On Religion and Feminism

*This post is cross posted from here. Below is an awesome reply from another one of The Superfoxes. Enjoy!

It’s a bloody long post over at Ms Naughty Porn for Women Blog but it’s a REAAALLY good one.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my identification as a Catholic and as a feminist.
Can the two co-exist or do you have to compromise some/all of your beliefs for them to fit?

It’s been an age since I’ve practiced Catholicism but still identify with many of the core beliefs of the religion (compassion, mercy, loving one another) other parts unfortunately make my stomach churn (sexual assault committed by priests and covered up, original sin, the ban on gay marriage, the church’s stance on abortion/contraception/sex before marriage…..) – at the end of the day though, I can’t help but feel that being a Catholic has shaped me into the woman I am proud to be now.

This article was a challenging read – still mulling it over.

“To me, viewing these texts as infallible guides to living a good life in the 21st century is lunacy. We have had the enlightenment since those texts were created. We’ve had the theory of evolution. We’ve had all the various new ideas and philosophies of the last 300 years which has shaped how we view ourselves and what makes for a good person and a good life. To say a dusty old Bronze/Iron/Dark Age book is morally superior to the wealth of secular, rational modern thought doesn’t make sense. Especially when that book goes out of its way to say women are inferior.

And this is why I think religion and feminism are essentially opposing philosophies.”

Check it here

— IN REPLY —

I went to a Catholic school (the same one as the original poster actually!) I don’t really know why I went there; I don’t, and have never, identified with any sort of religion or faith.

I realise that this may make me badly-placed to answer the questions that the OP has raised but having spent five years at school with some wonderful young women that do identify as Catholic is also probably what has stopped me from automatically giving a militant “WHAT?! OF COURSE CATHOLICS CAN’T CALL THEMSELVES FEMINISTS!” response.

I’m not at all uncomfortable saying I detest the institution of the Catholic Church. From the infamous (sexual violence against young people, their views on reproductive rights for women, perpetuating the AIDS crisis in Africa) right down to my own personal interactions with the Church, the core of what I believe in and am has never failed to be undermined by it.
Two of my earliest memories of experiencing what I realised was feminist thought come from highschool: firstly when our principal told an assembly of thirteen and fourteen year olds not to wear short skirts to our school dance because it meant we wanted to and probably would have sex, and secondly enduring the years of “sexual education” (part of the religion rather than health curriculum) which denied that what I felt in the way of sexual orientation had any legitimate existence at all.

Despite this, most of the young women I went through my highschool years don’t subscribe to this thinking and I know for a fact many of the people who taught me didn’t. Although couldn’t call myself both Catholic and a feminist, I don’t understand the experience of personal comfort that can come from faith that these people obviously found in belonging to that community.

While I don’t understand, I do acknowledge that several close friends and people I really respect do find comfort in their faith. When that faith is Catholic, they’re not defined by the Church as an institution. I know that their core beliefs about our bodies as women are the same as mine, and despite all its (for want of a better word) sins I don’t believe their association with the Catholic Church makes their beliefs any less sincere.

That said, I still know I could never do it.

Thoughts?

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About Polly

Polly is a filipina feminist who spends the majority of her time in the community, advocating for migrants and tauiwi women and for those who have survived sexual and domestic violence. She believes firmly that there is no place in this world for slut shaming, rape culture, systemic inequality or generally being a shithead. Professionally she works in community development, policy, funding, project management and lobbying but personally she has a fond appreciation for cats, swears, beautiful food, red wine and bad dates.

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