I am reminded of this when discussions crop up about the dangers of birth control, which was nicely debunked by Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon; the supposed evils of gynecologists; and the trumpeting of religion as an aspect of society we are obligated to respect and pay due reverence to. Often times I see otherwise smart women and feminists, who I admire, turn a blind eye to evidence in favor of promulgating beliefs that have no basis in fact.
This thread on Feministe, “For Catholics Interest in Exorcism is Revived,” is what initially inspired me to think more about the concept of lived experience and its attendant philosophies when using it in to support unscientific medical practices (as well as shore up an unfounded respect for faith). This commenter seems to think that any worldview, no matter how ridiculous, unsupportable, and improbable must be accorded respect:
Ashley: The dismissiveness here, and the idea that anyone who believes in possession must be lacking in all rationality, marginalizes a whole lot of people’s worldviews.
bfp: Native women had healthy, safe, reliable methods of birth control since before europeans showed up. Okinawans have been studied by numerous westerners who all agree that their spiritual practices are an intricate part of their longevity and health. Acupuncture as a reliable treatment method for everything from back pain to nausea is consistently found to be effective.
…there have been *numerous* controlled studies about the power of prayer on chronically sick people. If somebody wants to be prayed over while getting chemo treatments–why on earth should that be a problem?
These claims are bullshit. Acupuncture is pseudoscience with no medical value, and that has been well established in multiple studies. Also, this commenter’s claim of studies that validate the power of prayer is either a flat out lie or extreme ignorance of current research because all credible studies show no benefit from prayer. This 2006 article, “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients,” in the American Heart Journal, showed there was no benefit, and also showed preliminary evidence that knowledge of prayer increased complications in some patients. Lying to yourself and others about the validity of a medical practice is hardly ethical (or feminist). Likewise with “spirituality;” where is the proof that a spirit or higher power exists? Hint, there isn’t any. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop these claims from being brought up in feminist spaces with the expectation that we are supposed to respect them even when they are flat out wrong.
It is difficult to admit that something you believe to be true isn’t, but it is a vital part of growing as a person and as an activist. As feminists we ask that people reexamine their beliefs all the time about women’s place in society, women’s abilities, sexual assault, gender roles, etc., so we too must examine our beliefs and hold them up to examination and study to ensure that we discard what is shown to be false or no longer valid.