Quite a number of years ago I had a conversation with one of my professors, a feminist theologian, who posed the question “Why do I need a man to purify my baby with the waters of baptism? Is there something wrong or impure about the blood and water from a mother’s womb – my womb?” Before you jump and shout the words Sacrament or removal of original sin, this question bears merit in exploring, especially in today’s world where women are taking a serious beating religiously, politically, and socially. In today’s world, violations and rants are causing women to stand up and say STOP! This is MY Body. This outcry was provoked by chants of ethical slurs against women– Slut! Prostitute! Whore! The cry got even louder when the issue of religion and government was raised in the fight of healthcare coverage of contraception. The cry got even louder with the enactment of the laws in Virginia and Texas (and many other states to follow suit) that forces women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds in early stage abortions. The mandatory insertion of a wand into a woman’s vagina (mandated by the government, mind you), is a violation and has women crying RAPE!
The memory of this conversation did not re-appear by chance, it was prompted by a book I read for my History of Sexuality Class – Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Context by Anne McClintock who addresses the notion of baptism through origins, property, and power. So many things are currently being taken away from women and reading McClintock’s assertion regarding male baptism is perplexing. She believes that male baptism or baptism by a man takes women’s role in child bearing and diminishes it. These are the same men who historically treated and regarded women as vessels. She further asserts that this act is a proactive removal of creative agency with respect to a woman’s ability to have the power to name. That is, the last name of the child belongs to the husband. A point that supports the notion that patrimony marks the denial of women. Anyone doing genealogy encounters a perplexing struggle to identify mothers because their names are essentially erased from memory and rarely attached to a child’s name. Continue reading “Is Baptism a Male Birthing Ritual? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”