Saturday, February 5, 2011

At a what now?

A few posts back I got taken to task by a commenter for questioning the meaning of pronouncements by a Frenchwoman in full niqab. This commenter, like several others, mistook my questioning of her rationale and my feminist difficulties with the idea of 'protecting' women (from what? And whose responsibility is it that they should require protecting? Methinks it's not the women who need swaddling and muffling) for an attack on Islam. I can sort of see where this misreading is coming from, but it's fuzzy thinking at its worst and paranoia to boot.

So let me repeat: I am not anti-Islam as such; I am anti-sexist and anti-patriarchy. And that goes just as much for Christianity. So just to prove that one is an equal-opportunity organised-religion-basher, and heartened by the bracing opinions on the subject expressed by Billy Connolly, whom I saw last night and will post about, much more cheerfully, in a minute, here's something from this morning's news that I find utterly dismaying.

Following closely the faster-than-expected recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords from the experience of being shot in the head by a lunatic (when was the last time you heard, BTW, of a woman shooting someone in the head, apart from those who shoot partners who have been assaulting, torturing and bashing them for decades?), I saw a headline this morning about her, or rather her husband, and clicked on it to read more.

Seems the astronaut husband has decided to go on his planned mission with the next space shuttle, having been reassured that his wife is progressing well and is in good medical hands. And fair do's, I get that part just fine. If I were an astronaut and I'd been at my injured husband's bedside for weeks and weeks and he was getting better every day and being well looked after then I would probably go back into space as well (and imagine, if you will, the opprobrious epithets that a wife would cop from the conservative press for that). No, here's the bit that had me reaching for the bucket:

"Every day, she gets a little bit better and the neurosurgeons and neurologists tell me that's a great sign, the slope of that curve is very important," Mr Kelly said at a national prayer breakfast in Washington.

A national prayer breakfast? In Washington?

It gets worse. Although the phrase is not capitalised in the article, it occurred to me that it might not be any old national prayer breakfast but some sort of particular one. So I googled it.

If you look at the dates you'll see that that's the one all right, and you'll also note that this cute little event began at the height of McCarthyist paranoia, the year the Rosenbergs were executed and the year before J. Robert Oppenheimer was stripped of his security clearance.

You'll also note that one of the purported purposes (sorry) of this event is for attendees to 'meet Jesus man to man'. Seems to me that leaves the ladiez free to point and mock.

Frankly I don't know why Islam bothers the Americans so much. They seem hell-bent on erasing the separation of church and state quite as thoroughly as even the most evangelical Islamic fundamentalist.

Let's hear it for Australia and the female atheist in charge.


Lesley said...

I remember watching some of the Republican candidates' debates before the last US election and retching when they were asked questions like "Describe your personal god ..." Or "Is there one passage in the Bible that particularly guides your life?".
It felt so healthy and heartening, during this month's devastation in Queensland, NOT ONCE to hear commentators, politicians, or anyone connected in anyway with the emergencies mention prayers or, FFS, god.

Gillian Dooley said...

Hear hear! Though I did find it a bit disquieting that 'Mother Nature' was blamed quite so often for the Queensland disaster.

Penthe said...


fifi said...

Hear hear!

Anonymous said...

You are spot on!! The religious christian right in the USA has SO MUCH in common with the fanatical Islamists!! Why do they not recognize this??

chicken hearted said...

I forwarded this post to a friend in the US because it resonated so strongly with me. Thank you so much (again) for articulating some of the things that bother/frighten/irritate me.

Your elegant and precise prose awes and humbles me.

Mitzi G Burger said...

For a long time it bothered me that orthodox Jewish women seemed to equate "modest" with frumpy, baggy and wouldn't-be-seen-dead-in-it so-called 'fashion'. It's hard not to m/patronise my fellow Jewesses when their model for modesty stops at ankle-length skirts/dresses. A hijab and jeans is almost a welcome relief!

While I will always insist that freedom to choose remains vital, I do my bit for global sanity by radicalising from within.

Zarquon said...

Tempting fate with rhetorical questions, Pavlov's Cat asks:
when was the last time you heard, BTW, of a woman shooting someone in the head

A couple of days ago

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Hah, gotcha. I wondered who'd be first. The letter killeth, Zarquon, but the spirit giveth life.

(In answer to Lesley, spew indeed re the scenarios you describe, but I really like the Bible, it's full of good advice. Only people who think it's literally true are to be feared and avoided, not the text itself, and indeed the same is true of the Koran.)

Mandy said...

I think you'll find that despite not being so common or popular, prayer breakfasts occur in Canberra too.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Mandy, that saddens but does not surprise me. Chicken, thank you for those kind words -- I'm glad you are enjoying the blog.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we need to have a few virgin sacrifice breakfasts to even things out.

B Smith

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Only if they are virgins of both sexes.

Anonymous said...

The history and intent of the National Prayer Breakfast in Wshington D.C., is covered in The family: the secret fundamentalism at the heart of American power, by Jeff Sharlet, HarperCollins, New York, NY 2008.

The Australian equivalents are covered in God Under Howard: the rise of the religious right in Australian politics, by Marion Maddox, Allen & Unwin, Sydney/Adelaide, 2005

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, prayer breakfasts!

At Bellingen Public School, they recite a Christian prayer at assembly each morning. I thought that our public schools were secular, but it seems not.

Well, I can only concur with Fifi's shout of 'hear hear': Let's hear it for Australia and the female atheist in charge.