Tag Archives: women

Hey, Madonna and Patricia Arquette, The Gays Are With You!


These two amazing women recently sparked controversy when they both separately made comments comparing the gay rights movement and the women’s rights movement. It started initially with Patricia Arquette, who in a recent Oscar acceptance speech stated “People think we have equal rights; we don’t. Until we pass a constitutional amendment, we won’t have anything changed. It’s time for all women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people and people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”

This caused people to point out that many women are, in fact, women of color and part of the LGBTQ community. While this point is valid, it shouldn’t overshadow the poignant comments that Ms. Arquette made. We can’t forget that there is currently a website tracking equal pay amongst women in the United States, which can be seen at statusofwomendata.org. Here, you can see that women are marginalized and discriminated against in employment and earnings, and where each state ranks. The site promises to also offer data on female poverty, reproductive rights, opportunity, political participation, among other things. Time Magazine recently reported that if the current trend continues, women will not see equal pay in five US states (West Virginia, Utah, Louisiana, North Dakota and Wyoming) until 2100!

Discrimination against women is very real and and it is the worst for women of color. It is unbelievable, but true, that in 2015, there is still a pay gap. There is still a very strong movement attempting (and in some states, succeeding) to deny women of their basic reproductive rights. People who hold political office still think that women’s reproductive systems shut down during rape to prevent pregnancy. Others just don’t think pregnancy results from rape very often, despite the fact that it happens over 30,000 times a year. Don’t you think women have cause for concern?

Shortly after Patricia Arquette made these comments, Madonna made similar comments that sparked controversy. Keep in mind, Madonna has been a very outspoken ally for the gays for over three decades now, and whatever you think of her… It seems to me that the gay community owes Madonna an awful lot. There is actually a Wikipedia article titled “Madonna As A Gay Icon,” and she is considered by LGBT magazine “The Advocate” to be the greatest gay icon. She even recently admitted that she used to pine after gay men when she was younger, living in New York City.

“I didn’t feel like straight men understood me. They just wanted to have sex with me,” she explained. “Gay men understood me, and I felt comfortable around them. There was only that one problem, which is that they didn’t want to have sex with me! So…conundrum!”

Madonna recently had the following to say: “Gay rights are way more advanced than women’s rights,” she stated. “People are a lot more open-minded to the gay community than they are to women, period. It’s moved along for the gay community, for the African-American community, but women are still just treading on their ass… To me, the last great frontier is women.”
She continued, “Women are still the most marginalized group. They’re still the group that people won’t let change…You must fit into this box… You must behave this way, dress this way. You’re still categorized — you’re still either a virgin or a whore. If you’re a certain age, you’re not allowed to express your sexuality, be single, or date younger men.”

Despite the controversial nature of her comments, I must say that I agree. Gay rights, while they still have a long way to go, have come along way, but we have been extremely stagnant, and often even taken leaps backward, when it comes to equality for women. I think the real lesson here is that the struggle is never over. Just because gay marriage is legal in most states and will likely be legal in all of them before the end of the year, doesn’t mean there isn’t a strong resistance movement. Gays face discrimination every day… As do women and people of color. And we must not marginalize each other. Instead, we need to recognize this and be supportive of one another. If we don’t continue fighting together, we might face what women have faced – stagnation and regression of their personal liberties.

UK Census for 2011: Christianity in decline; Atheism on the increase.

My first ever GWOG BLOG (!) and it is a privilege to write for this special collection of the sceptical and the scandalous! I’ll be posting on themes of being gay and godless with regular updates of news, reviews, shout-outs, and counter-apologetics and promoting science and reason and discussion thereof. There might be a distinctly Anglophile sensibility too and frequent references to cups of tea.

I spent time over Christmas pondering what I could write about ( and just so you know how hard it was) writing and rejecting several first drafts before alighting on my current muse.

Indeed, I was wondering if I’d ever get anything written.  Then this morning I happened across this story from December 11th. Yes, I know ‘ever with my finger on the beating pulse of current events‘  – but bear with me, this is interesting:

The Results of the 2011 UK Census.

Okay so it’s a story about statistics. And I know I said “interesting” but stick with it.

So first some background, The UK Census is a national survey of all households in all local council districts.  Its aim is to get a statistical picture of Britain’s population and The Office for National Statistics (ONS) analyses this data and Government and The Civil Service utilise it when deciding policy and makes decisions about funding; it also gives a record of demographic changes.

Demographic changes  as many will know, are largely considered to have sealed President Obama’s second term, so movements in the opinions of populations are important.

The last Census before this one took place in 2001, and this census relates to the survey in 2011, the results and analyses of which were published in 2012. You can also get a very useful breakdown from the ONS from this YouTube video of the survey results and analyses as they specifically relate to religion, which is available here.

Christianity on the decline?
So what should the gay and the godless have to celebrate? Well how about Christianity being still the largest religion but shrinking significantly down from 72% of the population when asked in 2001 to only 59% in 2011?

“That’s it?”,  you scoff!  “We want better than that!”, I hear you demand!  Alright then!

How about the next largest proportion of the UK population rising from 15% in 2001 to one-quarter (25%) is for those reporting “No Religion”?  That is a rise of 10% of the total populous. Expressed as a proportion rather than a percentage of the total, that’s a change of some 7.7million reporting “no religion” when asked in 2001 to some 14.1million in 2011, if you assume a linear change that’s an irreligious increase of 54% in ten years!

How to account for that seeming discrepancy?  Well, these census figures potentially mask the true extent of the decline in religious belief of the UK, for what the Census actually measures is religious affiliation. It does not in fact measure belief, and how could you?  To be fair, the ONS makes that clear in the YouTube video in the previous section, but it’s possible someone could read these Census results as “59% believe in The God of Christianity” and that wouldn’t be true at all but to understand what the answer is, it is best to begin with the question that was asked.

From Bad to Worse?

The Census, you see is compulsory: if you don’t take part you are fined a pecuniary amount.   The question of religion was the first “voluntary question” to be introduced the census, originally in 2001 and then again in 2011 and both times this attracted quite a bit of controversy.

The British Humanist Association led by vocal CEO Andrew Copson initiated the Census Campaign which sought to challenge the nature of the question that was asked, which was:

“What is your religion?”

While not a problem of a leading question, the complaint was that it did not capture the heart of religious practice, only the religious identity people who call themselves “Christian”, and from The Government’s point of view they don’t care if you think sola scriptura or sola fide is your guiding principle, nor does it matter to them if you haven’t attended a church service or cracked open a bible in years or who hold to any of the dogmatic positions of a particular faith.

‘So what?’, you might well ask.  Well, data from the census is used to make funding and policy decisions, so such as the issue of faith schools and whether you think segregating education down sectarian lines with very little in the way of curricular oversight for controversial areas is a bad thing or not: how many there are, what proportion there are, how they are funded;  it all comes back to the census and so the overwhelmingly “christian” majority of England, the Christian nature of religious practice in schools and the policy of encouraging faith schools themselves  looks less secure when you consider is about identity not belief and when contrasted with data from other surveys that tend to increase the margin of the non religious by an even greater extent when asking follow-up questions.

The 29th British Social Attitudes Survey taken in 2010 and  published in September 2012, tested whether people felt they “belonged” to a religion.  When asked 45.7% of respondents said they did not.  Outside of births, marriages and funerals, the survey also assessed attendance for regular religious observance.  Then a massive 57.7% of respondents said they never attend a church with a mere 14.3% in the most frequent category of “once a week or more”

Finally the BSA questionnaire asked what was their family’s religion?  18.3% said their family were non-religious, meaning that the remainder of the 45.7 %, who declared that they did not feel they “belonged” to a religion, had come from some religious family background.

The conclusions one can draw from data such as this is that people are leaving the faiths they grew up in and not joining another, which may account for the substantial rises seen in the “Non Religious” in both surveys but which also identifies the problems of simply asking “what is your religion” if one still identifies culturally as such but does not actually believe. Cultural Christian but de facto Atheist.  From surveys such as these it would seems that Christianity in England is in a greater crisis than even the decline in The Official Census suggests.

Yipee!

But one must, however, be cautious.  Have people converted to other faiths? Well the census seems to belie that possibility as the number of other religions have all risen but on the order of fractional increases at most a few percentage points and this is largely account for by postulated migration patterns.  Islam for example has risen by 2% in the last ten years, but rises to only 5% of the population putting pay to the idea that England is being over run with Muslims they make up barely 1/5th of the non-religious if you take even the Census’s conservative estimation of godlessness in the UK today at face value. It’s likely also that the religious figure is somewhat inflated by immigrants to the UK with a far greater degree of religious conservatism being imported.

Other things worth pulling out, for consideration.
We are currently in the middle of a full-throated opposition to gay marriage in England, with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI being uncharacteristically given over to hyperbole and overt sexism decrying: “The future of mankind is at stake!”   Much more to say about this in future blogs, however, it is interesting to note that as of 2011 a mere 0.2% of the population has taken up the opportunity for a civil partnership seven years after it’s introduction into law in 2004.  There has been an overall decline in the number of marriages also, these are down 4.3% from 2001 to 46.6% of the overall population being married. However the result do show an increase for Civil Partnerships, albeit slender, for in 2001 no such provision was available. So watch these numbers in the decades to come, especially if gay marriage becomes a reality.

There was also outrage recently when the State Church voted to restrict the rights of women to ascend to the Bishopric within the Church and prevent their ordination. Now why is this important?  Well it’s caused all kinds of mess of a constitutional nature because this isn’t The Catholics, this is the State Church of England, with a female Monarch as it’s head (long story).  Saying that women are not considered equal to their male counterparts at the same time as women’s rights are moving forward in society was deeply incongruous and rather embarrassing. Indeed, even within the Church the motion was approved in two of the three houses of the Church Synod but lost – very narrowly – in the popular vote.  It was a massive backward step for a Church that flirts with progressive ideals and which  tries to be all things for all people but which usually ends up disappointing everybody equally, and teeters constantly on the brink of a schizophrenic schism leading to exactly the kind of paralysis of the sort seen in the vote over the ordination of women Bishops.  Nothing will happen internally now about this  for years.   As well, the vote had largely been expected to go for women’s rights and it caused dismay and anger when conservative forces in the laity voted the measure down. It saw some calling for laws  to compel the church to comply with existing equalities legislation outlawing discriminatory practices. Such revolutionary secularism will be something to watch in the New Year when the amendment is due before Parliament.

Trends

Will that vote be affecting attitudes of people ten years from now?

In the summary of the 2011 Census published in The Guardian it was also pointed out that a century ago in 1911, the suffragette movement was using the Census to campaign for rights for women, defacing poll forms and picnicking on the common as a means of avoiding the pollsters turning up to their houses and so flagrantly disobeying the compulsory rules for fulfilment.

Indeed one famous suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison, who two years later would be trampled to death by the King’s Horse at The Epsom Derby, spent the night hiding in a broom cupboard in The Houses of Parliament.

So from a Cupboard stuffed with Suffragette to Closet bursting forth with Gays –  as LGBT people become more visible in our society and grow in acceptance, and gain rights much as women did in the last century, and continue to fight for today; I find myself wondering what changes will see if we looked back 100 years hence:  Christianity marginalised? Secularism on the Rise?  A resurgence in marriages as gay people finally marry their long-term partners?

For those not living in these seemingly enlightened isles, will such changes ever be seen in the more heavily religious places in the world than Britain in the 21st Century? Americans please weigh in.

From this data it seems the identity of irreligiosity is on the rise in England, and that’s an encouraging thought for starting 2013 with.  Whatever else happens, the next year, the next century will be one to watch!

 Happy New Year Everybody!