Societies with greater equality between men and women are healthier, safer and more prosperous. The Elders
Just the other day, I overheard a young woman say to her friend, “gender discrimination doesn’t apply to me.” At that moment, I realized gender inequality had taken on a narrative of denial not unlike our past denial about climate change and global pollution destroying our lives and our habitat.
Although many people, even women, claim that gender inequality is a thing of the past, the statistics belie this delusion. In our workplaces alone, if we consider “equal pay for equal work” or “job advancement,” the U.S. Bureau of Labour finds that women end up earning 25% less than their male counterparts. Whether gender inequality shows up as less pay, less respect or less opportunity, the numbers (as furnished by the Canadian and U.S. governments) don’t lie. Even though North America leads in policy and practice with regard to gender equality, the fact that we haven’t “come a long way baby” is a testament (pun intended) to how deeply rooted fear is in our global belief systems. Unfortunately, religion is one of the many social institutions where gender discrimination and intolerance is abided and even applauded.
In a 2009 post, former U.S. President and current member of The Elders, Jimmy Carter confirmed the end of his 60-year relationship with religion. In his words, “women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.” In good conscience, Carter could no longer support his Southern Baptist roots and practices when its leaders “quoted a few carefully selected Bible verses claiming Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, and ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.”
Similarly, at age 10, religion lost its luster for me when I asked my mother why she never got to speak from the pulpit like the men did. When I heard her answer, I knew there was something very wrong happening in the world of 1964, and I, too, opted out of religion. During that decade, many young people left mainline religions, possibly for exactly the same reasons as me — their discriminatory practices. However, just as mainline religious membership began its decline, fundamental religious membership began to grow. The result being that today’s world consists of liberal left-wing denominations alongside extreme right-wing fundamentalists. Even though both sides appear to share similar discriminatory beliefs, the divide between them grows more apparent in their practices.
I thought long and hard about including the following video in my blog for its violent shocking outcome. In the end, my reason for adding it to my post is because it illustrates the horrific mistreatment of women, which on a varying scale is a shared phenomenon across most religions and cultures. The content of the video is a raw reminder of reality in a world where extreme gender discrimination runs rampant. This kind of violent discriminatory behavior happens every day, including at home, in a world where women are unvalued, unprotected and voiceless. Apparently, the woman in this video was alleged to have committed adultery.
As Carter so aptly put it in 2009, “it is time we had the courage to challenge these views.” What courageous action can you take to reduce gender discrimination?
For more on transforming fear into courage and joy, click here.