kingdom experiences an orgasm. Professor Lloyd examines 21 evolution-based explanations for the female orgasm, and demolishes every one of them.

Here the biology teacher might offer the class the alternative explanation of intelligent design. Is the intelligent power simply leveling the playing field between the sexes? Or is Professor Lloyd right that the female orgasm is “just for fun,” and the intelligent power is female?

Then there’s the question of male homosexuality. From a Darwinian perspective, it’s a puzzle. The theory of natural selection should guarantee the disappearance of males that don’t reproduce. But they keep hanging around, in considerable numbers, in every culture and every era.

Evolutionists have their theories. Psychologist Louis A. Berman argues that it has to do with embryonic development. Medical doctor Lorne Warneke suggests that homosexuality actually offers a natural advantage. Homosexuals instill a more cooperative impulse that helps perpetuate the kinship group and tribe.

A good science teacher will follow the school board’s guidance and propose intelligent design as an alternative explanation for male homosexuality. Could there be an intelligent power that has created and nurtured male homosexuality? Does that mean God is gay?

PZ et al, pay attention. There’s more.