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Religion reinforces patriarchy (33 marks)
It can be argued through feminism that there is evidence of religion subordinating and oppressing
women; maintaining male dominance over women by making them believe it is god's will.
Feminists believe that women are controlled by religion in several ways, for example, dress code,
arranged marriage, lifestyle and education. However Marxists believe that religion oppresses the
working class, not females.
Within religious organisations, women are often found at the bottom of the career ladder, facing
the same glass ceiling barrier of prejudice and discrimination that stops them from rising higher up
the hierarchy. Despite legal obstacles to the appointment of female bishops being removed in
2005, deep opposition remains, and women face what is known as the "stained glass ceiling" that
bars them from progress to positions of authority in the church. This is view is supported by the
appointment of female bishops where `safe' women are to be appointed first and not `fighters for
the ordination of women bishops'. This implies that the Church purposely chooses female bishops
that they know won't provide challenges and instead share the same traditional values and ideas.
Therefore, in this instance religion is under male control.
It is evident that religious practice and participation does show relatively clear gender differences.
This is true across all forms of religious organization (denominations, sects and cults). In the UK
women outnumber men in Church attendance in the ratio 2:1. Supporting this, Miller and Hoffman
state that whatever women's influence may have been in religious organisations, studies have
consistently shown that women are indeed more religious than men. They report that women are
more likely to express a greater interest in religion, have a stronger personal religious commitment
and attend church more often. They claim that this pattern is present throughout all kinds of
religious organisation or belief. However, this is counteracted by statistics demonstrating that in
Protestant Church, the male - female ratio for attendance is approximately 50 50%, although for
Christian Scientists, the male - female ratio is approximately 20 - 80% showing a clear difference
for the type of Church in question in regard to its members' genders.
In some religions, the sexes are often separated in places of worship where women are
marginalised e.g. seating them behind the men. In Islam women are not allowed to touch the
Qur'an during menstruation- Holm describes this as the devaluation of women in contemporary
religion. Many religions regulate women's traditional domestic and reproductive role e.g. the
Catholic Church bans abortion and artificial contraception. Woodhead argues that this is evidence
of the Churches neglect of women's freedom. Additionally in sacred texts men are largely featured
in a positive way, (for example in Christianity God is portrayed as male and omnibenevolent) these
are also interpreted by men. Stories reflect anti- female stereotypes e.g. Eve who committed the
Original sin which gives the impression that all women are evil.
It can be questioned that if some parts of religion are so patriarchal and controlling, why is it that
¾ of converts to Islam are women (Make me a Muslim)? It is popular to contrary belief that many
women in Islam who wear veils and burkhas are forced to do so by men, however in the Quran it
states that men should dress modestly, and women should dress modestly- essentially the
guidance is the same for men and women, different women will have different views on what
`modest' is to them. Watson argues that the veil has the potential to liberate which is evident in
her questioning of various female Muslims: some say that the veil is a form of protection to look
after their modesty, and others say that the veil allows people to regard their intelligence before
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their appearance. This is further supported by Gross' findings related to post-patriarchal Buddhism
which was originally male orientated. In India women were viewed as subordinate to men and
were occasionally the lowest of the four castes. Buddha however accepted that women were
capable of realizing the truth, just as man could. This conclusively means that religion can be
uplifting for women and allows progress through understanding and acceptance.…read more
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However, Marxists criticise the feminist view that religion is a tool of women's oppression, but
under capitalism where the Church reinforces traditional gender roles whilst benefiting the ruling
class. Marxists believe the main role of religion is to legitimise and maintain the power of the ruling
class by keeping the working from realising their manipulated position; this is done by misleading
them into believing that their suffering will be rewarded through the access to heaven.…read more