Yearly NGO post-Beijing Switzerland meeting
Brief summary of presentation of information made
There has been a shift away from ‘Feminism’ to ‘Genderism’. Gender became a term only 30 years ago. Three years ago the Vatican did not speak about it. Women need to be protected against right-wing fundamentalists and the Catholic Church. Values are imposed by masculine power, so counter strategies are needed against patriarchal ideas.
‘Genderism’ is a difficult term to define and understand clearly, so this needs to be unpacked and communicated in a more positive way. Guilt can be heaped upon people in society who actually need to be considered (for example, those who choose to abort).
This discussion placed me out of my ‘comfort zone’. However, it was important to know what people are thinking in society about ‘fundamentalists and the Catholic church’. Both are viewed as being patriarchal and narrow minded in the approach of many. I am more aware that sexuality or sexual orientation play a large part in how individuals define themselves today.
Women are angry about not having enough rights – over their bodies (contraception, abortion), over their financial situation (salaries, pension allowances, economical possibility to divorce), over access to sexual education in schools and knowledge of contraception (especially to foreigners). This discussion can become quite aggressive and if care is not taken, can result in eliminating any opportunity of building bridges.
It was a shame that the participants during this forum were all white, middle class women (except for one courageous man!). Everyone realized that there was work to be done in working together and having a strategy, but no-one seemed to know how to move forward.
Agreed that there is a need to work together with representations at all levels, also from men, with religious and secular groups.
What do you think we need to be doing in preparation for the next meeting?
- Think about how we as The Salvation Army are able to be inclusive and give some concrete examples of what is happening on the ground at community level to build bridges and promote positive inclusive attitudes (even if we do not accept certain lifestyle choices).
- Have a clear definition and understanding of what we mean by ‘genderism’ and ‘feminism’.
- Consider how we could interact with those placed in the ‘genderism’ box – a label that is viewed as ‘dangerous’ to society.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
The Salvation Army has a great opportunity of being a positive influence in giving women their place in society. We need however to be aware that this can easily be forgotten due to strong cultural influences (patriarchal views). Is there a risk that The Salvation Army becomes patriarchal, excluding some from leadership roles due to their ‘gender’?
Since we are in contact with many of those who are marginalized because of their sexual orientation or choice of life-styles, we can make them feel welcome. We need to be careful not to cut people off from the joy of belonging to an accepting and loving faith community.