Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

April 22, 2014

Lion and the Lamb: Our war on women

CROSSVILLE — Jimmy Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981, has had quite an impressive career as an author. His first book was published in 1975, and he has now written a total of 37 books, 23 of them after his presidency. He has set a high example for other past presidents, especially those who would like to find ways of being as beneficial to their nation as possible in the days after their retirement.

His latest book, "A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power," was published by Simon and Schuster on March 15. It is probably the most important one he has ever written and describes a global system of discrimination and warfare that extends to every nation. Women around the world, he writes, are being affected by this system. Chapters deal specifically with such current issues as peace and women's rights, the Bible and gender equality, full prisons and legal killing, sexual assault and rape, slavery and prostitution, spouse abuse, violence and war, and politics, pay, and maternal health. Carter describes the mistreatment of women as the next important front in the civil rights movement.

Having lived most of his life in this nation's Bible Belt, Carter in his book's introduction was able to zero in on various aspects of our culture that we are very familiar with, especially in our Bible Belt environment: "This system is based on the presumption that men and boys are superior to women and girls, and it is supported by some male religious leaders who distort the Holy Bible, the Koran, and other sacred texts to perpetuate their claim that females are, in some basic ways, inferior to them, unqualified to serve God on equal terms. Many men disagree but remain quiet in order to enjoy the benefits of their dominant status. This false premise provides a justification for sexual discrimination in almost every realm of secular and religious life. Some men even cite this premise to justify physical punishment of women and girls." 

Almost every day we come across reports in the media on some phase of this war against women. Recently, on April 8, the GOP in its ongoing war effort was able to notch up another battle victory. Senate Republicans in a 54-43 vote were successful in blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act that would have required equal pay for equal work.

Reasons for this outcome were varied. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell explained "It's all part of the Democrats' never-ending political road show." Minority Whip John Cornyn commented, "People are seeing it for what it is: It's a transparent political campaign. It isn't actually about solving problems." And Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan) suggested, "The Democrats' push for pay equity between men and women is condescending...Some folks don't understand that women have become an extremely valuable part of the workforce today on their own merit, not because the government mandated it." 

Some of the more off-the-wall creedal affirmations from this side of the vendetta against women had already been expressed at an earlier time. Todd Akin, in answer to a question about whether abortion should be allowed in the case of rape, stated, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." (August 19, 2012). And in answer to the same question, Richard Mourdock said, "I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that's something God intended to happen." (October 23, 2012). 

Most of our national conversation concerning the war on women has moved beyond this level of misinformation. But another disquieting statistic has just been shared by the "One Billion Rising" organization this past week: "One billion girls and women—one in three on this globe—will face violence to their personal bodies." That will require our major attention.

Journalist Zillah Eisenstein has a very important word to share with us concerning the central core of violence in what's going on in the world and the importance of bodily integrity. The following words also provide a fitting backdrop for Carter's book:

"The fight to end sexual violence can spearhead a global movement against misogyny, racism, and capitalism.

"The varied commitments to justice are often unified through the visor of sexual violence. Although multiple and differing venues result from individual and cultural agendas, they coalesce and solidify around the intersecting needs for bodily integrity--be it a human body, or a body of land, or body of water.

"It is this struggle for justice that condemns the physical assault against female bodies and extends to the assault against the human family and the earth it inhabits. Movements to end poverty, corruption, starvation, environmental plunder, imperialism, forced migrations, exploited labor, global patriarchy, political repression, racism, endless refugees of religious wars instigate an inclusive humanity. It is justice that is simultaneously intimate and public."

It's time to sign up recruits for a new kind of war.

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