Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A History of Contention:Analyzing Parallels in the Rhetoric of the Religious Right :: Essays Papers

A History of Contention:Analyzing Parallels in the Rhetoric of the Religious Right One hundred and fifty-six years ago, in 1848, when the first Women’s Rights Convention was held in the quiet town of Seneca Falls, New York, the concept that women were entitled to fully enfranchised citizenship was a completely foreign concept. Ideas expressed and rights demanded at that convention, and at early feminist conventions organized throughout the next seventy years, were considered ridiculous. Suffrage rights, divorce rights, women’s property rights, and married women’s right to sign legal contracts, control income, or have legal guardianship of their children—or themselves, for that matter—were reacted to with indifference at best. Surprisingly, one of the most vocal opponents of women’s rights was the conservative Church, who argued that women’s place, according to Scripture, was in the domestic sphere; to intrude into the public sphere was to violate her natural role and endanger her mortal soul. However, religious conse rvatives’ defense of Biblical traditions did not end with women’s rights: if we look at the some of the most contentious social issues of the past and present, some interesting parallels exist between the terms used by fundamentalist Christians to resist women’s rights, abolition, abortion rights, and gay marriage. In each of these debates, the religious conservatives used Scriptural notions of what is â€Å"natural† to resist liberal social reform. The Religious Right and its devotees had been the primary protesters of women’s suffrage since the conception of the movement. Biblically, they argued, women’s roles have been established as subservient to man, second-class; their God-given role is to be dependent, weak, diminutive, and obedient. The Reverend J. G. Holland asserted that woman â€Å"was called into being for man's happiness and interest — his helpmeet — to wait and watch his movements, to second his endeavors, to fight the hard battle of life behind him.† Women were not to be trusted with important moral duties, due to the weakness inherent in their sex. For instance, through the story of Eve’s fall, Christianity has been founded on the doctrine that woman is weak and the source of human evil. According to the Church women were neither supposed to take such an active civil role as suffrage would promote, nor were they capable enough to partake in such a privileged and essentia l civic duty: what did—indeed what should—God-abiding women know about politics? It was on this religious basis that many women were actually opposed to women’s rights.

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