“Why didn’t she report it 30 years ago?” someone was heard to say when commenting on the accusation made by Dr Christine Basey Ford of sexual assault by Judge Brett Kavanaugh. An answer to that question can be found in the excellent article written by Julie Szego in the 6-7 October edition of the Sydney Morning Herald (Generation of predators are now upstanding citizens).
Writing from her own memories of being a teenager in the 1980s, she points to the mindset – what was generally accepted and expected in behaviour - of teenagers. After outlining some of the influences and behaviour of the boys, she explains that, “Girls were obliged to find such drunken antics hilarious …’ and their preferences were of no value.
Working with young adults around 2009, my observation is that very little, if anything has changed. The ‘… transgressive fantasies of teenage boys …’ and women being ‘… duped, tricked, cajoled and coerced out of their dignity and humanity …’ continues. (Of course, there are always exceptions.) A power imbalance between male and female still exists and has existed since thousands of years ago.
One of the greatest champions of equality and respect for women was Jesus Christ. Jesus was a radical, and his criticisms of many of the cultural practices of his time contributed to opposition from the religious authorities, and his eventual arrest and execution on a false charge. But, we still have a record of his teachings in the Bible which reveal different occasions when he treated women, not as possessions in the patriarchal society, but as equal to men in God’s eyes.
For example, when asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ Jesus raised this question to a higher spiritual level of principle that today challenges us about whether we are living God’s way. And, against the customs and the idea of male dominance which ran through Hebrew thought and practice, Jesus gave to his listeners and to the world a new conception of women as persons equal with men in the sight of God. He introduced the concept of a man committing adultery against a woman, which was not a normal concept at that time and elevated the status of the wife to the same dignity as her husband.
We must acknowledge that the Christian Church that was charged with the custody of Jesus’ teachings has generally failed to live according to many of his teachings and has perpetuated many of the early patriarchal attitudes. (Of course, again, there are exceptions.) Not surprising really when you consider that it was led by men who were and continue to be products of their culture.
Whilst I can understand the distrust of religious institutions, I cannot understand why many younger women these days reject Jesus Christ as well. Possibly it comes from ignorance of what Jesus actually taught. If you read the gospels (the records of his teachings), you will discover someone who would agree and support many of the issues that are of concern to young people today: environmental concerns, misuse of power, inequality between the sexes, concern for poverty and people who are disadvantaged, oppressed and on the fringes of society, …
Rejection of Jesus and his teachings will only continue to support power imbalances between male and female, and the denial of equality, dignity and humanity of women.