Religion and Feminism


Evidence of patriarchy

Religious organisations-male dominated e.g.Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism forbid women to become priests

  • ARMSTRONG- sees women's exclusion from priesthood as evidence of their marginalisation

Places of worship-often they segregate the sexes e.g seating men in the central spaces and women behind screens

  • their partcicipation may be restricted e.g. can't preach or read sacred books like in Islam when women are menstrating they aren't allowed to touch the Qur'an
  • HOLM-describes as the devaluation of women on contemporary religions

Sacred texts- largely feature doing of male gods/prophets and written and interpreted by men

  • stories often reflect anti-female stereotypes e.g. eve who caused fall from grace of humanity

Religious laws and customs-give women fewer rights like access to divorce, decision makeing, dress code

  • may lead to unequal treatment e.g. genital mutilation. Many legitimate and regulate women's domestic role e.g. Catholic church bans abortion and contraception 
  • Polygomy-women allowed only one husband but husband has as many wives as wants
  • WOODHEAD- exclusion of women from catholic priesthood shows churches unease for emancipation of women
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Evidence of patriarchy cont.

  • Some argue women have not always been subordinate to men in religion 
  • ARMSTRONG-early religions often placed women at the centre e.g. earth mother goddesses, fertility cults + female priesthoods found throughout middle east until 6000 years ago
  • From about 4000 years ago monotheistic religions rised and saw establishment of single all powerful male God
  • SAADAWI-religion not direct cause of subordination but from patriarchal society coming into existance in last few thousand years and this influnced and reshaped religion
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Criticism- WOODHEAD

  • not all traditional religions are patriarchal - critical of feminists explanations that join religion and patriarchy with oppresion
  • ways that women use religion to gain great freedom and respect e.g. Muslim women wearing the hijab is seen as oppresion to western feminists but some muslim women chose to wear it as as a symbol of resistance to oppresion 
  • also use religion to gain status and respect for domestic roles e.g. strong belief in evangelicals is that men should repsect women so gives women power to influence men's behaviour 
  • postition of women is also changing e.g. church of england permitted women priesthood in 1992 and now 1/5 of all its priests are women
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