Who doesn’t want to end violence against women?

A whole lot of people, as it turns out. This week at the Guardian I’m writing about the Commission on the Status of Women, a two-week-long UN conference that wrapped up on Friday and, thankfully, resulted in a signed document pledging action on women’s rights. But in the lead-up to the signing, we saw a variety of actors from all around the world try to impede anti-violence efforts. Who? Russia, Iran, the Vatican, the Muslim Brotherhood and American pro-life groups, among others. They had a variety of objections, but the chief ones were that the proposed CSW document would treat husbands who rape their wives the same way as men who rape strangers, would disallow countries from using the “it’s our culture / religion / tradition” excuse to avoid implementing anti-violence measures, and stated that women have a right to bodily integrity and freedom:

This isn’t a “religious problem” or a “cultural problem”, even though culture and religion are routinely invoked to justify a hatred of women that crosses over oceans and unites belief systems. This is a misogyny problem.

The divide over women’s rights fundamentally comes down to the question of whether you think women are equally as human as men, or whether you think we’re a sub-category of person, designed to serve men’s needs and desires, and unworthy of protection from humanity’s most awful impulses.

Some 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence remains legal. Three million women and girls are subjected to genital cutting every year, with 10% of them dying from the practice. More than 60 million girls are married as child brides every year.

Hopefully, the signed CSW agreement is the first step to ending some of that pervasive violence. But if there’s a lesson to be taken away from the CSW negotiation process, it’s that governments and groups from diverse corners of the world have a vested interest in maintaining gender inequality. They’re willing to tolerate violence, and even give it the go-ahead, when they realize that violence is necessary to maintaining society-wide male dominance.

Culture, religion and tradition are all very important to billions of people. But none of those things is static: we determine what our culture looks like, what our traditions are and what we believe. Many of our male leaders apparently want misogyny and the gender-based violence that perpetuates it to be cornerstones of their ideal cultures and belief systems.

You can read the whole column here.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Discrimination, Domestic Violence, Feminism, Gender, Politics, Rape Culture, Reproductive Rights, Sex, Sexual Assault and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Who doesn’t want to end violence against women?

  1. matlun says:

    From the Guardian article:

    While the Holy See, the Iranians and the Russians assert the God-given rights of husbands to rape their wives

    Is this really true? Do you have a source for this?

    I would have expected for example the Vatican to oppose any right to abortion, but this really surprised me.

  2. matlun says:

    This isn’t a “religious problem” or a “cultural problem”, even though culture and religion are routinely invoked to justify a hatred of women that crosses over oceans and unites belief systems.

    Personally, I do not believe these reasons are invoked as an excuse. I think those objections are perfectly honest.

    • snorkellingfish says:

      I don’t think whether they’re honest or not is really the point. I mean, no shit that culture can be hostile to women. Culture in countries like the US is also hostile to women. The issue isn’t whether the objectors genuinely belief that misogyny is a necessary part of their religion or culture. The issue is whether we let that be an excuse by giving cultural or religious arguments more weight than other arguments.

      • Jill says:

        Right. To be clear, I don’t deny that culture / religion / tradition all play roles in misogyny. My point is that misogyny is nearly universal. How that misogyny is carried out is done through the filter of culture / religion / tradition, which is why misogyny doesn’t look exactly the same in every country on earth. But it is still present in every country on earth.

      • matlun says:

        misogyny doesn’t look exactly the same in every country on earth. But it is still present in every country on earth.

        Sadly I do not think misogyny will ever be possible to eradicate. Like racism, there will always be some around because some people will always be douches. The best we can hope for may be to improve the situation until it is no longer consistently systematic.

        But there is really a huge difference of degree.

        The difference between for example the US and Saudi Arabia is so large that painting with this broad of a brush seems pretty bad to me.

      • amblingalong says:

        Right. To be clear, I don’t deny that culture / religion / tradition all play roles in misogyny. My point is that misogyny is nearly universal. How that misogyny is carried out is done through the filter of culture / religion / tradition, which is why misogyny doesn’t look exactly the same in every country on earth. But it is still present in every country on earth.

        I know this argument is really popular, but come on. It’s not simply the kind, but the degree. The proposition that there are some countries with more institutional, and yes, even cultural misogyny than others shouldn’t be so damn controversial when there’s so much solid evidence.

        The fact that every country has misogyny is not support for the idea that every country has the same amount of misogyny, and while I agree that there’s an intersection with colonialist/racist tropes that is tricky to navigate (we’re better than those barbaric people because they make their women wear headscarves, while we’re perfectly egalitarian!) that’s also not a good enough reason to just pretend everyone’s in exactly the same place.

    • At the risk of being labeled as a religious apologist eleventy!, can I just point out that there’s a difference between “provides social sanction for” and “causes”.

      I’ve been subjected to abusive things by religious people. I have known wonderful religious people. The Venn diagram of what those people believed was a circle; it’s just that some of them were assholes and some weren’t, and the assholes decided to use Hindu Kalacharam as a bludgeon.

      • matlun says:

        There is one important thing to remember when you are talking about a specific religion being misogynistic: None of the large religions can really be analyzed as a monolith. These are just groups of too many people not to include a lot of variation.

        Not all interpretations of X are misogynistic, where X can be replaced with pretty much any religion (At least I do not know of an exception to this rule).

        But even so: I do strongly believe that religion very often actively causes misogyny and sexual discrimination. That when religion is involved it is often the root cause of the problem and not an just something that is used as an excuse.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        The foundation of the Catholic Church is misogyny.

      • That when religion is involved it is often the root cause of the problem and not an just something that is used as an excuse.

        And I’m sure you can present proof of this, by pointing out a social evil, any social evil, in any society ever, that did not exist before the introduction of religion to that totally non-religious hypothetical society (since that’s the only real way to prove causation rather than correlation). And remember, you’re not allowed to mention any religion in particular, since you yourself said we shouldn’t generalise.

        Rape? Violence? Homophobia? Transphobia? Racism? Child abuse?

        I’ll wait.

      • amblingalong says:

        And I’m sure you can present proof of this, by pointing out a social evil, any social evil, in any society ever, that did not exist before the introduction of religion to that totally non-religious hypothetical society (since that’s the only real way to prove causation rather than correlation).

        While I agree with your (implicit) point, that’s not really a fair response to this:

        That when religion is involved it is often the root cause of the problem and not an just something that is used as an excuse.

        Religion doesn’t have to invent an entire new social evil in order to be the root cause of specific evils. One thing religion is really good at is keeping a specific set of ideas intact over long periods of time despite social change. This means that while religion didn’t invent homophobia, it’s the root of a whole lot of the homophobia that goes on today, and we can see that when you compare a list of countries (or states) ranked by church attendance and a list countries ranked by percent of people who agree with anti-gay statements.

        Specifically, for the statistics-inclined, religiousity and anti-gay sentiments by country have a r-squared of .6, which is a very strong correlation. Link.

      • amblingalong says:

        It just seems a bit spurious to say, for example, ‘pro-life’ people are just using religion as an excuse to be ‘pro-life,’ and if they hadn’t been raised in a religious household would be equally likely to be ‘pro-life.’ If religion wasn’t a strong sociopolitical force in the US, the anti-abortion movement would vastly smaller (and you can see this internationally).

      • amblingalong says:

        At the risk of being labeled as a religious apologist eleventy!, can I just point out that there’s a difference between “provides social sanction for” and “causes”.

        I’m with Matlun here. Yes, any big world religion will have some great followers as well as some awful followers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t critically analyze the teachings/texts/rituals/history of the religion. The fact that some people who like the Bible (for example) chose to ignore the most viciously anti-woman/gay/ethnic minority etc. parts doesn’t mean the Bible doesn’t contain a lot of homophobic or sexist content any more than I can argue there’s nothing problematic about a Judd Apatow movie because the parts I laugh at aren’t the misogynistic ones.

        And yeah, exegesis matters, but fundamentally I think there’s pretty strong evidence that religious institutions at the very least, and probably religion in general, create more misogyny than would otherwise exist. The reason the pro-life movement is stronger in the US than in, say, the UK is because Christianity has more social power in the US.

      • Yes, any big world religion will have some great followers as well as some awful followers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t critically analyze the teachings/texts/rituals/history of the religion.

        Yes…? I never said not to analyse a religion? I just don’t think that religion is the root of all evil, as opposed to the thing packaging that evil in pretty, nice, socially acceptable cardboard boxes for the consumption of the masses. It’s pretty freakin’ obvious to me.

      • amblingalong says:

        Yes…? I never said not to analyse a religion? I just don’t think that religion is the root of all evil, as opposed to the thing packaging that evil in pretty, nice, socially acceptable cardboard boxes for the consumption of the masses. It’s pretty freakin’ obvious to me.

        I basically agree with this, I just think the action of facilitating (or packaging, if you will) all that evil results in a lot more total evil than there would be otherwise. I just saw this line:

        I’ve been subjected to abusive things by religious people. I have known wonderful religious people. The Venn diagram of what those people believed was a circle; it’s just that some of them were assholes and some weren’t, and the assholes decided to use Hindu Kalacharam as a bludgeon.

        as suggesting that the religious aspect was essentially irrelevant, and that the assholes would find some other tool to hurt people with if they didn’t have religion on hand. I really strongly disagree with that, because religion is so effective at spreading/reproducing itself, as well as preserving ancient ideas for millenia (due to a resistance to change that I think is probably fundamental/necessary for any organized religion).

      • suggesting that the religious aspect was essentially irrelevant, and that the assholes would find some other tool to hurt people with if they didn’t have religion on hand

        If anything, I intended that to point out that the same tradition was easily and smoothly interpreted in a disgusting way; it’s just something that didn’t occur to the good ones because they were good people. The assholes had all the scriptural backing they needed. However, that doesn’t change the fact that they were just plain assholes outside the context, too. Like I said: sanction, not causation. I’m very wary of saying that religion causes someone to be a racist sexist homophobe; it sounds eerily, to me, like the people who scream from the rooftops about how religion causes people to be good and moral and kind.

        And frankly, in terms of logic, what’s more likely? That a patriarchal culture instituted religious frameworks to support it, or that religion spontaneously generated itself in a totally egalitarian utopia and fucked everything up? I mean seriously, I thought the atheists were past the stage of framing everything in terms of Eden/Fall.

      • amblingalong says:

        Like I said: sanction, not causation. I’m very wary of saying that religion causes someone to be a racist sexist homophobe; it sounds eerily, to me, like the people who scream from the rooftops about how religion causes people to be good and moral and kind.

        Except for the all the statistical evidence showing that being raised in a religious household makes you significantly more likely to hate gay people and oppose abortion rights.

        If anything, I intended that to point out that the same tradition was easily and smoothly interpreted in a disgusting way; it’s just something that didn’t occur to the good ones because they were good people.

        Here’s the thing; when there’s such a massive correlation between religiosity and homophobia it’s not enough to say it’s just the already-nasty religious people using religion to support the homophobic views they’d have held anyways. Statistically speaking, there are a huge number of people who, if they hadn’t been raised in religious households, wouldn’t hate gay people, and because they were raised in religious households, do hate gay people.

        Unless I’m just missing your point, those statistics (one big study linked above, I can dig out dozens more) seem to be more or less conclusive.

      • amblingalong says:

        Again, religious doesn’t CAUSE people to be racist sexist homophobes, since there are some religious people who are none of those things (and, ya know, there are some female POC gay religious people). But it massively increases your likelihood to be (at least) sexist and homophobic as compared to someone with the exact same demographics who is less religious.

      • it’s not enough to say it’s just the already-nasty religious people using religion to support the homophobic views they’d have held anyways

        No, not individual people, societal structures. Religiosity is also a high predictor for racism; are African-Americans who are Christian secretly hating black people, then? Because that’s one of the more popular forms of racism in the US afaict.

        The tl;dr of my statement is that religion is the “moral” prop for the arguments of oppressors. I’m not letting anyone off the hook, here; I’m just saying that religion didn’t invent the patriarchy, the patriarchy invented religion, and anyone who wants to have a bawwwfest about the root of all evil can point that finger right back at the menz, thank you. Or is that a bit too close to home?

      • (and, ya know, there are some female POC gay religious people).

        Were you describing me by accident? Should I be less amused?

      • Erm… I think we’re approaching derail length here. I’m headed to bed, but maybe you can take it over to the spillover thread when you respond?

      • amblingalong says:

        I’m just saying that religion didn’t invent the patriarchy, the patriarchy invented religion, and anyone who wants to have a bawwwfest about the root of all evil can point that finger right back at the menz, thank you. Or is that a bit too close to home?

        I’m pretty sure you don’t actually mean this, but I absolutely don’t agree with the idea that sexism/the patriarchy is the ‘fundamental’ oppression from whence others came. Sexism didn’t create racism.

        Were you describing me by accident? Should I be less amused?

        Not an accident- I meant it as a joke. Sorry if it was inappropriate or came across as nasty, I genuinely didn’t think it would.

      • Yonah says:

        Not sure, it always seems strange to me to talk about “religions” writ large. To say that someone is more likely to be homophobic when raised in a “religious” house versus a “non-religious” house – well, really? Is it meaningful to include evangelical Christians and devout Wiccans in the same category? According to this chart, affiliated Jews are more likely to support gay marriage than any Christian group in the USA as well as more than non-religious Americans, who are the next highest category in support. Unfortunately, Judaism is the only “minor” religion to appear on the chart, so we can’t compare with religions such as paganism, Islam, Hinduism, and all sorts of others.

      • matlun says:

        Yes…? I never said not to analyse a religion? I just don’t think that religion is the root of all evil

        Neither do I, since I do not believe there is a single first cause of evil in the world. But I do think it is a root of evil. Among others.

        I think you and amblingalong have covered the discussion fairly well while I was asleep, and I am not sure how productive it would be to continue. But if you want to take it to Spillover I am game.

  3. amblingalong says:

    Erm… I think we’re approaching derail length here. I’m headed to bed, but maybe you can take it over to the spillover thread when you respond?

    Oops, sorry, missed this- I think I’ve said everything I’ve got to say and I basically agree with your broader points.

  4. FYouMudFlaps says:

    Yes, thank you for this blunt talk. I’m so tired of the cultural relativism shoulder shrugging at this. Human rights are human rights.

    • tomek says:

      i made comment exactly the same point as this one maybe 2 days ago. but now it is gone. so ideas are only ok when it is not me which has said them?

      [tomek, you did not actually make exactly the same point. If you really think that you did, then that’s a big part of your problem with your comments here. ~ Mod Team]

  5. Angie unduplicated says:

    When the US government sequesters out aid for women and children AND THEN votes to give arms aid to Egypt for the Muslim Brotherhood, it might be safe to say that misogyny is one huge unifying force between religions otherwise in conflict. Whothehell cloned Oliver North and sent the clones to Congress?

  6. Liz says:

    This may be off topic, but I think it might make everyone feel slightly better. The mayor of Dallas is organizing a rally this weekend in order to encourage young MEN and BOYS to end violence against women and encourage them to speak out. I don’t know if the vent will talk about rape but it is refreshing to see men encouraging other men to take responsibility to end domestic violence.

  7. steven says:

    jill 4 president. :)

  8. Me! I want to end violence against women! How come women are more prone to victims of violence? Being small and fragile doesn’t give other persons reason to hurt women.

  9. McMike says:

    Before we end violence against women, shouldnt we end, idk, murder? Its pretty final and a lot of the murder victims are women too.

    • If only there was an international consensus that murder is bad! Or even one solitary law against murder! What a tragedy!

      JILL, GAIZ, WE HAVE OVERLOOKED THIS. LET’S RENAME THIS SITE MURDERISTE IMMEDIATELY.

    • Lolagirl says:

      Right, because violence against women never ends in their murder. Oh, wait, you didn’t realize that women actually get murdered? For serious, murder does not just befall the menz.

      Unless the issue is that you don’t consider women to actually be people…

      • Lolagirl says:

        Ok , maybe I’m beeing the teensiest bit unfair with this comment.

        But, then again, you seem to be the one missing the connection beteween violence against women and their eventually being murdered by the person acting violently towards them.

      • McMike says:

        Well I pointed out that a lot of the murder victims are women, so women would benefit too from ending murder.

    • Emolee says:

      WTF?

      I don’t think anyone here is pro-murder…

      and we are capable of being against both murder and other forms of violence against women…

      BITCHEZ get ur priorities straight!!

      • McMike says:

        Thats the point, getting the priorities straight. End fcking murder before you even start worrying about violence against women.

      • Aaliyah says:

        No. There doesn’t need to be such a compromise. We can focus on both. As we always have.

      • matlun says:

        The point is that the dynamics around violence against women are partly different from much other violence.

        There are some cultural and legal issues that can very usefully be addressed separately for this problem, and the argument that we should address all problems with violence at the same time is pretty weak.

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