Feminists Are Our Best Hope for Change After Church Sex Abuse Fallout & DADT Controversy

In a Nope for Pope, Maureen Dowd has a plan for how the Catholic Church could start to fix itself, and it starts with women:

If the church could throw open its stained glass windows and let in some air, invite women to be priests, nuns to be more emancipated and priests to marry, if it could banish criminal priests and end the sordid culture of men protecting men who attack children, it might survive. It could be an encouraging sign of humility and repentance, a surrender of arrogance, both moving and meaningful.

Sinead O’Rebellion I MEAN Sinead O’Connor writes in The Washington Post today about the Pope’s totally lackluster response to recent sex abuse revelations:

Irish Catholics are in a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive organization. The pope must take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates…

Almost 18 years ago, I tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on an episode of “Saturday Night Live.” Many people did not understand the protest …. I knew my action would cause trouble, but I wanted to force a conversation where there was a need for one; that is part of being an artist. All I regretted was that people assumed I didn’t believe in God. That’s not the case at all. I’m Catholic by birth and culture and would be the first at the church door if the Vatican offered sincere reconciliation… As Ireland withstands Rome’s offensive apology while an Irish bishop resigns, I ask Americans to understand why an Irish Catholic woman who survived child abuse would want to rip up the pope’s picture. And whether Irish Catholics, because we daren’t say “we deserve better,” should be treated as though we deserve less.

In an ironic reversal of the religious community’s fear that their leaders might be punished for not performing same-sex marriages, Presbyterian minister Rev. Jane Spahr is in fact being sanctioned by her church for the opposite. While other ministers and justices of the peace have been reprimanded for performing illegal same-sex marriages before, this is different; the marriages Spahr performed were actually within the period in California when gay marriage was legal, her church is the one saying that same-sex marriages are “expressly prohibited.” (@theadvocate)

To give this story a little context, Joe My God has a horrifying comprehensive list of religious leaders accused of sex crimes just in the past seven days, many of whom were enabled or protected by their religious institutions – because while marrying two consenting adults is “expressly prohibited,” apparently the rape of fifteen-year-old boys isn’t! (@joemygod)

And in light of all this, Jodi at RH Reality Check asks an important question: Why is the Catholic Church, given its history, allowed any kind of say or influence in women’s issues or choices? “You know that doctrine that they enforce? The one that makes women lower on the totem pole than a fertilized egg? The one that in Nicaragua has a woman whose life is threatened with cancer, hospitalized at 8 weeks pregnant, refused either an abortion or cancer treatment because the egg, embryo, fetus is so much more important than that woman’s life (or the future of her 10-year-old daughter)? …Why is that Congress allows a pedophilia-ridden, pedophilia-hiding, child-abusing Church allowed to write laws about women’s rights?” (@rhrealitycheck)

Basically if any of you think that feminism isn’t relevant anymore (or pay attention to the manufactured postfeminism) or that we live in a post-feminist age, WAKE UP! We are still letting men who are unable to police their own bodies tell us what to do with ours, and that’s fucked up!!

As Dowd pointed out in that first article up there, “American bishops have gotten politically militant in recent years, opposing the health care bill because its language on abortion wasn’t vehement enough, and punishing Catholic politicians who favor abortion rights and stem cell research. They should spend as much time guarding the kids already under their care as they do championing the rights of those who aren’t yet born.”

In the ongoing debate over DADT, people are continuing to act like they’re in the third grade. “General James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, told Military.com that an ”overwhelming” number of Marines would be opposed to bunking with someone of a different sexual orientation. As a result, he said, the corps might have to ditch its double-bed rooms and offer single rooms to everyone.” Things that an overwhelming number of Marines (and Congress) do not appear to be concerned about: the fact that one-third of women who join the army are raped or sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier, that militarized sexual violence (overwhelmingly against women) is still on the rise, and that thousands of soldiers military rapists have gone without any punishment whatsoever. As the Ms. Blog brings to our attention, it turns out that personal safety and fear of sexual assault only matter when it’s about straight men afraid of predatory gay men. (@theage)(@msblog)

By now you may have heard about the film Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives in the Tribeca Film Festival. GLAAD has campaigned to have the film removed from the festival because “its title and its marketing misrepresent the lives of transgender women and use grotesque, exploitative depictions of violence against transgender women in ways that make light of the horrific brutality they all too often face.” Queerty argues that GLAAD’s campaign is off base, and that the issue is more complicated than just shutting down any cultural production with less-than-perfect representations of transgender people or any other part of the queer community. (@queerty)

Autumn at Pam’s House Blend, however, has some choice quotes from the film’s director that make it seem like his use of the word “tranny” might be exactly the hugely offensive blunder it appears to be. “These characters will be so empowering, so strong, so amazingly-kick-ass hot and fierce… I don’t feel that TICKED-OFF PRE-OP TRANSITIONING M2F SEXUALLY REASSIGNING WOMEN WITH KNIVES would be as appropriate.” (@pamshouseblend)

Does the census form allow for transgender people to be fully counted? Kalil Cohen at the Progressive Media Project says no. (@mcclatchydc)

A two-year-old case brought against a stand-up comedian who allegedly discriminated against a lesbian and her girlfriend in the audience is now being brought to trial in the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. (@nationalpost)

There’s a new piece in the LA Times about Christine Daniels, the transgender sportswriter who committed suicide four months ago. Pam’s House Blend discusses the piece and what Daniels’ death says about the trans community and the hardships of transitioning: “Within the program, Gumbel stated that the number of transitioners that experience death by suicide is about one in three. I thought that ratio sounded high, so when I talked to my therapist last Wednesday about that statistic, I told her that. She corrected me, saying the ratio sounded about right to her.” (@pamshouseblend)

Why Women Don’t Want Macho Men: “In countries where poor health is particularly a threat to survival, women leaned toward “manlier” men. That is, they preferred their males to have shorter, broader faces and stronger eyebrows, cheekbones and jaw lines.”

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. Who knew Sinead O’ Connor could be that articulate! I agree with her, people of my parents generation pretend nothing happened, while people like this poor man have to continue on suffering in silence-> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBi4sYK5rjI&feature=related *Note: that’s pretty hard to watch but it puts a human face on the issue. Fair play to Sinead for speaking her mind!

  2. I’m surprised by General Conway’s comment regarding DADT. As Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Conway knows that what he supports the Marines will adapt to. The military has never based protocol on what service members may or may not be “opposed to.” Orders are given from the top and then carried out by the chain of command. This should be no different.

  3. “We are still letting men who are unable to police their own bodies tell us what to do with ours, and that’s fucked up!!”
    word. i’m so often flabbergasted by women who forget who their liberties are governed by…

  4. I have never encountered a predetory gay man but god how many straight girls have abused the condition me and my friends have been in.

  5. I have been reading a lot about the sex abuse scandals and the Pope, even though it makes me SO UPSET. But it’s really important to know this stuff I guess. I just don’t understand! HOW DO THESE PEOPLE THINK LIKE THIS?? They really believe it’s ok to protect a priest in Milwaukee who molested over 200 boys, but it’s morally reprehensible to use contraception even in a married couple?

    Also, in his Palm Sunday sermon, the Archbishop of New York compared Pope Benedict to Jesus because the Pope is having to suffer so much criticism. YES THE POOR, POOR POPE, LET’S FEEL SO BAD FOR HIM, BUT WHO CARES ABOUT ALL THE CHILDREN.

    I can’t even wrap my brain around this you guys! It physically hurts! I am getting a headache!

  6. Whatever happened to blind justice? The answer to the worldwide sex abuse scandals is for the perpetrators of these crimes and those who aided and abetted them first to be captured and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Bill Maher, admittedly not known for his pro-religious views, put it best last Friday on his show when he said if the Catholic Church was a daycare or some other institution and this was happening on their watch, they would have been shut down ages ago. Secondly, and more importantly going forward, the Catholic Church needs to stop the problem at the source and drop the the celibacy requirement for parish priests, which is a post-Great Schism adaptation in practicing Christianity anyway.

  7. The census doesn’t really allow for transgender people to be counted properly. The form itself just has the ‘sex’ question with male and female as options, and in my employee handbooks it refers to it as the sex/gender question as it they were the same thing! It really bothers me, because like Cohen says, it’s about everyone being counted for who they are, and this is not allowing that, not is it getting accurate reads of who makes up communities. I’ve also had customers at my center with problems with the race/Hispanic origin question. Things are not 10-question-simple in real life…

  8. I just do not understand the Catholic church. You would think they would be like, “Holy Fuck! Look at how we are alienating people from God! Let’s reevaluate what we’re doing!” There needs to be a Vatican 3 or something, God can still speak to you in your daily lives, guys, Jews have way less books than you and the majority of our people still manage to get with the times.

    Basically I think the pope should stop wearing a silk dress and really get something done for his people that depend on him instead of living in lavish opulence while poor Catholics die and he is obsessed with gays and abortion.

  9. Ugh, I’m especially annoyed with the Presbyterian Church here, both because they’re reform not evangelical (and reformers don’t tend to get AS publically political/intense about homosexuality) and also because they have typically been liberal enough on a number of things to cause more conservative members of their church to leave for evangelical denominations anyway. Why do they continue to cater to the more conservative types in regards to gay marriage?

    It disappoints me in general that reform churches are still anti-gay because an anti-gay interpretation of the Bible so obviously goes against what their own approach to Biblical study should lead to. Reform traditions focus a lot of energy on studying the context of Biblical text and interpreting the significance according to the context first and foremost (something evangelical traditions generally couldn’t care less about, excluding the evangelical Mennonites who do care about context, but anyway) that they should know better than to go hard core on things that are obviously contextual (for example, homosexuality!!!). Yes, the Old Testament and the New Testament (sans the Gospels, cause Jesus never said anything yo) slam homosexuality but it is so fucking contextual, and context is so important to reformers, that I just don’t get it. These types of moves also often cause so much dissent with the more academic members of their churches anyway that it just doesn’t seem worth it for them on most levels.

    Surprised, disappointed, frustrated. I want to call all of them and say, “hey, I am not a Jesus person but I know about this cause I read a lot of books including THE BIBLE and you should listen to me because according to YOUR OWN DENOMINATION’S APPROACH TO THE BIBLE you’re interpreting this in a totally wacky way.” And then I remember that no one really likes it when I say I know everything so I just need to leave that for conversations with my cats. They don’t seem to mind.

    • I AM a Jesus person (as you called it), one who has spent her whole life in the Presbyterian Church and now works for one, and I can tell you that it’s pretty frustrating watching how this sort of thing goes down. The precedent that has been established in regards to this issue is that gay marriage in the church is impossible because “marriage is between a man and a woman.” It’s this ridiculous backwards logic that has kept people (Spahr included) from getting into real trouble in the past, but also keeps us from moving forward. There is a movement in the church to make progress (as approved by the General Assembly, which is like the federal government of the church), but people are still dragging their feet and the Church isn’t super eager to stop sitting on their hands and go “oh, wait, are we supposed to have an opinion?”

      People in the PCUSA keep marrying same-sex couples, other people keep putting them on trial, and those pastors keep getting off on a technicality (instead of, y’know, what they should be getting off for, which is actual damn sense and fairness). Since the marriage was legally okay, that may change the game, but not necessarily for the worse. Perhaps now people will be forced to listen to all the fantastic testimony that witnesses give on how this is NOT a scripture violation (and for every anti-gay passage interpretation, there are several saying those passages are either not against homosexuality or not about it at all).

      In short, yes, this is ridiculous and the church needs to get its act together, but people are trying and this trial could help (assuming people actually take the time to prayerfully consider what’s going on).

  10. It is unfortunate that bureaucrats, and dare I say most of us, still insist on perpetuating a gender binary system that is neither accurate nor inclusive.

    Is it not the goal of a census to collect authentic information on a population? Is demography not a science fundamentally scrupulous in nature?

    Of course it is. So why do we insist on subjecting ourselves to the stifling constraints of “male” or “female” gender labels? There are a myriad of ways in which gender variant folks identify, and I am willing to bet that most of them would be willing to write it down on a dotted line if such a space happened to exist on a census form.

    I know giving people the freedom to express their individuality is a wildly radical and frightening concept for you suits up in Washington, but I think it’s time to give it a try. Forgive the cliché, but let’s think outside the box people.

  11. I read an article where the Pope refers to the whole thing as a “test” which bothered the hell out of me. If you get cancer and you want to face it as a test of your faith, okay. If your church burns to the ground and you want to approach it as a test and rebuild, okay. Those are not acts of man. But the abuse scandal is not a TEST for the Church (though, their response has been an enormous fail by any measure), it’s a monster these men created and hid and need to fucking deal with like the tragedy that it is. WTF.

  12. I never thought the day would come when I would say ‘Sinead O Connor speaks the truth’ ;) As an Irish former-Catholic (now blissfully atheist), I am appalled, ashamed for my country and angry at the regime that is the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church have abused our trust in almost every way imaginable.

    If I even begin to talk about how many ways they’ve destroyed our country, my blood boils. Many catholics (including good friends of mine) ask that people don’t include your honest decent christian folk in this – but I have to say…at what point do you say ‘our churches have done wrong, they are the evil in the world’? Surely paedophilia and its coverup is something that prompts people to abandon the old establishments?

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