Oh Yes, Women Are Human Too

Thank goodness for Samantha Bee and Susan Thistlethwaite.

I had the privilege of taking a class with Susan Thistlethwaite when I was a graduate student in Chicago and when she was a professor at the Chicago Theological Seminary.  At The Washington Post faith blog this week, she provides an important follow-up to my recent theological post on Being Human.  A point that apparently needs to be made in light of the 2012 Republican Party Platform, with which its nominee for president may or may not actually agree.

Women are human beings.

Are you having a “duh” moment on that one?

Well, not so fast.  I noted last week in my response to Akin-gate that he never mentioned women:

Note that he mentions “the rapist,” “the child,” and “the female body.”  Not “the woman” …  “the female body.”  That pesky thing that gets in the way of protecting zygotes.  It’s like objectification to an extreme.  It isn’t a woman.  It doesn’t even sound like a human being.  The zygote has been elevated to the status of “child” but a woman has been reduced to “the female body.”

Thistlethwaite looks at it theologically, beginning with a foundational biblical claim for many Christians about what it means to be human:

“God created human beings in God’s image…male and female God created them.” (Genesis: 1:27) According to the Bible, women are created fully equal in the divine image and thus fully, and equally, human.

You’d never know that from reading the Republican platform, especially in regard to the anti-abortion language that asserts the “sanctity and dignity of human life.” That section affirms that the “unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed” and calls for a “human life amendment to the Constitution.”

She asks the most important question here:

Aren’t women’s lives included in the category of “the sanctity and dignity of human life?”

If the answer is yes, the GOP platform does nothing to make that clear.  Thistlethwaite goes on to ask:

Why doesn’t the GOP consider women as equal, or even worth mentioning, when it comes to preserving their lives? Aren’t women’s lives “human lives”? The omission of women’s humanity and its protection from the GOP platform is a serious theological error.

Some in the party may indeed consider women human, but they are clearly not the people crafting policy.

Raising, of course, the important point about who the decision-makers are in the party, the Congress, the country.  She connects this back to the theological point of her article, calling the Christian-dominated party to task:

As human beings created in the image of God, women are ethical agents. Women can make informed choices about whether to carry a pregnancy to term or not. A good moral precedent for “Ethics and Experience: Moral Theory from Just War to Abortion.” Women should be considered “competent moral authorities” per the Just War paradigm and thus capable of making difficult ethical choices. Trust women to know what’s best for them and their families. That’s why it’s called “choice.”

Because choice advocates are focused on preserving the individual liberty to make that decision for oneself, protecting families from government interference. 

Samantha Bee’s piece from the Republican National Convention on The Daily Show highlights the hypocrisy and misogyny inherent in the GOP platform (do watch the whole piece here):

“The purpose of government is to protect your individual liberties,” one convention attendee proudly proclaims. 

Another says, “Everybody gets to choose the path that they choose, because it’s their choice.” 

“EXCEPT in the case of abortion,” Bee responds.  The convention-goer nods, uncomfortably, “Well, its, ummm….”

Bee says to another:  “So my right ends where my uterus begins.”

The delegate responds “I guess I’d have to agree with you on that.”

Seriously?  Seriously.

Thistlethwaite sums it up:

There really is a war on women, and the front lines are women’s bodies, minds and spirits. My right to use contraception is part of my religious freedom, and any attempt to restrict or eliminate my health care coverage for contraception, or that of other women, places an unwarranted limit on all women’s religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

Just ask any GOP convention-goer.  They’ll tell you.

 

Back to School With Purpose
Why We Need to Teach Interfaith Understanding
Why #BlackLivesMatter Has to Exist
4 Women & a Train Station: Reflection on an Interfaith Moment
About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


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