Thursday, May 14, 2009

I would fight for women's freedom | Sue Blackmore

source: highlights comments

May 13, 2009 09:04:25 GMT

If it came to it, like the suffragettes before me, I would fight – even die – for my freedom

The question: Are there beliefs to die for?

I am so lucky! I am a woman and I have not suffered the oppression and unfair discrimination that most women have endured throughout history, and many still do today, because I was brought up in Britain in the 20th century. I was educated at least as well as my brother, I went to one of the best universities in the world, I married the man I loved and got divorced when he and I wanted to, I brought up my children without religious indoctrination. I have been able to go where I want, pay my own way, and walk freely in the streets wearing whatever I like. I've had financial independence and an exciting and worthwhile career.

I have had all these things because other women long ago fought and even died for women's rights. Most of the suffragettes did not die, although many were repeatedly injured. Most did not have to harm, let alone kill anyone, but they certainly needed courage and many suffered abuse, discrimination, ostracism and rejection from family and friends. And some did die.

Would I be prepared to do the same? When I ask myself whether there is anything I would die for I wonder about this.

In Britain today religious oppression of women is creeping back. Children, who have no choice, are sent to faith schools where they are taught to believe ridiculous untruths, convinced that they will be sent into eternal agony after death if they disobey certain rules, and those rules can include the oppression of women by men.

In a sharia court a wife may be beaten and abused by her husband but refused a divorce; she may have to be completely covered up when she goes out so no one can see her bruises, a mother may have her children taken away from her and everyone around her accepts it; school girls are coerced to wear the veil and can neither learn to swim, enjoy team sports nor act in school plays.

What should those of us women who are free of all this do - stand by and say it's nothing to do with us? We can sign up to the One Law For All Campaign, or the humanists' campaign against faith schools, we can go on marches against sharia law. We can stand up to the popular mentality that suggests we are being racist or culturally insensitive when we demand that all women – Muslims, Christians and atheists alike, should be free of religious oppression, veils, and other symbols of subjection.

And then what? How far would I go if, by some horrendous turn of fate, my country was swept by religious fundamentalism and women's freedoms taken away? Would I be prepared to be injured? Would I be prepared to fight? Would I be prepared to die?

I don't want to fight, I don't want to injure anyone else or be injured, and I don't want to die. Yet I hope that, if this awful prospect really came to pass, my answer would be yes.

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