Reclaiming Spirituality for Life and Gender Justice: A Book Review (Part 2)

(Note: This is the continuation to the previous blog posted on the same topic).

Domestic Violence

Another form of violence which women (and their children) are constantly exposed to is called domestic violence. It is what one theologian-writer who contributed a paper on this topic contained in the book “Women Resisting Violence, Spirituality for Life” called an all-pervasive form of violence inflicted to women “at the heart of patri-kyriarchal relations of oppression’ (Fiorenza, 39, in Mananzan, et.al. (eds),1996). The term “kyriarchy” was a neologism or a new word coined by Fiorenza which literally means “the rule of the lord or master” similar to the German word Herrschaft. Feminists or those who are familiar with the gender discourse or Women’s Studies are used to hearing the term Patriarchy to refer to the ideology or system of male domination.

Domestic violence comes in many forms. It can be through verbal abuse, physical harm, sexual violence, psychological violence, threats and intimidation, and even economic non-support. It  cuts across social differences or status – be it race, religion, income level, age, literacy level or professions. Data and statistics confirm the trend as alarming and seems to exist as a social problem  even in this day and age.

Fiorenza’s systemic analysis of violence against women in these spheres explored notions of “false consciousness” which she traces to so called “disciplining practices” that women and girls undergo similar to what sociology refers to as the “socialization process” of people. The negative aspect of such manners of socialization within culture and religion is developing “acquiescence” of the woman to the abuse and violence – losing her humanity as a result.  Faced with the dilemma of keeping one’s religious affiliation without disrupting cultural and political meanings – women of faith often face dis-empowering choices. The alternative which Fiorenza pointed out towards the end of her article spoke of “liberating” traditions within such faiths – which for instance in her Christian tradition talks about God’s identification with human suffering. And this is possible  through a counter-discourse and critique on the contradictions between “lived experiences” versus theological meanings that negates the victim’s agency to seek a life free from violence, ensures her dignity and well-being.

 

Other Forms of Violence

The third part of the book has been devoted to a series of essays and reflections on violence inflicted to women in the realm of the economy and in times of war and conflict. There is a particular reference to the plight of minorities ( in contemporary times, the issue of migrants), and the conflicts involving militarism. Such conflicts erupt whether due to political. economic-structural, ethnic, religious or ideological reasons are also  fueled by a confluence of factors, with internal and external actors drawn by their own interests to these conflicts. In all cases, women (and other vulnerable groups) are often among the collateral damage – subjected to the worst forms of dehumanization – rape, torture, slavery, genocide, and other forms of gender-specific violence. The writers have specifically mentioned the cases of Korean and Filipino women during WWII who had been subjected into a systematic form of sexual slavery, as “comfort women.” Post WWII conflicts also spoke of similar cases – told and untold. The war machine thrives on the global sale of arms crossing borders, that only resulted to untold damages to lives and communities. The roots of such conflicts remain unraveled, and in most cases, have resurfaced in today’s news.

 

Conclusion

The element of human agency in the narrative of the person’s oppression is essential to its end. This is the best aspect of the book, where each writer/scholar constructs the situation (in this case analyzing each form of violence women suffer from) that leads to further discussion on possible  solutions to these problems.  The writer-contributors’ conclusion being – “breaking the silence” that surrounds violence against women.

Another factor that makes reading this whole book a unique experience for those new to the discussion, or a recollection for those who had been into it sometime ago (like me for instance), is the varied experiences of different cultures and women’s voices from various faith traditions reverberating. Somehow, humanity have reached the so called cyber-age, where the world has become one global village, and the pains of one part of the globe affecting the rest, so it should go for the ancient malady that is women’s oppression. Justice and integrity of creation – these are the calls made by those leading women of faith in the 1990s, and  seem to resound in the present more loudly than ever.

 

(Reference: “Women Resisting Violence, Spirituality for Life.” Mananzan, Mary John, et al (editors). USA: Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY; 1996. )

 

 

 

 

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