BY: JOSE A. ZORRILLA
This past March, I saw one of the most memorable women’s demonstrations in my hometown, Bilbao, of all places. I always followed with interest the fight of our other half, which I found to be minimally respected. The sixty years it took for them to be allowed to vote, the step forward in the work place in a time of war and the turnabout home afterwards. The rationale behind this crossing of lines to the other trench of the war of sexes was and is simple to explain. We live in a world full of troubles and we need the very best talent to manage and improve the lot of billions. If we resort to the male demographics to pick the best and the brightest, we renounce another 3.5 billion candidates. Not a very good idea.
As I was reflecting again on this evidence, I ran into a piece of news. A young Spanish actress proclaimed: I am not going to apologize for having said on camera that I was in my days. It suddenly dawned upon me that of course, women bleed. In fact, they bleed every month. Which make, more or less 3.5 billion occurrences every moon. The reason is profound. No blood, no life. In fact, some “primitive” tribes call the menstruation “the red flower of life”. In our super-civilized West, it is even improper to mention it. Talk about polls, jobs, top guns, sex or couples. The real problem is more profound. Not even the simple fact of menstruation has become mainstream.
Semitic religions, that is the dominant divinities, have something to say. Since blood is impure and women bleed, they have to be impure also. If, in some parts of the world, women are denied a handshake, it is out of fear of contamination, lest they might be on their period. It happened recently in the El Al flight when a Rabbi refused to be seated close to a woman with an Auschwitz tattoo on her arm. Well, it is understandable that 3,000 years ago in the Middle East it was reasonable to abstain from pork, blood, seafood, rodents and the like. In fact, it was compulsory if you belonged to a little cluster of people without access to medical attention. Now, of course, thanks to the Food and Drug Administration and modern hospitals, even eating black pudding seems safe. And yet, women continue to be denied the benefit of a spiritual Food and Drug Administration, so to speak. That leads us to the cause. The absence of evolution in divinity.
Evolution is not only a question of biology. Well before Darwin, the Romans formulated the proverb: “Times change and we change with them.” That leads us to the question- Is God not immutable? Very likely yes, but if you are human, your way of understanding divinity changes with the centuries. Christendom understood that long ago-in principle. Anselm of Canterbury coined one of the most influential mottos in the history of the West. “The intellect can gnaw at the faith”, something not so clearly understood in other worlds. In Islam, for instance, Al Gazhali, denied any role for reason in religion. Ibn Rus (Averroes) and Aristotle with him, lost the battle. But there is no reason to believe that Christianity is free from prejudice. As the grandchild of a wine grower, I can attest to the old custom of preventing bleeding women from entering the cave in times of fermentation.
Arguably the most advanced polities at the turn of the 20th Century were the English speaking ones. Well, advanced or not it took something like sixty years for them to accept women as grown-ups allowing them into the polls. Women’s rights took almost surrealistic tones in other countries. Sweden, for instance, declared women as “honorary men”, in order to accept them into the workforce. In Spain, it was the left (mostly revolutionary) that opposed women’s right to vote. Since women were closer to religion than men, the left feared that allowing women to vote would bring reactionary priesthood into Parliament. Of course no women can be a priest in Semitic religions, Protestantism excluded. These tribes were in the fringes not so long ago. Now, they are the substance of the Republican space.
But the history of the West is punctuated by landmarks of liberation…and repression. For contrary to Hegel and Marx, we know only too well that bad can come after good. And in the case of women it has happened too often. A well-known chapter being the Second World War. Women took to the mills, only to come back to the domestic chores when men returned from the front. Right now, after three generations of feminism, there are reasons to shiver again. Trump and his buddies harbor a reactionary agenda that includes women’s rights. We will be faced with a possible reopening of the debate in Supreme Court over Roe vs. Wade. The decision being upheld is not definite. It was and still is an uphill battle.
Yes, women are chained by bigotry, superstition, lore, insecurity, false values, everything we despise in social life. A form of supremacism aimed at enslaving the women to values not expressed by themselves. A racism within everybody’s reach and practiced with impunity. A revolting legacy of dark times. And the fight goes on.
Ambassador Jose A. Zorrilla is a career diplomat from Spain with postings in Milan (1989), Toronto (1993), Shanghai (2001), Moscow (2004), and Tbilisi (2009). He has published a book on the rise of China “China la primavera que llega” (China, the spring that arrives) and shot two documentary films (“Los Justos” (The Righteous) and “El desierto y las olas” (The Desert and the Waves)) and one full length film “El Arreglo” (The Deal) that won the Opera Prima Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 1983. He has just published a novel “El espía en Saratov” (The Spy in Saratov) (De Librum Tremens) and “Historia fantástica de Europa” (An Imaginary History of Europe). He is a frequent contributor to El Mundo with articles focusing mostly on current affairs.
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