Women in Comparative Societies

Women and Religion

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First, letÕs consider the relationship between religion and culture


What is it?










Religion is not synonymous with culture

    But it often seems that way

     At the same time, cultural beliefs, practices become codified in religion

     Giving them a permanence they might otherwise lack


Religious rituals, symbols, customs, beliefs

Transmit ideas across generations






**Religion is used by those with POWER (or seeking it)

    To legitimate their ideas, to disempower those they perceive as threatening to their power



Religious and Spiritual Diversity

       Range of roles and teachings across religions

         But also within religions






Religious Fundamentalism


Fundamentalists have most restrictive ideas womenÕs roles

Insist on their subordination to men

Obsesses with controlling sexuality


Reject human rights framework

     as a threat to their beliefs; culture; traditions


Insist on ancient scriptures texts; divine inspiration of their texts/ authors/prophets


For fundamentalists, religion as a total worldview, inseparable from politics/public policy



Ōbenevolent sexismĶ

Protective paternalism: women and girls are/must be protected by fathers, husbands

Complementary Gender Differentiation: men and women are ESSENTIALLY different, by godÕs design

Heterosexual Intimacy: heteronormativity; sexual relationship between husband and wives is central to godÕs plan



Public vs. Private Roles

Women instrumental in the practice of every religion

Maintaining traditions, rituals at home

Food, feasts, celebration, commemorations




Critiquing and Deconstructing Religion

    Masculine God-Language and Imagery

     God the father Does it matter? How? Why?




Sexism in Religious Texts

    Why is there sexism in religious texts?








    Men authored them

     Emphasized what men were doing

Ignored womenÕs contributions, what women were doing

Over time, become even more patriarchal as men accrued more public power






Gender-Segregated Religious Practices





Reforming and Reconstructing Religion

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Nadia Bolz-Weber

Reclaiming history of womenÕs work, roles in the religion, especially in its formation

     Claiming roles of authority and leadership for women today

Bring womenÕs religious practice into the public sphere

     Breaking down gender segregation in religious ritual, worship





Women and the WorldÕs Major Religions







All became more patriarchal over time; How? Why?


            Marion Zimmer Bradley




Intersectional Feminist Theologies

    Considering multiple oppressions simultaneously

     Gender, race, class


     Mujerista theology

     Liberation Theologies




Feminist Spirituality

    In every tradition

     In woman created, woman centered traditions

     Paganism, Wicca, goddess spirituality

Clarissa Pinkola Estes