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Patriarchy and Religion
Most mainstream contemporary religions and religious organisations tend to
Women and men are rarely treated equally
1. Religious Scriptures
Women are either invisible occupy subordinate positions to men in most religious
In the Christian Bible, Eve is formed from a rib taken from a man and it was
Eve that led Adam astray
God is always referred to as male and Jesus, as were his 12 apostles
In Islam, Mohammed is seen as a man
Aldridge (2007) notes that in the Qur'an women are legally inferior to men
and lack the same rights as their husbands who they must submit
De Beauvoir (1953) argues that most scriptures in most religions suggest
that `man is master by divine'
2. Barred from the priesthood
Women are excluded from the priesthood in Roman Catholic and Orthodox
Christianity and in Islam and Hinduism.
In Buddhism, female nuns are always given less status than male monks.
In Orthodox Judaism, only males are allowed to take a full part in
In Sikhism, where all offices are theoretically equally open to men and
women, only a small number of women take on important roles.
Since 1992, the Church of England has allowed women to become a priest,
which has been accompanied by bitter controversy and only after long and
difficult campaigns to achieve it.
3. The Stained Glass Ceiling
Within religious organisations, women are often at the bottom of the career ladder,
facing the same `glass ceiling' that they face in many other organisations.
E.g. Although the Church of England ordained its first women priest in 1994, there
are still no female bishops even though women make up around 1/5 of all full time
Anglican Priests. Despite legal obstacles to the appointment of female Anglican
bishops being removed in 2005, there is a deep opposition in the CoE to women
4.Patriarchal religious doctrines
Feminist writers such as Walby (1990) and de Beauvoir suggest that the doctrine of
many of the worlds religions contain an ideology of the family, emphasising
women's traditional roles as wives and mothers in the family.
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E.g. In Christianity, respect for the Virgin Mary as a submissive mother is
Barrett (1977) and Pryce (1979) suggest that Rastafarianism, a religion that
mainly applies to AfricanCaribbean men, involves the assumption that women
will take on the traditional roles of housewife and mother in the family. Rasta men
believe this will protect women from racial and sexual harassment by the white