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What’s a girl or woman worth? Not much, even in these “enlightened” times. In Pakistan, a 16-year-old girl was burned alive for the crime of choosing her own husband, the third “honor killing” of this sort in the past few months. And here in these United States, a white, privileged rapist was handed a three-month sentence for destroying a woman’s life, and there are folks (including his parents) who think that’s too great a punishment. Reading what the survivor of this attack had to go through to effect this small punishment is like reading something out of Kafka. The presumption of innocence is a wonderful thing, but in what other crime is it the defense’s entire strategy to imply that the victim wanted the crime to happen? Imagine, if you will:

Defense attorney: So you claim you were mugged.

Victim: Yes. He took my wallet at gunpoint.

Defense: Yet not three minutes earlier, you were seen removing your wallet from your pocket.

Victim: Yes, I was paying for a purchase. I bought dog food.

Defense: So you took out your nice, fat wallet and just waved it around?

Victim: I took it out of my pocket so I could pay for the dog food.

Defense: You showed your wallet, knowing that any normal, red-blooded man would see it and want your money, isn’t that right?

Victim: No, I —

Defense: You indicated loud and clear that you wanted someone to take your wallet. You were wearing an expensive suit! You wanted someone to mug you. You enjoyed it! You smiled when my client asked politely for your money.

Victim: I didn’t want him to kill me! I was placating him!

Defense: You smiled. You gave him the wallet. And you cried “mug” once before, in 2006 —

Victim: Because I was mugged!

Defense: Yet your so-called attacker was never found. You have a history of wantonly waving your wallet around, so what did you expect? Especially since you knew my client was high at the time. Your honor, I move that we drop all charges. This scumbag clearly asked for it.

Judge: I agree.

Am I alone in seeing the absurdity of this? In what world is this okay?

I’m sure some of you are wondering what this rant is doing on a blog devoted to God and spirituality. If how you treat other people isn’t a key component — possibly the key component — of your spiritual life, then I am unsure how to apprehend your vision of God. Jesus clearly tells us that “love your neighbor as yourself” is not enough: We must love our neighbor as God loves him. Or her. We have to do better than mere human love. We are called to higher things than that.

If your faith or conscience or morality tells you that women are somehow less than men, that they are not made “in the image and likeness of God” because God is clearly a dude, it is up to you to challenge this. “Male and female, God made them.” Until all people under God’s blue sky are treated as equals, we are standing in defiance of our maker. God help us.

 

 

 

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It reads like something out Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: Women being imprisoned because they suffered a miscarriage. But in cases that are stranger than fiction, this is actually happening. Right now. In 2015. Since the year 2000, at least 129 women in El Salvador have been put in prison for aggravated homicide due to miscarriage or stillbirth. In El Salvador, this is tantamount to abortion, which is against the law. Not only have these women had to suffer the loss of a child (at grave peril to their own health, in many cases) but separation from their families and other children, all in the name of something completely unlike justice in any guise. Of course, whether or not they even wanted to have a child is a luxury so beyond their choosing as to be ludicrous.

Fortunately, these women have allies. My hat goes off to The Citizen’s Group and Amnesty International (among others), who are working to correct these injustices. They are my new heroes.

But for every new hero, it seems an old one develops feet of clay. Take the case of musician Chrissie Hynde, a woman I used to think of as nothing short of fierce; a strong woman who stood for strong women. Her new autobiography describes how she was assaulted in the 1970s by a biker gang, a trauma that she blames entirely on herself. She is, of course, allowed to feel any way she wants about her own rape, but to then go on to victim-blame (as she does in no uncertain terms) goes against everything I ever thought she was.

It’s been said and said and said: Until there is social justice for all women, everywhere, there is no justice at all. Fortunately, God blesses us with true heroes. And if we cannot find one, we can be one. I have no problem sticking an “F” on my chest (for “feminist”) and striking a championing pose. But what will prove my mettle is how I treat women — and men — on a daily basis. When the going gets tough, may I be made of the sternest stuff on God’s green earth.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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