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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

If God is male, then male is god

War on Women?

What War on Women?

We love women. Some of us hire them. Some of us even marry them.

But, ride on a public bus?

Whoa! Wait a minute. Now you're talking crazy.

Last Friday, Tanya Rosenblit boarded a bus in her hometown of Ashdod, just outside of Jerusalem, to travel to that most holy city for an appointment.

She knew that Egged, the bus company that owned the bus and Israel's largest bus firm, provided special segregated buses for its routes through Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

That deal had been struck more than a decade ago.  Reportedly, about 50 bus lines currently have separate seating. Their routes run mainly through ultra-religious neighborhoods and skip over central bus stations to avoid catering to the general public.

On these bus routes, women are typically required to enter through the back doors and wear modest clothes that cover their arms and legs. Those who attempt to sit at the front are often subjected to assaults by male passengers, mostly verbal but sometimes physical.

Indeed, in 2006, an American-Israeli woman was slapped, kicked, punched and pushed by a gang of ultra-religious men when she refused to move to the back of a Jerusalem bus.

The gender-segregated buses remain despite the Supreme Court ruling last January for the first time that they were illegal. Nevertheless, the transportation ministry now requires buses to post stickers inside that say every passenger could choose his or her own seating.

That's because sometimes, even ultra-Orthodox men and women have to travel outside of their segregated neighborhoods to travel - on what remain as public buses - to places where men and women in the rest of society do not live segregated lives.

So, Tanya Rosenblit boarded the public bus which happens to travel a route through a neighborhood populated by the Haredim - a Hebrew term referring to their fear of God. They are a tight-knit community making up about 10 per cent of Israel's population of 7.7 million. They usually remain in their own neighborhoods or towns, where women who don't wear long dark dresses or cover their heads with hats, scarves or wigs frequently face quiet or open hostility.

Ms. Rosenblit dressed appropriately - modestly, out of respect for her fellow passengers - and, when she boarded the bus, took a seat behind the bus driver. In the front of the bus.  On a public bus. On her way to Jerusalem.

Rosa Parks
She didn't intend to become "Israel's Rosa Parks" and emerge from her bus ride as a symbol of the escalating tensions between Israel's secular Jews and the ultra-religious.

Then again, Rosa Parks didn't ever intend to become a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement in this country.  When asked later why she did what she did, she would say that her feet were tired and she sat down.

Ms. Rosenblit wrote about her experience and posted in on her FaceBook page. She also took lots of pictures. You can read her account and see some of the pictures here.

She begins her account with these words:
The driver looked at the station where I was standing and didn’t stop. I had to signal him by raising my hand for him to stop. When I entered the bus he looked surprised. He explained that the only ones who go on the bus are Orthodox Jews. I sat behind him in the first row and asked for him to tell me when we get to my station.
At the next stop, men from the Haridem began to board the bus. She was appalled when an ultra-Orthodox male passenger cursed her and demanded that she move to the back portion because he did not want to sit behind a woman.

Photo by Tanya Rosenblit
She refused.  Suddenly, that refusal began to draw a crowd of about 20 ultra-Orthodox men, all of them bearded and wearing their traditional black garb and broad hats, to gather in protest outside the bus's door.

To her surprise, a policeman summoned by the bus driver asked her to "respect" the men by shifting to a back row. 

Respect the men.

Shift to a back row.

Any of this sound familiar?

I know what you're thinking. This happened in Israel. With ultra-orthodox Jews. That's not how it is here. In America. Women are totally respected here. That would never happen here. In America.

Right. Here, we just throw women "under the bus" when political deals are made to cut services to women who live in poverty. Services like education. Health Care. Assistance to help feed their families. Employment opportunities with decent (but not necessarily equal) pay. Access to information about and services for Reproductive Rights.

I know what you're thinking. This was not about the color of her skin as it was for Rosa Parks. This is different. This is about religious tensions.

Right. I would argue that racism is its own form of religion. Indeed, Scripture - Hebrew and Christian - have been used throughout history to support the superiority of Caucasians and the inferiority of anyone whose skin is dark(er).

I know what you're thinking. This is about her gender and how some people - especially religious "fanatics" - see women as "The Weaker Sex". You know. Because of Eve and what happened in The Garden. Just give them time. They'll come to understand about the equality of the sexes. Eventually.

Right. I would argue that sexism, being the "original sin" recorded in Scripture, is the basis for racism, homophobia and heterosexism.  As long as there is sexism, there will be racism, homophobia and hetrosexism.

Need some evidence? A little bit of "proof"?

Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi
In his Christmas message to the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI stated that while the Church needs to “defend the earth, water, air, as gifts of the creation that belongs to all of us [... ], it must also protect the human being from his own “destruction.”

“It is necessary that there be something such as an ecology of man, understood in the proper manner,” he said.

“It is not outmoded metaphysics,” the Pontiff affirmed, “when Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected.”

"The rain forests certainly deserve our protection, but man as creature indeed deserves no less,” he said.

“What is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender,’ is definitively resolved in the self-emancipation of the human being from creation and the Creator,” Benedict warned.

“Gender” as used in the pope’s address is broad enough to encompass anyone who doesn’t completely conform with their assigned sexual roles; including homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender and others.

Benedict XVI explained that great theologians have “qualified marriage, that is to say, the link for life between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator.”

See? It's just the "natural order" of things. Just the way "God intended for us to be happy". We just need to obey the "natural order" of God who created men.....Oh, yes.... and THEN women.  Oh, and, remember how she messed that up in The Garden.

Why, see?  It's Eve's fault that the rainforests are in destruction.  Anyone who is like Adam can save the world. Anyone who is like Eve is potentially dangerous to all of human kind.

Saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behavior is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

Right. It's crazy talk, is what it is. Let me hasten to remind you that these words were spoken by The Pope - the undisputed leader of the vast majority of Christians throughout the world.

Crazy like a fox, is what I say.

Feminist theologian, Mary Daly, once posited that "If God is male, then male is god."

Tanya Rosenblit
I don't think you'll find more hard and fast evidence of that than what happened last Friday to Ms. Tanya Rosenblit on that bus to Jerusalem.

Ms. Rosenblit wrote:
I lived in Israel all my life. I was brought up in a free country and I was taught the value of freedom as a basic right that could never be undermined by anyone. All my life, during my teens, my military service, my university years and then after I always felt as equal among my peers. I was always proud to be a woman and never felt deprived or weakened by men, until today.
Today has come for women and men around the world to stand up for the Tanya Rosenblits of the world who want to take a seat on a public bus and travel, without harassment, to their destination.

Today has come for women and men around the world to live respectfully in the tensions of our vastly differing religious beliefs and values. 

Today has come for women and men in this country to take a stand for the equality and democracy which we say we cherish.

In a few short days, we will be ushering in the New Year of 2012. Before the end of that year we will be electing - or, please God, re-electing - a President of The United States. 

A great deal is on the line - including the status of women, especially women who live in poverty. I hope, when you think about stepping into that voting booth, you'll remember Tanya Rosenblit and help to vote someone in (or out of) office that will bring about an end to the War on Women.

Indeed, I hope you'll not forget the Christmas Season we now celebrate with the central message of "Emmanuel" - God with us.

I don't know if God is male or female. I personally chose to believe that Mary Daly is right and that God is beyond gender.

The Eye of God
I don't know if God is black, white, yellow or red. I personally chose to believe that Ruth McBride, the Jewish woman who chose to marry a Black man in the 1940's, is right when she taught her twelve children that God is "The Color of Water."

I also personally believe that you have the absolute right to believe whatever you chose to believe.

What I don't believe is that I have the right to impose those beliefs on you.

Neither do you have the right to impose your beliefs on me.

Not in terms of my value as a human being because of my gender or skin color or sexual orientation or educational background, or physical or intellectual or emotional ability, or class status, or who I chose to love and how I chose to fashion my life, which may not be in accordance with your values and beliefs but does no harm.

Neither do you have the right to determine where I chose to sit on a public bus.  

That, dear Pope Benedict, is part - a small part, but a central component - of the "sacramental nature of life, instituted by the Creator".

No one - not the church or any one individual - has the right to define or determine how it is that I chose the "outward and visible" signs of the "inward and spiritual" grace of my life.

Here's the "Ecology of Humankind" which we need to protect and defend:

If God is 'Emmanuel', then God is with us.

No matter who or where we are, or what or how we believe.

24 comments:

Muthah+ said...

Brilliant!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Muthah+

Elaine C. said...

Wonderful -- but a slight correction -- though it was kept out of the public realm at the time -- Rosa Parks was part of the civil rights movement, trained in non-violent resistance. The local black community had a bus & center city economic boycott planned -- complete with a system for getting each other to work without riding buses. They were just waiting for the right case to start it. They'd almost gone ahead with it a few weeks before, but the woman arrested was unmarried and pregnant. Even though she was willing, the movement leaders felt that the white community could too easily attack the moral character of that woman. Rosa Parks made a choice not to move to the back, and several others had on buses in the same time period. But she had the right charges brought against her, that the movement lawyers saw as crucial and she had nothing to hide "morally." This was not revealed to the public at large for many years. Aldon Morris documents this in his book on the movement. The African Americans did not what those who opposed them to know how much planning, intelligence and strategy that civil rights leaders had going for them. They also in Birmingham, for this bus boycott, recruited a young pastor, new to town, who didn't owe any local white leadership anything -- someone who would take risks. A man named Martin Luther King, Jr.

Teresa Bowden said...

The "blog" I just read by Elizabeth Keaton is one of the most profound and encouraging essays on God and total inclusivity of all of Creation that I have seen or read. Women are, and have been the most continuously abused people in the history of humanity since men discovered sperm started the miracle of life. From that time on they have refused to pay attention to the female contribution of an egg.

Matthew said...

Unfortunately, this IS happening in this country, RIGHT NOW, in New York, not just in Israel. As much as I dislike Michael Bloomberg on some issues, he was a prophetic voice on this issue.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/nyregion/bus-segregation-of-jewish-women-prompts-review.html

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Elaine C - I know the story but I love the story that was "fed" to the public so we wouldn't know just how smart the Black community really is.

JCF said...

[Shamelessly shallow: Tanya is HOT! ;-)]

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Why, thank you, Teresa. The name's KAEton, though. Wish I were related to Diane Keaton and/or had her money or looks or sense of style. Alas, I'm just Elizabeth Kaeton. Feisty feminist priest.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Matthew - someone just alerted me to this situation offline. Zero Tolerance for this is exactly what I would expect from Mayor Bloomberg.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - I suspect that was part of the problem on that bus ride.

Jim said...

When I was a young folk singer and college student, we thought the world would be sane by the 21st century. We were wrong. There is still way, way too much work to do.

The furious hate filled white guy down the block screaming at me tonight is a surviving hater. I so wish it were not the world I shall leave to my grand children.

One thing I do know, the nutcase "Christian Right" is neither and won't be getting my vote this election year.

FWIW
jimB

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I'm going to work real hard to convince all my friends - especially those few on the Christian Right - to vote the bums out.

Dom said...

Having left the Catholic Church many years ago, I don't care too much about what the Pope says. (I think the Vatican is still trying to re-live the 11th Century.) But I get a bit discouraged when I see some of the same attitudes (albeit not to the same degree) among some men in the Episcopal Church. It's sad that it seems to take such a long time for people to have a change of mind and a change of heart.

Regarding the "hot" comment and response, I sure hope that it is possible for a man to find a woman attractive and still regard her as an equal and treat her with respect and dignity. Otherwise we males are sure a sorry lot.

Thanks for the great post.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dom - I think I know JCF well enough to believe that he can make a shallow remark about a "hot" woman, own his own shallowness, AND see her as an equal. And, I personally don't care what the Pope says. Millions of people do. That's a problem.

Anonymous said...

A nice post. But I am not sure how much weight or authority the Pope holds today with Catholics and in particular young Catholics. I think the mishandling of the whole child sex abuse and cover up has cost the Pope most of his auhority on moral issues. The Pope appears to have lost his moral compass.
Maria

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Maria - I agree that the Pope has lost a great deal of credibility, but not enough, far as I'm concerned.

Gloria Bauer Ishida said...

One problem concerning the "Pope", whichever one he may be, and the Catholic Church. is the often exclusive media coverage they get, in spite of the Church's problems. The Pope speaks of peace, it is communicated around the world; other church leaders' prayers and comments are ignored. The same with the Pope praying for victims of various disasters, and on and on. One small example: Christmas in Bethlehem focuses on the well-known Church of the Nativity (RC) when right across the street there is a Palestinian Lutheran Church. The Palestinian pastor has joked that his ancestor may have helped care for baby Jesus.
In other words, the Pope speaks and his words, circle the globe.

walter said...

4, Undoubtly one of the most powerful distinction is sperm versus egg. But to keep coherent with our God of Life Inherent we may view this biological law, that unfortunately to still many Roman Catholics is not clear, as an allegory. Yes, biology in our Freedom Theology may be experienced as an allegory. Well where does this bring us? First of all to the fact that qualitatively there is not an issue of superiority as it applies either to biological ejaculation or squirting. This should be clear in the context of the distinction of which I have spoken above. Now on the central issue. To accept sexual biology as an allegory means to accept that beyond sexual biology any form of ejaculation and squirting should never be an end-objective in itself. Redemptive creation should always be the partial objective. In this sense we are pro-life and continue to affirm the empowering distinction of free-choice and Freedom. Beyond sexual biology thus any form of ejaculation and squirting at least may be experienced through the said empowering distinction. Walter Vitale

MadPriest said...

I remember when it was smokers who were forced to sit at the back of the bus. Now they are not allowed to smoke anywhere on a bus. Now, that's real prejudice for you. Women don't know how lucky they are :-)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Gloria - EXACTLY! The media pays too much attention to The Pope. I love the quote about the Lutheran pastor.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Walter - sexual biology as an allegory. What an interesting concept.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jonathan - I adore tobacco. It's a real character flaw. However, I'm glad that smoking is no longer allowed in enclosed areas. Really.

walter said...

4, Elizabeth, Libby Vitale and Paul, Marta and Paola, at this time, through a pre-consubstantial third phase of development by the visitation of my Jewish Blonde Angel, the existential analysis has discovered in the context of an unconscious spirituality, in the sense of the unconscious relation with God, a relation with the transcendence apparently immanent to man and woman, if still too often latent. While with the discovery of the unconscious spirituality the ego (spiritual) appeared behind the it (unconscious), with the discovery of the unconscious religiousness behind the immanent ‘Ego’ it has rendered itself visible the transcendent ‘You’. If the ego had appeared as “also unconscious”, and the unconscious as “also spiritual”, now this spiritual unconscious has disclosed itself as “also transcendent”. The unconscious faith of man and woman that so reveals – that presents itself and it is seen in concomitance to the concept of the “transcendent unconscious” – would mean that God is intended by us already always in unconscious way, and that we always have an intentional relation, even if unconscious, with God. This is the motivation for which we indicate God as the unconscious God. Let us offer-sacrifice my gift of the revelation of the Vitale Kaeton Collective Unconscious in the Vitale Kaeton Transcendent You to the God Life Inherent of Sexuality. Please do not try to understand this writing by human logic but keep in mind Elizabeth’ references to Diane Kaeton and Herself as a feisty preacher and my loving Elizabeth’ intellecy by the visitation of my Jewish Blonde Angel: my loving Elizabeth’ intellecy means loving all I know of her, all I have offered to her and this bodes well in falling in love with us-Elizabeth & Walter; conversely knowing all of Brother Paul bodes well in falling in love with us-Brother Paul & Brother Walter; conversely knowing all of Libby Vitale mean falling in love with Libby’ European Harlem and with the first Queerful Christian Church. In Vitale Kaeton Grace We Trust. I may be the truth if they are looking for who can take a chance even though Libby sings..and if you fall I am thinking I would not mind it at all. Walter Vitale

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Wanted to share this cool video called "Christians Have Given Jesus a Bad Name". Take a look when you get a chance.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55Wf9L8sG50

Best Wishes for a New Year!