RastaWomen:Subordination inthe Midst of Liberation
Posted By: Ras Tyehimba
Date: Thursday, 6 January 2011, at 9:33 a.m.
I am reading this book : Rastafari Women: Subordination in the Midst of Liberation Theology by Obiagele Lake and i thought i would share some interesting excerpts and points. There are things in the book that i disagree with, but many things that are on point especially her take on the negative effects of religious ideologies.
"In most societies, religious ideology is created and promulgated by men and characterizes women as close to sin and men as close to God. while most people consider religious texts to be sacred, in actuality, they are only sacred because human culture has made them so. Religious texts are no more than a set of rules laid down by men which relfect aor support the existing moral order. In Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other religions, women are deemed polluted or sinful because they are women....Nevertheless, religions is rarely criticized for its derogation of women since most people perceive religious writing as sacred and, therefore above scrutiny."
She goes on to deal with instances of male domination in Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism.
"Christianity is one of the primary sources that edifies the cultural ethos of violence and abuse that dehumanizes women. In the Christian Bible, as in other religious texts, women are idolized and at the same time represented as the embodiment of sin..... Slave women, concubines, virgins and daughters - all manner of females are given to men to do as they wil. Levite's concubine is gang raped by a mob of men (Judges !); women are taken as prisoners of war (Genesis 34:29); and men who sexually violate women are not condemned. Instead, they are required to pay restitution (bride price) to her father (Genesis 22:16).
Although many students of the Bible are quick to point out that there are Biblical passages that honor women's capabilities, in a fundamental sense, women are depicted as naturally subordinate to men."
She gives this example:
Genesis 3:16 :
To the woman God said:
"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you."
She goes on to say that "These messages.... combined with derogatory stereotypes and characterizations on television, movies and secular texts become normalized and internalized as natural codes of behavior."
The description of the Rasta movement as revolutionary or a movement of resistance has been challenged by Lake (1998). Writing from a feminist/Diasporic African perspective she points out that sexism and general patriarchal aspects of the Rasta movement in Jamaica seriously undermines its liberation focus. She traces this patriarchal tendency to adherence to Christian beliefs as well as pre-colonial African traditions. Patriarchal Rasta language, referring to women as daughters, notions of women as inferior/polluted, bible-inspired dress codes are part of what she identifies as the patriarchal construction of the Rasta movement. Lake acknowledges the influence of the Rastafarian African consciousness in the 1960s, but argues that it has atrophied away into a 'peace and love' movement musical rhythms and the consumption of ganja. Lake's work is somewhat unbalanced in her attempts to take researchers to task in constructing the Rasta movement as a revolutionary African consciousness movement. From her polemic look at the Rasta movement it is easy to leave with the view that the Rasta movement is merely a once-influential movement that has been reduced to a reggae listening, ganja smoking, misguided group of dominating males. However, there is much in her analysis of Rastafari and Patriarchy that is on point and accords with some of the other literature that looks are these aspects of the Rasta movement.
While Lake (1998) offers a polemic look at the patriarchal nature of the Rasta movement, the perspectives of Tafari- Ama (1998) and Rowe (1998) offer a more balanced insight into the movement as they do not simply describe the movement as male dominated but explore the ways in which women have responded and highlighted the challenges in women that women face in asserting themselves within the realms of Rastafari. This insider approach allows a more specific and contextualized understanding of the loosely defined informal norms and structures within the movement. Moreover, Tafari Ama finds that “all the contradictions of race, class and gender distinctions operate as beguilingly in Rastafari as they do in the wider society.”
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