Feminist theories of religion

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  • Feminism
    • Feminists see society as patriarchal - that is based on male domination.
      • Religious institutions are patriarchal as they reflect and perpetuate gender inequality.
      • Religious beliefs are patriarcial ideologies that legitimate womens subordination.
        • Some feminists argue that women have not always been subordinate to men within religion - early religions often placed women at the centre.
    • Although the formal teachings of religions often stress equality between sexes, there is considerable evidence of patriarchy within many of them.
      • Religious organisations are mainly male dominated despite the fact that women often participate more than men in these organisations.
        • Orthodox Jews and Catholics forbid women to become priests.
      • Places of worship often segregate the sexes and marginalise women.
        • In Islam women are not allowed to to touch the Qur'an when menstruating.
      • Sacred texts largely feature the doings of male Gods, prophets etc and are usually written by and interpreted by men.
      • Religious laws and customs may give women fewer rights than men, for example in access to divorce or how many spouses they marry.
        • Catholic churches ban abortion and artificial contraception.
    • Woodhead argues that although much traditional religion is patriarchal, this is not true to all religion.
      • There are religious forms of feminism - ways women use religion to gain greater freedom and respect.
        • Whilst western feminist often see the Hijab as a symbol of oppression, to the wear it may symbolise resistance to oppression; a symbol of liberation that enables her to enter the public sphere without loosing her culture and history.
        • Women may use religion to gain status ad respect for their roles within the home and family; evangelical christian men must respect women.
      • The position of women within some religions is changing for example the church of England had permitted women into priesthood since 1992.


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