Gender and religion The concept of gender has been present for hundreds of years and there is a clear

distinction between gender and sex; sex refers to man or woman whereas gender is the term which refers to being female or being male, the characteristics and attributes associated with each one are generally consistent throughout the globe however changing in roles dependent on culture. Being female is associated with terms such as; soft, caring, loving, mothering and bearing and the concept of male references with being; strong, provider, breadwinner, protector and even emotionally stable . The actual act of being of a particular gender is described as being due to socialization and upbringing, we are brought up and nurtured to act a certain way and thus follow certain be liefs and morals. There are clear distinctions throughout the subsections of society also, workplace roles, family roles and religious roles all differ greatly by gender. Religion and gender has been studied in two distinct phases, the first phase includes 1st and 2nd wave feminism and the second wave includes 3rd wave feminism. Each theorist has differed in opinion and angle but have however came to a general conclusion; religion serves to incorporate gender roles disadvantaging a particular gender over another. This link has been studied by various theorists and is still being debated to date. The strictly feminist view of religion describes religion as being oppressive and demeaning to females. Gender roles are put in place solely to assert authority over women in religious institutions and give power to their male counterparts. Western religions tend to give power to males over females however this does vary dependant on religion in question. Women are found to be subordinate in religious institutions, most; if not all; power positions are held by males. Males thus dominate the sphere and teach the community morals and values contingent to their own, this is said to further allow for segregation in generations to come, unchanging or with slight change at the best and never truly becoming equal. Feminist perspectives also look at female symbolic roles within religion, for instance the notion of the male God in orthodox Christianity is said to be a power play giving power and domination to males. Added to this however critics argue that there are many religious alternates aiming at women power; paganism for example. Feminist researchers tend to

interoperate and analyse symbols and verses of holy texts and argue against various factors which they feel need addressed. In the religion of Islam females are viewed negatively for instance when a woman is menstruating she is not allowed to touch the Holy text (Quran) until her menstruation stops and she has bathed herself clean , many verses in the text are centred towards the evil woman who turns in to Satan and we must also state the use of veiling as a culturally accepted practice however there is no mention of such in the Quran. Other religions also serve to objectify and control women according to feminists, Catholicism controls women s sexual liberty; birth control is frowned upon and disregarded, the notion of having a child out with marriage is a cardinal sin and one which is described by the verse of Mary Magdalene. There are however religious alternates which encompass the power of women and use a female as a goddess or hope symbol. Witchcraft is female oriented and involves many female individuals gaining power through ritualistic prayer and spells, however this is sadly dampened by the historical evidence of the Salem witch trials where power was quickly taken from these women as they were burned or even drowned alive; another example of the degradation of females according to feminist theorists. Societal views of gender difference and religious practice also lie stringent to these theories. Women and men both hold very different views centred around religion or towards the notion of God. For females the God figure has indications of a strong, provider who is caring, loving and forgiving, however, males have a different view of this altogether. Males see God as almighty, controlling, powerful and vengeful. These views seem to go hand in hand with views towards males in general, typically a female will look for the same characteristics in a prospective partner and males themselves will look to exhibit their views of God as a personality trait thus being recorded as being masculine and worthy. With regards to attendance, females attend church more often than males exhibiting a 66% attendance rate. It is seen to be a role of women to attend church, particularly with children and family members and this act is also seen as being motherly and caring. Many years ago it was the mothers role to look after her children and make sure that their souls were pure, it was her responsibility in order for her children to be able to enter heaven had any disease or illness

taken them too soon. This has transpired now in to female attendance high due to expectance of roles and the view placed upon them. In contrast males who were the sole breadwinners were seen to be able to take a day off from church in order to relax, spending all week at work and providing for their family had earned them such privilege. Theorist can see that different types of religion favour different genders in certain ways. The orthodox religions including Christian, Judaism and Buddhism have clear distinct separate views on what differentiates males and females and this transpires in to these religious institutions themselves where roles are different and symbols are relevant to specific character traits perceived to be male or female. Orthodox religions tend to be largely male dominated and contain little if no females in highly respected roles. The religion itself contains various conservative preaching s and women and men occupy very different social roles outside of the church as well as inside, in the home for example women are expected to work with household tasks while men are served and cared for, the attraction to this religion by males is easily seen, they are viewed as positively and strong, hold powerful roles and highly respected however theorists have analysed the attraction which women feel towards such religions. Orthodox religions contain a large majority of middle to upper class females, attraction seems to be surrounding social and emotional support and also the benefits which they ultimately reap from the teachings of the church and its morals it prescribes. Males are taught generally to help in the home and with the nurturing of their family, they are also taught to give a high level of respect towards women as women are at the centre of most religious celebrations. Women also have a level of confidence attached as they are aware of their boundaries and limits and find male help and support of great benefit. Liberal religions are found to be a wing in almost every orthodox religion, they differ in the sense that instead of focusing on the difference in genders they look at the similarities and celebrate the humanistic aspect of life and religion. Liberal religions have played a significant part in campaigning for equality for gender and homosexuals and the religious institution itself is a outward projection of this; religious roles are more spread out in relation to gender dispersion and see many more women

being accepted in to highly respected roles such as ministers and clergy. Female attraction is due to equality and acceptance giving them a higher sense of belonging, females feel like they are on par with their male counterparts and that they are in equal standing for competition and acceptance. In contrast analysts have discussed the attraction as it stands for males and theorize that males can become more in touch with their feminine side in a way which is not possible in normal societal rules. Finally, Spiritual religions have become a way in which gender roles severely differentiate from the norm of orthodox religion. Many spiritual religions celebrate a single gender and many celebrate both, for example Wicca is female oriented whereas the American promise league is male oriented. There are obviously spiritual cults, sects and movements where both genders are included on a more equal level however this category enjoys a more experimental scope in which to try out different gender and social roles. New religious movements come in to this category and thus it is said that spiritual roles are less restrictive on normal everyday societal life. In conclusion many religions have different stances on the gender debate, it would not be accurate to state that females are disadvantage and such reasons as to why. Many religions see a total reversal of roles and male individuals tend to be those who are submissive. To state that there is one explanation as to why this occurs would be wrong society is ever changing and as with postmodern views on the increase religious institutions seem to be modernizing in many ways. Homosexuality is accepted and it is only very recently that same sex couples could marry in a church, Catholicism is far more accepting towards contraception where as women who became pregnant before marriage were doomed to a life inside nunneries, they are now able to live a normal communal lifestyle in society. If such aspects are slowly changing we must ask ourselves the question of whether religion will become truly equal in terms of gender acceptance, if this could happen then it is possible for it to occur in the wider society and possible that we may see a gender acceptance across the globe. Whether that will occur however is very difficult to answer, the probability is that we may never have total acceptance of gender however with recent and coming

laws which are passing we may see a closer move to acceptance than we ever predicted possible some thirty or forty years ago. The question remains; does inequality in religion exist, or is this simply another feminist panic over analysed and biasedly so?

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