Radical Feminism and Religion

  • Created by: ammarahh
  • Created on: 08-10-19 17:28

Radical Feminism and Religion

  • Radical Feminists emphasize the patriarchal nature of some mainstream religions such as Catholicism and Islam. They argue that such religions have developed in patriarchal societies and have been ‘hijacked’ by men. Men have interpreted religious doctrines in order to justify their positions of power.
  • Radical Feminists also believe that religion often serves to compensate women for their second class status within religion and society more generally. For example, by providing psychological rewards if they accept their role as mothers and limit their horizons to fulfilling that role well.
  • However, Radical Feminists do not necessarily see religion as inherently patriarchal. Historically, for example, Goddess religions have celebrated the creative and nurturing power of the feminine. It is really men hijacking religion and downplaying the role of women in the development of some religions over the past couple of thousand years that is the problem.
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  • Not all feminists agree that religion is essentially patriarchal, arguing that many early religions featured prominent goddesses and other female figures. Instead they argue that patriarchal societies have changed religions in order to ensure they reflected and reinforced patriarchal values.
  • Karen Armstrong (1993) argues that it was the development of monotheistic religions, with their all-powerful male Gods (such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam) which imbued religion with a patriarchal and sexist core. She points out that various goddesses and priestesses were replaced with male prophets.
  • Nawal El Sadaawi argues that religions are not the direct cause of women’s exploitation and oppression (though they are often the tool employed to this end) the cause is a patriarchal society. She argues that powerful men reinterpreted religious beliefs and ideas in order to benefit themselves.
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Evaluation Cont.

  • Linda Woodhead argues that religion is not necessarily sexist or patriarchal and writes of a “religious feminism.” For example, she argues that the veil, in Islamic societies, has been misinterpreted by some western feminists. She argues that many Muslim women choose to wear a veil and see it is a positive and liberating choice. In very restrictive patriarchal Middle-Eastern societies, women have used face veils to allow them to enter society, obtain employment and in other ways empower themselves. In western countries, some women have chosen to wear veils in order to escape the male gaze. 
  • Others have suggested that religion is becoming increasingly female-dominated, particularly in western democracies. Attendance at religious services is much more common among women, for instance. However, feminists like De Beauvoir would argue that that is because women are the intended audience of the ideological messages being promoted: that women should cook, clean, have babies and tolerate inequality and oppression in exchange for rewards in the afterlife.
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