People Who Don’t Listen to Women

People Who Don’t Listen To Women have been in the news quite a bit recently.

We had John Piper, with his silliness about a “masculine” God and wanting the church to have more of a “masculine feel.” And then we had the weeklong trainwreck of Pink Ribbons Inc.’s partisan attack on a vital, irreplaceable institution for women. And finally we have the U.S. Catholic bishops declaring that the core of their religion is opposition to gynecology in all its forms.

This is the sort of foolishness that comes from not listening to women. More than that, it’s the sort of foolishness that comes from entrenching oneself for years in a pattern of not listening to women, so that one comes to forget that they’re even there and thus to think that dismissing and discounting them won’t have any repercussions.

But one big problem with not listening to women is that there are several billion of them not to listen to. If you choose to ignore them, they may return the favor, but only for so long as you’re not actively harming them. One your ignorance leads to harm, they’re likely to remind you, forcefully, that they do in fact exist and that they don’t in fact have to take your abuse.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure was emphatically reminded of that last week. They seemed surprised to be reminded of it. That surprise is the hallmark of people who have stopped listening.

Piper, a big fish in the smallish pond of Neo-Reformed American evangelicalism, is probably better insulated against the unpleasant surprise that fatally wounded Komen’s brand. He’s ensconced in a patriarchal church subculture within which he will only be congratulated for defending its patriarchy. He can thus get away with not listening to women because his life is arranged so as not to include many women he might have to listen to. Those women he does talk to either know him well enough to know that trying to disabuse him of his notions would be futile, or else they’re in a context in which saying anything would have repercussions, so they keep silent to preserve their livelihood or their membership in that community.

So the only consequence for Piper in saying such foolish things is that he becomes the sort of person who says such foolish things. By creating a context in which he is not exposed to any women who trust him enough to tell him the truth he has also created a context in which he will be a man who cannot hear that truth and who does not know that truth. He becomes the enforcer of his own ignorance.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have made their ignorance a very public matter, so they will be much more exposed to its repercussions. They are more likely to experience the kind of harsh surprise that Komen encountered.

Ta-Nehisi Coates observes that Komen seemed ignorant of what he calls “Planned Parenthood’s Deep Bench“:

I don’t think that [ousted Komen VP Karen] Handel, or her allies, quite understood the nature of their adversaries. … It’s interesting to look at how Plannned Parenthood has weathered under targeting from the Right, as compared with other groups. This is not like ACORN. Whatever their significant work in poor communities and black and Latino communities, Planned Parenthood has touched women across race and across class, and thus indirectly, touched men across race and class too. …

The thing about Planned Parenthood is when you run against them you aren’t just fighting welfare, or chastising lazy food stamp addicts. And you aren’t simply bashing East Coast elites. You are making war against a free-floating nation with vassals, of all color and stripe, at the ready.

That last sentence sums up just what the bishops have done in staking their identity on opposition to health care coverage for women.

And let’s stop dressing this up as anything other than that. They’re opposing health care coverage for women. Cloaking this opposition in religious frippery by despicably dishonest appeals to “freedom of conscience” doesn’t change the bedrock fact here: Catholic bishops want to deny health care coverage for lady parts. Period. Full stop.

This is what the bishops have rallied behind as the core of their faith. Not the cross. Not the sacraments. But the insistence that they must never, ever be indirectly complicit in the provision of health care coverage for women’s reproductive organs. This is much ado about “nothing” in the original, raunchiest Shakespearean sense.

No matter how much the bishops and their evangelical “co-belligerents”* gussy it up with talk of conscience and liberty, the bottom line here is that they have staked their morality to something perverse and immoral. Liberty won’t serve as a mask for discrimination and oppression.

Yes, oppression. Those who pretend otherwise aren’t fooling anyone. If you provide preventive health care, but only for men, forcing all of your female employees to pay for their preventive health care out-of-pocket, then you are creating real and tangible and undeniable financial hardship for those female employees. That hardship will cause some of them to forgo this preventive health care, and for some that will lead to real, tangible, undeniable physical pain and suffering.

That is what the bishops are sowing. That is what they are promoting, advocating, defending and trumpeting in their cruel crusade against the newly invented cardinal sin of gynecology. That’s wrong. It’s frocked-up. It’s immoral, it’s cruel, it hurts people.

This is the sort of thing that men do when no women trust them enough to speak to them honestly. This is the sort of thing that men do when they have made themselves incapable of listening to women.

And, as the insulated and isolated execs at Komen discovered, this is the sort of thing that’s likely to spur women to compel them to start listening.

It may be too late for that, though. A long history of not listening won’t be easy to overcome. And much of what the bishops are about to hear will be silence. The silence of empty pews. The silence of the empty spaces left behind by the women who used to belong to their churches.

Those women will leave because they’ve been told one too many times that they’re not wanted there. They’re listening, and they hear exactly what the bishops are telling them.

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* See, for example, at Sojourners (!), Alec Hill staking InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s reputation on support for second-class health care for women. Thanks, Alec! I’m sure young women at colleges across the country will be lining up to join a group that wants to make sure they pay more than men for health care!

  • P J Evans

     I think I’d have killed the doctor somewhere in there. Or at least filed complaints with every possible agency. Because that’s a severe case of not listening to women.

  • P J Evans

     Well, it might help if you stopped assuming that the Catholic Church is always right, even when it’s clearly wrong.
    Also, LEARN TO READ.

  • Akachei

    What if I believed that schizophrenia and epilepsy gave people visions
    from God, and that it was a requirement of my religion that everyone
    should desire said visions, and so medication that decreases the
    symptoms of those visions is wrong and evil? Could I refuse to offer
    health insurance to my employees that covered those medications?

    First – a side question.  If you were running a church that believed such things, would you expect to be able to offer such a policy to employees such as the janitor for the church building?  The minister?  The leader of the church choir?

    Second – If the organization was being run for religious purposes (as can be argued for Church hospitals), a tentative yes given certain practical considerations.
    Consideration 1: There is some kind of compromise that allows the employees to acquire the medication necessary without trouble;
    Consideration 2: There is not an extremely large number of these exceptions that would make Consideration 1 impractical.

    The fundamental problem with the situation is I agree with both the sentiment

    The medication and treatment a person gets is between that person and
    their doctor, based on what they need to function and survive. My pastor
    might have input on the medication and treatment I’m getting–if I ask
    for that input–but my employer certainly doesn’t, even if they share my
    religion.

    and the sentiment that organizations should not be legally forced to pay directly for things against their conscience.

    Given the current situation I think this can be practically balanced to satisfy both as much as possible, without causing huge side issues.

    Given a theoretical situation of countless exceptions this would not be tenable (as Kevin Drum has noted).  My position would not hold in such a case; but that’s not the case we have.  If we’re going to posit such theoretical situations, my larger answer is we need to scrap the entire idea your healthcare should be tied to your employer (for innumerable reasons, not just this); replacing it with single player, an intelligent voucher system, or something else.

    [Incidentally, under current law you could just not offer any healthcare.]

  • Dan Audy

     

    and the sentiment that organizations should not be legally forced to pay directly for things against their conscience.

    I just don’t understand what makes you and other people think that employers get a say in what their employees do with their compensation.  My former boss was a Jain but his religious beliefs that it was immoral to cause harm to any living being no matter how small didn’t mean he could dictate that I was unable to buy meat or grain with my paycheck or even bring it to work for my lunch (though out of personal respect and friendship I tried to ensure meat products I brought in were at least subtle).  In the US, healthcare is simply another part of compensation and just like my employer was obliged to follow the law so to is the Catholic Church and the law says that health insurance must meet certain standards (including coverage of birthcontrol).

    The church has two simple choices if they feel following the law to be to onerous for their conscience to cope with.  First, they can, as you pointed out, stop providing any healthcare for their employees at which point they will rapidly discover that they don’t have any employees any longer.  Or two, they can close shop and go back to their church and focus on teaching about Jesus and leave hospitals and adoption agencies and whatnot to organisations that follow the law.

  • MaryKaye

    I think what my Catholic kin would say is:  there are two things that could be called the Catholic Church.  There is an old, corrupt, political, fallible organization which has done awful things and needs to be disciplined and reformed.  There is the supernatural, eternal Body of Christ united in the sacraments.  The wickedness of human beings does not affect the latter, and that is what they feel connected to.  And for the former, they choose to try to make it better from the inside rather than the outside.  My mother said, “The Church is like family.  You don’t necessarily like or respect all of your family, but it’s hard to deny that you’re connected.”

    This does not work for me.  My relatives don’t hold that against me, and I don’t hold their faith against them.

    My Catholic stepfather, incidentally, had a vasectomy when it became clear that having another child would endanger my mother’s life.  I don’t personally have any truck with a morality that would say this loving act was wrong.  I don’t think he does either.  I have not asked, but I doubt VERY much that he considers it a sin of any kind–like almost all of his faith community except for some of the top leaders.

  • Madhabmatics

    If you were living under an Amish pope and decided to drive a car for fun, I would hope that you wore a seatbelt for safety

  • Tonio

     To expand on Dan’s point, one doesn’t have the “moral right” to disapprove of private behavior that doesn’t harm others, and this includes contraception use. “Moral right” is my clumsy way of articulating the principle of personal boundaries. The standard for deeming behavior to be immoral is any consequence the behavior has for others. If person refuses to use contraception, that belief should stop with that person, and the person should be neutral on contraception use by others. The same principle should apply to homosexuality, since there’s nothing objectively immoral about that, either.

  • Tonio

     To expand on my point, one can object to another’s self-harm out of concern for the person, but that’s not the same as moral indignation. The moral aspect of self-destructive behavior comes through its impact on others. The difference between getting drunk one time at home alone and driving while drunk.

  • Tricksterson

    IIRC Thursdays used to be the traditional day for Flame Wars, don’t know if it still is.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, one of the reasons a priest can *refuse* to perform a marriage is ifthe intended bride is pregnant by the intended husband. … They don’t like out-of-wedlock pregnancies, but they also don’t like the possibility that one party or the other could come back later and claim they were pressured into it (As that might be grounds for an annulment)

    Wow. Given the cultural stigma in conservative circles against out-of-wedlock pregnancies, that’s a bit … weird.

    When was that policy implemented, anyway? Historically, pregnancy has often been seen as a good way to guarantee a marriage. (Not so much in the US: starting in the 1820s, men were able to travel west, so pre-marital pregnancy became a much riskier strategy.)

  • Tricksterson

    Ah yes, the “Let us do what we want or we’ll abandon our parishoners” extortion racket, a fave of the Church.  And when parishoners make it clear that they’re more than happy to spend the money and effort to keep the churches open the heirarchy says no.  Because of course the Church is there for the benefit of the priests and bishops and if layfolk maintain the churches hey might actually…Gasp!… want a say in how it’s run.  No you just pray, pay and obey like good little sheep.

    Okay ex-Catholic done ranting.

  • MaryKaye

    Tonio writes: 

    To expand on Dan’s point, one doesn’t have the “moral right” to
    disapprove of private behavior that doesn’t harm others, and this
    includes contraception use. “Moral right” is my clumsy way of
    articulating the principle of personal boundaries. The standard for
    deeming behavior to be immoral is any consequence the behavior has for
    others.

    The problem is that, like all  fundamental moral principles, this is an axiom.  It can’t be generated by logic; it has to be accepted or not.  Not all people accept it.  It doesn’t have any special claim to rationality over competing principles.

    I don’t think I accept it, for one.  I think that a man marooned on a desolate island is still a moral being able to make meaningful choices., even though they are between him, his natural environment, and his god(s) if any.

    I also think that, as formulated, this is a bit internally contradictory.  If I disapprove of your behavior, in private, by what you say here that would be morally wrong: but isn’t such disapproval in itself a private matter, and thus should be exempt?

    The fact is, people are strongly drawn to judge each others’ behavior.  We are social animals and wired to do this.  It’s a survival necessity for social animals, and the desolate island scenario is just not what we evolved for.  Trying to get people to stop doing this is, in my view, futile.  Better to put boundaries on what people *do* to each other, and not attempt to control their judgements or feelings.

  • Tonio

     The moral principle I’m articulating can indeed rest on logic and rationality. Why is it wrong to harm others and right to help others? Because put into practice, this benefits both individuals and society. I suppose that the idea that benefit itself is good could be an axiom. But at the least, anyone asserting a claim that a specific action is right or wrong should be prepared to defend the claim according to principles and logic, instead of resorting to some version of “Just because” or “My religion’s god says so.”

    Using your desolate island analogy, what standard would you use for “meaningful” choices? That wouldn’t be the same as morality, since right and wrong are by definition about how one treats others. Assuming the man is stuck there for the rest of his life and has no relatives, the chances of his actions affecting others are remote at best. (Imagine if he had the means to build a massive factory that dumped tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.)

    By disapproval, I mean the declaration “This action is wrong/immoral.” Implicit in the declaration is the claim that the person committing the action has no moral right to do so, and should be stopped from committing it. If the action isn’t harming others, then I see no reason to deem it wrong/immoral in the first place. The declaration itself could hypothetically cause harm if used to justify stopping the person from committing the action.

    Because we’re social animals, it’s important that each of us has some level of security in our personal boundaries. This means that our accountability to others covers only how our actions affect others, and that preserving one’s boundaries is essential to preserving one’s identity and self-determination. This means that personal choices like marriage partner and religious affiliation should be off the table for strangers. (A different standard would apply for relatives and friends, but this would involve interest in the person’s well-being instead of simple moral indignation, and even then it’s ultimately the individual’s decision.) The principle of personal boundaries is simply another version of protecting the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

  • Anonymous

    First – a side question.  If you were running a church that believed such things, would you expect to be able to offer such a policy to employees such as the janitor for the church building?  The minister?  The leader of the church choir?

    Yes, if I was running a church, the law is clear on my right to limit not just basic insurance plans, but all sorts of employment laws and regulations. Churches are run for religious purposes.

    If the organization was being run for religious purposes (as can be argued for Church hospitals), a tentative yes given certain practical considerations.

    Here’s where I disagree, and you may chalk this up to semantics but I think it is an important distinction. A hospital may be run for religious reasons, but it is not run for religious purposes.

    [O]rganizations should not be legally forced to pay directly for things against their conscience.

    But this isn’t really how insurance works (and everyone correct me if I’m wrong about this). The “organization” is nothing more than all the individuals whose resources are pooled to buy a plan. How much of each employee’s portion of that plan is “paid for” by the company and how much is paid for by each individual varies between organizations. The more that the company “pays for”- the less that is taken out of employees’ paychecks for the insurance coverage- the less employees get in take home pay, because those costs are factored into the overall costs of employment. So it isn’t the company “paying directly for things against their conscience.” It is each individual paying for a piece of a plan which includes something that is against the consciences of some of those in the pool and which they therefore are in no way obligated to use.

    Here’s where Fred’s point comes in. As he put it:

    If you provide preventive health care, but only for men, forcing all of your female employees to pay for their preventive health care out-of-pocket, then you are creating real and tangible and undeniable financial hardship for those female employees.

    Under a policy where employers can refuse to cover contraception, women are paying the same insurance premiums as their male coworkers without getting the same benefits. This is systematic discrimination, and while allowed for organizations with religious purposes, it doesn’t fly for organizations providing general services for religious reasons.

  • Lunch Meat

    Caring for the sick is not a religious purpose. It may be something that people do for religious reasons, but it’s not a religious act. So the idea that a Catholic hospital could deny some forms of health care to its employees is just as wrong to me as the idea that a Catholic CEO of a secular corporation could deny some forms of health care because the leadership thinks it’s wrong. Again: it’s between me and my doctor, not between me and my employer.

    I understand the argument that employers should not have to pay for things that violate their consciences, but here’s the thing: my employer shouldn’t know what kind of health care I’m getting. Supposing my employer didn’t believe that you should treat mental illnesses–if, say, zie believed you should get an exorcism instead (which is a belief that real people have)–there’s no way for him to know whether or not I’m getting treatment for mental conditions. It’s a violation of privacy. So even if I was and zie was “paying” for it, it wouldn’t violate zir conscience. The only reason this is an issue is because we’ve stigmatized women’s reproductive and gynecological health care so that it can be separated from everything else, and then reduced it to contraception so we can ignore the rest of it. My employer shouldn’t know (and thus, not be bothered) by whether I’m using birth control, just like he shouldn’t know if I’m getting counseling for domestic violence.

  • Anonymous

    I disagree, particularly given that using it that way would make no sense given with Fred’s topic.

    Probably not. But it would make perfect sense with Haber’s other statements, as incoherent as they are. If Haber meant it any other way, he would have phrased it another way. We can only assume that he said what he meant and he meant what he said.

    Does not mean he is talking about only laws regarding social service agencies.

    Then why is he only talking about social service agencies? And claiming “institutions” as arms of the state is nonsensical when placed in that context.

    He is talking about government impositions on how religious organizations conduct themselves, particularly given the “arms of the state” part.

    Yes. Social service organizations. Exactly like he said.

    The second comment isn’t switching from “social services” to “employment laws”, it’s dispatching a justification for said government imposition, by pointing out it is not done by government grants.

    Then he would not have brought up social service agencies functioning as arms of the government in the first place.

    You clearly disagree with me on this, so discussing this any further is going to go nowhere.  If you wish to consider me illiterate as a result, so be it.

    If you actually thought “discussing this any further” was going to go nowhere, you would not have made this post in the first place. This is just cheap theatrics to attempt to get the last word in.

  • http://lost-erizo.livejournal.com/ LE

    Sorry, I’m late to the game and haven’t gotten through all the comments yet, so maybe someone has already addressed this but…

    You’re right, Catholic institutions are being required to do this because they have employees and those employees have rights.  However the point that is being missed in a lot of this is that Catholic institutions in the US (the whole country, not just the 28 states with their own rules to this effect) who offer health insurance as part of their compensation to employees have been required to offer birth control since 2000 under EEO rules.  And lots of Catholic universities and hospitals did just that, quietly and without making a national issue about it –  apparently it took them 12 years to work up to the current hissy fit.

    They can offer a full health care benefit package.  Or they can pay the monetary penalties involved in offering either no health insurance or one that doesn’t meet the requirements, which should assuage their conscience.  What they can’t do is demand to pay no penalty at all while they blatantly discriminate against their female employees.

  • http://lost-erizo.livejournal.com/ LE

    Um, as far as I know, Quakers and Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t exempt from Selective Service.  Pacifists can qualify for alternative service.  If they don’t want to do either, they can (and have in the past) go to jail.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    Caring for the sick is not a religious purpose. It may be something that
    people do for religious reasons, but it’s not a religious act.

    I think that it can be, and often is, a religious act, but it is never a solely religious act. Which is why I agree that claiming a religious reason for refusing to provide certain care, or to provide any care under certain circumstances or to certain people, does not fall under the free practice of religion as protected by the First Amendment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    I always find the “opposition between/reconciling feminism and Christianity” thing confusing, because for me feminism is inextricably bundled up with my beliefs. Just like support for marriage equality and opposition to slavery.

  • Anonymous

    LADYPARTS AND THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO THEM

    Go on…

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     

    The alternative would mean that organizations created by Jehovah’s
    Witnesses could require the creation of new health care plans that don’t
    pay for blood transfusions, and therein lies madness.

    Would a Christian Scientist employer be able to get out of providing ANY medical care?

  • Tricksterson

    Following Ryan Haber’s logic yes.  On the other hand Ryan why don’t you be honest and admit that what you really have in mind is http://thedevilspanties.com/archives/6335 this

  • Rikalous

     

    I always find the “opposition between/reconciling feminism and
    Christianity” thing confusing, because for me feminism is inextricably
    bundled up with my beliefs. Just like support for marriage equality and
    opposition to slavery.

    And having read that essay Haber’s blog links to, I’m not sure where he got the idea that the author converted from feminism.

  • Anonymous

    ross douthat’s new nickname is Rubbers

  • Woman voter and Christian

    What about all the other other organizations SGK supports who are also under investigation? There are many. The early rationales of SGK have been shown to be completely inconsistent. 

  • Woman voter and Christian

    What about all the other other organizations SGK supports who are also under investigation? There are many. The early rationales of SGK have been shown to be completely inconsistent. 

  • Woman voter and Christian

    So what does that have to do with breast cancer??

  • pgbach

    Ryan, you are lost in never-never-land… do yourself a favor & keep your mouth shut… when you open you mouth, you betray your ignorance… better you continue communing with your pedophile bishops…

  • pgbach

    Ryan, “the Church” does not have a conscience… btw, the bishops are not the church, never were, never will be…. they are pedophiles…


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