Women all over the world are seen to be getting more and more active, even in areas which were said to be men's bastions. Why then are there far fewer women atheists compared to men? Are women more religious? Are they still dominated by their men? Or by religious authorities? Are they too busy in their domestic affairs or are they simply not concerned? What is it? 

MADHUKAR KULKARNI.

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Lary9, I went to China in the early 1980s with purpose of interviewing women in urban and rural settings looking at seven different aspects of their lives.  The Chinese government assigned me a "handler" and off we went.  After many interviews in urban areas the handler and I got on a barge loaded with goats, pigs, chicken, grains and supplies and went up-river to a rural community.  I have no doubt the Chinese chose my sites carefully and I have no illusion that I had a randomly selected group to interview.  However, even as women told me their stories in the presence of the Chinese handler, their stories revealed themselves in unexpected ways.

We entered a rural medical care facility where about 20 patients were on beds and their families sat around them caring for their needs.  The facility did not have food, bedding, nursing staffs to tend to the patience ... the families provided all the attention needed.  We approached one bed where a very elderly lady sat; she had needles sticking out the full length of her spine. Her family sat on benches on both sides of her bed.  

In the early 1900s when she was three or four years old, her mother started binding her feet with about 16 feet x four inches of cotton gauze soaked in alum to stop blood flow.  The bandages were changed frequently until she reach full adult maturity.  Her big toe was left in its normal position, the other four were bent back onto the heel, breaking her foot bones.  There were compound fractures, broken tissues, blood and pus, and potential infections, thus the cleansing routine.  

Medical care was to tend the wound, not to challenge the practice. Laws and law enforcement were to enforce the tradition, not challenge it. Families were to perform the binding, not stop it. This went on for 1,000 years, ending in 1912. 

In 1911-12, a nationalist democratic revolt overthrew the Manchu dynasty and created a republic. Warlord took land from the wealthy and forced former wealthy landowners into the fields.  This woman was forced to do heavy agricultural work on deliberately crippled feet.  Her whole body suffered for the bound feet and her lifelong suffering brought her to the hospital for treatment.  

The old women told us her story and the interpreter/handler translated for me.  The old woman became more and more excited, she began to shout and wag her finger at her daughter-in-law. The interpreter couldn't keep up and I sat and watched the interplay between us and the whole family.  Her son tried to stop her, quietly at first and then more forcefully.  He then stopped, his chin dropped to his chest, he shook his head horizontally, his face was contorted into a look of anger and shame. Her son disapproved of his mothers' story, not what happened to her.   

We left and I heard the narrative from my interpreter.  The old woman said she didn't want her daughter-in-law to submit to her son,  she had been deliberately crippled by her mother because the tradition was to bind little girls' feet to prepare her for suitability for a wealthy marriage.  There was a belief that men sucking on a woman's feet sexually aroused them.  She stated she was deliberately crippled so that she would pleasure her husband; no thought was given to her health and suffering. She also stated the real crime, and she used that word meaning crime, was that her mind was bound.  

It suddenly became clear to me.  What an individual and culture believes may or may not provide the foundation upon which to build a healthy, productive, happy life. 

"Yield," "Obey," "Pray," "Turn the other cheek," "Crucify yourself daily," "Rejoice in your crucifixion," and on and on.  What an individual and culture believes may or may not provide the foundation open which to build a healthy, productive, happy life.

Footbinding/Mindbinding. 


we can learn lots from observing other cultures because it's hard to see our own...

There are a small minority of people in our culture that very early on caught those 'adults' in outright lies regarding important subjects. Maybe these small numbers of folks are simply natural-born-skeptics. I was one of them. Never believe any adult until you hear the 'other' side...because you can be certain you're not being told the entire story. Not even close. Everyone has an agenda or they are plainly ignorant because they were to lazy to ever ask a single question about the situation.

Joan Denoo~
Thank you. As a lifelong student of sociology, I am always mindful of those outmoded mores, created out of superstition and limited knowledge, whose time has long since ceased to serve a culture even remotely and in irrational ways.

Lary9, Your comments and responses refresh me and inspire me to keep on keeping on.  Thanks. 

Valerie, your words and expressions move me deeply and I am please that my life-experiences make sense to you.  I want to be heard because I think I have something important to say. I am not alone, and neither are you.  Thankfully, this meda offers  opportunities with unusual power.  

Even as I tell the painful parts, allow me to reassure you things get better.  Family members who were so hateful before, begin to ask me questions, not to gain ammunition  for their weapons but to answer deeply held doubts.

My recent incidents that frightened me so badly were just another step taken on my journey ... the fears are fewer, don't last as long, and I experience great support from individuals in the AtheistNexus community.

Joy and peace and strength!

Ditto.

Joan,

'In the early 1900s when she was three or four years old, her mother started binding her feet with about 16 feet x four inches of cotton gauze soaked in alum to stop blood flow."

Pearl Buck's nobel winning novel 'The Good Earth' also describes this Chinese custom. Acording to her, the Chinese believed that small feet of a woman were a sign of beauty. So this painful system was practiced from right from childhood. 

MADHUKAR KULKARNI.

 

To add to your 'yield' 'obey' 'pray' I also like:

PRAY - PREY - PAY - OBEY.

Education, especially including statistics, logic and scientific methods, is helpful for people to overcome some vague uneasiness about religion and get fully aware of the existence of atheism and the irrationality of faith.   Unfortunately, world wide seen, too many women are deprived to get as much education as men.   Therefore some women are doomed to remain in the trap of their religious brainwashing as a consequence of lacking education.

Maruli, yes, education matters ... the kind of education that frees minds from attitudes, briefs, customs, traditions and values that bind women.

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Joan Denoo,

"Husband Owns Uterus."

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