Susan Jacoby has introduced the panel – Why Women Need Freedom From Religion. From Jacoby’s left on the stage: Wafa Sultan, Greta Christina, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Elisabeth Cornwell.
Annie Laurie wrote a book on the subject; probably the book on the subject.
Liz asks: what does religion offer that makes it worthwhile for women and other religion-oppressed groups to belong?
Once we know that, we can make it possible for people not to need religion.
If we re-frame the question we can get somewhere.
Greta says religion is women’s work; it’s part of the performance of being a woman.
Lots of us like being gender outlaws. Show of hands? Show of hands. Not every woman can be a gender outlaw.
Wafa Sultan got some fame as the first woman to tell a Muslim man to be quiet on tv. “I didn’t tell him to be quiet. I told him to shut up.”
“The more religious people are, the less creative they can be.”
Greta notes that being many kinds of outlaw is difficult.
Liz: “the secular movement cannot replace family.” The costs are extraordinarily high for women.
Annie Laurie: “Maybe we’re giving the church too much credit. Churches often get the credit, and taxpayers get the bill.”
Sultan points out that Hamas won that election because it had such good social programs – funded by the Saudis. (Not Iran?)
Greta suggests that if religion benefits from an unequal society, gee maybe let’s create a more equal society. [applause line]
Wafa Sultan tells us about a friend of hers who is a psychologist, and is veiled from head to toe. She considers herself a whore. Why? Because she was forced to marry a man not of her choice. She’s been married to him three years and not had a child; she hopes that will be his reason to divorce her.
We need to inspire young people, Jacoby says. Support the Secular Student Alliance, Greta says. Liz says there’s nothing like the religious right to get people passionate. “We have to ignite this passion in young people, and remind them what is at risk.”
“How fragile these gains are.”
“It’s a long game,” Greta says.
Audience question: what do you say to people who say concern about women’s rights in distant countries is “cultural imperialism”?
Someone in the audience two people away from me – “That’s bullshit – nobody says that.”
Greta: “Tell that to the girl who’s had her clitoris cut off, tell it to the girls who’s had acid thrown in her face – and then, fuck you.”