A resounding knock-back to women’s rights occurred this week. Yes women’s rights- we’re still fighting for those. It might seem like something you’d read in a history textbook or on a museum display. Women’s rights, mis-representatively so, evokes images of suffragettes marching in green, white and purple; a time of political protest, a time of inequality. We look back and think ‘well thank you for that ladies, procuring us the vote and all that’, but do we not realise that this struggle is not over? That feminism should still play a role in every woman- every girl’s life?
‘I hate feminists’ some women say. For some reason this term draws up an image of a hairy arm-pitted lesbian. But why? A feminist is defined as ‘an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women’ (Oxford English Dictionary 2012) this should be every woman, every female should be a supporter of her own rights- at least. Why would any woman want to limit her own rights; prevent equality in the workplace, equal representation and an equal right to education? They don’t. Many women feel, as we are taught in history, that our battle for equality is over, it was procured in the past; however the evidence from the last week or so suggests otherwise.
One establishment that one would expect to support equality to the highest level is the Church. Everyone’s heard the phrases ‘love thy neighbour’ and ‘treat other’s as you would like to be treated’ which are apparently fundamental principles of the Church of England, after all it was Jesus that said them. One would assume that equal rights for men and women would be right up the Church’s street. Evidently this is not so. For some reason ‘neighbour’ and ‘other’ are only applicable to men; white heterosexual men for that matter and us women are left outcast amongst other’s who are deemed ‘undesirable’ by the Church. Targeting the Church of England directly, how can the state headed Church claim to be ‘of England’ when it is more unrepresentative of our country than any other establishment?
The guardian newspaper has argued that the Church, by voting against the ordination of female bishops, has committed it’s own suicide speeding up the previously gradual death of the Church’s importance in society. But rather than this has the pledge for women’s equal rights been murdered?
Parliament has suggested that the Church be forced on this issue: but applying force does not equal change. To some extent it’s not worth it- female bishops permitted for the wrong reasons, and realistically not many women will step up knowing the hostility they will receive from male bishops. But parliament has a point, for one, the House of Lords holds 26 Lords Spiritual, all male, impacting the degree in which the House of Lords represents the people and also holding significant influence over the passing of measures through the House. In terms of the law, religious institutions fare immunity from such equality legislation such as the Equality Act 2010, however the EU could challenge the immunity of the Church of England with the equality of women being one of the foundations of the ‘Treaty on the Functioning of the EU’ regarding occupation and employment. Again, the Church may be forced into allowing women the same opportunities as men. Force is not the answer, by using force we are only having favours granted for us by men, this doesn’t change the attitudes to women within the Church, nothing can do that, our own salvation lays within our own persuasion but as women seem disinterested by this gender battle our hopes are pretty low…
As the Church’s stature dwindles due to this issue we might wonder why people are making the effort to change the attitudes of an already dying institution. One simple reason:
this isn’t religion anymore it’s politics.