The Pope vs. “Gender”

(Piny just posted on this, but I was working on a longer post so I figured I’d finish it.)

When I heard earlier this week that Ratzy was railing against the gays again, I didn’t really take much notice. What else is new? I guess it’s soooort of interesting that the Catholic Church has managed to jump on the bandwagon with a few other religious denominations in publicly acknowledging the necessity for ecological conservation, unlike some of the conservative religious right in this country. As a result, we get a papal analogy of saving the rainforest to saving mankind from the Horrible Creeping Plague O’ Gayness. How about they figure out how to save altar boys from predatory priests first, etc. etc. usual accusations of hypocrisy, blog post over.

Yesterday, I saw a more complete translation, and the controversial part of his annual Christmas proclamation caught my eye:

And in so doing, it ought to safeguard not only the earth, water, and air as gifts of creation, belonging to everyone. It ought also to protect man against the destruction of himself. What is necessary is a kind of ecology of man, understood in the correct sense. When the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman and asks that this order of creation be respected, it is not the result of an outdated metaphysic. It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God. That which is often expressed and understood by the term “gender”, results finally in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator.

Watch out for gender this Christmas, kids!

Of course, it’s not hard to grasp that he doesn’t mean gender is dangerous in the sense of “the power structure through which bodies are classified as male and female, and assigned sets of gender roles, proscribed and mandatory behaviors, and different levels of privilege, creating an upper class and a lower class.” He means that naming this system, questioning it, attempting to empancipate yourself from it,

Or at least that’s what I thought. According to another Reuters story, in Italy “gender” is “a broad term that includes anyone who doesn’t identify entirely with their assigned sex and can include homosexuals, bisexuals, pansexuals and others.”

(I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a bad translation or a bad understanding of how the term is used, so if there are any Italians in the house who want to clarify, especially if you know how and when people use the term for themselves, it would be much appreciated.)

So really, the Pope is warning that various kinds of gender weirdos threaten the destruction of human nature as surely as deforestation threatens the destruction of ecological nature. No big surprise, but I have to admit I’m interested in the argument he’s making and what you all think of it.

Big Infallible Dom goes on explaining why “genders” are messing everything up:

Man wishes to act alone and to dispose ever and exclusively of that alone which concerns him. But in this way he is living contrary to the truth, he is living contrary to the Spirit Creator. The tropical forests are deserving, yes, of our protection, but man merits no less than the creature, in which there is written a message which does not mean a contradiction of our liberty, but its condition.

The great Scholastic theologians have characterised matrimony, the life-long bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator himself and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – has incorporated into the history of his covenant with mankind. This forms part of the message that the Church must recover the witness in favour of the Spirit Creator present in nature in its entirety and in a particular way in the nature of man, created in the image of God.

In other words, it’s not just that the Bible says you have to respect the established order of gender and gender roles. There’s also a message written into Creation itself, a kind of instruction manual written through the Way Things Work, that it’s the Church’s job to interpret. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad idea. But since, along with most people, I don’t really consider the church or the pope to be literally infallible (and yes, nitpickers, I’m aware this message was probably not ex cathedra) I think it’s quite possible that they’re reading the instructions wrong — at the very least, missing a lot of the fine print that deals with the exceptional. Part of the wonder of the natural world is the tremendous diversity and plasticity of life, all the differences and exceptions that make every individual in every species distinct. Surely that’s part of the order of creation as well?

Pope Benedict has really taken an opportunity to incite people against trans folks, giving fodder for hatred and prejudice, as the news reports point out. The really stupid thing is that he didn’t necessarily have to. Despite age-old currents of homophobia and reviling of gender-variance in many religious traditions, there have always some religious leaders who found an “out” for trans people, usually by acknowledging that although God doesn’t make mistakes, there are still things like birth defects that it’s are perfectly all right to heal and repair. Of course, this argument has its own flaws in my opinion. It only applies to transsexuals and it’s usually only extended to those who fully transition, for reasons of maintaining the same social order. The Ayatollah Khomeini used it to build an exception for transsexuals that has resulted in an even more destructive form of homophobia. But even Jerry Falwell once extended compassion to transsexuals in this way. Not that I necessarily think any of this is a good thing; homophobia is usually part of the package, and I would much rather believe that every human being should be able to determine their own relationship to gender, as opposed to being coerced into any of it, as an essential tenet of freedom and liberation.

Nor does this have to mean liberation from the messages of creation and of God’s plan. For one thing, it begs the question of how anything we do can really be outside of the planning of an omnipotent, omniscient Creator, but even putting that aside, why should we be surprised that human beings appear and grow and change in so many different ways? I’m reminded of parts of an article by a Christian third-wave feminist that my roommate sent me recently:

When I was a teenager, I remember being given specific instructions for how women should follow Jesus. One Saturday, the girls in my Bible study were actually invited to a church tea party. Over scones and Earl Grey, we learned how to fulfill our feminine roles. God would send us husbands, we were told, and we would live out our calling as Christian women in submission to our husbands and in service to our families. We were taught to have gentle and quiet spirits and to live always under the authority of the men in our homes and churches. It was assumed that following Jesus meant embracing our roles as wives and mothers and turning from “worldly” pursuits of careers outside our homes and churches.

But I never could quite swallow the instructions. What I was being told did not fit how God had made me, nor with the interests and abilities God had given me. […] Can we find ways to honor family life without creating man-made rules about roles? What if indeed God wants a woman to finish her degree and use it on behalf of others? What if a husband and wife could find better ways to co-parent, while supporting one another’s tasks outside the home, too? It is not that I want to dismiss the priority of family life. I want to esteem motherhood and fatherhood and caring well for our families. But as Jesus reminds us, our families are not just our nuclear, immediate families. We have a global family to care for, too; and it has never been more urgent that Christians embrace seeing themselves not just as individuals but also as members of a community.

This isn’t hard to understand. It isn’t hard to extend the same idea, that there are many different kinds of “instructions” for life, not only to the difference between a calling for the clergy or to secular family life, not only to the balance and choices between career and family, but to many other walks of life as well. This isn’t the destruction of mankind; it is the flowering of a great and varied meadow of beauty, all created by… well, whatever you believe created everything.

For that matter, if you really do believe that God has a plan and that it’s possible to stray away from it, I’m not sure why that’s automatically a bad thing either. We’re talking about God in capacity as Creator of the universe. In an infinitely lesser way, I am also in the business of creating universes and designing the way things work, as are many other artists, designers, and authors. Perhaps unlike an omnipotent creator, it is very easy for human beings to create things that grow to be larger than ourselves, to create the unpredictable. I know that for me personally, one of the chief joys of creation is in watching the creation get away from me — watching things happen that I didn’t predict.

This is especially probable when you are creating complex and unpredictable systems like games, and then letting players with their own agency run amok in them. It’s certainly true of many technological creations (hacking, modding, hybridizing) and it’s how many new creations emerge. But I’ve certainly heard authors talk about this phenomenon as well — the moment when characters come to life. If we are really made in God’s image, and this is such a moment of joy and wonder that’s part of the creative act, why should we think that God feels so differently? Do theists really believe that God is the kind of unimaginative, joyless Creator who frowns on anyone who doesn’t follow the Original Equipment Manufacturer instructions and guidelines?

That’s a pretty silly form of religion, if you ask me. But there are a lot of things I don’t really understand about religion, especially Western religions. I often feel like a Martian when I’m trying to understand why Christians believe things, since I wasn’t raised with any of it. If there’s a theist around who’s willing to humor me, I’ve been trying to puzzle out a lot of questions lately. What exactly is the appeal of this whole all-powerful creator of the universe thing anyway? It doesn’t seem to make any sense, even in theology.

COMMENT POLICY: This should be obvious, but anti-gay comments that just spout about how gayness is a sin without showing evidence of having read and attempting to engage with the contents of this post will be deleted. If your religious beliefs support the Pope’s words or are somehow opposed to “gender,” I’d be interested in hearing them, but only if you actually bother to stay on topic and demonstrate reading comprehension. Otherwise I’ll just consider you a troll.

40 comments for “The Pope vs. “Gender”

  1. DSimon
    December 24, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Do theists really believe that God is the kind of unimaginative, joyless Creator who frowns on anyone who doesn’t follow the Original Equipment Manufacturer instructions and guidelines?

    This may explain why we don’t have any recent observations of miracles: the free tech support period ran out.

  2. December 24, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Thank your for this thoughtful post and for taking the time to read a full text of the statement (even though I’m a political radical, I’m still a Catholic and it drives me nuts when folks rely on 2nd and 3rd hand accounts of what’s been said by a Vatican official).

    I think it’s really important to note that Benedict also referenced the document “Humanae Vitae” in his latest remarks, because that was a monumental document for establishing how the Vatican views all the “pelvic issues,” from contraception to abortion to homosexuality and yes, gender. The way this plays out is that the Vatican firmly believes that all sex must be open to procreation. Any sexual act in which there is no chance for a life to be created is considered disordered and immoral. This includes masturbation, condom use, homosexual sex, etc etc.

    In the perfect world the Vatican envisions, a man and a woman each have a very distinct role to play in procreation, and deviating from that is very wrong. That can include women wanting to be too “masculine” and trying to take on leadership roles reserved for men, and certainly includes persons wanting to change their gender identity.

    I want to be clear that I am not advocating Benedict’s p.o.v., and please know that there are many practicing Catholics who are in strong disagreement with this understanding of human sexuality, gender, etc. But I think it’s crucial to understand what’s guiding these comments so we can make principled rebuttals and not fall back on kneejerk ranting every time the Vatican says something controversial.

    Also note that Benedict’s remarks were in no way meant to be promoted as official church teaching. The statement was part of an annual holiday address–think of your boss giving a speech at the office year-end party, only much, much more formal. You might think the boss is an idiot, but you sit and listen and nod politely, and then you go back to work. Because there is a lot of work to do, and the boss isn’t always the best one to know how to get the job done right.

  3. December 24, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Also note that Benedict’s remarks were in no way meant to be promoted as official church teaching.

    I don’t buy this line of reasoning at all. This Pope has been quite clear and rigid in his hostility to anyone who is GLBT, and it is similarly clear that he does believe that as the head of the church, his word is very much that of the Church itself.

    As long as the church continues to insist on dismissing as invalid the narratives of GLBT people, the church is doing nothing more than giving license to continued marginalization and discrimination – no matter what flowery or obscure language they wrap around it.

  4. GallingGalla
    December 24, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    think of your boss giving a speech at the office year-end party, only much, much more formal. You might think the boss is an idiot, but you sit and listen and nod politely, and then you go back to work

    That’s a pretty laissez-faire attitude to have when your boss is calling for the elimination, or at least the total silencing and erasure, of 10% of the world’s population.

  5. December 24, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    As if to make my point earlier – especially with respect to mistreatment of transsexuals, this story just appeared.

    I’m ashamed to see that this is happening in Canada.

    ps. Trigger Warning: The crimes involved are hideous – but that does not excuse housing a MTF transsexual in the mens prison.

  6. December 24, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    Non-native italianoparlante here. The original address actually uses the English term “gender” (AFAIK Italian doesn’t actually have a word for gender as distinct from sex, as English does), so it’s probably not in reference to the System we know and don’t love, which I bet he’d define was The Way Things Are or The Way God Wants Things. But again, I’m not Italian, so I can only contribute language stuff.

  7. hyrax
    December 25, 2008 at 12:18 am

    If we are really made in God’s image, and this is such a moment of joy and wonder that’s part of the creative act, why should we think that God feels so differently? Do theists really believe that God is the kind of unimaginative, joyless Creator who frowns on anyone who doesn’t follow the Original Equipment Manufacturer instructions and guidelines?

    I grew up conservative mainstream Protestant (ie, serious about it w/o being Evangelical) and my understanding was that God WANTS us to act on our own and then check in with him about it. I’m not sure if I can put better words on it than that. As if the basic ides are ‘written in man’s heart’ and then we get to interpret how we feel called, and we talk to God privately about what we’re doing. Prayer is for guidance, not for correction.

    Maybe the ‘hack’ metaphor would be that electricity doesn’t stop working if you rewire the lamp to do something different, and if it does, then you’d check in with someone who saw a bigger picture than you did, and then try to get your idea to work with what they said, even if you didn’t totally understand what they meant.

  8. December 25, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Michelle, it’s unfortunate but I have to say that I’m amazed and heartened to see that happening in Canada. It’s the first time I’ve ever even heard of a prison system trying to house a trans women in a women’s prison, so Canada is to be commended for even trying that for a little while. The situation is still abominable of course. But the sad truth is that it’s miles better than the status quo, in which thousands and thousands of incarcerated trans women are only ever housed in men’s prisons, where they are routinely harassed, sexually assaulted, raped, forced into prostitution rings (by guards, even), put into isolation which is usually a form of punishment “for their protection,” forced to cut their hair short, denied medical treatment, and all too often end up committing harm or suicide to themselves.

  9. William
    December 25, 2008 at 1:38 am

    Also note that Benedict’s remarks were in no way meant to be promoted as official church teaching. The statement was part of an annual holiday address–think of your boss giving a speech at the office year-end party, only much, much more formal. You might think the boss is an idiot, but you sit and listen and nod politely, and then you go back to work. Because there is a lot of work to do, and the boss isn’t always the best one to know how to get the job done right.

    The difference there is that your boss is the guy who signs your paychecks, and the Pope is supposed to be God’s own mouthpiece. Under the right circumstances the man is literally understood to be incapable of error. The Pope isn’t just a CEO and the analogy to a company is dishonest. The Roman Catholic Church is a religious organization which claims to have a monopoly on unquestionable truth and a direct line to the one true God through an unbroken line of papal succession. You boss, no matter how powerful he might be, does not claim divine authority.

    Its also worth noting that the words of the Pope do have immense influence. If this is what he says in public you can be damn well sure that he has similar opinions when he is working on policy, that he appoints people who see the world in the same way that he does, that people looking for political advancement will conform to his idiosyncrasies in order to see themselves rise through the ranks. Even people of pure motives who simply want to do what they have been told is right will have their reactions and decision making tainted by the rancid traditionalism of this man.

    Also, lets not forget that what the Pope says matters in a very real way. I don’t care where you work, your boss does not head an organization with the history of complete horror and inhumanity that the Church has, a history that stretches from the brutal suppression of other sects when it got into bed with the Roman Empire all the way up to the present day with fighting the use of condoms in Africa because more babies are so much more important than an AIDS epidemic (to say nothing of the history of genocide, racism, torture, and cruelty which has been it’s constant companion).

    What the Pope says matters, and the Pope has said that people who refuse to submit to traditional gender roles are a threat to mankind.

  10. Lyndsay
    December 25, 2008 at 1:56 am

    It is good to see that article about the transsexual prisoner make it clear why she should be in the women’s prison. Also, I was surprised to see that in a different article on that, most of the negative comments were just about being surprised and annoyed that sex change operations are free even for prisoners. There were a surprising number of commenters that seemed to understand being trans. And someone who said there are only 20 sex-change operations a year here for $40 000 each which is a drop in the bucket. Interesting.

    As for the “all-powerful creator of the universe”, well, it does seem nice to have someone consistent and unchanging that you can always talk to. So much changes in the world but God stays the same. When things are going out of control, you can pray to someone who has control of all. Or does he? We have free will right? But God must have some sort of control or else why do we pray? Just for comfort? These are some questions that have always confused me. I don’t really believe in the Christian God anymore though I’d like to believe there’s something out there.

  11. December 25, 2008 at 2:41 am

    Let me say again, even more strongly, that my comments were NOT meant as a defense of Benedict’s latest remarks. I realize now that it would have been better for me to state that the analogy I used and the contextual info I shared was how *I, Personally, myself*, was processing and dealing with the latest words from Rome, and not necessarily how others ought to see them.

    As a Catholic woman who lives with a constant reminder that my call to ordained ministry is not considered valid because I am not a man, as a genderqueer, prochoice user of contraceptives, I am fully aware of the harm that is done by these and other comments from the pope. I have found that *for me*, it is helpful to look at the different kinds of statements that come out of Rome according to how much ecclesiastical weight they carry, so to speak. Remarks to the curia like the ones given recently are of much lower import than an Encyclical or a revision of the catechism. Yes, I know, by virtue of him being Who He Is, Benedict’s words carry sway no matter what their official title, but I myself have chosen to take a less reactionary approach to what comes out of Rome. If I got pissed off every time a man in the Vatican said something idiotic, I would be in a near constant state of anger, and I don’t want to carry around that kind of poison in my system. So yes, for me, the boss at a christmas party analogy works. It won’t work for everyone. I was attempting to share some of what I know about the politics of Rome, based on my own lifetime experiences and some ten years of studying Catholic theology.

    And speaking of not wanting to carry anger, I’m going to bow out of the rest of this conversation, b/c this is a case where I’m feeling very defensive and I don’t think that there is more that I can add to this thread. It’s difficult for me to enter into discussions in non-religious forums like this and have my attempts at adding some nuanced commentary about Catholicism get automatically interpreted as me being some kind of papal apologist.

  12. Nicole
    December 25, 2008 at 4:42 am

    Saying that homosexuality goes against “creation” implies that homosexuality does not happen in other animals besides humans. This is not true. There is a wealth of documented cases of a huge variety of animals behaving homosexually. For example, the closest related primates to us after chimpanzees, bonobos, are known for their homosexual behavior, especially among females. According to the pope’s interpretation these animals must either be confused or uninformed about God’s plan (send the missionaries!) or sinning. Either way the inconvenient facts never get mentioned.

  13. December 25, 2008 at 5:32 am

    I have been doing a bit of digging about this and found this article in the Guardian.

    […] Pope Benedict writes everything in German in very small script […].

    If this speech was written in German the wider interpretation of ‘Gender’ stands and our Italian friends fell for a false friend.

    I am a German and German most definitely does not have the Italian meaning of Gender. I am pretty sure he actually meant to say Kinder, Küche, Kirche

  14. December 25, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Graylion — I believe he said it out loud in Italian when he was addressing the Curia, however. What he said was actually the English word “Gender,” which Reuters is saying has a slang-like connotation in Italy — sounds like it’s short for “transgender.”

    Thus the italian newspapers have headlines like “Pope opposes sex changes”

  15. William
    December 25, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Victoria: I apologize if I jumped on you or made you feel defensive. Your clarification of the context of your statements helped me understand where you’re coming from immensely, but I was still too harsh because I was also responding from an overly defensive position and I have to own up to that. I did interpret your statements as being apologetic and its clear that I was in the wrong.

  16. December 25, 2008 at 9:57 am


    I appreciate your intentions, thank you for clarifying them.

    I’m afraid that I do not feel that I can be so equanimous as you are about it.

    Marginalization and discrimination are a daily part of my life, and I simply cannot stand by and let someone like the Pope make the statements he does without saying something, for it gives too many others license to make my life more difficult (or worse).

    Holly – Ouch! You are being charitable to Corrections Canada. I still think that their ‘corrective action’ in this case was dead wrong (and may yet end up with a fatality – I can’t even imagine what kind of treatment she will experience in a male prison)

  17. Gwen
    December 25, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I do agree with the Pope that in us is written a message which does not mean a contradiction of our liberty, but its condition: that would be our reason. Our passion for justice. Our willingness to love and to let love challenge what it would be convenient for us to believe about the other. That’s what the image and likeness of God means, as I understand it; that’s all the template I think God gave us. And – to the extent that it does, or tries to do, the work of articulating what is reasonable, what is just, and what is sympathetically true of the other – gender theory is pretty much on the side of the light in that respect.

    My question, for any Catholics who perhaps get this better than Protestant me, is how to reconcile what the Pope is saying about human destiny (and women’s destiny, specifically) with the idea of being the imitation of Christ. How can men and women decline to have particular virtues – reason, courage, justice, freedom of mind, empathy – because they’re too masculine or too feminine? If there is honestly a biological programme that makes me irrational if I’m a woman, don’t I have a responsibility to fight that programming so that I can reason as God wants me to? Rather than to submit to My Husband and let him do all the intellectual work? Ditto with empathy in the reverse; if men are not empathetic by nature, isn’t it their job to overcome nature and be empathetic anyway? I really don’t get this one.

    Anyway, two of my favourite poems about diversity and God’s will, which I think answer this argument pretty well: pied beauty and as kingfisher’s catch fire.

  18. Lyndsay
    December 25, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Yes, I believe it was in Scientific American that an article talked about the many animals who have shown homosexual behaviour, especially when they are in a zoo away from the opposite sex. A great article for anyone who thinks only heterosexual behaviour is “natural”.

  19. December 25, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    (Tried to post this yesterday, but it wouldn’t go through…)

    To clarify my above comment, Italian does have “genere” as distinct from “sesso,” but it’s a multipurpose word that also means “type” in a general sense, unlike English “gender.”

  20. Devonian
    December 25, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    “Do theists really believe that God is the kind of unimaginative, joyless Creator who frowns on anyone who doesn’t follow the Original Equipment Manufacturer instructions and guidelines?”
    Quite a few of them, too. Hell, that’s basically the way God is in the Bible (i.e. a fucking asshole of the highest degree)…

  21. December 25, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    The impression I get is that some religious wackaloon assholes are only willing to tolerate trans people to the extent that they do not transgress traditional gender norms. That is, MTF and FTM transpeople are tolerated to the extent that they adopt traditional norms of female and male behavior, respectively.

  22. Informant
    December 26, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Being feminine is not a curse!
    It’s not bad to forego the wallet and pick up a purse.
    Don’t you want to become a mother?
    You coo at the baby and his little brother!
    Every nine months it’s another one,
    Motherhood is such great fun!

    Better than being a feminist,
    With a tight rubber band around your wrist,
    A bandana around your unbrushed hair,
    Yelling, “I don’t want Bush Anywhere!”

    Stop the protesting and pull out God’s Bible,
    If you do that, you will be liable,
    To find out that rather than put on a condom,
    You will prefer unlimited Momdom!

  23. littleapples
    December 29, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    You CANNOT be a feminist and religious. You can, perhaps, believe in a higher power of some sort, but that is not the same as being religious. If you identify as a Christian or Catholic or any of those other horridly patriarchal religions YOU ARE NOT A FEMINIST. There is no way whatsoever that you can be a feminist and also hold such sexist beliefs. Period, end of discussion.

  24. littleapples
    December 29, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    And, to add, you can’t believe in the bible and be a feminist. You can’t “pick and choose.” The bible is a sexist piece of fiction written by man. Any “feminists” that believe in the bible are in denial.

    I do not understand how so many “feminists” can convince themselves that believing in the sexist bible is “okay” because they can “pick and choose” what to “believe” — it’s a fictional, sexist book written by MEN!

    Belive in God all you want, but dear God don’t call yourself a feminist if you live your life by the BIBLE.

  25. December 29, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    I’m not religious myself, littleapples, but I don’t really get what you’re saying. Why can’t people “pick and choose” to fashion their own religious beliefs? I’m sure I know a lot less about this than many religious people. But as I understand it, a lot of religions, even parts of Catholicism and Christianity (which is not a single religion in any case) do quite a bit of “picking and choosing.” A Catholic told me the other day that Catholicism in the US is quite different from Catholicism in Italy because of the different ways that more local authorities interpret the laws of the church, for instance. Of course, that doesn’t make any local branches necessarily less patriarchal or sexist, but it means it’s possible.

    I mean, schisms between churches that involve “picking and choosing” is how we ended up with anything besides Catholicism in the first place, and how we got churches that are positive towards gay members and gay priests, right — so I don’t see how “picking and choosing” couldn’t lead towards a less patriarchal, more feminist faith. Actually, isn’t “picking and choosing” part of how Christianity got started — part of what Jesus said about the Old Testament? That it’s fine to disregard some of the law? Of course since I’m not and never have been remotely Christian, I may be interpreting this wrong — but there’s a huge amount of interpretation in religious belief in general. Some fundamentalist jerks may not consider churches like the Christian Unitarians or the western Anglican churches that embrace homosexuality to be “real Christians,” but they certainly identify themselves as Christians.

    We’re not real big around here on “you can’t do THIS WIDE-RANGING BLANKET SPHERE OF ACTIVITY and still be a feminst!” You’d be surprised what people CAN do and still have feminist beliefs and actions, even if it seems contradictory to you. I’m not religious nor do I have much interest in being religious, but I believe in freedom of religion. So I am certainly in favor of work by feminist Christians and feminist Christian theologians (and those of many other faiths) to make the organizations and teachings of their religions less sexist and patriarchal (and less homophobic and transphobic etc etc), nor does it seem like a futile endeavor to me.

  26. December 29, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Littleapples, who can be a feminist according to your standards? Because you’ve said in other threads that you aren’t a real feminist if you watch Gossip Girl or other sexist TV shows (and I assume if you consume other forms of media that are sexist); now you’re saying you can’t be a feminist if you’re religious. It seems like feminism is an awfully small club, and it’s excluding all of us who do feminist work every day but are sadly less perfect than you.

  27. December 29, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    *applauds Holly and Jill*

    Seriously, Littleappples, I’m a proud atheist who has never been accused of being a fan of religion and . . . no. Just no.

  28. littleapples
    December 29, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    So you think believing in a fictional, sexist book written by men is compatible to Feminism? Really? Please. I never said you can’t believe in a higher power, but to follow the bible? NOT feminist. Period. End of discussion.

  29. December 29, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Neat trick, ending the discussion without actually responding to anything anyone’s said. You know, I don’t think you can do that and still be a feminist. Please hand in your badge.

  30. littleapples
    December 29, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    And let’s not forget that Christianity is inherently bigoted toward anyone of a different faith or sexual orientation. Subscribe to the bible and call yourself a feminist? Pure, 100% denial.

    I don’t get how people can defend THE FUCKING BIBLE, one of the most sexist pieces of fictional work ever created, and it’s even more dangerous because people use it to define their lives. Disgusting, all “religious” feminists.

    Like I said, you can believe in a higher power, but that’s not the same thing as following a disgusting, sexist piece of FICTION writen BY MAN.

  31. littleapples
    December 29, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I believe “picking and choosing” is basically just denial. Denial that the book people put so much faith in is inherently sexist and bigoted. Denial that it’s fiction written by sexist men during a very, very sexist time.

    “Progressive” religions are a farce. They are still based on a sexist book written by sexist men during a sexist time. Picking and choosing does nothing at all to change that fact.

  32. littleapples
    December 29, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    And this whole PC bullshit of “Ohhhh, but some religions and religious people aren’t bigoted or sexist! We need to be mindful of them!” is why this place disgusts me. You tout feminism, yet defend sexist, patriarchal bullshit like religion.

    I thought maybe the POPE’s words would have changed some minds around here, but I guess not! The POPE is HUGELY influential when it comes to Catholicism and Christianity, and yet you still deny that religion is inherently sexist and bigoted? Really?

    Feminists in denial make me sad.

  33. December 29, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    And this whole PC bullshit of “Ohhhh, but some religions and religious people aren’t bigoted or sexist! We need to be mindful of them!” is why this place disgusts me.

    Oh really? Saying that identifying as a Christian doesn’t automatically make one a bigot offends you? Well there’s the door.

  34. December 29, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Now we’re starting to get somewhere.

    You’re basically saying that unless you throw out the whole kit & kaboodle — or the baby with the bathwater, if you prefer — then it’s still tainted.

    You know, there are plenty of progressive theologians — queer religious scholars, feminist religious scholars, you name it — who would absolutely agree that the Bible is sexist and comes from a sexist time. I’m not sure how you can really claim they’re denying it when they don’t deny it at all, and actually spend their time pointing that out and working to change it, using the very principles that you claim is impossible — picking and choosing, reinterpreting, finding new meanings in the old, and taking what they find valuable while discarding misogynist and homophobic and intolerant beliefs and practices. Nothing you’ve said is really convincing me that this is somehow impossible or automatically denies that the Bible has a lot of sexism in it.

    In fact, you know what it seems like to me? The attitude that any religion that uses aspects of the Bible is “inherently and forever tainted by the evil elements of the Bible” smells a lot like religious taboo and purity ritual. It smells a lot like religious intolerance, and I think it’s a little hypocritical at its core. It’s just a reactionary mirror of the same things that you find in the more intolerant forms of religion.

    I don’t particularly care for the Bible, but I’m not about to go around making totally spurious claims about the people who work to create better forms of religion using it.

    And yes, littleapples — I absolutely do deny that religion is “inherently” sexist and bigoted, because I don’t believe that claim can be substantiated. It’s pretty hard to substantiate ideas about “inherence,” since you’re claiming that nobody could ever create a religion that isn’t bigoted. That seems patently false to me — and not only false, but another form of bigotry that’s offering a false and destructive choice: abandon religion or you’re tainted and evil. I don’t need to be convinced, because I’ve never been religious — but non-religious people like you disgust me.

    I don’t know what experiences you’ve had with religion that made you hate it so much, and I fully support your right to speak out about wrongs you’ve experienced or witnessed — this is incredibly important. But when you start going off about how all religion is inherently fucked up, you’ve turned down a very wrong path indeed. You’re trying to make it impossible for anyone to create religious practices that are committed to feminism and social justice. That’s reprehensible and wrong, and you should stop, take a step back, and think about what you’re doing and what you’re really trying to accomplish.

    I posted the bigotry from the Pope and my own interpretation of the principles he’s supposedly operating on precisely because I wanted to hear from religious people about how they interpret these things. I am utterly uninterested in hearing you spout off meaninglessly about how all religion is bad, so I’m asking you to stop. If you’re going to be disrespectful enough to ignore that, your posts won’t be allowed on this thread. If you want to sincerely try and engage in constructive discussion, I may allow you to continue.

  35. December 29, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    I don’t get it, littleapples. If you’re so disgusted by the faux feminists on this blog, why are you reading and commenting?

  36. littleapples
    December 29, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    “And yes, littleapples — I absolutely do deny that religion is “inherently” sexist and bigoted, because I don’t believe that claim can be substantiated. It’s pretty hard to substantiate ideas about “inherence,” since you’re claiming that nobody could ever create a religion that isn’t bigoted”

    I can’t comment further because I am already running late for my bus, but I want to clarify: I find any and all religions BASED ON THE BIBLE and any other sexist book to be inherently sexist and bigoted, because THE BIBLE is inherently sexist and bigoted. PERIOD! To say otherwise is denial.

    Notice I said that you can believe in a higher power and not believe in a sexist, bigoted religion, but if your belief is based ON A SEXIST BOOK, then, yes, you are supporting sexism and bigotry.

  37. littleapples
    December 29, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    “I don’t know what experiences you’ve had with religion that made you hate it so much,”

    And really? You don’t? What about this post? What about Prop 8? What about the BIGOTRY and SEXISM that we see and hear about EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY that is based on a religion that gets its faith from THE BIBLE?

    You don’t know what experiences I’ve had with religion that made me realize what sexist, bigoted bullshit it is? REALLY? Then you’re blind.

  38. December 30, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to look at what Pope Benedict said; as a Catholic I appreciate that. I would just like to respond to one sentence in the post:

    “Pope Benedict has really taken an opportunity to incite people against trans folks, giving fodder for hatred and prejudice…”

    I would disagree that in affirming God’s plan for the deliberateness of people being born either male of female, the Pope was inciting hatred. One must recall the virtue of Christian charity as Pope Pius X stated it: “Catholic doctrine tell us that the primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas, however sincere they may be.”

    I appreciate you don’t agree with the Pope, but your disagreement is not grounds for suggesting that the Pope is being hateful or encouraging others to attack persons confused about their sex.

    I appreciate the opportunity to comment.

  39. December 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    On the issue of the Bible being sexist and bigoted, I agree that it is. It is possible to take the Bible into an historical context and extract cohesive *non-sexist* and *non-bigoted* Christian theology from it. (The “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) is an example of something clearly non-sexist in the Bible – so it’s not completely all bad.)

    One of my favorite books on Roman Catholic moral theology is “Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven” by German Roman Catholic theologian Uta Ranke Heinemann. This book criticized the sexism in the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy’s historic approach to women, and shows a better way of looking at things.

    I’ve decided that so-called “Christians” who are sexist, homophobic and/or transphobic just aren’t really Christians at all, but Christianists. That includes Benedict XVI, James Dobson, Pat Robertson and numerous other religious leaders.

    On Benedict’s Christmas mesage to the Roman Curia, the main thrust appears to be against gender fluidity. On the other hand, it has been clear since the year 2000 “sub secretum” document issued to papal nuncios and bishops on the issue of transsexuality (leaked to CNS in 2003) that the hierarchy sees “gender” as immutably fixed on the basis of birth genital shape, ignoring the rest of the human physiology. This is an error.

    From my perspective, which is one of experiencing gender as immutable, I have no problem being bound by the immutability rule, as long as it is understood that as a WBT my innate gender has aways been female even if I was misassigned male at birth because my genitals developed along the wolffian system rather than the mullerian.

    On the other hand, I don’t see the “immutability” rule as applicable for those who experience their gender as “fluid” or who identify as “bigendered.”

    For me, Romans 1 means not acting against one’s own nature as God created one. That is it would be as sinful for a homosexually-oriented man to marry and engage in sex with a woman, as it would be for a heterosexually-oriented man to dabble in sex with a man.

    It’s not “against nature” to act in accordance with the way we are created by God. Humanae Vitae works for heteronormative cissexual people, not for those who fall outside that particular norm.

    This current statement may be consistent with previous Vatican statements, but as with much of Roman Catholic moral theology as applied to women, gays and trans folks, it is steeped in error, both in matters of scriptural interpreattion and in understanding of “natural law.” It’s just one more “Galileo moment” in Church history.

    Oh well. It could be worse, he could be calling for me to be stoned to death . . .


  40. February 2, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    What could be worse than dropping a bomb and that’s been done countless times,seemingly they don’t care who gets killed or how the world is affected so I say we pull the plug on this Rediculous Religious Bullshit Immediately if not sooner cuz America is smarter than this antiquated rubbish:)

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