On Women’s Rights

I am deeply disturbed by the recent flurry of attacks on women’s rights. I am especially troubled by how religious fundamentalism is used to justify taking away rights from women.

The fact is that our major religious traditions have within them both liberating visions and histories that give legitimacy to unspeakable oppression. Think for a moment about the last few centuries. Religion has been used to justify slavery, to keep the vote from women, to condemn gays and lesbians, and to justify horrible violence.

I am so glad that Unitarian Universalism has long taken seriously the idea that every human being has inherent worth and dignity and that a spirit of justice, equity and compassion should guide human relationships.

To my mind this isn’t very complicated. I do not understand how we can believe that men and women are equally human and equally deserving of love and respect and then argue that men should set rules for women or that women should have less control of their lives than men. As my children would say, “Duh.”

But those who seek justification for oppression can always go back to ancient writings that have become scripture—writings written by men (virtually without exception) in a patriarchal and oppressive society in which slavery was common, where brutal economic exploitation was ubiquitous, and where women were property.

I am so proud that, while our record is not perfect, we UUs have long been at the forefront of equal rights for women. Our support for women’s rights goes back to the movement for women’s suffrage. More than half of our ministers are women. We still have work to do, but we are probably the most progressive of religious organizations.

Much of the work we have to do together concerns defending the rights of women in America and around the world.

Summer Celebration of Choice, Germantown, MD, August 2011

You may not know of a UU organization that has worked tirelessly on issues of women’s rights: The UU Women’s Federation (UUWF). The UUWF has sponsored an intern in our Washington office for a number of years. The current intern is Jessica Halperin. You can sign up for a reproductive rights webinar on April 26 that Jessica is co-hosting with Rev. Rob Keithan, Director of Public Policy, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Rob is a UU minister and the former head of the UUA’s Washington Office.

Also, take a look at the UUA website’s page on reproductive rights.

The struggle for equality for women is not over. If we are not vigilant and determined, major gains of the last 50 years could be lost.

Permanent link to this article: http://president.blogs.uua.org/liberal-religion/on-womens-rights/