Monday, October 24, 2011

Women's Persecution by the Church

Even as a young girl, I didn’t buy the whole story. I remember being about 11 years old and having been raised in a Catholic Church, prepared for my First Holy Communion ceremony, going to Sunday School and learning all manners of things they teach kids about Jesus and the rules and God and Heaven and Hell. I had figured Santa Clause out, looked up books in the library about sex and hated when my mom answered me with, “Because God made it that way.” It was never enough. But the thing I hated most was the way people talked about Eve.
            My parents had a huge painting of The Last Supper on a wooden board in their bedroom. Weird place to have this hanging around but it was there and I remember being sick and home from school and studying that painting. I loved it. I knew there was a woman in it and I knew it was Jesus’ lover. I never asked and never had anyone interpret it to me, but I just knew. I knew something sneaky was up and they were telling secrets and the guy in the corner was a liar. I knew there was something being hidden under that draped table cloth, people playing footsies with each other. I could just feel it in my young mind. The picture was sexy to me, in a weird way, intriguing, mysterious. I knew there was symbolism that I think my genes understood but I couldn’t put it into words.

            Imagine my excitement as a young adult woman who had already separated from the church and studied religions from all over the world. I was a not so closeted but not really out of the closet pagan type, who had just got my hands on this controversial book, “The DaVinci Code.” Oh How I reveled in the conspiracy, how I felt like Dan Brown was telling a story I knew in my heart HAD to be true, after all, history backs up so much of it. Common sense tells you that his version is so much more likely than religious scholars would have you know. Political warfare, men who were greedy and wanted power, killing an important man who wanted peace and equality, and succeeding, but leaving his wife, with child. Oh no, that was not going to work. So defamation is the first course of action, ignoring, demonizing and continuing to repress the voice of women who sought peace, logic, and harmony with their surroundings. What more can be an enemy of men who are power hungry?

            Of course it didn’t start with Mrs. Christ, and it certainly didn’t end with her as Mr. Langdon and Mr. Sauniere reveal in The DaVinci Code. So many cultures have sought to humiliate women, control them, own them. So many still do. But the gendercide that has plagued this planet has been fueled at such an intensity by the Church, to ignore it and act like it never happened and deny the rights of women to restore their original place in society is just one more way of continuing the mistreatment of them. 

            Above all things, women are the creators of life, the very essence of our primal being, the need to reproduce is as strong as the need to eat. I often wonder how many men would be inhabiting this planet if women weren’t making babies and feeding people. In childbirth, women form the very bonds that create a biological safety net to protect their children, our future. They nourish them with their own bodies, if all goes well, for more than 2 years from conception to weaning, and then continue to care for them and not only take care of the young, but old alike as well as their husbands and other relatives or members of their communities if they are able. It must be terribly confusing to a man to see women give so freely of their bodies to create and nurture life, such a selfless act in so many cases.

            Birth is an experience that would prove to be one of the biggest misconceptions amongst men over time. The Bible will explain the pain of labor a price paid by women for their sin of temptation. I would like to reinterpret that to be that the discomforts of labor, to bear a child is the price paid by a woman who engaged in sex, which is a product (if we are lucky) of temptation, and temptation is not all that bad. And in the book, “Medicine and Society in France” by Forester and Ranum, they claim after being introduced to a publication of theories by Dr. Engelmann that, “There has been a widespread acceptance of the idea that the length of labor and the intensity of the pain felt increases with the degree of civilization” and that child birth was easier for women who were more connected to nature, such as those in some African Tribes (there are many tribes that are just as repressive to the women, mutilating their genitalia and considering them property) and how short and easy their births were. It seems with shame of the body and of the act that brought the baby to the womb combined with the fear instilled into civilized, God fearing women, that only then did childbirth become dangerous and painful. There are accounts from all over the world of women in matriarchal societies having amazing births that are easy and hardly resulted in  maternal or infant death when compared to populations of people who are or are attempting to be civilized. Furthermore, these matriarchal societies are often the types that are living close to nature and practicing some form of Goddess Worship, honoring the sacred feminine and exposing the life giving energies surrounding sex as sacred and honorable.

            Calling temptation a sin and saying you shall be punished for it or for causing it to others has created much mental anguish over thousands of years. In an attempt to curtail sexual irresponsibility, the Church has literally mutilated the minds and bodies of countless people, from unnecessary circumcisions ( on both males and females) to brainwashing people into believing that sexual feelings, the biggest instinct of our animal bodies, are evil, to people being sexually abused by religious authority figures by manipulating them to believe they are serving God by pleasuring their leaders.  Instead of men claiming the power of self control, it was easier to demonize women and blame them for the cause of all things sexually desirable. 

            Besides the cultural repression of a woman’s sexuality and her being shamed into a painful and dangerous birth history, the actual proof that lies in the Malleus Maleficarum,  or also known as the “Witches Hammer” is enough to make any woman seriously question if we will ever know the true nature of women. We have undergone such a blatant massacre (over 5 million women executed for supposed witchcraft)  and continue to scare into submission the survivors. This book was published in 1487 by Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger and told the reader that “the Devil’s presence was strongest where human sexuality is concerned” and  of course women were believed to be more sexual than men so they must be the cause of it, even accused of  having sex with the Devil himself because they were so insatiable. The writers wanted the readers to believe that women were weaker than men and so women with strong personalities or who were smarter than the average women (or man) must be a witch and must be tortured and killed. Even more disgusting was the ways in which healers and midwives were targeted for helping other women and for knowing how natural medicines worked to ease the ails of women. If a woman who was “over used” by her husband, having too many children in succession and was in danger of dying in childbirth, wanted to have an abortion or use birth control, a midwife would help her and if found out, they would both be put to death. In the time frame we are talking about, the Middle Ages and Renaissance times, women were expected to lay with their husbands when ever called to do so and they were forbidden to try to control conception, often having 2 babies in one year. And during these time periods, women were often married by 16 years old, suffering childbirth before their bodies were developed fully and having a life expectancy of only around 35 years old. (Pomeroy)

            In closing I would like to bring all the info presented together to point out that women suffering because of religious teachings has not furthered society in any way.  It has contributed to a de-evolution of our species, been used as weapons in war and politics, has weakened society and most of all has influenced human kind in ways that do exactly opposite that was intended  bringing us closer to “Evil” than had we empowered, honored,  and respected the women of our societies. Supporting the life giving and nurturing population of our communities ensures healthy humans. If babies are born to a broken mother, how will she then teach them what they need to survive in this chaotic world? When looking at the issues we are faced with today, in seeing the blatant disregard of life and environment, I have to wonder if we participated in a woman centered culture, if things would still be the way they are today.

Ehrenreich, Barbara and English, Deirdre Withches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers The Feminist Press City University New York, NY (no copyright date available)
Forster, Robert and Ranum, Orest Medicine and Society in France Selections from the Annales Volume 6 Published by John Hopkins Press Baltimore, MD 1980
Gies, Frances and Joseph  Women in the Middle Ages: The lives of real women in a vibrant age of transition Published by Harper Perennial, NY 1978
Pomeroy, Sarah B. Godesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity Published by Shocken Books, NY 1975

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