Religion and Beliefs: Feminism

A2 Sociology Revision Cards for Feminist views of Religion and Beliefs

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  • Created by: Pheebie
  • Created on: 29-10-12 17:17

Feminists View of Religious Organisation

Religious Organisations are mainly male dominated, despite the fact women normally participate in them more than men e.g. Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism forbids women from becoming priests.

KAREN ARMSTRONG: Women's exclusion from the priesthood in most religions is evidence for marginalisation and segregation.

In most types of Church, men are the leader.


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Feminists View of Places of Worship

  • Segregates sexes and marginalises marginalises women.
  • In Mosque's and Synagogue's men and women sit separately- men occupy central and more sacred places.
  • Women's participation may be restricted e.g. cant preach or read from sacred texts.
  • Taboo's regarding menstruation, pregnancy and child birth as polluting may also may restrict women.
  • ISLAM- Menstruating women can not tough the Qur'an.
  • HOLM- Devaluation of women in contemporary religion.


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Feminists View of Sacred Texts

  • Largely feature doings of Male Gods and Prophets.
  • Usually interpreted and written by men.
  • Stories often reflect anti- female stereotypes e.g. Eve who in the Judaeo- Christian story of Genesis, caused humanity's fall from grace and expulsion from the Garden of Eden
  • HOWEVER Jesus goes against this and treats men and women equally for the time.


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Feminists View of Law and Customs

  • Give women fewer rights than men e.g. access to divorce, number of spouses,decision making and dress codes.
  • Religious influences on cultural norms are unequal.
  • Many traditions legitimate and regulate women'sdomestic and reproductive roles e.g. Catholics ban abortion, IVF and contraception. 
  • WOODHEAD: Exclusion form the Catholic Church and priesthood shows unease about the emancipation of women and generally. 


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Religion is Patriarchal

  • Biggest source of conflict & inequality in gender.
  • Religion is used as an instrument of of domination.
  • Religion is a product of Patriarchy rather than capitalism.
  • HOLM
  • SIMONE DE BEAUVDIR: Religion is used by men to oppress women, it deceives women into thinking they're equal and teaches the they're different and rewarded in heaven. Religion maintains a status quo in which women are unequal.
  • NAWAL EL SAADAWI: Egyptian feminist trying to change women's rights in Arab world, she says men distort religion so it serves there own interests e.g. Arab girls become victims of sexual aggression. 


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Religion is NOT Patriarchal


  • Seen as oppression by Westerners.
  • HOWEVER  Muslim women see it as a way to cope with religious oppression and male oppression.
  • Symbol of commitment to faith and culture.
  • Protection against lurching men.


  • There are ways of women using religion to gain greater social freedom and respect e.g. bible groups or church groups.
  • Muslim women use the veil as a way to escape confines of own home and enter employment and education.
  • Women can have a religious influence over men, alter their behaviour, insist "practice what you preach."
  • Religion can empower women.
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Evaluation of Feminists


  • There is obvious oppression e.g. Synagogues.
  • It gets us to question practices that are accepted as norms in some societies (female circumcision.) 
  • Shows how religion is used to oppress women and shows feminism is a valid theory.


  • Outdated theory, religion is important to all people.
  • Functionalist's argue religion gives people a sense of identity.
  • Feminists assume all religions are sexist. (Hijab allows women to escape family.)
  • Marxists argue social class is the biggest source of inequality.
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