What’s All This About Women?
The Times They Are A-Changin’ Ever So Slowly

I have taught various liberal arts classes at the college level for a quarter-century. The common thread in all those different courses is that I want my classes to think, question, and ponder. Merely reading and repeating something in a textbook or on the Internet isn’t thinking. A student can ace a class by repeating something and fail at life due to not thinking. That tradeoff isn’t acceptable to me.

I’m teaching an online class about world religions this semester. Last week, the class addressed Jainism, which was a spinoff of Hinduism. The central tenet of Jainism is called ahimsa, which means do no harm.

Ahimsa doesn’t seem like a radical theological mindset. Live your life without hurting or harming anything. Jains are into that belief. Many Jains, especially the monks, wear masks to avoid having a gnat inhaled as they breathe. The mask protects them against killing a tiny insect.

“Let gnats live.”

So, if you were a student in my class, what would you learn about Jainism from this photo besides all the monks were wearing masks? Ponder that for a moment.

The class began several weeks ago, and some students are already questioning what they read…like do no harm. They see the contradiction of not harming an insect and mistreating women. Women aren’t seen as equals to men within Jainism. Some Jains believe that only men can reach Nirvana. That means that females must be reincarnated into males before they could ever obtain spiritual bliss. Nevertheless, monks are to avoid any attachment to women.

Last week, I mentioned sexism and the disconnect between doing no harm and dissing women in Jainism. Now, all religions were started by men, all religions are run by men, and hardly any religion has ordained women except for some Protestant churches. Here’s a question for you. Name a female theologian.

In the early Christian church, there is an interesting issue related to sexism. Mary Magdalene was from Magdala, which was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. It is fascinating that she was mentioned a dozen times in the Gospels. She is referred to more than most of the apostles and more than other women in the New Testament. The only exceptions are the Marys in Jesus’ family.

That caused the early church all sorts of issues. There are two conflicting storylines regarding Mary Magdalene. One was that she was the person that financed a part of the ministry of Jesus. In fact, she anointed the feet of Jesus with Spikenard, which was mentioned in John 12:3. Spikenard was an exceedingly costly ointment. That issue would have rattled many of the apostles and/or the followers of Jesus.

Mary Magdalen and a jar of Spikenard

Pope Gregory I pushed an alternative view of Mary Magdalene, a sinful woman, i.e., a prostitute or whore. However, Jesus forgave this sinner. Pope Gregory’s storyline about a wealthy prostitute seems a bit of a stretch. Nonetheless, whichever storyline is true, Mary Magdalene caused men plenty of problems.

However, that was two millennia ago. Today, things haven’t changed much. In every aspect of life, whether in the religious or secular worlds, men attempt to tell women how to act. Men pass laws deciding upon female reproductive rights. Men will make 25% more per year than women even though both have similar education and experience.

This is a personal truth. I have three children, all of whom are adults. My first child was a boy. My next two children were girls. If I had the choice in determining the sex of them, I would have. Why? So, they would avoid sexism.

I have three grandchildren in Myanmar...three girls. I can’t protect my two daughters in America. What about my three granddaughters who live halfway around the world?

Men have caused the problems related to sexism, but many women have kowtowed to that mindset. It is just the way things are. I don’t see any real difference between sexism and racism. In both situations, birth determines the value of a person. What kind of nonsense is that? If women or communities of color want equality, they must fight for it. White males ain’t goin’ to give equality to either group unless women fight for equality.