Feminist theory on religion

Feminist theory on religion


  • Religion is an institution of male dominance and patriarchy. This means that women will never benefit from religion as it is a conservative force. It aims to keep women in traditional roles as carers of the family.
  • Liberal - Want to remove any obstacles that prevent women from taking positions of authority in religious institutions.
  • Radical - See religion as to benefit men and so they want to reshape religion completely to recapture the early religions.
  • Marxist Feminist - WC Women face double exploitation from their social position and their gender.
  • Armstrong - Religious Organisations - Many religions such as Catholicism forbid women to become priests. This shows the clear marginality that women face. Catholic and Anglican churches are dominated by men.
  • Holm - Places of worship - Women are kept behind the scenes. Eg Woman's menstruation and pregnancy is seen as polluting. A woman con not touch the Qur'an whilst menstruating. This is the clear devaluation of women.
  • Sacred texts - There are mass amounts of male Gods and prophets. Also the stories and experiences are wrote by men and interpreted by men. When women are shown in the holy books they hold a anti-female stereotype. Eg Eve caused the fall of grace.
  • Religious images - Women are portrayed to be created by the rib of a man. Most of the images are of men and there is little mention of females.
  • Walby and De Beauvior - Religious laws and customs - Many religions legitamise and promote women to have a traditional reproductive, caring mother role.
  • Woodhead - The exclusion of women from preisthood shows the unease of emancipation of women.
  • Aldridge (2007) - Religious scripture - In the Qur'an women are seen as legally inferior to men.
  • De Beauviour (1953) - Many religious scriptures state that men are 'master by divine right.'
  • The (stained) glass ceiling - Women are at the bottom of the career ladder in religious institutions. They face a an invisible barrier of prejudice and discrimination.
  • Aldridge - The veiling of women - It keeps women anonymous and invisible and is a big symbol of oppression.
  • Aldridge - Women are polluting, corrupting and are sexual predators - Sexual pleasure is disapproved by many religions. The activity should only link to reproduction.
  • Armstrong - The rise of Monotheism legitimises men's dominance over women.


  • Many ancient religions are centred around women and female Godesses. - Eg Pagan Witchcraft and Wicca. Also there are fertility cults and mother Goddesses.
  • Wright (1994) - Reform Jewdaism allows women to become rabbis.
  • Nawal El Saadawi - It is not religion that oppresses women, it is men's interpretation of religion that oppresses women.
  • Religion can also offer women status in the home and family life as it gives them power and influence. Eg Evangelican men should respect women.
  • Babawi (1994) - In Islamic culture a women gets to keep her family name when she gets married, unlike in Christian religions.
  • Woodhead (2002) - Women often use religion as a way to gain freedom and respect. Eg the veil and hijab.
  • Ahmen (1992) and Watson (1994) - The veil frees women from male harassment and gives then an independent identity.
  • Some religions have never even been oppressive to women. Eg Quakerism.


Feminist believe that religion is male dominated and is used to oppress women and maintain a patriarchal ideology. There are many contributing factors that prove how religion can seem to oppress women and make them seem inferior to men. The three different types of Feminist take different approaches to religion noting different things. The Radical feminist would recreate religion with it centred around women and equality where as the Liberal feminist would just like to remove obstacles that stop women from having equal right to men in religions. 


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