New Video! Calling Out Religious Misogyny without Hypocrisy

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In Orange County, Florida, public schools, a Christian group was allowed to hand out Bibles and other literature on Freedom of Religion Day, January 16. In response, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, FFRF, has applied for permission to hand out their own pamphlets, which question the truth of the Bible and call into question the divinity of Jesus.

So far, so good: if a public school allows religious groups to hand out materials to students, they are constitutionally prevented from picking and choosing what religious beliefs are allowed to be distributed. Ideally, there would be no religious group allowed to attempt to manipulate students on public property, since that’s the entire point of having a clear separation of church and state.

One of the pamphlets FFRF wants to hand out is called “An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity in the Bible,” and it apparently highlights the not-family-friendly parts of the supposedly Good Book. Since it seems as though most Christians haven’t actually read the complete work they claim to abide by, this, too, is a valid point.

The cover of the X-Rated Book pamphlet shows a crude drawing of a personified Bible sexually assaulting or possibly raping a woman, thrusting his hand up her dress and letting his long tongue loll out his grinning mouth.

Come on, FFRF.

We can’t fight against the misogyny inherent in the Bible while simultaneously revelling in that misogyny, using the rape and abuse of women as a tawdry attention-getter. If you condemn the graphic representation of violence against women as a tool to sell an ideology, then you shouldn’t engage in those very behaviors to sell atheism or skepticism.

This is, essentially, the equivalent of an anti-gay protester who speaks endlessly and graphically about gay sex acts to the point where you wonder if he’s really anti-gay or if he’s just jealous that other people are having so much fun.

The cover of “An X-Rated Book” isn’t designed to attract the attention of people who actually care about the treatment of women. It’s designed to attract the attention of people who want to experience the shock and guilty pleasure of seeing a woman humiliated.

Considering that FFRF is run by out-and-proud feminists who I personally have a lot of respect for, I hope they can reevaluate their strategy here. Instead of relying on crude misogyny to get PR, I hope they can focus on tactics that don’t completely negate the message that many religions only see women as objects to be used to further the goals of men.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. Well, the cover IS crude, ugly, sexist, and needlessly ‘shocking.’ That does not mean that FFRF is engaging in hypocritical titillation to sell pamphlets.

    It sure means that someone should have rejected the cover in the first place. Failing that, the pamphlet should not have been offered to school kids. Still, the underlying point…that the Bible is loaded with hideous sexual violence, slavery, rape, polygamy etc. etc. shouldn’t be missed.

    Should we have a contest to design a cover that would convey that message, without echoing it, even inadvertently? What kind of image can convey ‘X-Ratedness’ without repeating it?

    1. So, you think that the cover is crude, ugly, sexist and needlessly shocking, and yet you don’t think that FFRF is engaging in hypocritical titillation to sell pamphlets? Uh, what? How does that make sense? You’re contradicting yourself, here.

      “What kind of image can convey ‘X-Ratedness’ without repeating it?”

      Why does there need to be an image, anyway? And I’m sure if someone put their thinkin’ caps on, they can come up with something. PLENTY of people write books that talk about this sort of thing without engaging in this sort of sexist imagery. And the purpose of the book is its CONTENTS, not the imagery. I also think that they should be getting plenty of attention regardless, because the subject itself is pretty controversial. There’s no need to make it even more so by using this sort of imagery — it’s already there.

  2. I, uh, I think it’s a little late for a contest John.

    yeah, if you agree it’s an anti-woman cover on an object produced by the FFRF, you’re also saying the FFRF is engaging in anti-woman propaganda to talk about how awful and anti-woman that stuff is…well, hypocrisy’s the right word.

  3. I typically have a great deal of respect for the FFRF and am generally supportive of their causes, but I’m very disappointed in this decision. For one thing, I think it’s inappropriate for them to be handing out sexually charged tracts to kids like this. I personally think this is a lot worse than giving kids bibles. With bibles it’s at least presented in a very dry matter of fact text form and most kids are likely to simply glaze over it when reading the bible. I know I did when I read the bible growing up as a kid. But handing out pamphlets with sexual images on it is over-emphasizing the sex parts and drawing kids attention to it that they wouldn’t have paid attention to otherwise. And I agree there are other ways they could point out these issues without being so provocative and offensive about it. But really I think this is an issue they need to be focusing on working out with adults rather than joining in on the harassing of kids like this.

      1. To be clear, I’m not defending the cover (see below). I do think, however, that the kids in question are plenty old enough to discuss the sexism and misogyny—and sexual violence—the Bible condones.

  4. It is difficult to actually depict such things. Perhaps just putting a sample quote on the cover?

    I prefer the Wicked Bible, personally. (For those who don’t know, one word is deleted: “Thou ?halt commit adultery.”)

    As a tangent (because of a similar discussion over on Daily Kos), while we still have just under two months left, let me be the first to say “Requesciat in pace Intersectionality, *1989 †2014″

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