women's rights

Let Cecil the Lion’s Death Shine Light on Zimbabwe’s Human Rights Abuses

REUTERS / David Bailey / RNS

Stuffed animals left by protesters block the doorway of River Bluff Dental clinic in Bloomington, Minn., after the killing of a famous lion in Zimbabwe, July 28, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / David Bailey / RNS

When a lion killed an American woman last month in South Africa, where I now live, the story made a few headlines, but the Internet did not melt. Perhaps Americans assume “lion bites woman” is the African equivalent of “dog bites man” — too ordinary to merit mention.

But when man bites dog, or when man shoots lion with an arrow, Americans conjure up images of Simba and Mufasa, the only reference many have to a continent of 1.1 billion people three times the size of their own country, and they lose their proverbial scat.

Assuming Zimbabwe won’t make the news again until dictator Robert Mugabe finally dies, allow me to capitalize on Cecil’s demise with a quick rundown of the country’s atrocious human rights record.

How We Talk About Life — and Death

Living cells, mixed media artwork.

Living cells, mixed media artwork. Ruslan Kokarev / Shutterstock.com

It’s not often words escape us. But in the aftermath of the now viral recording(s) raising concerns over whether Planned Parenthood seeks profit from aborted fetal tissue — and the crassness with which its representative discusses how to accomplish it without “crushing” the tissue/organs — that’s where we were left: with no words. We confess to being at a complete loss of what to say in the face of humanity’s brokenness.

Beyond the ethical questions of how an organization receives payment for tissue sales or the debates around the potential benefits of the patients’ donations of fetal tissue, the videos are an in-your-face reminder of our culture’s blatant disrespect for life.

That disregard is not unique in our society, of course. Journalism: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Medicine: “There’s nothing more to be done. She’s a vegetable.” Justice system: “He’s gonna fry.” War: “Light ‘em up.” Uncomfortable questions about life and death and ethics are best papered over with emotionless cliché, obviously.

As a society and as individuals, when we fail to recognize the imago dei in others, we trend further away from our uniquely human capacity to empathize and closer to isolated, analytical, and almost robotic assessments of value.

Turkish Official: Women Shouldn't Laugh in Public

Bülent Arınç is one of the State Ministers of Turkey and Vice-Prime Minister. Creative Commons image by Chatham House.

Many Turkish women were doubled over with laughter Tuesday after their country’s deputy leader said in a speech assailing “moral corruption” that women should not laugh in public and should not talk on their mobile phones so much.

Speaking Monday night at a celebration marking the end of Ramadan, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc took aim at contemporary life in Turkey, arguing for more chastity, humility, and reading of the Quran and less consumerism, oil consumption, and sex in the media, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Social media lit up as news of the speech spread, with hundreds of Turkish women posting photos of themselves and friends laughing in public places. Popular hashtags included #kahkaha (laugh) and #direnkahkaha (resist, laugh).

The Hurriyet Daily News offered this excerpt from Arinc’s remarks: “Chastity is so important. It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram [sin] and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”

Women's Unfinished Journey

Jesus Sanz  / Shutterstock.com

Illustration of women and girls of different ethnicities, Jesus Sanz / Shutterstock.com

Editor's Note: This post is an excerpt from the report "Peering Under Our Collective Burqa: How Do Our Own Religious 'Personal Status' Codes Cover and Diminish the Full Humanity of Women?" Read the full piece HERE.

March 8 came and went, the 39th observation of International Women's Day, a day set aside to collectively take stock of how the world’s women are doing. The theme for this year — Equality for women is progress for allcaptures the spirit of this day to invite and remind us all that the better world we want to create for girls and women is indeed a better world for us all. This blog asks people of faith to hold a mirror up to ourselves to ask if we are in fact part of this “us.”

By nature an optimist, I do enjoy this day set aside to celebrate women’s accomplishments. Everywhere, women are bravely rising up above patriarchal customs and cruel forms of highly prevalent violence to “lean in” to their own economic and social and spiritual empowerment. There is indeed incredible momentum afoot in our world in so many sectors of society to really mainstream women's equality/gender balance not just as a "women's issue" per se but rather as a shared human concern, i.e., what is good for girls/women is also good for global development, good for society, good for relationships, good for families, good for healthy teams, good for organizational dynamics and even good for the "bottom line" of business.

Yet every year for the past few years as International Women’s Day rolls around, I feel a strange mix of both hope and despair as I hold the gender contradictions of our world close to my heart. Don’t be such a pessimist, I tell myself; be positive! Yet I cannot shake a refrain I have heard again and again from women’s human rights activists working around the world: “Here in our country, we have a decent legal code for women; however, in recent years we have experienced a backlash that is threatening to undo many of the strides that women have made.” However you fall on the optimist/pessimist scale, it is safe to say that women’s place in the world is still highly tenuous.

U.N. Women's Ad Series Shows Sexism Through Google Searches

Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai/UN Women

Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai/UN Women

Gender inequality is an international issue. Striving to empower women and call attention to the sexism of popular opinions worldwide, U.N. Women released a series of ads using text from Google real searches. The ads show women's face with their mouths obscured by the text of the searches, visually silencing their voices.

From unwomen.com:

 “When we came across these searches, we were shocked by how negative they were and decided we had to do something with them,” says Christopher Hunt, Art Director of the creative team. The idea developed places the text of the Google searches over the mouths of women portraits, as if to silence their voices. 

“The ads are shocking because they show just how far we still have to go to achieve gender equality. They are a wake up call, and we hope that the message will travel far,” adds Kareem Shuhaibar, copy writer.

Refusing Service in The Name of Religion is Never Acceptable

Photo courtesy Andrii Chetvertak/ Shutterstock.com.

Door with the "do not enter" sign. Photo courtesy Andrii Chetvertak/ Shutterstock.com.

In Vermont, a country inn declined to provide a wedding reception for a same-sex marriage. In Hawaii, the owner of a bed and breakfast refused a double room to a lesbian couple. Both said providing service would violate their religious faith.

More recently, a federal appeals court judge ruled that the evangelical owners of the Hobby Lobby arts-and-crafts chain may have the right, based on their religious beliefs, to refuse to include contraceptive coverage as part of employees’ health insurance plans. For some time now, pharmacists have asserted — and in many states won — the right to refuse to provide contraception based on religious grounds.

Refusal to serve — and using religion to discriminate — isn’t new. In the mid-1960s, Lester Maddox claimed biblical justification for his refusal to serve blacks at his Atlanta restaurant, which he famously defended with ax handles in his campaign to become Georgia’s governor. Throughout the 19th century, women were refused entry to taverns, professions, and, really, to anything a proprietor decided to exclude them from. The second-class status of women was often, if not always, justified by biblical text.

Women, Voice, and Pentecost

Women's Rights National Historic Park statues, Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

Women's Rights National Historic Park statues, Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

Consider in the past year alone, America has wrestled over the injustice of forced vaginal probe ultrasounds. We have had our own deep cultural apathy revealed as the media tipped their sympathies toward the jocks that ripped a 16 year-old girl’s life and body through gang rape in Steubenville, Ohio – even as our nation gasped in horror at multiple reports of gang rapes of women in India. And over the past few weeks we have witnessed the unmasking of several U.S. military leaders, who were charged with duties to protect the women in their ranks, as they were revealed to be the very perpetrators themselves.

In Jim Wallis’ latest column, he writes, “It’s time for all people of faith to be outraged” and adds, “And it's time for us in the faith community to acknowledge our complicity in a culture that too often not only remains silent, but also can propagate a false theology of power and dominance.”

Will we do it? Will we take the step? Will we allow this holy wind that has blown the cover off of evil deeds done in the dark to rush through? Will we allow the cleansing waters of God to wash our society clean of practices — both private and public — that twist, maim and crush the image of God in more than half its population? Will we exercise the same courage that it took for those women at the first Pentecost to allow the spirit to move them into the public square and speak — testify, tell the truth, and prophesy? Will we repent from our silence?

Repentance begins in the heart. So, I must ask: “Will I repent of my silence — my safe silence?” Yes.

Rock the 'Slut Vote'

Colin Anderson, Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

Colin Anderson, Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

Oh, ladies. Just when you thought we were emerging again from the sudden backtrack into 20th-century gender politics, this happened. (Before continuing, I warn: this is the most offensive bit of so-called Christian, “red pill” patriarchy that I have ever read.)

A blog post written on the website of the Christian Men's Defense League — yes, an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of white American Christian men is apparently a thing — blames Mitt Romney's loss Tuesday night on what the author brilliantly coins "the slut vote." 

Hat tip to Gawker for finding the cached version of this post, as it was quickly locked down post-publishing. You can view snippets of all of author “BSkillet’s” witticisms HERE

Most disturbing in this man's tirade against so-called "sluts" — and trust me, there's a lot in there to creep us out — is that he is doing so from a Christian perspective. The banner of the blog cites Psalm 144:1, "Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle."

The verse of choice is interesting, to say the least. I usually cringe when I hear terms like "war on religion," "war on women," etc., but if anyone is waging it, it's this guy. 

There is so much here that completely defies logic, but I thought I'd pull out a couple of gems for our review. 

Women's Rousing Political Convention Speeches Make Their Silence in the Church Deafening

I’ve attempted to catch some of the Republican National Convention last week and this week’s Democratic National Convention. Some of it has been educational, others infuriating, others confusing, and still, others very inspiring.  

I am listening and watching as I want to be more deeply educated and informed so I can steward the privilege of voting with care, prayer, and discernment. But thus far (and I know that the DNC has just gotten underway), one clear observation for me from both the RNC and DNC has been the amazing voices, words, leadership, and speeches from…the women.

The three that obviously stood out for me were the speeches delivered by Ann Romney, Condoleezza Rice, and Michelle Obama. Ann’s speech was heartfelt and compelling. Condoleezza’s speech was inspiring and dare I say it…”presidential.” And wow, Michelle Obama’s speech was simply riveting. I found myself in tears on couple occasions during the FLOTUS’ speech.

As I soaked in the inspiring speeches from these women, I was mindful of the incredulous fact that the 19th Amendment to the American constitution — allowing women to vote — only took place in 1920. Just 92 years ago and with that, America became just the 27th country to support “universal suffrage.”

Without any offense intended to others — especially the male speakers — their speeches were the clear highlights. I don’t care what others will do or say during the DNC from here on out, no one is going to top the speech delivered by Michelle Obama.

But this isn’t my attempt to say that women are better than men, more articulate than men, more intelligent than men, or any other nonsensical comparisons. Rather, I want to simply communicate how incomplete the conventions would have been without their voices, words, challenges, and exhortations.

Imagine if only men were allowed to speak.

Gender Equality: Why The Gospel Coalition Misses the Gospel

Egalitarianism illustration, Nuno Andre / Shutterstock.com

Egalitarianism illustration, Nuno Andre / Shutterstock.com

I was watching this recent video where Tim Keller (along with Don Carson and John Piper) addresses why The Gospel Coalition is explicitly complementarian (a nice way to say that they don't believe in gender equality). Why do they see this as something that a group that is supposed to be focused on the Gospel would need to stress? 

Keller begins by saying that he does not think the issue of gender roles are directly part of the Gospel, and acknowledges that bringing it up in the context of answering a person's questions of what it would mean to be a Christian could "certainly muddy the waters."

So why the focus then? He says it has to do with how we read Scripture.