Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

BECAUSE SHE’S A WOMAN

          There’s no single reason certain folk won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Some will never vote for a Democrat, no how, no way. Some get their info from supermarket tabloids—meaning they deserve to be lied to. Others, deep-minded as they are, don’t like her hair, her choice of clothes, or the way she holds her mouth. Some think only Democrats run up the national budget and increase the size of government, forgetting that both grew exponentially under Reagan.

          But do not even begin to think that, for no few, it’s not because she’s a woman. Don’t even go there. My advice is to stop watching Fox News and read a damn book once in a while—like history, for starters.

          Given this is the 96th anniversary of women’s suffrage—you know, their right to vote—it was among my stack of must-reads for the summer. Good books, as only those who read them know, are refreshing. They rescue us from hearsay and anecdotal information, include all factors and afford a big picture of events and outcomes.

          Long ago in a galaxy far away, amid my theological education, research on various subjects and biblical texts brought me to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She was not formally a theologian, which ordinarily would disqualify her as a credible source. She was an early feminist given first and foremost to bringing suffrage to her gender—but she was up on, and incredibly conversant with, what was called Higher Criticism as it emerged from Europe and primarily Germany.

          But she dared where others would not go: she identified religion all over the world as the most pernicious factor in the subjugation of women and their imprisonment as secondary citizens—or as less than that.

          But America’s religion was not just any, especially in her day, but the good ol’ Judeo-Christian one that we’ve come to know, love and, in the case of women, has bound their gender hand and foot.

          At this point I may have lost not only most men but no few women, which was precisely Stanton’s point, and her fate, back in the last half of the 19th century. Other great suffragists, including those who mentally admitted to same, feared her evidential truth would harm the movement to claim the vote.

          But there were all too many other women, not given to that struggle, who defaulted to men’s assessment of their social role and worth—precisely because men had always told them it was God’s will. Stanton’s provocative book, “The Woman’s Bible,” published twice in 1895 and 1898, was wildly popular, meaning it was read, but not always for the right reasons. The clergy and their religious institutions, not to mention the press, went after her chapter and verse, hammer and tong.

          For one thing, they feared her effectiveness as a writer. She told the pointed truth but not in an angry way, and was not given to ad hominem attacks—which infuriated men even more, and daunted the women who were under their thumbs. Clearly, for the latter to take up that cudgel would divide homes and institutions, regardless that Stanton’s thesis was well taken.

          My point here is that the reaction to her, and society’s threat to any and all women, save for the most intelligent and steel-willed of them, has to be re-read to be believed for its vitriol which, it is safe to say, was unabated through the century following Stanton—witness the inflamed name-calling and belittlement of women of the First and Second Waves of feminism since the past mid-century.

          The battle between the sexes is no laughing matter, and never was, but guys have always had the edge. Stanton showed how the book of Genesis has been misinterpreted through the ages yet she never advocated its relegation to the trash-heap of history, but that its male-infused slant influenced the biblical books that followed—and became grist for women’s subjugation to this day.

          Sadly, that has been of little consolation. Stanton’s fate was to speak her truth at the worst possible time—when getting the vote was paramount and took decades to accomplish. Behold what happened to minting of the U.S. silver dollar with its image of Susan B. Anthony, or the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) when the old male canards reared again their ugly heads.

          Then think of Hillary Clinton. No, she shouldn’t be elected just for being a woman. But she shouldn’t be denied for that reason, either. Ironically, the danger is not that Hillary will be voted for being a woman, but that she will be voted against for that reason. .

          For all interested women, I recommend Stanton’s remarkable book cited above. And while you’re at it, try on Gaylor’s “Women Without Superstition,” for a treasure trove of the other women of Stanton’s generation, of whom humanity can be most proud.

          Read. Be inspired. And vote.

 

           

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