Thursday, May 14, 2009

Quick Read: Feminism is not a religion

Susan Henking at Religious Dispatches wrote a really interesting article on the recent court case against Columbia University trying to have feminism established as a religion, and thus federal aid for Women's Studies classes were a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The lawsuit was dismissed, but Henking raises important questions of definitions and why it matters what we call things, especially in a legal setting. Context matters.

She concludes with this:
The plaintiff in the recently dismissed case was making a specious case rooted in a frivolous legal argument. His views are repugnant. Yet, in raising the issue once again of what religion is, he served an important role. While frivolous and meanspirited, his spewing reminds us that the contest is not done. We remain a nation where not all are convinced by the simple argument that women, too, are fully human and that we, like men, are the legitimate topic of academic inquiry. We remain a nation where it does matter how we define religion. Critical engagement with the various contexts within which we (especially in Western culture but increasingly globally) have struggled to understand religion, both as phenomenon and as a category, is as crucial to the our world as Women’s Studies (and feminist work more generally).
It's an interesting article for anyone concerned about intersections of law and religion or religion and feminism.


Amelia said...


Great find, Lindsay. I want to read the rest of this, but I think it will have to wait until the weekend.

Anonymous said...

If women and men are equal, etcetera, why do you need a special movement named after women? Why do you need "Women's Studies"?

Feminism is basically a religion. Especially considering it teaches the elevation of the female over the male.

If you could get past that nasty "we demand special privileges that we call equality", you might be in better shape.

Amelia said...

Let's play a game called "Name The Things Anonymous Got Wrong About Feminism."

First contestant?

Michael said...

oh oh oh me first

Feminism does not elevate the female over the male. Rather, Feminism, as a political movement, advocates the removal of barriers to the fair and equitable treatment of women in society, and opposes the systemic favoring of the white male in social, economic, and political arenas.

postcolonial feminist said...

well, not just "white" males. there are significant feminist movements elsewhere in the world where "white" males are not part of the ethnic makeup, but women still face barriers.

Anon - feminism is not a religion. a religion is defined as a set of observances to follow a faith system developed by a charismatic founder. (eg. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad etc). feminism? there are no such set of ritual "observances" and don't assume that one feminism practiced in one place is the same as in the rest of the world.

lindsay said...

And while most definitions of religion are fluid and encompass many different forms of religion, self-identification is important. If I don't consider feminism my religion, then it's not my religion. Just like you can't force someone to be Catholic, if they don't embrace it and self-identify as Catholic, they shouldn't be considered Catholic.

To call feminism a religion disparages religious people everywhere.