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Gender and Religion

laod, is a man! was the full-page headline of the ly'ew York Post, a locai tabloid
\fr,"*rpuper, on |une 17, r99r' Apparently, during a Father's Day sermon, John
Cardinal O'Connor, then the archbishop of New York City, had excoriated radical
feminists who had suggested the possibility of a more androgynous' all-embracing
The headline was actually a bit of a hyperbolic over-statement, t)?ical of the tab-
loid press. Actually, O'Connor had said that "In the fatherhood of the Almighty God is,
of cou.se, all personhood, the personhood of mother and father simultaneouslyi' And
he went on to quote a Vatican official who said that "We are not authorized to change
the 'Our Father' into an 'Our Motherl " (That Vatican official, incidentally, was |oseph
Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI in zoo5.)
Critical reaction was nonetheless swift. Many felt that again, women were reminded
that they were not equal in the church. One German theologian dismissed it facetiously
by drawing this anJogy: 'A donkey thinks God is a donkey because in the eyes of a
donkey, the donkey is the top of creation. O' Connor seems to rne to be a combination
of a rnan and a theological donkey."'
This little flare up was actually only the latest skirmish in a centuries-long struggle.
In Western societies, religion has long been bound up with questions about gender' Is
God a rnan? Why do most of the world's great religious traditions have male prophets?
What sorts of relationships does God prescribe, and which ones does God proscribe?
Do men and wornen have equal roles in the various religious ministries?
Monotheistic religious traditions-ludaism, Christianity, and Islarn-have been
especially concerned with gender issues. Both in theological doctrine and as a social


i:i,irir1 tr ii.n.li,: ar,-l ileiiginr

institution, reiigion has, for many centuries, piayed a dominant role in the idea that
women and men are fundamentally different, and that such difference is part of a
divine plan. From that difference, these religious traditions hold, women and rnen are
to perforrn different tasks, are assigned different roles, and are placed in subordinate
urrd ,,rp.oordinate positions in a hierarchy. Most simply said: religious doctrine has
been a consistent wellspring of ciaims of essential and eternal gender difference, and,
institutionally a foundation justifliing gender inequality'
It needni be this way, of course. One can irnagine religious doctrines and rituals
that celebrate equality. Perhaps a more Buddhist notion of complementarity, of yin and
yang, heaven and earth, masculine and feminine, that values each as necessary and
At perhaps a rrrore pantheistic understanding in which various gods, some gen-
arcfri t&
'i/.B*ft' dered and sorne not, are responsible for a wide variety of earthly phenomena.
ttt* *tAr*E

Indeed, the historical record suggests that it wasnt always this way at all' In pre-
modern societies, goddesses proliferated; as far back as hurnan societies existed there
were goddesses, especiaiiy of fertility, reproduction, and later for plentiful harvests.
tf,tany"otr ttre great historical anthropologists of the nineteenth and early twentieth cen-
turies proposed that primitive matriarchies and polltheistic cultures were gradually
replaced-either by conquest or contact3 And Marija Gimbutas, a professor of archeol-
ogy at UCLA argued that in Neolithic Europe, between 65oo and 35oo BC, a goddess-
oiiented civiiization was characterized by peace, harmony, and a nurturing sensuality,
rloid which was destroyed by weapon-wielding horsemen who swept across Europe from the
lohn Russian stepPe4
lical Historically, the Great Goddess was known by so many names that it is impossible
cing to count them all: Astarte, Anat, Anahita, Asherah, Attoret, Attar, and Au-and that's
just the "As"!5 There are hundreds, if not thousands of goddesses who have occupied the
tab- pantheon of deities throughout world history. In Female Power and Male Dominqnce,
rd is, ior e*ample, anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday traces the origins of male domina-
And tion in Europe and the Middle East to the triurnph of sky gods over earth goddesses-
mge that is the triumph of the invisible and ail-powerful over the more visible, immediate,
seph and pragmatic.
yetLany cutrtures today continue to worship goddesses-with significant cross-
rded overs. For example, animist religions like the Yoruba in Africa have influenced religious
,uslI cult traditions in the Western hemisphere such as VooDoo and Santeria, traditions that
ofa rnaintain women s spiritual power.6
tion Greek and Roman m1'thology paired up gods and goddesses, and while Zeus
thundered angrily, goddesses like Athena and Hera proved abie problem solvers'
Mesopotamians worshipped trshtar; trsis and Demeter were goddesses of law and
:r. Is tice in Egypt and Greeie, respectively. Ancient cultures in the Near East and Middle
rets? East rout"inely included fertility goddesses, who controlled life forces such as birth and
ibe? death. Some cultures even developed matriarchal religions in which the Great Mother
was the source of all life.
)een Many conternporary non-industrial cultures that have been less tainted by incor-
rcial poration into Western networks still maintain such fernale deities, which suggests that
seel.rg the fernale as both equal and divine answers sorne irnportant cultural needs

God has had many per"sonalities-merciful. that voice has been rnale. Can you imagine what you might have thought if Charlton Heston had gone up to the top oithe mountain in Cecil B. there is far |udaism (r. but rather in the godlike ootential of all humans.T Monotheism changed all that. Crete.. proud and patriarchal-but ever since Abraham heard that voice.228 f lt." which Figure g.i "GoddessTours. seventl'l century BC.ral. DeMilleb epic movie The Ten Commandments andit .This irnage frorn l. Greece/Erich Lessing/Art Resource. Source: Archaeological Museum' Herklion. which are older than religions). vengeful. Among those religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.ifrictt is the oldest of the three major rnonotheistic more spiritual'diversityi'Hinduisrn holds that there are many gods and goddesses (although the practice of the religion allows for significant gender inequality)' And Buddhists dont believe in any tituiar'god" who stands above. perhaps to our detriment. fraternai helper or angly j"9g-. patient and pater- . o. Snake Goddess. Crete. NewYork' across historical time-needs that are largely unmet in our culture. organizes women-onty tours to ancient goddess sites. There has never been much of a question that the single unitary God who first spoke to Abrarram was a male God.

have been suppressed And not ail are scriptures. to use all available methods' includ- that the entire Vatican hierarchy was determined ingrnurder.t also been the other side of patri- Women's spirituaiity (to which I wiil return later) has the archal religions. . The Da Vinci .itirrg book ofall time elUt" is number one)."ssion of commandments for the subordination of the norms concerning gJnd".-prescribingtheappropriaterelationshipbetweenmen r '" and women.Thatistosay. Most "qrruilty Code..Shewas while the priest was called in ..r.#r .rjustbelowthesurfacebecausetheyalsosuggesttheeternal human desire for and the elevation of women to an equal station. nto canonicaitextsarenormative. parents and chiidren.theyarenotthewordofGod. These were powerful *o-"tt.rci i::lli3!c:. burned at the stake' t.::'.[I]tisnotdifficultto And see why she was persecuted by an insecure misogynist church which could not tol- llike erate rival Power. or envisioned women as goddesses' '-' over the course of its first two ind. they went some scholars argue that as these goddess traditions (The word "witch' means "wise onei') underground und . who were witchzs were often heaieri rituaily in charge of medicine. much of the history of religion in Europe a history of purificaiion.. it turns out ith.' to men-are butcamealonglateraScomrrrentariesonit. of *o*". those scriptures within a specific historical but the words of mortal men.whilethepriestwascalledlatertoperformthebaptism.. the tenth best- .' . relations-the not encoded into the initi. the deferenc. women. It's estimated that four-fifths rd it . of course.. made them especially threatening to the consolidation our power)... A quasi-feminist text. often independent of the of patriarchal (which.Ji t""r that posited either-the equality ofwomen' celebrated women's reproductive power as divine.tosuppressthepossibltritythatJesusandMaryMagdaleneweremorethan "iust friendsl' were suppressed.rged as witclicraft. i. of birth. vhich ruie of men in lf." so heretical that you might have been and a normative code that demanded The monotheistic asseition oia male God. indeed.. far the first called upon to cure illness or treat the dying.ud. :SSCS afterotherremedieshadfailed. of a search for finer and finer expression -ifi"rrniu tras been all who might deviate from it' Many of of doctrinal truth througt itr" *pp.pit: i: ljenri:. INEQUALITY oice THEOLOGIES OF DIFFER'ENCE' THEOI'OGIES OF but in so many areas the Bible and other Not only when it cornes to the gender of God. had practical historicai implications' It meant not that women be subordinate to men. Entire doctrinal traditions as heresy.."-?-.. husbands and wives. out and suppressing all those elevating men over women.. but it meant stamping ^nlv ffiilh.. and midwives. As Carol Christ writes: The wise woman was summoned at the crises of the life cycle before the priestl she than deliveredthebaby.urg. interpreting context...'trn these ideas crept into the pop potboiler. wouid never have taken it seriously. 729 was a sweetly feminine voice that spoke to him from the burning bush? My guess is that even to suggest such a thing might . including gospels that were c-ontemporaneous N:* Testament' but to lh: the sexes and the divinity of women' suggested far more egaliiarian relations between Thesenotionrsi-m..toadministerthelastrites. either.. rany !ter..ai scriptures.

(one woman.. iunia. to maintain their own property. and to exercise certain conjugal rights' Women were also subject to the same requirements for prayer and fasting during the *7 . /- I et t/) t /' . is referred "Jesus neither said nor did an1'thing which Acco"rding to theologian Leonard Swidler.) for special devotion. For exarnple. . and their prophets. of women as the on the contrary. are far more equinanlmous-or at least arnbiguous-than their subsequent male interpreters have indicated" Those conflicting interpretations have provided the basis for centuries of coirfiict and discord. Peten Steiner from cartoonbank. lesus seemed equally concerned with women as with men and made it a point to single out some women who were scorned by others to in Romans 16:7 as an apostle."'o And Moharnmed insisted that womens consent had to be obtained before marriage-astartling reforrn at the time. wouid injicate that tre advocated treating women as intrinsically inferior to men. both the New and Old Testaments. @The NewYorker CoNlection 1999. . c at . relations of the Qur'an is concerne<l with prescribing and proscribing the appropriate mene The Bit'le.r#rt<.com.4/4/W "We'we been u"tandering in the desertforfort2 lears' But he\ a wan-zuould he erter ask directians?" Figure 8. All rights reserveo. he said and did things which indicated he thought equals of men. are likewise between women and preoccupied with regulating and adjudicating dornestic relationships- ' Wtrat is perhaps most interesting is that the sacred texts./'.. but. ^ s'. women were also entitled to initiate divorce' to inherit.2.

in the wake of severatr decades of intense feminist campaigns. and the head of a woman is her husbandl' (Of all the apostles. Jewish women may not initiate marriage or divorce. men were permitted to have up to four :wise wives (provided they couid adequately provide for them). but they are often expressed as secular policies.) just to be sure there was no misunderstanding. Paul seemed most obsessed with women's subordination. wrote Rev. . the quorum of ten |ews that must be present in order to hold aprayer service.rl's epistle to the Ephesians leaves no doubt about where he . may not pray at the Western Wall (they've been physically attacked by Orthodox men when theyve tried). rnany Protestant ministers were among the rnost fervent supporters of women's suffrage" Rev. so let wives also be subject in everl'thing to their husbands.. But just as the Church orce. and one could imagine that such textual ambiguity might have been inter- stie.' or who sit where they like on public buses. whether the right to vote. sing in synagogue. St. stood on gender equality (itself a comment that sornething must have been perceived s the as amiss for him to even cornment on it): Let the wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord. rnay not read the Torah during worship. because "God has made one to re far excel over the otherj"'And among ancient Jews. at their heart. . and there's a sort of informal morality brigade of Orthodox men who publicly chastise women who are dressed "immodestly. Samuel B. in the nineteenth century. again. Mays 1846 sermon.amadan. doc- trinal. This sounds awfully similar to the roving bands of Muslim purification groups that roamed Afghanistan under the Taliban. but rather their divinely cre- ated frail constitutions required that they be "exempted from certain things which men rnust endure. though. rhich So. or lead a service'3 Indeed. It was not thers inevitable. only men count toward a minyan. is subject to Christ.eligicn 23 | tions holy month of R. It wasnt that women should have the "right" to these activities. for there is nothinq in their moral. in 1998. . or enter professions such as medicine or law. Chapi€r 6:6ender and li. (Ephesians 5:zz*24) g the And in r Corinthians rr:3. ghts. just as Christ is head of the Church. Doctrinal conflicts also inform the framing of political debates. uries It is more often in the commentaries on these canonical texts that the religious en as imperative for gender inequality seems to have been most firmly instituted. A hundred women and nine men? No service. At the same time. women's rights were protected at the 'eters same time they were believed to be subordinate to men. Such conflicts over the interpretations of sacred texts may be. the Southern Baptist Convention arnended its officiai statement of beliefs to insist that a wife should "submit graciously" to her husband and assume her "God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his 'helperl "" Orthodox ludaism certainly enshrines gender inequality: Women rnay not be rabbis. for exampie. enforcing its gendered code of conduct on Afghanis. Par. it was the Protestant clergy that led the charge against wornen's rights.ut. For example. because a husband is efore head of the wife.. a sirnilar theme: "the head of every man is Christ. and women were subservient to men because men were be "a degree above" women. John Todd. go to college."'a But on the other side.) preted to allow for greater gender inequality. "The Rights and Condition of Women' argued that the disenfranchisernent of women "is as unjust as the disenfranchisement of the males would be.

For example. women who defy these structures in Afghanistan risk having acid thrown on their face to permanently disfig- ure them. and she must be physically segregated from men.i il Li I i. All the monotheistic religions prescribe some bodily practices and proscribe others. actually valued the experience and found it "empowering. in those countries with the iargest Muslim popu- lation. mental. women wear Western clothing and are engaged in every profession. or physical nature. i: r in i] I . men are the heads of the household and women are often relegated to the private sphere. like Indonesia. For man is not from women. Seven days after her menstrual cycle ends. such requirements are virtually unheard of. Menstruation makes women ritually unclean. for twelve days a month-that is. Girls go to school unimpeded. (r Corinthians n:7*9). and women and men are equaily enfranchised. Men's bodies are also policed..) As Paul explained to the Corinthians: A man indeed ought not to cover his head.j i. anything she touches becomes impure. that disqualifies them to understand correctly the true inter- ests. But in a fascinating study of young women who convert to Orthodox |udaism. Muslim men. sociologist Debra Kaufman discovered that what might be seen as 'bppres- sion' to an outsider might carry alternative meanings to the participants. But woman is the glory of man. l' * r. and in a position to value to so-called feminine virtues of nurturance. In most religions. more fundarnentalist Islamic societies. Even today. about 4oo/o of every month-women are considered unclean. these moral enforcers believe. this by no means applies to all Islam. Christian men are not supposed to cover their heads. gender inequality is enshrined and enforced through a politici- zation of the body." Participation. family and motherhood. and even ritual stonings. : i. and this differentiated them from fews. In some of the world's largest Muslim countries. she goes to a ritual bath called a mikvah where she is purified and thus able to rejoin social life.i l' r r F. but Christian women are-and for similar reasons. of the community or to act wisely on reference to them."'u Another study of Orthodox jewish women in Israel found a wide range of responses to these ceremonies of ritual purification. indeed. You might think that women might chafe at such elaborate and lengthy reminders of their inequality. such as Indonesia. or become significantly more orthodox. I l." But another woman cherished her sense . Any man caught shaving could be executed-and barbers who shaved them could have their hands cut off. these practices are not at all con- sistent.]. women's bodies are to be completely concealed at all times. For man was not created for woman. "put them in touch with their own bodies. are required to wear a beard. In some. R L5l t."" Similarly while across Islamic societies today.t. even if she must venture out in public in the first place (and then accompanied by a male relative) she must remain hidden under a chador. Since the prophet worse a beard. in control of their own sexuality. mutuality.. Women who had converted to Orthodoxy. One woman chafed at the oppression she felt.) One of the hallmarks of woment second-class status among Orthodox Jews has always been the ritual cleansing. They may show no part of their body nor face in public. but woman for man. because he is the image and glory of God.':. public shaming of themselves and their families. but woman from man. Kaufman writes. (It is probable that Christian men were prohibited from covering their heads because fews were required to do so. (Again. I irli i"\ I t. that she had "this feeling that it is the long hands of the rabbis of hundreds of years literally entering my body to check me.

a statement of solidaritywith other immigrant Lpletely Muslims in more secular Western societies. the Saudi- hodox financed global Muslim television channel that promotes such a unified vision.. for (figure 8. than any genuine act of solidarity with some mythic Islamic world. rn she All religions require the suppression of sex for the glory of God. interviewed young Muslim popu. since education is a secular institution. For example. Maruoka argued. (On the other hand. Their inders view of a global Islamic practice was likely the result of watching AI-Jazeera. so. as well as an act of solidarity with Muslims all over the world ln. . despite a French law that requires all head coverings to be disfig. They of solidarity and community. like he waits Friday night for the Sabbath angels. or whatever. The mikveh gives me a wonderful feeling. Itb good to say that I want this or that. without rsehold any Props:. Among Orthodox jews. :es and heads. when I go I feel like my husband is waiting for me like an honored guest.these expression of their opposition to coionialism in the Middle East and an affirmation of ruld be gender differences as prescribed by their religion. Some have argued that wearing the hijab is a political statement. without makeup. In this act of conformity. for example. there are eds of rnany interpretations. In fact. Yet even here. as psychologist Rosine Perelberg writes. as an outsider. Muslim women saw wearing the hijab as an r. as different. Etsuko Maruoka. forging an oppositional alled a identity. ill con. these multiple meanings attached valued to the same activity suggest how "power can be exercised from a subordinate position' rem in and that such fluidity "is fundamental to both the way in which gender roles are con- r-value structed in different societies and the respective positions from which men and women perceive themselves. the husband is not fulfill- ing his commandment of onah if you dont enjoy.fer {i: 6encler arld llcligion e inter. it was an act of self-identification idered as a minority group. So that means that if you want sex. While another says: In men A woman can also initiate physical things.:). ngs' In one study in the United States. ChaF. and Jewish a In wear law guarantees her rights to pleasure. one of our PhD students. of "renewal. rernoved. rather ppres. since the mikvah purifies her for sex. and especiallybecause the woman is supposed to enjoy." feeling "that I enter the water as a religious person who is accepted for who I am. the veii-or hijab-among Musiim women. many young Muslirn women embrace the hijab as an act ". women and men are both 'sense entitled-indeed encouraged to experience sexual fulfillment in marriage. these young egated women sought to differentiate themselves from their classmates. where veils are virtually unheard of. then he has to agree and you have the right to ask for itl"7 tl Actually. students at Stony Brook who had decided to begin to wear the veil-much to their par- ents'discomfortl For them it was an act of rebellion against parents who were too eager ws has to 'Americanize" them. .)" n who Perhaps. One woman says rpeded. But most important. it rolitici- makes me feel like our relationship moves to a higher level."'e )onses Of course. too. Despite its denunciation as oppressive by :e (and feminist women worldwide. In a fascinating dissertation in my this by department. many of these young women's parents had immigrated from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. so. it is the body and its pleasures that especially elicits religious passions. young Muslim women in France refused to y these remove their veils in schools. And itt decidedly sexual power. without colours: I have an intrinsic net worth.

Life in Lubbock. Celibacy was promoted as a higher moral and spiritual position. Courtesy of Rizwan Saeed/Reuters/Corbis. This has naturally led to a certain amount of confusion among contemporary Christians. As one young man in Lubbock. As the infamous Malleus Maleficarum put it (this was the church manual for witch hunting): 'All witchcraft comes from carnal lust. Augustine. Another of religions hallmark elements of maintaining gender difference is to require us to love only those of a different gender. Whiie half of all Americans believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society. fiithy ttr'ing on Earth and you should save it for someone you love.3. Many religions either discourage or prohibit homosexuality-and this is particutrarly true of monotheistic religions. gI" *% rp6w '. three-quarters of . that "sorneone you love" has to be sofileone of a gender different from yours. heterosexual.FffiTE Figure 8. and engaged in only for procreation" According to St. Sex was to be avoided. sex was the vehicle by which original sin was transmitted from one generation to the next. Lust is listed as among the seven deadly sins. which is in women insatiable""" At the same time. Texas taught nle two things: One is that God loves you and you are going to hell. One of Christianityt innovations over ]udaism was a strict repression of sexuaiity. and faithful to your spouse. Texas. Christian writers have penned best-seliing Christian sex manu- als. that basically say that God wants you to have great sex-as long as you are married. and women (of course) are the repositories of lust. put it.21 Generally. The other is that sex is the most at{ul.

However. that religion would be a man's domain. and institutional practices promote the naturalness of both gender difference and male domination. The Catholic declares 3XaS. A majority of black Protestants (64 percent) and Latino Catholics (52 percent) also oppose gay marriage. 21 percent in favor). According to an August 2ao7 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. For example. :d as white evangelicals (66 percent). Only among Arnericans without a religious affiliation does a majority (6o percent) express suPPort. Right? . about six-in-ten Muslims (6r percent) and roughly two-thirds of Mormons (68 percent) and members of evangelical churches (64 percent) say homosexuality ought to be discouraged. you might imagine that it would be otherwise: that God is imagined )urs. black Protestants (62 percent) and frequent church s the attendees (6o percent) stand out for their opposition to civil unions. Every morn- ount ing. the word of God has historicalXy been the touchstone for assertions of gen- luire der difference. as male. Both in doctrine and in practice. ing): THE GENDER OF RELIGIOSITY anu. as do plu- ralities of white. members of historically black churches. non-Hispanic Catholics (+l percent) and white mainline Protestants (+z percent). are the women? In the pews. you might ask. while 46 percent say should be discouraged. four-in-ten members of historically black churches say homosexuality should be accepted. perhaps even more importantly. As with gay marriage. (78 percent) favor allowing homosexual coupies to enter into civil unions that grant rtine. and the Holy Spirit. V declares that "a woman must never be free of subjugationl"' Where. Jews (zg percent). and the unaffiliated (7tper' cent). obedience to the Father. By contrast. This includes Catholics (58 percent). doctrines. the Son. Muslims read in the Qur'an "Men are in charge of women because God has made one to excel over the otherl'The Hindu Code of Manu. i.a 235 fehovaht Witnesses (76 percent). Orthodox Christians. and yet the majority of the faithful are female. Opposition among white evangelicals. Catholics (63 percent) and those without a religious affiliation ality. 55 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage. most mainstrearn monotheistic religions prociaim ried. The majority of most other religious groups sayhomosexuaiity should be accepted by society.l !i." Religiosity also tends to be associated with more negative views on gay marriage.i:G. a zoo6 Pew survey found that sizable majorities of white mainline Protestants (66 percent). Buddhists (82 percent). divinely inspired gender difference and thus legitimate gender inequality. with 36 percent favoring it. most of the legal rights of marriage without the title. the Orthodox |ew thanks God he was not born a woman. One of the great paradoxes of religion is that deities. and. But those with a high frequency of church attendance oppose it by a substantially wider rnargin (73 percent in opposition vs. regardless of frequency of church attendance. is even higher-at 8r percent. 42 percent in opposition). that far more men would be rf all religious-since it reaffirrns natural differences and props up men's domination of rs of women. Logically. and Hindus are more divided over the issue of homosexuality. The general public also supports r the civil unions (54 percent in favor vs.lhrFrar4r l' #ei? 1ar :i:i. the basic justification for gen- hibit der inequality. members of mainline churches (56 percent).

. zoo8 survey found that men are significantly more likely than women to claim no religious affiliation. India. or some universal spirit. compared with roughly The Spiritual Gender Gap % of women and men who. but when it cornes to walking one's talk.uiti.. women are far more religious than rnen. The spiritual Gender Gap. which is the rnost religious nation in the lndustrial world. virtually everyone professes some religious belief. 7o percent are female (figure g. l. poland. 19 women are more likely to identifu with a particular religion and mor! hkely to p. Women a) Men ffi U Gap between women and men t':.. Nearly one out of"every five (19'6 percent) men say they have no formal religious affiliation. and Turkey.Eg Jr. Are affiliated 90 with a relieion certain belief in God or a universal spirit Say religion is in their lives Have absolutely certain belief God 30 q. Seventy-seven percent of women. courtesy of pew Forum on Rerigion and pubric Life . In fact. 6o percent are 6mile. and attJnd reiigious services.5 on the other side of theledger. Of all those who attend church services once a week. a.) ove". Here in the United States.4. ORG Figure 8.736 ?#"*"1 7z 65f.iritig Not so fast. More than three-fourths of women (zz percent) and just over three-fifths men lo3 percent) say their faith is "very important" to them. the.. 6. THE PEW FORUM oN RELIGION & PUBLIC LIFE PEWFORUM.4).LiF:t. faliing behind only Nigeria..nF.rD {ti$tri"it"!LE. (The United States is the fifth most religious nation in the world." it. of those who attend more than once a week. Women believe in life after death by a 6o-4o margin as well.. 95 percent of Americans say they believe in God. women seem to do a far better job of it' According a zo-os survey of the American Religious Landscape...o Muyb" so.iSt"t?r.t:I:i. Earlier research found that more women than men consider religion as "important" in their lives' More women than_ men pray. read the Bible.

where disappearing. While there may be much rnystery in the actuai ideas of a religion. It redraws boundaries between in-group and out-group more firrniy. ihey turn inward and dernand increasing illustrations of faithful adherence. The level of enf. Men are twice as likely to say they are agnostic or atheist (l. However. the gender gap is about 8 percent. During periods of prosperity. a return to the tried and true.r. There is significant syrnmetry between religious doctrine institutional practices.rs institutions the freedom to profess their beiiefs and institutionalize practices based on them-within limits. During those moments. during crises. United States accords religioi. Perhaps the demands of full-time work Of all ou"tside the home and performing virtually altr the second shift tasks of housework and e who child care leaves women iittle time to attend to the spiritual side of things. and Hindu Americans the gender gup go. their institutional arrangements often reflect these beliefs. That is. and they also may success- iully challenge doctrinal proscriptions on their religious participation. Buddhists.1-ii1. This does not appear to be because rnen's religious participation is increas- r their ing. or a set of spiritual prac- tices designed to express those beliefs. are in fact indelible and fixed.r the other way. One hardly "needs" ftindamentalism when the old doctrines are firmly in place and unchailenged. in which people have careers. religious structures may relax: women may make rughly great strides in public arena without religious interference. religion is more than the codification of an ethical way of iife. ranging from a modest 4 percent lSz-+8 percent] better u-o. Periods of sec- ular crisis. It's also a social institution. The fundamentalist impulse is a sort of back to basics. though.ti"1h. the professions.orcement of gender inequatrity varies histori- ry five cally. we should not mistake small swells in the ocean for massive changes in cantly the natures of the tides. a set of beliefs about the meaning of life. its purpose and its creator. which are everl. (Among Jews.r"s top u significantly larger zzpercent lerZg percent] among Hindus')'6 en are Tlere is some evidence in recent years that the gender gap in religion is narrowing iarlier somewhat. Turns out that biack in life are the most ieligious of all.l per- lryone cent compared with 2'6 Percent of women)' "ion in Arnong Protestants and Catholics.". Just as women and men are becoming more and more equai throughout the world-in education. :r'i:Jl:' all: i. an institution that employs people. fundamentalists seek to return wornen to their "rightfui" place as one method of solving rnassive confusion caused by social and economic upheavals. during periods of prosperity. women 'aith women is often rnake up from 7o to 9o percent of the congregation. Since monotheistic religions post intractable divinely ordained gender differences. 54 percent- :ent of 4o percentlBut that gap balloons to zo percent (6o percent-4o percent) in historically ourths blaik churches and among Jehovah's Witnesses. In historically black churches. Muslims. . and thus justify gender inequality. of course- our government aliows religious institutions to develop their own hiring and firing .1. to repurifthe religion frorn contamination by secularizing forces. religions can turn outward and embrace ottrers. or the workplace-fundamentalists seek to remind us that the differences between women and rnen. earn livings.i:!ii l:'. are often accompanied by fundamentalist calls to return to basic texts. and make a most secular life for themielves. family iife. (d"."trg J." ylces RELIGION AS A GENDERED INSTITUTION To a sociologist.: l. religions institutions may look like virtually any other institution.1 Jnited 13 percent of women. but rather because women's is declining. in a social sense.

we permit religious institutions to use gender as a criterion. (Antoinette Brown soon married Samuel Blackwell.) By contrast. as the word of God. ttren. today. Different Protestant denominations permit women to minister. (Two percent of all seminarians are Asian women. For example. And only 5 percent of all seminary students are black women. :"i policies and to deterrnine their own criteria for selection. Since priests are believed to act in the name of Jesus. or priests. Elizabeth. The first female rninister ordained in the United States was Antoinette Brown. penal code prohibits such behavior. which means that it rnust be upheld without any debate or question.S. Conservative ]udaism prohibits gays and lesbians and permits wornen. And among Lutherans. and there are currently oyer 4oo female rabbis. The Episcopal Church began ordaining worlen in t 973. In the mid-r99os. only about 5 percent have female pastors. a Congregationaiist in 1853. and some permit gays and les- bians. whiie Reform iudaisrn perrnits both women and gays and lesbians to be rabtris. and these are often in small. Historicaliy. and Orthodox ]udaism prohibits both. and r percent ane Hispanic women. remote. not to mention those who might be tempted to cheat on their spouse!) Given the doctrinal beliefs of the three rnajor monotheistic religions. there has been significant progress in enabling women to assunre a position of greater equality.) Sex segregation is both an expression of gender inequality and one of its chief props. was the first wofiran to graduate from medical schootr in the United States. then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Fope Benedict XVI) claimed that the pope's prohibition of women's ordination was to be considered "infallible" teach- ing. the U. and that female seminarians con- stituted 3z percent in zooz. Reforrn |udaism began ordaining rabbis in ry72. wornen were simply prohibited from serving as ministers. we will discuss that sex segregation is the primary mechanism by which gender inequality is rendered to appear as "natural" when it is anl. rab- tris. Thus. it is not surprising to see dramatic sex segregation in the institutional positions that women and men occupy. they must resemble him physically: that is. Quite a family!) Yet in recent decades. The Southern Baptist Convention reversed its long-standing position in zooo and refused to ordain female rninisters. (So bankers can breathe a sigh of relief. even though the law prohibits gender as a criterion for hiring or promotion. For example. (In chapter 9 on the workplace. and mernbership. to 16 percent. even if your religious beliefs require that you stone adulterers or money-lenders to death. . The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Arnerica says the percentage of its ordained clergy who are women doubled from r99r to 2oo3. they must be male. nearly one in five rninisters is a woman. hiring. or troubled congregations. However. women constitute nearly 14 pelcent of all priests. the Cathoiic Church has remained steadfasttry opposed to the ordi- nation of women and of gay men and iesbians. The Association of Theological Schools reports that the percentage of women seeking master of divinity degrees in member seminaries has increased by more than 7oo percent in 3o years.'8 Within the black church in Arnerica. whose sister.thing but. this is not carte blanche to practice your religion in whatever way you might want. or both. despite the hundreds who had aiready been ordained since the practice was permittedtnry64. imams. other denominations proscribe either women or gays and lesbians.

rr €: Ge:rcicr arrd flcligi*n 239 ership. confirmation. maternity classes. like administer last rites. Women also compose more than half of all students studying rs con. Kentucky. but rnust not transmit it to the next not to generation. meal service for I 2000 the. in practice. Little Leagues. men's groups. like communion.ooo lay ministers who are serving as sub- began stitutes in parishes that do not have regular priests-and more than four out of five s. a vow that is not required of other mono- rotion. more than three out of every five people (62 percent) who work in religious 'eports settings-everyone from ciergy to managerial and secretarial and even janitorial inaries positions-were women. the inal sin (for all who are born are brorn with it). and more than a quarter of all students studying for advanced degrees vomen in theology. even the Catholic Church's ban on female clerics breaks began down. not because of a sudden change of heart from the Vatican. so that those who even if seek to represent God's will on earth must themselves renounce not their own orig- th.ili. there's a peace that comes from :kwell. Catholic clergy must also remain celibate. but because the church will simply have run out of men who are willing to embrace life-long celibacy in the e ordi. empty.33 act ln Finally. knowing I followed my conscience in addressing this great injusticej'he said. In as spiritual ones.s" in the Despite the proscriptions against women's ordination. and there are more Catholic priests over ninety years old than under thirty-has h. zoo8. There are more than 3o. those who work in religious institutions almost exactly parallel church mernbership. for the clergy.3' :sbians What's more. in the United States. woment groups. a tourist in a European church might encoun- rat the ter a few dozen other tourists and one or two parishioners. aird form other rituals. The meant that lay people have begun to take over ministerial functions out of expedi- clergy ence or necessity. Not so in the United States. And dont forget Sunday schooll Indeed. Intransigent resistance to the movements for gender equality and the recognition I is not of a diversity of sexuality puts the Catholic Church increasingly at odds with many of vomen its parishioners. theistic clergy. where there is constant secular activity-day care as the programs. homeless. and marriage. in August. Ceiibacy extends traditional Catholic teachings that sex is the route by t carte which original sin is transmitted from one generation to the next. But the church is largely teach. women will probably eventually be ordained in the Catholic Church /omen. on any given weekday. Given the worldwide crisis in recruitment of Catholic clergy-there are cur- fferent rently half the number of priests in the United States than there were in the r96os. the sadness. At the turn of the twenty-first nen to century.3' (There are some things that the women are not permitted to do. religious institutions in the United States serve many civic functions as well Lale. rab. nd les. after-schooi events.) If present t of all trends continue. administration of charities. in addition to Bible study classes. gyms and swimming pools and other recreational activities. he was threatened with rinette excommunication. And of these lay church people (82 percent) are women.'n Despite this. "Deeper than the hurt. baptism. various twelve step and other recovery pro- y been grams. Sevre-Duszynska in Lexington. A commission of biblical scholars appointed by the pope in the r97os rtion is found no scriptural foundation for the prohibition of women from the priesthood. dh&. priesthood. but they can and do per- rs. the local church has assumed the institutional role of community center . when Father Roy Bourgeois participated in the ordination of Janice rs. and atural" a 2oo5 Associated Press poll found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of all American ity and Catholics believed that women should be ordained.

Indeed.ase it. GInJ*Hh{:l i{:It1-r-:i ]q$.IGION The gender of religiosity poses two parallel problems." Henry ]ames Sr. organizing ail the secular functions. that the sentimental piety and sanctimonious moralism-churches were the springboards for prohibition.]P THE PROPHETS: R. powerful. who has lived under the dominion of his lower nature and given rein to his natural tendencies. artless as the little child. if not Io decr. . They donl need to. There is an implied con- tradiction between masculinity-being in control. Such an image was actually thought to be transformative to American men.) And in the United States. himself. rnostly animai. fath-er of the great novelist.244 f. after all-were well-suited for female churchgoers. ministers have long been plagued by the question of how to reconnect men to religious institutions. which implies service." It's goal was to revirilize the image of ]esus and thus to masculinize the church. What will attract men back to the pews? This isnt a new question. In paintings and drawings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His affections begin to tap over his passion. Weil. The tipical Protestant minister "moved in a world of women. reinforced this perceived feminization of religion. lick-spittle proposi- tion" proclaimed evangeiist. Stated most simply: Real men dont pray. reedy man. he ceases to be a "real manl' "Have we a Reiigion for men?" asked one disgrun- tled guy. . at least to transfer it to a domain in which women are at least the equals of men.E-ENGAGTNG MEN IN REI.i i. a rnovement "to bring rnanliness in its various rnanifestations to church and to keep it awake when it got there. with long bony fingers. By the turn of the last century.t'' ?. One is how to increase men's reli- giosi"ty and the other might be characterized as how to decrease women's. it is women who maintain the non-doctrinai components of religious institutions. lamented that the old "virile" religion had disappeared and been "replaced by a feeble Unitarian sentimentality. running these programs. a man who could easily counsel you to turn the other cheek and love your enemies.. who needed to steel themselves for the rigors of competition in the urban jungle. but "the greatest scrapper who ever livedi' . They can take care of things on their own. when he is born of God and begins to grow in an upward and better direction. and soft doelike eyes. A new movement was born: Muscular Christianity. and king of the hiil-with religiosity. one observer com- mented he had never seen a country "where religion had so strong a hold upon the women or a slighter hold upon the men' than the United States. In the middle of the last century.34 Images of lesus. but hardly entic- ing io men. ]esus was "no doughfaced. subservience. one Methodist minister described that transformation: It is wonderful tosee a great burly man. {:E}:L't:F €Lf i'j5't'l TLjl-1^::ii (especially given the paucity of local municipal funding for such activities. One of the reasons that women are more religious than men has to do with the fact that being observant itself is gender-coded. and acknowledging that you ate not in control. Billy Sunday. The strong man becomes patient as a lamb. Jesus was i-ug"d ur a thin.35 His prayers were quickly answered. Protestant rninisters worried that religion had become a women's domain. gentle as the mother. That is. and arrang- ing for the institution's upkeep and maintenance' PUMPING {.

but it is revived every so often as the gender differences :ed and in religiosity become an organizing vehicle for renewed religiosity among men. but a manly man giving all a square deal. and ligious The Manly christ (rgoq) all sought to refashion fesus as more Hans and Frans than !rrang. Sunday prociaimed that mainstream ministers had become "preten- :not in onnect tious.Wheaton. girly man. weak-kneed."37 : urban Such gendered evangelical fervor $'as part of the birth of modern society at the nes Sr. weasel-eyed.5). ChaFrer 8:6e:rder rnci Ftaiigiln 241 lin the Books such as The Manhood of the Master (rSr:). and they . In the r99os. He is manly with God and with everyone who comes to hear him. . flabby cheeked. . The Manliness of Christ (r9oo). ossified three- the last karat Christianity!" he thundered in "The Fighting Saintj' his rnost famous sermon. seYeral evangelical preachers made the manhood of )esus a central element in ion. effeminate.5. Sunday abandoned his lucrative career as a professional baseball player to become an evangeli- N cal preacher (he was the model for Elmer Gantry) who organized tent revivals all across n's reli. thin-skinned. i d like to put my fist on the nose of the man who hasn t got grit enough to be ' entic. He works likea man. if not drew effusive praise from journalists and new followers: equals He stands up like a man in the pulpit and out of it. that "Dont tell me about the peaceful gentle Jesus! Jesus Christ could go like a six cylinder . the Midwest and South (figure 8. he treats you after a manly fashion. inteilectuals. piastic. Billy Sunday preaching to an all-male audience. . turn ofthe last century. pussy-lobsters"). Billy Sunday was perhaps the most celebrated of these Muscular Christians. brittle . not an imitation.on the boned. He speaks like a man." and big-city fat cat capitalists ("big.36 :d con- These all-male revivals celebrated Jesus as he-man with colorful language and spir- -with ited services. "Lord save us from off-handed. From the archives of the Billy Graham r livedl' Center. . r com. pliable. who were "fudge eating mollycoddles. a Christian. in. true. spineless.boards engine . I llinois. pliable mental perverts" who were egged on by their cronies. . No he fact matter how much you disagree with him. fat. These tent meetings were for men only. He is it pray. hog-jowled.. In ius was an who r image rinis{er the els )ns 3as lsgrun- uscular church rf |esus roposi- Figure 8.

hippie..rj who sought to return men to the church. and racial reconciliation-with a renewed assertion of mens God-ordained position as head of the family and master of women. .reaking stacks of bricks or large blocks of ice with their bare hands' to illustrate Christ's power. an d evangelical Ch ristian irY. mean. CEO). Seattle evangelical minister Mark Driscoll rehearses Billy Sundays "a fulminations almost verbatim. . They promise a "shock and awe" gospel.letsrollmen. and Matrix. Het been imagined as a white racist (theresurgent Ku Klux Klan invokes a "red blooded and virild' man who . these religious Rambos expound a "manly gospel]' saturated with images of redemptive vioi-ence. . Rogersi' (bven their website.1'?: i1[i{l:gntfi !*':f"lT!Ti!:S. Bodybuilder John facobs founded of massively muscled zealots who used a pumped-up theology asthe basis for motiva- tional speaking. u *urrt manl' He and his acolytes performed circus feats of masculine strength' like b.) And"currently. They suggest just how malleable arc partayals of religious prophets. queer christl' a "neutered and limp-wristed popular sky Fairy of pop culture thai . . the PromiseKeepers gelical Christian movement that seeks to bring men back to f-esus' They heralded a irore "feminine" notion of evangelical Christianity-ideals of service' healing. . www. reasserting traditional gender roles-women as utterly subservient to men-is part of God's divine Plan.lbout how "fesus is no Mr. marketing machine" according to a book lesus. There can be no compromise here.F. mas- Of course.I'm urging back ."f"r". ."who organizes the working masses to rise up against their ruling class oppressors).biblel' The seven Promises of a PromiseKeeper. a capitalistlJesus was a "turniround specialist" who motivated workers to be a "lean. . "Jesus christ *u.com links military masculinity.r 242 fA. If you're going to lead you must lead. . the move- to be faithful husbands. "Christ wasnt effeminatel' grumPed Jerry Falw-ell' on this earth was a man with muscles " ' Christ was a he-manl"38 The most visible of these renewed revirilization efforts has been the PromiseKeepers. . in leading this family and I forced you you to take it that rolel' . fir:t'{i}SF'e n !t{$'tlTrJT:til'!s "The man who lived their ministry. suggests that men deal with ment.s women this waY: "Honey I've made a terrible mistake' I ve given you [s]it down with your wife and say to take my place' Now I must reciaim -y rot. Founded in r99o by Bill Mccartney' are an evan- forrner football coach at the University of Colorado. "Jesus christ was no skinny little mani' |acobs claimed. who held massive 5o. In return for men keeping their promises devoted fathers. these efforts to remasculinize fesus are only partly about men and culinity. Braveheart." who promise to deliver the pro- gospel to manly rnen. ter. . and sermons.4o "shock and awe" And then there are the "JBC Men. The mainstream church has transformed |esus into Richard simmons.ooo-7'ooo men-only rallies in sports sta- (called diums (because it was where men felt comfortable gathering) and ministers coaches) and their assistants (dressed in zebra striPed shirts as ifthey were football . . 9-u. tr'm not suggesting that you ask for role back. would never talk about sin or send anyone to helll'*' And to Driscoll. JBC stands for "|esus-Beer-Chips"-and the organization iides ttre beer and chipsl With film clips from Gladiator. and general all-around good men. Dont a carpen- forget ihat Jesus hai also been portrayed as a socialist (the working class man.'e "The Power Teaml' a group Others have followed suit.

our greatest heip in corrscious progress. stated most sirnply.-'il"ji. "Never a feminine paradise among them. feminist sociologist Charlotte Perkins Gilman lustrate turned Muscular Christianity on its head. into "a injured by coming through the rninds of men alonel' This is. Throughout American history.women by citing alternative contemporaneous texts or by reinterpret- eit 39 ing texts or images in different ways.r. should be.I. Because men in prehistory were concerned with war a "lean." . logians would point to human faliibility: No matter how the clergy had tried to steer x.tr." 1:. :essors/. "vigorously prornoted the dignity and equality of wornen in the midst of a very male- r Christ dominated society. Katie Ladd. has been . to women's increased equality. us is no Gilman stands this on its head. theo- 0n pro. they developed a religion that revolves ned as a around the question.9-r . "What is going to happen to me after I arn dead?"ae Heaven. carpen. and competition among men. it's our fault for being so imperfect. such as the Shakers and Christian Science. .. nor ethics has made us 'good''?45 Typicaily. more accu- artney. eyes of His earthly stewards" al with A WOMAN-CENTERED SPIRITUA." so. these us toward the path of God.. in ran who this scheme. men unday's have been in charge ofit. Giiman asks a simple question: Why is rd awe" it that "neither religion. Back in the era of Biily Sunday. we humans always seemed to manage to fall off the path. For example."+e rength. . "Reiigion.0' n the And while Jesus's gender identity has long been a major theme arnong American 'ts sta. the more masculine God becomes in the move. and hunting. original sin: "making a private servant of the mother of the race. she is quick to point out. I ". It's not that we are imperfect. too.. gion is preoccupied with death. rotball Most of all. but oniy by those who feel threatened by women's equality.:a i. and A revirilized ]esus seen'ls necessary to re-establish the divinely ordained hierarchy tion as of men over women. the rnore equal women get. did Gilman argue that there were two religions. His Religion and Hers OSzi.a8 s. these movements and groups are responses to women-or. 'r: : I ."r'Much of the book is spent detailing the calarnitous consequences of what she believes is our rd mas. female-dominated Protestant sects have emerged.r."r. Protestants. rately. but that the religion v. (called there have been no cornparable movements to "masculinize" religion there. is a hypermascuiine paradise. a liberal Methodist offered a bit of I evan. theologian Leonard swidler argued that ]esus was a "feminist-who notiva. "his" and "hers. moraiity. Religion has focused on the wrong thing-life after death instead of life before death-because. "His" reii. :mptive That is. . that has been foisted upon us has led us astray. it is interesting that while the gender gap in religiosity is greater in Europe." Lg. Parallei /ou to this movernent has been a feminist-inspired effort to challenge the in-rplicit or explicit Im subordination of. 243 o lived "purged the temple with a whip" and wrestled "the continent from savages") and a pas- sionate advocate of civil rights and racial equality (as in the black church).a: One omises might even say. rlar Sky "not in any essential fault of the matre of our races . :'46 lt's not that men have done this And to deliberately. In an indictment of mainstrearn Protestantism. Dont ]ust as the sociologist |essie Bernard had argued that there were two rnarriages.ITY There has also been significant opposition to these efforts to masculinize ]esus. a group in the early r97os. is the inevitable nen-is by-product of the great tragedy of our species-the subjugation of the female. a historial perspective when she observed that "it's oniy since women have been in rlded a church leadership that this backlash has come. but this distortion of what religion could be.

"r: Extracting the original by r"ore fallible human interpreters is aiways tricky' fro. Elevating Christine.:f rs HupPyHuntingGrounds-noHappyNursinggroundsi.and priests have been restored texts. *h" Pisan or Hildegard von Michelangeio. there is neithei bond nor free.tui-s of inequaliry as we've seen.uirirr-uur.oppr"rr." And God? God is "within us" not "above us"'5' echoed through the late And just as the Musculai Christianity of Billy Sunday anchoring of spirituality twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.ai radical and egalitarian ca-se when he male nor female. .i:. 1"ua"rs-prophetesses and priests. whether bio- tn" . too.ttt spirituality.g. then difference.ii'i. "No war couid ever peace can ever be rnaintained ii a wholiy male worldl' for long in a world of equal men and women'"s' -^--lg"i"rt .de ni.. as ferninist theologian Mary Daly argued in her first Bible were rnen of their tiries. goddesses and theologians-and doctrines' Important iost o. indeed it only begs the question: what were the from becoming great historical circumstances that prevented truiy taiented women composers or artists?)" . while important historically. us from the more And besides. have aiways rested on logically derived or divinely ordained'5a females who had been reli- second.. for ye are all Greek. This endeavor had several fronts' First.'l' '. or Bach alnd Mozart. In the early a struggie to emancipate Dorarv feminist movement. often to prominence.. _"her" -women be life-affirming' Such a childbirth and nurturing "f lif. .i :l-i. such as the Gnostic Gospels. aitruistic: humanity" And the rnother.!ri tr:-1 li: iir:-: r"i-. Gilman writes. For example' Paul makes more egalitarianihun some of those fallible cautions that "there is neither Jew nor u pr". Yet even this restorative in part because the teachings of these women: fails to fully resonate with the faithfui. during the Renaissar.:''.tfr" layers of interpretation that point to the marked inequality but so. by virtue of her experience." dJes not solve the problem. (And you wonder there can be no inequality' for Bible to justify slaveryl) If there are no distinctions. feminlst theologians undertook *o-. so.:"')ti:ii::i"i"..:. power or spiritual depth of the original while laudable. as move.744 j. there were efforts to reinterpret traditional texts in rnore favorable light' book. there were efforts to retrieve from obscurity to retrieve g-rr. not to get but to give. so their religion would . there is neither how slave owners also used the one in christ Jesus" (Galatians ::28).d texts and restore them to the central canonical female prophets.t: ::'i1: :':':"i"1':i. discovering such worthies may actualiy distract pressing liistorical questionsi (This is analogous to searching for great female art- i*. were the equals of Rembrandt and ?o*por"r. too has Gilmans years of the contem- in women's concrete ernbodied experience as mother. "She works.. "and it would be naive to think that they were free of intentions of various prophets the preludices of their epochs.a religion' wJuld pose a different fiaming question: "What must be done mythic creation that for the child who is born?" trtls the Great Mother-a somewhat and saints and superordinate males who stands as a foil to the cavalcade of priests the real source of life' the origin of have constructed "his" religious edifice-who is is. Because experience ttis.rdrrr" Gilma" prop"r"t religion. do not approach the rhetoiical prophets. is finding the actual textual references prophet's words' And those texts often do seem that has been in-rposed on those sarne interpretations. o.. the authors of the After all.soAllofthisjustifieswar: "No enabies?eath-based religions to carry out wars with morai righteousness- W#i. she writes.

:d von or a religious institution that justifies and legitimates male domination. and bargain with thernl' Shet part nurse-practitioner. and is to prevent women from achieving. :ipate to anchor a spiritual vision within the lived experience of. or experience the ever sacred. it is women who are the local shamans. Wicca represents a retrieval of ancient polytheistic and naturalist theologies by women who proudly : Inore declare themselves to be witches. intimate connections among all living creatures.ulva-like entrances.5e It and Feminist spirituality is more than simply a critique of a male-dominated religion. istic: Confucianism. lure them into houses. espouses what she cails "Gyn/Ecology"-an essentially feminine spiritu- omen. who spins and weaves the tapestries riginal of Elemental creation"58 The revival of Wicca is one such exarnple. our potential . mothers-and to the earth ("Mother Earth') that enables women to have a different. rf the and presumably superior.. and scaring away evil spirits.rrned to en\ry. the ever-giving Mother. : late Here Kendall finds that shamans offer a vision of women's ernpowerment and engage rality women in a spiritual life from which they are officially barred. To take one impressive example. . "The job of the Korean shaman is to seek out the that gods. smoothing over family prob- lone lems. It is also a :re the powerful testament to the human yearnings for the sacred-a realm in which all are great equal on earth and in heaven. anthropologist Laurel Kendaii has shown how in small Korean villages.56 Ltem. one of the pioneering ecofeminists. . and thus better uality able to realign Mother Earth with its core principles of harmony. closer to the earth. The objective of patriarchy was n reli. back as we can trace. helping them choose auspicious days cha for weddings and the like. women" Like Gilman at the turn of the twentieth century. why or how we do not know. . . Ecoferninisrn is a spiritual branch :ee of of feminism that celebrates women's intimate connection to life-as mother-as the phets potential salvation of an earth that seems hellbent on destroying itself. to its natural baiances. resentment. Women are ricky. Here is Charlene seem Spretnak. they worship a Mother Goddess and focus on the Ie art. despite a patriarchal official cul- in of ture in which women are relegated to the home. who part family therapist. and Buddhism that are rnale-dominated. and it is carried out entirely by women. offering potions for illness.r:t $: i!:riCl: :rd ileiigicn Z4S war: Part ofthis tradition has been to look less at official doctrine or at organized reli- "No gious institutions. patriarchy was born. At the moment this awe tr. and more at the way people actually ase religion. and fear.st ortant stored It may also involve a more direct and iiteral (or rnythic) retrieval of the past. . often for example. Mary Daly. at the daily practical level. and part itinerant priest.t'rtay:!. Rituals in :d the Her honor took place in womb-like caves. /. ality that invokes "the Witch within ourSelves. its rhlthms and forces. and official religions like Christianity. Third have been efforts to revision female spirituality in more experiential ways. blessing families. who sends forth food on Her lre all surface in cyclical rhlthms and receives our dead back into Her womb. Thus. offering prayers for propitious events. sha- manism is the dominant religion in the country. for slippery corridors. explaining the core of the movement's nakes beliefs: /r' nor Earth is a bountiful female. spirituality to that of men. often with r. and long ty. The elemental power of the female was the cultural focus as far r bio. it is women's presumed connection to life-as light. . in daily life. or even supposing. They :trieve Ipatriarchy] almost succeeded.

but not God' tation..lrgt"..4'!:i.ii'l' 'ii-:'}:-:''-t 1!::'. the omnipotent and infallible' may have men.[t]he first step in the eleiation of wornen vincethemthatthegreatSpiritoftheUniverseisinnowayresponsible{or. of coJ ura "tlt' prophJts themselves-actually finds more adherents it's so "naturalizedi' so taken for granted.h u. Gender inequality is the work of rnen' .. has in turn rendered appear right and.fitting. fallible. she and inequality between women and secular arrangements .' t't ::' 'tll::''i.? :. as women ity. tiSi CONCLUSION IttoneofthegreatlroniesofAmericanreligionthataninstitutionthatisamongthe -domination-whether in theological doc- maie central pillars of gender inequality and to men abo. power.u'o"-*do"tdohousework:Becausetheydonthaveto' the connection between gendered reli- Ferninist theologian Mary Daly explained gion and our gendered societY' ThesymbolofthefatherGodspawnedinthehumanimaginationandsustainedas by making service to this type of society plausible by patriarchy. obligation. women and demands that women remain subservient trine that places rnen. its mechanisms for the oppression of women heaven is a father rmling" hls" people. in the ceiling on women's occupational mobility. "absurditiesl' God.. and easi'ly given to temp- created the heavens and the earth. is always political.his.r...:i t1!.thepioneeringwomen.11 246 :.institutionalarrangementsthatenshrinesexsegregationandgenderdiscrimi. -"".rr".. of the universe that society be male-dominated ti.. then it is in the "nature" of things and accord- 6o ing to divine plan and ord. : ' :. began their long march for equal- In the middle of the nineteenth century. n"rhups menfeeltheyneedntparticipatetosustaintheirdominance.any1f insisted. € i :.. or nation. because it deals with these absurditiesl.u. fi. that arnong women than . If God in.srightsadvocateElizabethCadyStantonremindedwomen under all systems of religion is to con- that.. placing a permarient glass representatior..Perhapsmenarentreli- giousforthesame. inequalities she called men ale fraitr.