Protection is guaranteed in many different contexts: pharmaceutical companies and the medical world promise protection from a wide variety of spread of viruses, germs and diseases; laws promise the protection of information, of constitutional rights, of the environment; cosmetic companies offer protection from skin damage and aging; advertisers of all kinds of products offer protection; governments promise the protection of citizens, nations and borders.
We have a compulsive need to know that our safety is guaranteed
We want to know that we are protected. We want to feel safe. Politicians, profiteers and priests know this and frame their message to allay our worst fears.
We deploy safeguards in every area of life
There is apparently a relentless human drive to seek, find and deploy safeguards for every human experience. We have a deep-seated fear of being defenceless, unprotected, insecure. At the same time, there is a proliferation of fantastical ideas and magical thinking that protection is assured despite evidence that this is not the case: rape and violence against women; homelessness and abused children; tortured and tormented animals; the hunting and destruction of entire animal species; and a planet on the brink of calamity.
In the religious context, rituals and petitions for protection performed and offered to – and in the name of – a transcendent God, saints, or ancestors with spiritual powers, are integral to human life. Individually and collectively, believers call on unseen protectors to intervene in matters concerning relationships, finances, work, health, safety; nations and countries; life and death.
I am not questioning the truth or value of religious beliefs (I have my own) but I do have questions about religious teachings that compromise women, rob them of their agency, and increase their susceptibility to abuse. To what extent do women internalise patriarchal religious teachings and collude at a subconscious level with their own oppression?
In all the patriarchal religions the notion of protection is complex and tenuous for women because their protection depends on seen and unseen powers. Men are represented as superior to women in all original sacred texts, and it is assumed that they are the benign and benevolent protectors of women.
Men are considered superior to women in all patriarchal religions
‘Men are the protectors and maintainers of women,‘ the Quran says, ‘for Allah has preferred some over others…’
In the Hindu context, a woman first belongs to her father, then to her husband, and then if her husband dies, she belongs to her son. There is no autonomy at any point in her life. She is always under the protection of a male person.
In Judaism, men are also the protectors and women are the enablers. The commandment to ”be fruitful and multiply” is a commandment given to men, not to women. Women enable men to fulfill their commandments and they are loved, cared for, and promised protection in return.
Christian women are taught (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 Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.’
Women depend on their patriarchal protectors
Reports of domestic violence in religious communities raise questions about teachings that promote co-dependency and an ‘I-thou’ attitude in relationships between men and women, where men are supreme and women are in service to them. Women are educated and conditioned to cooperate, collude and collaborate with their protectors, who may also be their abusers.
Is there something in women that longs to sustain the myth of male protection; that perhaps contributes at a deep subconscious level to their own subordination?
The Shadow King reinforces the myth of male protection that women pass on from one generation to the next
Years ago, I had an email dialogue with the American author, psychotherapist, and co-creator of Voice Dialogue, Sidra Stone. Voice Dialogue is a psychotherapeutic method that assists people to identify and dialogue with their inner voices; voices that belong to various parts of our personalities, our selves. This is not a symptom of mental illness, it is a part of being human. Each of these selves has its own thoughts, feelings, behaviour patterns, and ways of perceiving and judging the world.
In ‘Voice Dialogue‘ our various selves are invited to express themselves freely without interference of the ego which tends to over-identify with our inner critic, controller, or oppressor.
Dialogue with an Inner Patriarch
At some time during my communication with Stone, I was privileged to have a session with an American ‘Voice Dialogue’ coach who was in South Africa for a brief visit. The experience was deeply disturbing but transformative. I was given insight into the subjugation of what Jung would call my inner anima (feminine aspect) by my inner animus (masculine aspect). It took me more than a year to integrate and work through what I had discovered and to see how this applied in the lives of other women.
The Shadow King
Stone’s book: The Shadow King explores the challenge that women confront to free themselves from the enchantment of their ‘Shadow Kings” (the internalised Inner Patriarch in women that have ruled women from the shadows of the unconscious for millennia), and to find a new way of being.
This requires women to hold the tension of the opposites within and expand their vision to include a world that divides human beings into conflicting groups.
Protection comes from within
Perhaps if more women find the courage to undertake this transformative journey, they will gain a new understanding of the subliminal messages that inform their need for male protection and be in a position to lead the way to more equal and less fearful relationships – and more spiritual expansiveness.