Sweeping historical changes in Eastern Europe find most women still sweeping the kitchen floor. News reports from Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and recently, Rumania, leave Western feminists heartened by people-propelled change yet scratching our heads at the many public reminders that it is still a man’s world after all.
What is wrong with these pictures, we ask, hours into the news reports about men’s revolutions? A pronounced absence of women is evident in the rolling seas of male faces: young male demonstrators scaling the Berlin Wall, boy soldiers fighting, the newly elected man and his recently deposed counterpart. One dictator’s wife went with him to the grave, equal only in death, puppet number two in life. They never showed her body, only his, to assure the country that they were gone.
Part of the explanation (read: blame) rests with the androcentric religions, especially Christianity, that ground these cultures. Such religions reinforce the notion that women’s place is in the bread line, not at the bargaining table; that women belong sweeping up the rubble, not brainstorming in the strategy session; that women should be on the home front, not in the cabinet. God wants it that way, and if history is your god, then history has always had it that way. Amen. Equality is not a revolutionary priority; equality does not come with democracy. Such are the lessons of the late 1980’s.
And what of the Carmelite Catholic convent erected at Auschwitz? What do the nuns think? Funny, we never hear a peep from the nuns. Were the nuns sent to Auschwitz to stir up sentiments they don’t share? Do the nuns think their convent site is appropriate? No number of nuns will ever make up a Vatican football team — since they must all sit on the bench….
Catholic women are used to such blatant disregard.
Feminist theologian Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., is co-director of WATER, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual in Silver Spring, Maryland.