Category Archives: Feminism

Should Men Ask Women for Forgiveness?

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A regular reader of my site recently published “Denied equality for thousands of years, letter asks women for forgiveness” and requested that I reprint and comment on it.

Comments – I agree with the article’s overall sentiments about the evils of patriarchy and toxic masculinity. I also agree that patriarchal notions of gods reflect and sustain male power, and female gods or non-personal gods make about as much—or as little—sense as male gods. (The definitive work on various conceptions of gods of which I’m aware is Hartshorne and Reese’s, Philosophers Speak of God.)

In fact, “the problem of religious language” reveals that any talk about gods is problematic. The problem is that human language could never adequately describe the (supposed) divine essence. Thus Thomas Aquinas, for example, argued that since his god was beyond human language then about this god is, at best, an analogy. For instance, your god may be like your mother or father but isn’t literally your mother or father. (However, as a non-theist I’m uncomfortable talking at all about what I view as imaginary gods.)

One problem with the essay in my view is the penultimate paragraph which could be taken to mean that women should be docile. I understand that women shouldn’t emulate men but they probably have to adopt some so-called male qualities to fight their oppression. After all, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony improved women’s lives by being assertive, not passive.

Finally, I won’t comment on the various theological claims in the essay as I have no expertise in the subject. Here then is the unedited essay in full:

Oh, glorious women! Can you possibly forgive us men for having abused you for thousands of years? How we have envied your loving hearts, your commitment to harmony, your subtle gentleness, your inner beauty, your ability to listen, your not needing to be the centre of attention, your ability to serve in silence and your intuitive emotional intelligence!

We males have so much wished to be like you, but we could not, or refused to. Instead, out of our sense of inferiority, we decided to prove to you that we were superior to you. We males had set out during the last few thousand years to transform the ancient world of perhaps several hundreds of thousand years of pre-historic matriarchal-patriarchal peace into a world of patriarchal warfare.

We seem to have systematically wiped out most of the evidence of the existence and success of that previously harmonious world in our history. We males claimed loudly that it had never existed; it was just a wishful fantasy.

But, for example, archaeological excavations in Israel had unearthed numerous little Asherah figurines, which ancient women used as a symbol for worshipping a single Yahweh God who to them was a union of both the Holy Mother and the Holy Father.

Asherah was the representative of the feminine aspect of God or the consort of El, the masculine aspect of the one Yahweh God. Yet the Old Testament demonised the female Asherah aspect of Yahweh and airbrushed her out of the image of God.

The original Yahweh God who was either perceived as beyond gender, or as the union of both genders, became masculinised into only ‘The Lord’ in the Old Testament. Most Eastern religions also eventually masculinised God.

The New Testament presents Jesus as one who worshipped his Heavenly God as father rather than both as the Mother and the Father. Yet in the belatedly discovered authentic Dead Sea Scrolls there is also Apostle Thomas’ Testament, which quotes Jesus saying that his earthly mother (Mary) only gave him birth but it was his divine mother who gave him life!

What? Is it possible that Jesus worshipped God not only as his Holy Father but also as his Holy Mother? Alas, patriarchal Christians will not have a bar of such perception.

We have kept claiming that there was never a world that seamlessly integrated loving spirituality into day-to-day living in our mundane reality. One in which people’s basic commitment was to the spiritual abundance of unconditional love for a just and peaceful world instead of to creating material scarcity with a ‘need’ to fight over insufficient resources.

We males have done everything in our power to subjugate you, dear Women, to break you into our patriarchal mould, to tame you and force you to submit to our lie that we are superior to you.

Have we added even more insult to injury when we triple airbrushed you from the Holy Trinity? It was not to be a united Mother-Father, the Offspring and the Holy Spirit but only Father, Son and the male Holy Spirit. Most Christian denominations still hold on to this patriarchal terminology in worshipping God to this very day!

Tell me dear Women, how could you have put up with this for thousands of years? How could you allow us males to deny a legitimate place for you even in the sacred Holy Trinity, let alone in the unjust patriarchal mundane world that we have been creating and imposing on you by stick and carrot?

Were you crying out and protesting as we co-opted you into such a world? Was this against your will, or did we succeed in brainwashing you into our macho mentality without much resistance from you?

How many of you now aim to be the pseudo males of the likes of Margaret Thatcher, fierce female rugby players, muscly weight lifters, air-punching aggressive tennis players and kick boxing women?

Does your just endeavour to be recognised as equal to men in society in general also compel you to become physically and mentally as much the macho boy as we males are at our reptilian worst or, is there an alternative? Would it not be better for us all if you females helped us males become less macho, gentler, more nurturing and peace seeking, so that we would lovingly co-operate to mutually serve one another, instead of you too, increasingly adopt our worst divisive macho ambitions?

Summary of Feminism on Human Nature

(This is my summary of a chapter in a book I often used in university classes: Thirteen Theories of Human Nature, by Stevenson, Haberman, and Wright, Oxford Univ. Press.)

Traditionally theories of human nature are conceived of by men and seem to equate human nature with male nature. Some of these thinkers believed that women were just different from men; others that they were inferior.

There are two basic responses from feminist theory. Humanist feminists believe that the notion of a shared human nature is valuable even if it didn’t accommodate sexual differences. Such humanists emphasize a core human nature that women and men share. In this view, traditional theories go wrong when they ignore this common nature or suggest that women can’t fulfill that nature as men can.

The second view, social constructionist, derives from the work of the 20th-century philosopher Simone de Beauvior. She argues that gender is a socially constructed rather than biological category: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” ( suppose there are various socially constructed ideas of maleness too.) She also believed that women often don’t experience full selfhood because of oppressive social constraints.

But both views believe in a common human nature, and that social and political change is needed to remove the constraints on woman fully developing this nature.

Feminist Philosophy and Feminism 

Feminist philosophy supports female equality and opposes oppression of women. Feminism as a political movement grew out of feminist philosophy—emphasizing the right to vote or working for abolitionist, antiwar, or disarmament. While political feminism stresses action and political change, feminist philosophy seeks to understand the nature of inequality and the oppression of women.

Contemporary Humanist Feminism

CHF stresses the equality of men and women, demanding equal treatment for women. Thus they are skeptical of notions of justice that omit consideration of private family life, the context of much of women’s oppression—-unpaid housework, maternal care, submission to their husbands, etc. Other humanistic feminists emphasize the equality of opportunity. Societies should be so arranged as to provide the conditions under which all citizens can actualize the potential inherent in their natures.

Neohumanist Feminism and Dehumanization

Can the notion of dehumanization shed light on the value of a shared human nature? Some feminists argue that the concept of dehumanization captures what is morally wrong with discrimination, domination, and oppression against any group. Dehumanization can be directed at anyone, and it is also connected to justice. Justice is about equality in family life, the chance to develop one’s capacities, the right not to be treated inhumanely, and more. In the end, justice must spring from a consideration of our shared human nature.

Critical Perspectives on Humanist Feminism 

Some feminists criticize humanist feminism as ignoring the differences between men and women by adopting traditional male conceptions of human nature. Others argue that human nature is defined either from an external biological perspective, which doesn’t make moral prescriptions or an internal notion that reduces to morality to individual subjective values. One solution to this problem would be to recognize that biology and moral norms can be joined since we are all by nature social beings. After all, human beings are interdependent, as the feminist have always emphasized.

My Reflection – The world would immediately improve if half of all social, political, governmental positions were filled by women.