“We all recognise that if there’s one overarching issue for women it’s the way that religion can be manipulated to subjugate women.” Mary Robinson, first female President of Ireland, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Late in 2012 Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, made a stirring and globally applauded speech in the House of Representatives, on misogyny and sexism in the Parliament.
Ms Gillard declared “I will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by the Leader of the Opposition.”
Ms Gillard asked: “What does misogyny look like to modern Australia?”
Ms Gillard deplored LOTO Tony Abbott’s double standards when it comes to misogyny and sexism.
Ms Gillard demanded Tony Abbott apologise to the women of Australia for his misogyny and sexism.
Ms Gillard stated “I am always offended by sexism and statements that are anti women.”
Ms Gillard declared “Double standards should not rule this parliament” and “sexism is always unacceptable” and that “we are entitled to a better standard than this.”
Prime Minister Gillard was absolutely right on all counts, and the stand she took was long overdue.
The Gillard government has undertaken the consolidation of anti discrimination legislation. In the course of this it has decided to preserve existing exemptions that permit religious organisations to discriminate against , as David Marr puts it: any or all gays and lesbians, single mothers, adulterers – yes, even adulterers! – bisexuals, transsexuals, the intersex and couples such as Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson.
The practical outcomes for women of these exemptions are starkly illustrated in this story of an unmarried teacher who became pregnant and was subsequently sacked from her job at a Christian kindergarten in Queensland.
Australian Christian Lobby CEO Jim Wallace claims Julia Gillard “reassured” religious organisations that they would retain their right to discriminate against women in this manner, as well as to discriminate against women who live in de facto relationships, women who commit “adultery,” women who are bisexual and lesbian, and the intersex.
It is unclear how much of this discrimination is directed against men, except in the case of gay men, who it seems are not regarded as “real” men by religious groups such as the ACL and Christians the ACL claims to represent. Women who transgress the ACL’s rigid criteria are demonised by the Lobby’s determination to exclude them from the right to employment, not because they are in any way unable to perform the work required, but because of their “lifestyle.” Whether or not the man who impregnates the single woman is similarly discriminated against remains unclear.
British philosopher AC Grayling in The Guardian: I leave to you the not very congenial task of totting up the ways in which more enthusiastic forms of religion in general, not just Islam but Roman Catholicism, puritanical forms of Protestantism, and orthodox Judaism, have treated women: all the way from closeting them, covering the up, and silencing them, to sewing up their vaginas: it is a ghastly litany of repression, all the less excusable because discrimination against women which began in these ways persists in our society in modified forms: the fact that a woman earns about 70% of what an equally qualified and experienced man does is a residue in our own society of the attitude which in today’s sharia law states that a woman is worth half a man.
The ACL is anti-abortion, and against the use of the drug RU 486, licensed in Australia only for the termination of very early pregnancies. They strongly object to Australian aid being used to promote family planning in recipient countries. In other words the ACL is keenly interested in controlling and regulating women’s bodies, at home and abroad.
Former US President and Christian Jimmy Carter: The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views and set a new course that demands equal rights for women and men, girls and boys.
At their most repugnant, the belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo. It also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair and equal access to education, health care, employment, and influence within their own communities.
Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has chosen to walk a path that is very different from that of Mary Robinson as far as women are concerned. Ms Gillard has, by pandering to the demands of religious bodies for exemptions to anti discrimination law, legitimised the religious misogyny that perpetuates the myth of female inferiority, to the degree that we are not considered capable or worthy enough to retain control over our own bodies. Ms Gillard has legitimised a misogyny that would deny her the right to employment because of her “lifestyle” as a single woman living with a man. Would her partner Mr Mathieson also be denied employment?
Ms Gillard has legitimised a religious misogyny that believes it is righteous to sack unmarried pregnant women, at a time when they and their unborn babies most need support. At the same time, they would if they could deny a single pregnant woman access to abortion, if that was her choice.
Ms Gillard has thrown her support behind a Christian cult with unsettling links to “dominionist organisations throughout the world, not least through its own board and staff.” (I strongly recommend reading Chrys Stevenson’s excellent piece to which I have linked, in which she unpacks the connections between dominionists and the ACL).
The National Alliance of Christian Leaders (NACL) with whom ACL is closely associated, stated their goals thus: “… unity in truth; recognition of Christ’s authority in the church, family, individual and government; … legislature to force Christian values; … the kingdom permeating the structures of society; biblical government.”
Ms Gillard, an atheist, has capitulated to the demands of organisations such as these and has enabled them to enact their stated goal of introducing “legislature to force Christian values” on our secular society.
Dear Ms Gillard
I will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by you.
Dear Ms Gillard
What does misogyny look like in modern Australia?
Dear Ms Gillard
I deplore double standards when it comes to misogyny and sexism.
Dear Ms Gillard
I am always offended by sexism and statements that are anti women.
Dear Ms Gillard
I agree absolutely that “Double standards should not rule this parliament” and “sexism is always unacceptable” and that “we are entitled to a better standard than this.”
Dear Ms Gillard
What are you going to do about it?
Jennifer Wilson. Woman.