Religion and Gender
Religion and Gender aims to develop knowledge and understanding of the role of gender in religious experience and tradition; and to explore the relationship. Jul On the Relationship between Gender Roles. Attitudes, Religious Ideology and Familism in a. Sample of Adults in the United States. Sex differences in religion can be classified as either "internal" or "external". Internal religious issues are studied from the perspective of a given religion, . There is an interesting correlation between the two gender creation stories, both stories.
One such expectation of women was to marry at a relatively young age. The quadrennial Bear Festival, known as Arkteia, was held on the outskirts of Athens in honor of Artemis and involved girls ages seven to fourteen.
The girls would compete in public athletic events as Greek men sat as onlookers, observing potential wives. The myth surrounding Demeter involves her losing her daughter, Persephone, against her will to Hades and the grief she experiences after the event.
Aphrodite, too, was honored by similar means. The Catholic Church recognizes conception as the beginning of a human life, thus abortion is prohibited under all circumstances. However, according to the Second Vatican Council, women who have had an abortion but are willing to commit to the right of life are ensured forgiveness.
The Vedas, which are age-old sacred Sanskrit texts, suggests that abortion is more sinful than killing a priest or one's own parents. Homosexuality and religion Homosexuality is expressly forbidden in many religions, but typically in casuistic rather than apodictic laws.
As such, the rationale for such proscriptions is not clearly evident, though avoidance of procreation and contribution to society via establishing families are sometimes offered as pragmatic considerations.
In general, homosexuality is perceived as sinful in conservative movements and fully accepted in liberal movements. For example, the Southern Baptist Christian denomination considers homosexuality a sin whereas the American Baptist denomination perceives homosexuality on an inclusive scale. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.
Women religious founders and leaders are comparatively rare. They are more prominent in new religious movements that have come into existence in quite different religious and cultural contexts since the nineteenth century e. Women can rise to religious leadership more easily within small religious groups outside the mainstream tradition, but modernity has also created space for many new religious roles within the mainstream Wessinger, The charismatic, rather than institutional, authority of women is recognized in both traditional and new religionsbut today a greater number of women religious leaders and teachers exist than in the past Puttick, ; Puttick and Clarke, Several Christian denominations now ordain women as priests, and modern Hinduism knows of many women gurus, such as Ananda Mayi Ma and others.
The second cluster of research themes centers on the fluid area of religious language and thought, raising challenging questions about the entire symbolic order and the role of the imaginary in religion. How are male and female gender differences discursively constructed, culturally inscribed, and socially reproduced? Do different sacred scriptures and religious traditions project images of women as strong and powerful as those of men?
Or does their language remain exclusive and androcentric, subordinating, disempowering, excluding, and oppressing women?
What are the gendered patterns and symbols of their language of creation and salvation? How are the sacred, ultimate reality and the divine conceptualized, and how is feminine and masculine sacrality understood and valued? The evaluative gender hierarchy of religious language is equally inscribed in religious attitudes to the body, sexuality, and spirituality for Jewish perspectives on body, sexuality, and gender see Eilberg-Schwartz, ; for Christian perspectives see Brown, ; Thatcher and Stuart, ; the gendered patterns of relations between sexuality and the sacred are richly documented by Nelson and Longfellow, ; Raphael, The widespread sacralization of virginity, and the spiritually privileged position accorded to asceticism and monasticism in many religions, especially in Jainism, Buddhism, and Catholic Christianity, have fueled profoundly misogynist views in the gender dynamics of numerous religious traditions, but a comparative-critical study of these phenomena from a self-reflexive gender perspective still remains to be written.
The narrow prison of gender symbols encloses the historically and socially located human perceptions of divine immanence and transcendence. Dominant androcentric images of God have been symbols of power and oppression not only for many women but also for many colonial people.
Now recognized as limiting rather than liberating, they are radically called into question by contemporary theologians of both sexes, especially Jewish and Christian feminists. Where are the symbols and images of a feminine Divine, the female figures of wisdom, of the Spirit?
Analyzing religious texts and teachings from a female gender perspective can lead to surprising new insights into human experience of the Divine, whether in gendered patterns of mystical experience or in the intimate presence of the Spirit within our bodies and in the natural world, as recognized by contemporary ecofeminism and the new ecofeminist spirituality Adams, ; Cuomo, Discussions about the possibility and necessity of a divine feminine, accompanied by a revalorization of the body and the maternal, take central place in the lively debates of contemporary critical philosophers and theologians Jantzen, These have been much influenced by the linguistic turn of postmodernism and the rise of psycholinguistics, especially its revolutionary use by French feminist theorists Irigaray, Kristeva, Cixous, and otherswhich has strongly impacted Western philosophers of religion Anderson, ; Jantzen, ; Joy, O'Grady, and Poxon, Feminist philosophers of religion are now engaged in sharply critiquing a traditionally almost exclusively male discipline shaped by problematic biases of gender, race, class, and sexual orientation.
Different feminist theologians and biblical scholars have also taken up the topic of gender with much vigor see Sawyer, God, Gender and the Bible, A third cluster of research questions relates to the usually least visible except for outward religious practices, and perhaps also spirit possessionthe most internal, personal aspects of religion, that is to say religious and mystical experiences. How far are these differently engendered? To what extent are their occurrences, descriptions, images, and symbols gender specific?
Are men's perception and pursuit of spirituality often quite different from women's spirituality? These questions can be applied to both the continuing and cumulative experience of ordinary day-to-day religious practice and to the extraordinary experiences of religious virtuosi, such as saints and mystics. Most religions seem to validate the ordinary lives of women in terms of domestic observances and family duties rather than encourage their search for religious knowledge and spiritual perfection.
How far do different traditions prohibit or encourage women to seek a spiritual space of their own and follow demanding spiritual disciplines in the same way as men? By rejecting traditional sociobiological gender roles through becoming ascetics, yoginis, sannyasinis, or nuns, Jaina, Buddhist, and Christian women have pursued nontraditional, and sometimes extraordinary, paths of spiritual devotion and attainment, although the gendering of Hindu renunciation is a mostly modern phenomenon Khandelwal, Women had to struggle to create their own religious communities; their gender always provoked male resistance to their claim to autonomy and power, so that their activities remained controlled and constrained by male hierarchies.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the rich lives of Christian nuns in whose cloisters and convents appeared outstanding women scholars, mystics, artists, political activists, healers, and teachers over many centuries, whose biographies often reflect intensive gender struggles over power and authority McNamara,also evident from the critical study of Christian mysticism Jantzen, It is especially the area of women's religious experience, in both the ordinary sense of religious devotions and duties and the special sense of a particular religious calling, that provides a rich field for contemporary research.
It is important to investigate also the strongly affirmative and life-sustaining resources that countless women have found through the ages, and still find today, in a faith transmitted to them through the beliefs, practices, and spiritual heritage of a specific religious tradition. Such research provides a counterbalance to the more restrictive and oppressive role that religion has played in many women's lives.
Moving from religious experience and practice to the systematic articulations of faith that produced a wealth of philosophical and theological learning in all religious traditions, we largely meet worlds without women, as is all too evident from sacred and scholarly literatures, official histories of religious institutions, and more recently the historiographies and research monographs of Western scholars of religion King, Women's religious worlds, experiences, and thought have on the whole made few contributions to these developments until the modern period.
Gender studies and other intellectual advances have awakened us to such important themes as self and subjectivity; human identity and representation; authority and power relations; masculinity and femininity; body, sexuality and spirituality; and how to think and speak of ultimate reality and human destiny, of individuals and community, in a newly gendered, and sometimes transgendering, way.
Feminist theologians and thealogians have reimaged God and Goddess or explored affinities with process thought Christ, ; they have suggested alternative conceptualizations using androgynous and monistic models for ultimate reality; they have reshaped religious rites and invented new ones through creating either separate women's rituals or more inclusive liturgies.
Many contemporary changes in religious practice are the result of an altered gender awareness, but many further social and institutional transformations of a more substantial kind are still needed. Discussions about the relationship between immanent, contingent gender experiences and perceptions of transcendence and divine otherness, or the nature of the sacred and numinous, continue unabated.
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However, too often these are still predicated on an essentialist dualism between the spirit as masculine and the body, whether female or male, as feminine, and they often perpetuate the traditional appropriation of the realm of transcendence and the spirit by men.
The above discussion of a wide range of research themes shows that a rereading of religions from a critical gender perspective reveals the existence of gendered texts and traditions, gendered hierarchies of power, gendered symbols of the sacred, gendered bodies and minds.
The analysis of this wealth of new material is a truly daunting task and remains an ongoing one. There also arises the central question of whether gender studies in religion will be able to make a significant contribution to creating a postpatriarchal world by moving from dualistic and exclusive gender constructions to new social projects of gender reconciliation, implying profound personal and social transformations.
Difference can mean many things; among others it can stand for a multiplicity of voices and meanings, for varied subject positions of the same individual, or it can negate the possibility of any particular authoritative account. It thus undercuts any essentialist position in debates about race, gender, and ethnicity. Difference carries negative value baggage, while diversity differentials are captured by difference. The trick is to recognize difference as a fragmentation into insignificant units of resistance.
By holding onto a concept of difference nuanced by a concept of diversity, significant political and intellectual action against oppression remains effective.
The recognition of diversity has led to the realization that everywhere pluralities abound whereas singularity is rare. Thus, gender studies, feminisms, feminist theologies, sexualities, spiritualities, and many other categories are now more often expressed in the plural rather than the singular.
Difference is also correlated with "otherness," not only that of different experiences and social locations, of gender orientations and identities, but the multiple "otherness" of religious differences within and across specific cultures; there is the diversity of methods and approaches in understanding such differences; there is the "otherness" of one gender to another, especially the "otherness" of women for men, as traditionally understood.
The social and political violence exercised by the West toward the "otherness" of "non-Western" cultures, whether through imperialism, orientalism, or neocolonialism, has come under fierce criticism that also impacts the gender and religion debate Armour, ; Donaldson and Kwok, The history and concerns of feminist theory have to some extent paralleled those of postcolonial theory.
Writing from the perspective of postcoloniality, feminist researchers perceive woman as a "colonized" subject relegated, like subject people of former colonies, to the position of "other" under various forms of patriarchal domination.
The "epistemological violence" of Western religious and theological discourse toward other cultures and religions has come under fierce critique, as have debates about racial differences, which are being subverted through critiquing whiteness and its false neutrality, theorizing white also as "race" or de-emphasizing the importance of the category of "race" altogether.
The essentialist understanding of race characterizes what is now called Whitefeminism, and new critiques of limited, essentialist perspectives of Whitefeminist theory and Whitefeminist theology, as well as religious studies theory, are being developed Armour, ; Keller, One can argue, especially from the universalist, inclusive vision inherent in many religions, that there exists only one race, and that is the human race.
One of the most significant issues is who has been counted as "human" in the past and who was marginalized as "other," "outsider," "barbarian," and "nonhuman.
Contemporary discussions are deeply affected by the processes of globalization, which produce transformative resources for religious worldviews, interreligious contacts and communication, and the international study of religions.
Many of these depend on the globally diffused use of English, criticized by some as neocolonial form of dominance. These arguments are also present in gender debates, since more writings and scholarly communications about gender and its relevance for religion take place in English than in any other language. In postcolonial writing the "alchemy of English" Kachru, is widely debated.
Its usefulness as a non-native medium of communication is its perceived "neutrality" in that it cannot be automatically aligned with particular indigenous religious or ethnic factions, and therefore can be used just as much for imparting local, non-Western values as Western values. Thus, it is rather one-sided to see this hegemony of one Western language above others mainly negatively, for the global use of English can also be valued positively as an enabling means of wider communication and an empowering challenge for social and personal transformation.
In the gender debate, people whose mother tongue is not English may initially feel at a disadvantage, but native English speakers are not necessarily better off, because a critical gender awareness always requires a new perception and the learning of a new vocabulary, linked to new attitudes and changed practices. Learning to make the "gender-critical turn" is an ongoing self-reflective process that everyone who embarks on the exciting journey of gender exploration must undergo, whatever their language.
These multiple new perspectives, now increasingly subsumed under "postcolonial studies," have spawned lively controversies on race, gender, ethnicity, nationalism, orientalism, discourse, body, and other topics, creating numerous formulations of hybridity rather than genuinely correlative or integral frameworks. These controversial ideas have also considerably influenced religious studies theory, although it is presently impossible to assess whether this tendency to identify ever more differences will have any lasting intellectual or practical impact on gender and race relations.
Concepts of difference and diversity are also much discussed by feminist theologians seeking to account more appropriately for religious diversity and pluralism in feminist theological discourse. Many further issues, whether theoretical or praxis-oriented, can only find brief mention. The influential critical theory of the Frankfurt School has itself been critiqued by feminists for its gender essentialism, although its male practitioners provide valuable insights into woman-as-object of masculine thought.
Challenging the oversights of critical theory, Marsha Hewitt contends that it nonetheless possesses considerable emancipatory potential for feminist theology and religious theorists. Yet one can also argue that excessively complex theoretical elaborations remain ultimately barren and are just another example of the violence of abstraction. Faith-engaged activists in different religious groups and basic communities are consciously praxis-oriented in fighting the gendered pattern of violence against actual human beings, so starkly apparent in numerous contemporary conflict and war situations.
The study of gender, religion, and violence has attracted increasing interest, and so has the topic of human rights and religion, including a growing awareness of women's human rights in relation to their religious traditions and cultures, whether Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, or other Jeffery and Basu, ; King, ; Svenson, The Malaysian scholar-activist Sharon Bong argues that although problematic in challenging the secularity of human rights discourse, it is essential, in fact "a moral and political imperative to negotiate women's human rights with cultures and religions," in order to complement other strategies for their empowerment Bong,p.
Also of great concern is the topic of religious fundamentalism, where research is only beginning to pay attention to gender differences, especially how women are affected by fundamentalist teachings and practices of different religions Hawley, ; Howland, and the efforts made by conservative and Christian evangelical groups in redefining traditional gender roles in the light of changing social practices DeBerg, Randi Warne concludes one of her gender articles by saying: As long as we distinguish humans as "women" and "men," and as long as these distinctions carry symbolic meaning and cultural authority which shape human life possibilities, the concept of gender will be essential to any adequate analysis of religion.
Gender as an analytical category, and gendering as a social practice, are central to religion, and the naturalization of these phenomena and their subsequent under-investigation have had a deleterious effect on the adequacy of the scholarship that the scientific study of religion has produced. Until the scientific study of religion becomes intentionally gender-critical in all of its operations, it will unwittingly reproduce, reify and valorize the nineteenth-century gender ideology which marks its origins, rendering suspect any claims to the scientific generation of reliable knowledge it seeks to make.
The reworking of language, thought, and theories, of knowledge and scholarship, are essential, but not sufficient, for creating a profoundly different, more gender-just and equitable world for all humans peopling this globe. To rethink sex, gender, and religion, we have to imagine that creative alternatives are available and that a nonhierarchical, more caring and participatory world can come into existence that is not aligned along a single, masculine model of sameness, but offers more spaces for rich cultural and religious differentiation.
I agree with Christine Delphy that "perhaps we shall only really be able to think about gender on the day when we can imagine non-gender" quoted in Juschka,p.
The rich variety of gender entries on specific religious traditions that follow this article amply demonstrates that critical, transformative gender perspectives now affect the study of all religions and are consciously being taken up cross-culturally by scholars of both genders. Their research has created challenging perspectives of enquiry and produced a wealth of new scholarly work, as is evident from the following bibliography and those supplied on each religious tradition.
The problematic nature of masculine gender constructions is discussed in Maurice Berger, Brian Wallis, and Simon Watson, eds. For a provocative philosophical enquiry into gender dualities and the gender system in relation to conceiving humanity and the communal project of democracy, see Steven G. Smith, Gender Thinking Philadelphia, Upper Saddle River, N. For historical and descriptive details on women in different religious traditions, see the series edited by Arvind Sharma and Katherine K.
Often-cited readers that have assumed the status of classics, with mostly material on Judaism, Christianity, and new religions in the West, are Womanspirit Rising: Feminist Reader in Religion, 2d ed. Essays by Founding Mothers of the Movement, 2d ed.
Other Works Darlene M. A Reader London and New York, An indispensable collection of articles dealing with wide theoretical issues, from women doing the study of religion to critical discourses, race, gender, sexuality, and class. Key texts from the last thirty years, grouped thematically, and introduced by excellent discussions on the impact of feminism on the study of religion.
Gender and religion
A wide-ranging selection of textual sources on women in different sacred writings. Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion, 2 vols. A superb reference work for first orientation; contains rich bibliographical sources on the fast-growing field of women's and feminist studies in religion. The premier journal disseminating feminist scholarship in religion is the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, published twice a year since spring It now invites "a variety of contributions that focus on women's experience or on gender as a category of analysis, and that further feminist theory, consciousness, and practice" Spring In addition religious teachings and beliefs play an important role in either promoting or discouraging gender equality.
Therefore, key beliefs of each religion have its impacts in gender related issues which changes from time to time. Each religion has its key beliefs which directly shape the culture of its believers. Some religious groups suppress women rights and they are not valued greatly in other religious groups.
Therefore religious beliefs may influence gender relations in the sense that people which belong to a certain religious behave in accordance with their religion. Moreover religion affect greatly in gender relations because many people belongs to a certain religion which affect positively or negatively gender relations However this essay seeks to discuss how religion affects gender relations in our society.
Moreover in this essay I will include recommendations. Gender relations refer to how men and women interact and communicate with members of the other sex and people of a different sexual orientation Gender Relations Center This can be precipitated by religions which have teachings which guide the socialisation between men and women religion. Therefore, other religions constrain women to access basic necessities because of gender relations for instance education and representation in higher post like high post leadership.
However, gender refers to the socially-constructed roles of women and men in their relationships, as well as the meanings associated with particular roles, while sex refers to biological characteristics that define human beings as female or male Gender Relations Center Therefore, religion is defined as the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary and which itself contains the answer to the question of the meaning of life Underwood, This definition means religion to believers became an answer to everything; also it is something which must be followed for a person to have a good living.
Moreover, religion has beliefs and norms which need to be taken serious by the believers. Among all religious groups in the world Christianity is the one of the largest religious group. Nair, in the same line postulate that, Christianity is one of the largest religions in the world practiced in different societies and cultures around the world. Therefore, religion has a great impact in gender relations, attitudes and beliefs.
This means religion have a great influence gender inequalities in different societies. Therefore, different religious groups have gender aspect and there are different beliefs which state the role of men and women. This clearly means that in many religious groups women are expected to be dependent on men whilst men is expected to play dominant role in supplying basic necessities to the household. Moreover, especially in African Traditional Religion men are expected to look for food through hunting.
Powers is conceived not in terms of hierarchy but as areas of specialization and all is interconnected.
Men have their areas of specialization for example, hunting and so do women for example, cosmetics Olademo, The concept of African gender relations also reflects the multilayered understanding of the concept of power in Africa. Whereas the male is in control of the visible, physical and formal power, women control the invisible, non-physical and informal power in the polity. Yet both classifications of power are potent and relevant to the African social structures and gender relations. Furthermore, the base of power structure in some African communities is in the custody of women.
According to Olademo, this in the case of the Yoruba, where the "lya mi" group of knowledgeable women often referred to as witches, constitute the base of all power structures.
This shows African traditional religion believes that women are viewed as unknowledgeable people who must not show their knowledge. Because of these believes women in African Traditional religion, cannot hold high political post. In addition they are not expected to be independent from men. Consequently, African gender construct bestows tremendous power on women. Also, the institution of motherhood is construed as a position of power in African communities.
According to Olademothe elements that prevail in childbirth and child upbringing constitute avenues of power for the women in African communities.