Assess the relationship between gender and religion 33marks

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Using material from item A and elsewhere,, assess the relationship between gender and
religion 33marks
Although there is only one God in most contemporary religions, Hinduism being an exception, men
and women tend to view that God differently. Davie showed that women see God more as a God
love, comfort and forgiveness whereas men tend to see more as a God of power and control. It
could be argued that these traits that men and women tend to associate with God are similar to
typical masculine and feminine values e.g. Power and control is stereotypically a male trait.
In the majority of religions, males are given the more significant roles. An example of this is
Christianity which is seen as inherently patriarchal with men made in `the image and glory of God' and
women made `for the glory of man. This is supported by the Old Testament which states `...for the
husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.' There are many female
characters in the biblical texts and some are portrayed as acting charitably or bravely, however the
primary roles are reserved for males. All the most significant Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah
and Moses are male, while in the New Testament all the apostles are men. The most prominent
females in the Bible, Eve and Mary mother of Jesus can be interpreted as reinforcing patriarchal idea
regarding, on one hand, the dangers of female sexuality and on the other, the virtues of
motherhood. Similarly in the Quran, the sacred text of Islam contends that `men are in charge of
women'. Even Christianity and Buddhism are dominated by a patriarchal power structure in which the
feminine is mainly associated with the secular, powerless, profane and imperfect. Even women's
bodies and sexuality are felt to be dangerous by many religious. Because women menstruate and
give birth, they are considered to have the capacity to `pollute' religious rituals. The presence of
women is seen to distract men from their important roles involving worship. Turner suggests that
disciplinary roles with respect to sexuality in central to religion. Widespread importance is given to
ascetic as self-disciplined existence in which pleasure (especially physical) is repressed. This means
that in order to carry out priestly duties properly, there needs to be a degree of policing of the body
and the presence of women makes this more difficult.
These patriarchal attitudes have meant that until recently women have been barred from serving as
priests in many of the world's great religions, and the more traditional factions continue to bar them.
The Catholic Church, Islamic groups, ad orthodox Jew continues to exclude women from the religious
hierarchy. Although women ministers have long been accepted in some sects and dominations, the
Church of England persisted in formally supporting inequalities of gender until 1992, when its general
Synod finally voted to allow the ordination of women. Simona and Nadell conducted research about
women in religious organisations, drawing on evidence from in-depth interviews with 32 female's
rabbis and 27 female members of the protestant clergy. They concluded that the women conduct
themselves in totally different ways to their male counterparts. They asked the female rabbis
whether they carried out their duties different from male rabbis of the same age and training. Almost
all the women replied `yes'. They described themselves as less formal, more approachable, more
egalitarian and more inclined to touch and hug. This study however is gender bias because it only
accounts for the female view, men may disagree with their answers. Interviews also suffer from
social desirability bias, the tendency to respond in a way that will be viewed favourably to others and
this takes the form of over reporting desirable behaviour and under reporting undesirable
Even though there is evidence to suggest that religious institutions have patriarchal values, it should
not be assumed that all religions are equally oppressive to women. Gender-neutral language has
been introduced in many hymns and prayers and the requirement in the Christian marriage ceremony
for the bride to promise to obey her husband is now also optional. Judaism has allowed women to
become rabbis in its non-orthodox demonisations since 1972, and even some Christian religions

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Quakerism have never been oppressive to women. Some sociologist highlights how
there are signs of hope developing with religious organisations. Gross detects signs of a
post-patriarchal Buddhism developing in the West, which does not differentiate roles for male and
female members. Paganism, from which many New Age religions emanate, remains the most
female-friendly approach to religion with a strong feminist element tin contemporary neo-paganism,
where God is a mixture of male and female, and strong female leadership is common.…read more


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