Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Turban As Motif

As is the case with many world religions, in Sikhism we find that patriarchy is deeply embedded in the traditions and texts of the faith, even as Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh tells us that Sikh Gurus “empathized” with women oppressed and in turn, “emphasized gender equality.”  This, in some ways, contradicts Geetanjali Singh Chanda and Staci Ford’s piece, “Sikh Masculinity, Religion, and Diaspora in Shauna Singh Baldwin’s English Lessons and Other Stories.”  Chanda and Ford state quite clearly that “The family, specifically the hetero-normative family, is at the heart of the performance, the pedagogy, and the continuity of specific notions of a religio-cultural masculinity.”  This leaves the Sikh male in a difficult place, especially here in America where the turban often subjects men to physical attack and even death in this post-9/11 landscape.

Chanda and Ford describe ads featuring Sikh males prominently displayed in the bright lights of Main Street America:  Times Square in New York City.  Where once there was disappointment at the lack of presence in American culture for Sikhs, Chanda and Ford now charge that this constitutes objectification and commercialization of the Sikh image.  Well, this begs the question, what exactly do they want?  Part of what has opened the door to violence against Sikhs is the lack of cultural inclusion in America.  In short, Americans are ignorant about Sikh beliefs and culture, and while this is not the fault of Sikhs, the charge that they constitute an “Other” in American society must be overcome and negated.  Americans need to be educated about Sikhism and its followers.  As Chanda and Ford state in their thesis, the appearance of a Sikh male on a billboard in Times Square encourages the idea that “lives and histories are connected (and often irrevocably changed) in the transnational flow of people, capital, and histories.”  For modern Sikhs, this inclusion may be more welcomed than more traditional adherents, and the alt-right movement might preclude welcoming our turbaned brethren as fully participatory Americans, but like the issue of patriarchy in this religious tradition, those who fail to understand these modern times—and a woman’s role in a modern faith—are reaching back centuries for a sexist reading that is no longer valid.  “Turban-wearing Sikhs,” Chanda and Ford tell us, “constitute a visible subgroup of the South Asian Diaspora.”

What makes Chanda and Ford’s essay unique is its focus on three fictional stories and their impact in a feminist reading of Sikh literature that sheds light on Sikh masculinity with depth and insight.  This kind of reading is long overdue in many patriarchal religions.  Specifically, the author of the three texts, Shauna Singh Baldwin, “considers men and masculinities at various stages of life and in diverse contexts—social, familial, and cultural—from a feminist perspective.”  She also utilizes the theme of the past telling us what the present means within the context of literature and culture and even history.  She opens the door to questioning, and questions always lead, not to destruction, but understanding.  Make no mistake, the Sikhs murdered in acts of violence after September 11th were victims of misunderstanding; they were killed, quite simply, because they wore turbans, and most Americans, erroneously, believed turbans equaled Muslims.  Chanda and Ford applaud Singh Baldwin’s use of fiction to present these ideas because the lens of story allows us to walk in the shoes of another.  In her work, she writes “about men as complex and multifaceted beings who are, themselves, victims of racism and economic imperatives in a global marketplace.”  The stereotype of the turbaned 7-11 store clerk has some basis in reality; Sikhs often are small business owners in communities big and small across the country.  In many of these communities, they are treated as the “Other,” someone who comes into the neighborhood to take economic advantage of those who live there.  The truth is that they are a vital part of the American economy, and are often victimized through robbery and violence and are resented by the communities they serve.

Another aspect of this that Chanda and Ford discuss is patriarchal notions within Sikhism.  It seems that Sikh traditions and discussions need to happen within the current patriarchal hierarchy in the faith.  The stories as written by Singh Baldwin perform this function as well because she presents how these ideas challenge the family as keeper of the masculine flame.  The family often reinforces patriarchal beliefs.  She introduces “real men who are caught between cultures, shifting economic realities, and the varying generational expectations of mothers, wives and sisters.”  She flips “the traditional script of literary texts, where more often men narrate women’s lives.”  In one story, “Montreal 1962,” she presents a situation where Sikh immigrants were encouraged to come to Canada because North America needed skilled workers, and therefore, people overlooked race, at least initially, to bring in people to fill high tech jobs.  Of course, this also exposed them to discrimination, as Latinos face in this country.  There is always the prevailing notion that somehow these workers deprive native born citizens of jobs when in fact, these immigrant workers are often recruited to fill positions that others could not fill or do not wish to fill.  Singh Baldwin calls these workers “exotic new Canadians, new blood to build a country.”  What is clear both in history and culture is that immigration plays a key role in a healthy society, especially here in America.

The focus of this rising of Sikh culture is the turban.  It is, in Singh Baldwin’s stories, a symbol of defiance, even when the wife takes it on, wrapping her “five meters” of cloth around her own head, adopting “a symbol of religious identity and manhood.”  It is clear from the actions of the young wife in Singh Baldwin’s story that a woman adopting the turban is an acceptable evolution of gender roles in this new world.  History and events by necessity change defined gender roles.  In comparison, there is a continual debate about ordaining women priests or allowing priests to marry in the Catholic Church.  Protestant and Anglican Churches are battling with the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.  Many reform Jewish congregations have female Rabbis.  Times are changing, may be not at great speed, but with a consistent, plodding advancement that is difficult to ignore.  Gender issues must be solved before we can tackle and defeat racism.

To illustrate this point, Chanda and Ford launch a discussion of honor killings and rape culture.  Feminist writers have relentlessly explained that “notions of honor and shame fan the flames of revenge and violence in men but are carried out on the bodies of women.”  In many ways, this is a product of gender codes, even the medieval Code of Chivalry governing the behavior of noble men with women.  Still, such codes enforce the idea of women as victims and men as their saviors.  It is interesting to note that men who do not live up to such codes are often dishonored and emasculated as punishment for failing to be manly men.  Therefore, the lines between protective behavior and violence are blurred.  A man must “protect the honor of the family even if it means killing his sister to do so,” Chanda and Ford write.  This presents a significant paradox:  can one preserve by destroying?  In these Partition narratives Chanda and Ford discuss, it would seem so.  In the ritual suicides of women who would rather “jump into a well” than “bring shame upon their village, family, or religion,” preservation of the honor in this manner is also acceptable?  In the west, we reject ritual suicide, and therefore, we do not understand this concept.  However, we hear about such acts more and more.  Chanda and Ford talk about the United Nations report of “5,000 women and girls worldwide, across religions and countries [who] may be murdered each year by their own families.”  Since those numbers come from 2010, I wonder if the total is not much higher now in 2016.

It is without a doubt that Sikh men face discrimination and emasculation in American society.  But, men, in general, have a long history of attacking each other’s manhood when conflict arises.  In English boarding schools, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse is commonplace.  Males challenge the masculinity of other males with derogatory, emasculating language denoting female genitalia or homosexual labeling.  Chanda and Ford cite many potent examples of this, including the male student deprived of his turban and made to play a female role with his long hair in a theatrical production.  To a young man still developing his gender identification, this is devastating.

None of this is all that different from many societies, including American society.  These gender “rules” are reinforced from a young age.  As a teacher, I have had parents, all most always the mothers, plead with me not to give their sons low grades because this might make him “depressed” and “feel inadequate.”  I’ve shopped in supermarkets where mothers, mostly white, treat their inattentive sons like husbands, asking them what they would like for dinner, and catering to their every whim or whine.  Much of what has happened in the presidential election has to do with the questioning of gender roles.  Trump has been characterized as a “real man,” (his Twitter handle is @realDonaldTrump) who will “make America great again” by sending Muslims and Latinos back where they came from while promoting some mythical past in our history where men were men and women had babies and serviced the men.  This is a man who does not hesitate to discriminate against his daughter, whom, he has said, he would be dating if she were not his daughter.  This is a man who does not consider groping a woman wrong and harmful if the groper has power.  A powerful man can get away with such rapist encroachment, and if one is not a powerful man, he is less than a man.

In the end, Sikhism, like all other religions, continues to grapple with the role of women.  Singh Baldwin, as Chanda and Ford note, uses the lens of fiction to create a discussion.  Fiction allows the what-if.  In fact, the what-if is built into the art, and if it can help religions, cultures, societies, and individual houses on our streets to come to grips with the issue of equality of men and women, then it is a good thing.  For fiction is the dream-life of a culture, and although these dreams might often be nightmares of zombies or the horrors of war, our dreams can also show us a world that could be, a good world, not perfect, but more equal.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Join Team Trump: No Experience, Morals, or Ethics Necessary

In a time of fear and uncertainty, one more area of concern is the president-elect’s cabinet shortlist.  According to several news organizations, Trump is using a method that has worked for him in the past:  The Apprentice reality show way to pick “winners” to help him “Make America great again,” and “win so much that Americans will be tired of winning,” or “you’re fired!”

There are cameras stationed outside the lobby elevators at Trump Tower to catch each candidate and newly designated official sycophants like Mitt Romney as they take the magic elevator to the Trumpian version of Oz (only I think it is more the horrific Oz of the HBO prison drama than the yellow brick road Oz with Dorothy and Toto).  Is there anything more pathetic than watching spineless Romney come to Trump to kiss his ring?  Where’s the fire, Mitt?  Where’s the passion?  When you kissed the president-elect’s hand, did it still taste of “fake” and “phony” in your now trumped-over words?  Did he make you crawl across the floor in supplication?  How quickly any sort of integrity can be surrendered.  Wave to the cameras, Mitt.  Kiss the ring like a good boy.

So we have the big reality show with all the tension and surprise of a season finale:  who will be Secretary of State?  Attorney General?  Personal assistant?  Oh wait, that last one has been filled already.  (“Christy, fetch me a steak from Jean Georges!”)  I just know this moment WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING!!! in the parlance of reality show lingo.  The ratings will be HUUUUUUUUUGE!!  Let’s look at the list of contestants…errr…finalists?  What did they do to get to the final round?  They loyally supported the candidate through his bigoted, sexist, degrading, malevolent campaign.  They choked out compliments to the king when he proposed banning Muslims from America, and promised to build a wall while simultaneously sending immigrants back where they came from.  They sucked it up and stood by the candidate while he basked in the swirling debris of his own shit storm.  It’s okay; everything came out in the wash.  Now the sheets are clean and we are ready to hit the ground running while the Alt-Right salutes the brand new day with extended hands at their convention in the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C.

Jeff Sessions for Attorney General?  This little man with the sparkling eyes of an imp just screams racial equality and justice, doesn’t he?  His own party rejected him back in the 1980s for his extremist views.  With the country roiling with police shootings—officers killing black men; people killing officers in ambush—how will Sessions bring peace?  In my own city, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he will not have his officers deporting people even under orders from President Trump.  This is a noble stand, but is it solid ground?  If Chief Beck won’t do the deporting, there will be somebody waiting in line who will.  Bravo, Chief Beck, but watch your back.

Reince Priebus for Chief-of-Staff.  This is not a questionable call, mainly because Priebus is Republican mainstream and the sole hope for a voice of reason in this surreality show.  Too bad Steve Bannon may shout him down and shove him out the back door.  Bannon is chief strategist, and it would appear most of the strategies involve inflicting pain on Americans of color, immigrants, women, members of certain religions, et cetera, et cetera.  Welcome to the new world order.  How long will Priebus last before he starts looking for the parachute to get out of this jumbo jet hurtling toward the earth?

Secretary of State?  The front runner is Rudy Giuliani.  What experience does this guy have with foreign policy and diplomacy?  Stop and frisk won’t work with North Korea or ISIS or Putin in Russia.  Yes, he allegedly “cleaned up” New York as mayor, but most New Yorkers have mixed feelings about the Giuliani years.  Many people chafed under his abrasive, in-your-face style.  Trump ran on a platform of getting tough with our allies forcing them to pay up for our protection, eliminating the threat of ISIS, cracking down on trade with China, but will this play in real life beyond reality television?  Diplomacy requires an iron hand in a silk glove, and Giuliani appears to be all metal and machetes—no subtlety of state craft; no nuances of diplomacy.  The other candidate lobbed about is Mitt Romney.  Poor Mitt.  Stayed out of the race this year and became the voice of reason in an out-of-control, skidding Republican Party only to be invited to Trump’s New Jersey golf course to be paraded in front of the media as a tiny man shrinking by the moment.  It’s tough to surrender your convictions on live television, but there he was, shaking the tiny orange hand and claiming to have had a good conversation about real issues, like apologizing and begging for forgiveness.

Sarah Palin for Secretary of the Interior?  One of Trump’s earliest supporters is her only qualification for the job.  Of course, any woman who works for Trump should watch that Access Hollywood clip over and over again until she has “blood coming out of her eyes or blood coming out of her wherever,” or maybe they could read Trump’s divorce papers from his first marriage where he abused and raped Ivana, according to her deposition.

The entire country waits to see what kind of president Donald Trump will be.  Those who voted for him want to see the wall go up, the Muslims registered, and the undocumented deported.  Those who are along for this ride not of their own choosing keep hoping he will “pivot.”  But as we saw time and again in the campaign, Trump is Trump.  He is a loose cannon, a danger to himself and to America.  Worse, he is lining his cabinet with people who are unlikely to restrain him, mainly because they got their jobs for remaining mum and blindly supporting Trump even in moments where he acted Hitleresque and childish.  His election surprised many Americans and even Trump, himself, if his body language in the Oval Office with President Obama is any indication.  Running the country and taking a seat at the world table are not part of some reality show; this is the real deal, and the guy we elected, and the people with whom he is surrounding himself, are amateurs.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Some Notes On The Trumpian Universe

Only in this dystopian, Trumpian universe in which we now live could the president vow to preserve one’s 2nd Amendment rights while attempting to denigrate and destroy freedom of the press guaranteed under the 1st Amendment.  I am quite sure the irony escapes our new president-elect and his boy wonder, conversion-therapy acolyte Mike Pence.  John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight on HBO, was spot on when he said Americans must be prepared to fight every day in the next four years and not wait until the 2020 election to launch a war to send the barbarian at the gate home permanently to his gaudy tower on 5th Avenue.  It is time for people to stand up for one another.  Democracy is not about agreeing with one’s neighbors, but the right to voice disagreement without threat of harm or violence from those same neighbors.  Hillary Clinton was right when she said that America is stronger when people stand together in their differences.  There are divisions in this country right now to rival the Grand Canyon and everyone, everyone, whether they admit it or not, is scared.

One person who has functioned for many years as a modern-day biblical prophet is Michael Moore.  He never stops speaking truth to power.  In a cry in the wilderness that he launched last summer, he predicted a Trump win.  In fact, he said early on that “This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president.”  Here we thought the evil clown sightings across America were just a prank.  The prank has turned into a presidency.  Moore, never one to mince words, goes on to say that we have elected “an idiot for president,” and that Trump has an “embarrassingly narcissistic stance on everything because everything is about him.”  In a weird way, those who voted for Trump were being optimistic, even after the dark, apocalyptic predictions of the Republican Convention where nothing but disaster was foretold in the future of America should Clinton be elected.  “We want to—we need to—hope for the best,” Moore tells us, “because…life is already a shit show and it’s hard enough struggling to get by from paycheck to paycheck.”  I guess human beings are, by default, optimists.  That optimism will be difficult to sustain as people of color, of the middle class and especially those in poverty, as well as Muslims, Jews and God knows who else find themselves continually punched in the face by Trump and friends over the next four years.  But John Oliver said this is not the time to run to Canada; it is a time to punch back.

All along, this has been nothing more than a Trump reality show with the voters confusing “reality” with, you know, reality.  We learned a long time ago that a reality show is nothing but circus and never about reality.  Even Trump, himself, thought running for president would help him get a better contract from NBC for his reality show, The Apprentice.  The show is a prime example of ridiculous theater from our orange-faced blowhard-in-chief.  “You’re fired,” he bellows with his signature hand gesture of index finger and thumb touching tips in what used to be the sign for “a-okay” but now means, I guess, “here is my point as I stick it to you.”  At worst, Trump thought he would lose to Clinton and then he and Steve Bannon could use the publicity to start Trump TV.  I guess that will be his legacy project when his four years are up:  first president without a library, because who needs books?  His “library” will be production facilities for producing narcissistic and racist programming from a secret location in New Jersey guarded by a security guard who looks suspiciously like Chris Christie.

There is a bright side to the outcome of this election.  Get ready for the return of journalism as a force in American society.  Much to Trump’s chagrin and his statements to the contrary, people are subscribing to newspapers and magazines again.  His proclamation that The New York Times is a failing institution is flat wrong.  They are not “losing thousands of subscribers” due to their “very poor and inaccurate” coverage of his antics.  (Side note: are there degrees of “poor?”  More evidence of the limited Trumpian vocabulary:  someone can be very poor instead of just poor, or very unique instead of just unique)  The paper has actually picked up new subscribers at four times the normal rate since election day.  Other papers and magazines reported similar jumps in subscriptions:  The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and Mother Jones.  This must cause Trump some indigestion since he spent so much of his campaign railing against any and all media questioning and criticism of his bloviating speeches and nonsensical tweeting.  Even after the election, he has continued to hurl insults at the press, and has repeatedly given the slip to the reporters camped out at Trump Tower.

Mother Jones editor, Clara Jeffery, said in an interview that “If we want a fearless press, we’re going to need lawyers and we’re going to need money.  We need vigorous, fact-checked reporting to combat the fake news and to cast light on those who would hijack our democratic system.”  In part, she is referring to the recent spate of fake news reports being posted as click bait on social media websites like Facebook.  People are not only wanting solid, factual reporting and discussion, but they want outlets they can trust with ongoing checks into accuracy and fairness.  This is why ProPublica has seen an increase in donations running ten times the rate they normally see.  Some of this can also be credited to John Oliver.  When he signed off on his season finale post-election, he asked his viewers to donate to non-profit journalism endeavors like ProPublica and subscribe to organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Then there is the backlash:  Sean Hannity supports denying press credentials to several papers and news organizations, something Trump tried at various times throughout the campaign.  Good luck with that.  Intrepid reporters find a way to confront power, and with Trump’s vengeful temper and florid face, the confrontation won’t be pretty.  We can expect more petty tantrums on Twitter at three o’clock in the morning as well as threats to sue everyone.  As the American editor of The Guardian, Lee Glendinning, said on the Wednesday after the election, “Never has the world needed independent journalism more.”

It is unclear if this rebirth of journalism will be permanent.  I am sure Trump will provide plenty of impetus for people to want to know what is truly happening.  We need to open our checkbooks, log on, and subscribe.  And, we should not just support media sites that mirror our personal politics.  I want to know what all the reporters have to say, from liberal to mainstream to conservative coverage.  I find it fascinating when the folks at Fox News find themselves criticizing Trump.  This guy has offended people of every persuasion which makes him all the scarier.  The bottom line is, this is not a time for silence.  As writer David L. Ulin said at an event at Skylight Books on Monday, “I’m not an activist.  I’m a writer.  But we are all, we must be, activists now.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Surah 4:34

In reading the essay by F.V. Greifenhagen entitled “North American Islamic Feminist Interpretation:  The Case of Surah 4:34, With a Comparison to Christian Feminist Interpretation,” it is clear that once again finding a place for feminist advocacy means reinterpreting ancient texts, in this case the Qur’an and Hadith, for a modern world where gender bias and discrimination must be rooted out and at some point, decidedly defeated.  Is that possible?  Greifenhagen suggests it is, and he offers a full discussion of just one verse of the Qur’an to make his key points.  Of course, the verse in question concerns the husbands as guardians of their wives with their size and strength advantage.  The Qur’an also insists that husbands are discipliners of their wives, with an escalating series of punishments for a lack of obedience and loyalty ranging from admonishment to refusal to share a bed with the wife to outright physical abuse.  Greifenhagen makes an effort to reconcile this harsh and misogynistic passage with modern Islamic feminist views.

First, the passage:

“Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain the.  Good women are obedient.  They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them.  As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.  Then if they obey you, take no further action against them.”

The first point that immediately comes to mind in this passage is the idea that inequality, and even physical abuse, is legitimized because of physical differences, namely physical strength.  In fact, it appears God condones assault of a wife by a husband.  There are many harsh, violent, and even deadly acts that can be justified with dogmatic insistence.  We have seen this in history over and over again.  Thus, Greifenhagen responds to this misogynistic passage of the Qur’an by bringing into the discussion Islamic feminism.  This feminism attempts to rectify thousands of years of inequality for Muslim women and introduces  a new male-female equality for modernity.  In the early formation of Islam, the world was a different place.  Culturally, sociologically, Muslims of that time had a unique sensibility, and although much can be learned by studying past theological and cultural milieus, times have changed and we must also examine how modern Islam might develop a new understanding of the sexes.  Women in Islam are at a disadvantage in the fight against misogyny because such discriminatory practices were part of the bedrock foundation of Islamic tradition.  This is true for many religions around the globe.  In fact, it is up to modern feminist Muslims to bring a new heart and soul to the faith, one that offers a place for women as equal to men.

In the case of the dictates of the passage, a woman is at a disadvantage from birth due to the man—father, brother, husband—controlling the purse strings.  In many ways, economic control is complete control.  Without financial resources, a woman cannot escape an abusive situation.  Also, it is easy to control a woman if she is refused an education.  All of this adds up to oppression, discrimination, and misogyny.  Daughters in the family receive less inheritance than the sons.  Why do sons receive more?  Mainly, I suspicion, because a woman joins her husband’s house upon marriage whereas the son must support his family and carry on the family name.  But is this a valid excuse and does it not reduce women to property like livestock?

Greifenhagen asks that readers approach the Qur’an “holistically,” meaning examining the text “within the larger framework of the Qur’an’s overall coherence, a coherence that reveals the intent of the Qur’an in universal principles rather than historical and cultural particulars.”  What does this mean?  Are we supposed to dump the aspects that are unsavory in a particular religion—misogyny, in this case—and only promote the positive ideals?  To question a text, some feel, is to denigrate it.  Therefore, the door is tightly closed for feminists to examine an Islamic text and provoke a rereading of it, much less to call into question an entire world religion’s view of women.  Greifenhagen points out that translation plays a big part in how a text is perceived and understood, as well as how it might be reinterpreted for the future.  With translated texts there are often passages that don’t cross the language barrier, leading to misreading and misunderstanding, but this also leaves room for questions regarding the scope and importance of the assertions contained therein.  If language is multi-faceted and fluid, the interpretation of it can be as well.

Among the women who are trying to develop an Islamic liberation theology, I found most resonance in the work of Riffat Hassan.  She argues Muslim society will not advance until the belief of women in subordination to men dies out.  She focuses on three, erroneous yet theological assumptions made by Islamic misogynists:  women were created from Adam’s rib and therefore, are subordinate to men; women caused man’s fall away from righteousness; women were created to serve man.  “An overview of the overall Qur’anic perspective on women and men, especially the Qur’anic depiction of creation of woman and man, suffices to undermine these assumptions,” Greifenhagen writes.

Greifenhagen’s comparison to Christian ideas about women focus primarily on the letters of Saint Paul, specifically the passage in Ephesians 5:22-24:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

These words are the root of patriarchy in the Christian faith.  Here, again, there is a problem of cultural and theological milieu that must be considered before trying to negate or rewrite the words of Paul to reflect a more modern view of women in Christianity. In any reinterpretation of a text, the cultural context must be considered.  However, that being said, Greifenhagen writes that “The strongest commonality [comparing Muslim and Christian feminists] seems to be in the use of a method of historical contextualization.”

With a passage as difficult and dangerous as surah 4:34, there is not a lot of room for a different interpretation.  What is clear from Greifenhagen’s essay is that translation sometimes is ambiguous enough to leave room for reinterpretation, but this is a tenuous perch when most translations use “beat” as the ultimate punishment for disloyal and disobedient wives.  Because he focuses on a North American audience, he writes about a people of the diaspora who live in countries far less orthodox.  They are able to bring a more liberal approach to their interpretation of the Qur’an.  Greifenhagen’s comparison to Christianity really affirms the idea that many of the world’s religions are grappling with the role of women, the view of women, even the rights of women within their congregations of the faithful.  It seems that no matter how much human beings progress, they cannot escape the sexism, racism, and misogyny inherent in their culture, philosophy, theology and society.