Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Through the Stained Glass Ceiling, or Not?

Firstly, a happy and secure 2013 to everyone.

Talking of the new year, some things are moving towards change whilst others are struggling to stay the same (the latter an impossibility, according to the Buddha).

So, what's changing. As regular readers of this site will know we have been supportive of the moves towards gender equality within the Buddhist monastic community, particularly as regards the Theravada tradition, but that's not to ignore the wider diminishing of the role, value and status of women across the board when it comes to religion.

Here in the UK the General Synod of the Church of England rejected a revision of canon law which—coming after years of deliberations, defections, redraftings, and often ugly debates—would finally have allowed the appointment of women bishops. Curiously, while this act of potential cultural suicide was taking place in Britain the Anglican Church of Australia had just appointed its fourth female bishop (you might recall that it was also in Australia that Ajahn Brahm facilitated first full bhikkhuni ordination of women in the Forest sangha of Thailand’s most famous meditation master, Ajahn Chah, back in October, 2009).

Elsewhere; Amid outrage across the Jewish diaspora over a flurry of recent arrests of women seeking to pray at the Western Wall with ritual garments in defiance of Israeli law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, to study the issue and suggest ways to make the site more accommodating to all Jews.

A call for Mormon women to wear trousers to church, begun this month by a small group of women, has stretched across the globe, but not before creating a backlash and even generating death threats.

“Wear Pants (yes, I know it sounds kinky but Americans insist on calling trousers pants) to Church,” an event on Sunday, was meant to draw attention to the role of women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, using attire as a symbolic first salvo in a larger struggle over gender inequalities.

Though the Mormon Church has no official policy against women wearing trousers to church, many say they feel peer pressure to wear a dress, particularly in the Western United States, organisers said. So on Sunday, thousands of Mormon women arrived at church in trousers in places like Cambridge, England; Heidelberg, Germany; Austin, Tex.; the Marshall Islands; and Kotzebue, Alaska. A number of the women posted their photos on Facebook and other Web sites. Others said they could not participate because they were fearful of ridicule or reprimand.

I've nothing topical to add to the sad litany of denigrations against women re: the third of the Abrahamic faiths but dogma and culture, as always, seem to have far more influence than anything actually taught by any of these religions' founders.

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