A Pox on the Patriarchy
First, I should emphasise that I’m not religious. Which probably sounds counterintuitive coming under an article entitled ‘Female Bishops’ – what business do I have to wade into a debate that is restricted to members of the General Synod of the Church of England?
Well, as I see it, everything is my busines, busybody that I am. But beyond that, an issue that affects so many women around the world is important whether or not you believe in their religion. Religion is an incredibly powerful force – for both good and bad, and what it believes affects lives. Just look at Africa.
Added to this, I do know a bit about religion as well – it’s pretty much impossible to study English Literature as a degree and get away without any interaction with religious writing. And finally, I don’t actually intend to dive into the debate as such. I intend to question the logic of an argument made on Woman’s Hour today – and wonder if this is really the best the anti-brigade has got.
So the General Synod has been in uproar today because of a controversial motion about allowing women to officially be allowed to be ordained as bishops. This has been a long fight for those who support the motion, but some of them may vote against it because of a last minute amendment that will allow parishes to demand men instead. They argue that this will ‘effectively enshrine discrimination in law‘. And it’s at this point that I feel compelled to voice my thoughts on logic.
Woman’s Hour invited two women on to debate this point – with Alison Rouoff, who argued against female ordination, making such a poor case, that you couldn’t help but wonder if the BBC had sneakily disavowed its responsibilities towards ‘balance’. First, she made the huge clanger of referring to Genesis 2 as the initial basis for her argument that women shouldn’t be bishops. Granted, here it says that man was created first and that woman was created as his help meet, and was formed out of man’s rib (evidence of womb envy if ever I saw any). But the first thing you learn in women’s biblical studies 101 is of course that in Genesis 1, there is no such separation: ‘male and female created he them’, it says. And just as I was snorting at the idiocy of this comment and wondering if she was really going to get away with using this as evidence of why only men should be bishops, Reverend Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes stepped in and pointed out that she was incorrect. Logic 1 – Patriarchy 0.
Rouoff went on to make a series of increasingly bizarre assertions. She claimed, in a ‘poor little me’ way, that she liked that when it came to the tough decisions of life she had to defer to her husband. Fair enough. But actually, no it’s not. Because those tough decisions only refer to religion – according to Rouoff, the sacred and secular should be separate. So he can tell her what to think about God, but not what to think about David Cameron – right? [DISCLAIMER: I do not think David Cameron is God]. How on earth does this ‘logic’ work? Where does God end and Cameron begin? I know that sounds flippant, but actually, it’s a serious question. If you are as religious as you have to assume a member of the General Synod is, surely there is no separation of secular and sacred? Cameron is one of God’s creatures (yes, really) and therefore lives under his laws. As do men and women. So if men rule women in the church, therefore they rule women outside the church too? Honestly, to this wooly mess, Michelle Bachanan was preferable – at least she was consistent. One of the most hilarious points of the ‘debate’ was when Rouoff said she was fine with the Queen being head of the /church of England because of the separation between the sacred and the secular. What? Just…what?
As the final mitre on the head (does that work? answers below please), having been incapable of making any coherent points whatsoever, Rouoff resorted to insulting her opponent, making a snide reference to women wanting to be ordained as a desire for ‘career progression’. Threfall-Holmes rightly rebutted this insult, pointing out it was a matter of vocation. She might also have suggested that when your opponents have to resort to such bullying tactics, the battle must be nearly won.
Which leads me to this final thought – if this is the best opposition they’ve got, how on earth has it take twenty years to only get this far?