Introduced in Québec in March 2010, Bill 94 proposed requiring women to unveil their faces if they wanted to work in the public sector or access public services, including hospitals, universities, and public transportation. The bill was eventually tabled and was followed in November 2013 with Bill 60, which demanded in more generalist language the removal of conspicuous religious signs in order to dispense or use public services in the province. These Québécois bills—which have not passed—echo the logic of the April 2011 French law targeting the niqab (face veil) and banning the “dissimulation of the face” in public spaces. Both French and Québécois proponents of these laws cited gender equality and women’s emancipation—which they deemed foundational to French and Québécois values—as their primary goal. Despite Québec’s long insistence that it espouses a third path between Canadian multiculturalism and the French Jacobin model, Québec and France have increasingly converged to promote a model of secularism in which liberty and equality are articulated as sexual liberty and sexual equality. In fact, these niqab restrictions represent a broader secular-liberal discourse—what Joan W. Scott calls “sexularism”—that posits secularism as the best guarantor of women’s sexual freedom and sexual equality and, therefore, as that which distinguishes the West from the woman-oppressing rest, especially from Islam.
Posts Tagged ‘sexuality’
Editors Gillian Frank (Stony Brook University), Heather White (New College of Florida), and Bethany Moreton (University of Georgia) have issued a Call for Proposals for a new anthology on Histories of Sexuality and Religion in the 20th Century United States.
Where on earth to begin with the rich but deeply disturbing material presented to us on BishopAccountability.org? (For an example, see the documents relating to the Province of St. Barbara.) How to confront the archive’s huge volume but also the extent of its moral charge?
I also have a number of questions about what we are, or should be, looking at—the proper boundaries of the object of our inquiry.
In the discursive regime of sexual abuse, the operative silence is the victim’s. This silence stems from shame and intimidation. The speech that would overcome it is courageous, a precious gift that provides access to truth. This account of silence assumes a theory of power as repressive: abusers—who have power—silence their victims by exercising power over them; victims reclaim power through speech. As Michel Foucault reminds us, when critiquing such unidirectional conceptions of power and such optimistic assessments of speech, “There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses.” I want to consider—briefly and provisionally—the silences operating in the public discourse concerning Paul Richard Shanley. I am particularly interested in how “sex abuse” discourses intertwine with and occlude “gay” discourses. Or, to state it more forcefully, I want to use Shanley’s case to suggest that any account of religion or gay politics in America that fails to provide a rich, nuanced description of both is an inadequate examination of either.
This past week the Catholic church denounced Sister Margaret A. Farley, an American nun and professor of Christian Ethics at Yale Divinity School, for her book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.
The Scholar & Feminist Online, an e-journal published by the Barnard Center for Research on Women, recently launched a special issue on religion and the body.
Should the state be in the business of marriage, or is it inherently a religious union that should be performed solely by religious groups? Will the religious exemptions to recent same-sex marriage laws influence their viability in the long run? Last week, The New York Times posted a debate on its website, in which five public figures, scholars and writers, argue about the ways in which the religion and marriage debate draws out perennial questions about the appropriate relationship between religion and the state.
Courtney Bender discusses the controversial ballot measure to prohibit circumcision of males under eighteen years of age, which will be up for a vote in San Francisco in November.
Confessions re-emerged into floodlit attention in the Romantic era of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, when it was read as a Bildungsroman riding on the popularity of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions (1782) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Sorrows of Werther (1774) and Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795). In 1888 Harnack would compare Confessions to Goethe’s Faust. The coming-of-age tale and sins-of-my-youth story made Augustine a byword for libertine-rake glamorization. Such is the reputation of Confessions that James O’Donnell said he first took up the book as a boy with the expectation that it had salacious things in it (for which, he added, he is still futilely searching). The “great sinner” myth has no basis in fact.
To much fanfare, the Vatican recently decreed that under certain conditions the trapping of male semen by a thin balloon of rubber fastened around the penis when it is inserted into various orifices (mouths, anuses, vaginas?) is officially, morally, and doctrinally acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church. Now, why would anyone ever say that religion is no more than a fantastic spiritual exercise?
Yesterday morning saw the removal of David Wojnarowicz’s 1987 video A Fire in My Belly from the National Portrait Gallery’s “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” exhibition. This video (which can be viewed here) was deemed controversial for an eleven second clip of ants crawling across a small crucifix.
Religion and the sex scandal are still closely linked, though the targets of public outrage have morphed: it is often religious authorities and bearers of traditional morality whose sexual desires and actions are publicized and condemned. With so many religious institutions and their authorities rocked by sex scandals in a litany of abuse and victimhood, it behooves us to ask what, precisely, is being exposed and denounced, and, conversely, what is being protected and perhaps even obscured. What aspects of “religion” are under fire in these scandals? What role does “spirituality” play in this discursive reconfiguration of sexuality and religion?
The dismissal of Kenneth Howell, a University of Illinois adjunct professor of Catholic history and thought, has generated much discussion and commentary in the last week, most of it focusing upon the appropriateness, tone, and argumentative validity of an email that he sent to students prior to their Spring semester exam.
Over at Killing the Buddha, William Dalrymple is excerpting his new book, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India.
Bloggingheads.tv has recently put up two “diavlogs” on issues related to religion and sexuality.
Marquette University, a Catholic university run by Jesuits, has come under fire after rescinding its offer to Seattle University sociologist Jodi O’Brien to serve as Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. In a statement to The New York Times, Marquette’s president, Rev. Robert A. Wild, denies that the decision was based on O’Brien’s sexual orientation, instead claiming that concerns arose after the administration “found some strongly negative statements about marriage and family.” At Sexuality & Society, Shari Dworkin and Kari Lerum (who acknowledge that they are long term colleagues of Dr. O’Brien) discuss the backlash that is emerging in response to Marquette’s decision.
At the Reuters FaithWorld blog, Tom Heneghan has a useful post about the controversy sparked by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s remarks on the connection between priestly sex abuse and celibacy.
In the New York Times, Nicolas Kristoff suggests that if secular liberals and religious actors who are working to help those in need could bridge their differences on issues of sexual morality, the world would be much better off.
Ever since revelations of his tryst with a male prostitute became public in 2006, Ted Haggard has been a visible focal point for the evangelical community’s encounter with homosexuality. In an interview with Kathryn Joyce at Religion Dispatches, Haggard’s wife Gayle describes how the incident and its fallout has affected her thinking about sexual identity and, as she repeatedly puts it, the spiritual “journey.”
At the OUPblog, Martha Nussbaum suggests a Constitutional parallel between religion and sexual orientation.
At New America Media, Edwin Okong’o suggests that the U.S. Christian Right has been successful in influencing the Ugandan anti-gay agenda because Africans “staunchly believe in the supremacy of the white man. Ill-informed Christians […] place the white man immediately below the Holy Trinity, a belief with its roots in the colonial era.”
At Progressive Revival, and in honor of World AIDS Day, Diana Butler Bass bears witness to the compassion of her friend and “evangelical hero” Jeffrey Michael.
On June 1st, President Barack Obama proclaimed June 2009 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month and called “upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.” If President Obama expected to be showered in lavender love in return for this proclamation, he was sorely disappointed. During June, grumbling about the Obama administration’s public stance on such issues as gays in the military, same-sex marriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) reached a crescendo. Candidate Obama had expressed his determination to overturn the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy and DOMA; now-President Obama is taking a decidedly more muted tack—in the name of pragmatism. At a White House reception for invited gay and lesbian leaders on June 30th, with wife Michelle prominently at his side, the President implicitly acknowledged the slow pace of change (critics might say the no-pace of change) and counseled patience: “I know that many in this room don’t believe progress has come fast enough, and I understand that. It’s not for me to tell you to be patient any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half-century ago. We’ve been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration.”
Discussions of the secular can often be peculiarly remote. Whenever secularism is imagined as unbelief, or political neutrality, or an empty social space to be filled up with religious pluralism, it can be difficult to remember how it can also serve as a framework of corporeal experience and struggle. We are used to associating corporeal discipline and affect with religion, but not with the secular. So it might be excusable to begin with some personal reflection, not for the sake of autobiography but in order to tether analysis in some awareness of how the problem comes to have stakes. […]
The current campaign within the Archdiocese of New York to canonize the radical activist Dorothy Day (1897-1980) offers a good example of what Elizabeth Povinelli, writing here on December 13 (“Can Sex be a Minor Form of Spitting?”), calls the “mutual conditions and secret agreements” that tie the sexual revolution and Catholic teaching together behind the scenes—and of the “transformation in the field of sin” sealed in their alliance. It isn’t simply that the candor with which Cardinal O’Connor and now Cardinal Egan have described Day’s sexual agency, single motherhood, and presumed abortion signals the Church’s accommodation to new, post-1960s norms of frankness.
Why is it that sex is such a central part of American political life anyway? Why, when The New York Times reported on the influence of “values” voters on the 2004 Presidential election, did the Times name only two “values,” both of them reflecting a conservative sexual ethic: opposition to abortion and opposition to “recognition of lesbian and gay couples”?
Despite the putative separation of church and state, one of the major places in the U.S. where religion and the state remained entwined is around sexuality, specifically at the point of marriage, where religious officials are actually empowered to act on behalf of the state. And whenever politicians talk about marriage laws, they nearly always do so with reference to religious commitments—and the political affiliation or philosophy of the policymaker doesn’t much matter in terms of this outcome.
I want to raise some questions about Taylor’s account of “our moral landscape” after the mainstreaming of the sexual revolution in the 1960s. Our moral landscape has indeed changed—that is undeniable—and yet, in Taylor’s hands, the cartography of that moral landscape appears all too familiar, and this is so because he does not take—indeed historically has not taken—the challenge of post-Nietzscheanism seriously.
So what’s the problem? What’s the ethical crisis? For Taylor it is this: sexuality cannot carry the burden of the enormous demands placed on it by those who would see its flourishing or repression as the foundation of all ethical, social, spiritual, and subjective goods.