Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 13, No. 5, May 2017
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Fostering Gender Balance in Religion


This supplement is a digest of recent events and significant contributions to fostering gender equality - and human development - in various secular cultures and institutions. It is acknowledged that the distinction between the secular and religious dimensions is an artificial one, often blurred in real life situations. In those cases, if the material is predominantly secular it is included here; else it is included in Supplement 5. The selected items are the editor's choice. Suggestions by readers are welcomed. Reporting on good role models is a high priority. The following sections are included this month:

1. The Religious Roots of Gender Violence
2. Heterosexuals and Homosexuals in Religion
3. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Judaism
4. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Christianity
5. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Islam
6. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Buddhism
7. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Hinduism
8. The Resilience of Patriarchy in Religious Institutions
9. Dismantling the Patriarchal Gender Binary in Religion

The promotion of gender equality in religion is a slow and painful process, and it is barely beginning to unfold worldwide. But it is a dynamic process, one in which progress begets progress. It is important to stay tuned to relevant news coming from all world regions and all world religions. The Google News box displayed to the right may be helpful. Readers can enhance their web sites with their own version of this box, which is continuously refreshed as significant events are reported, by going to Google News, clicking on "Add a section," and follow simple instructions under "Create a custom section." This is a free service, but you must register in order to use the customization tool.

If you know about recent developments that should be mentioned in this page, please write to the Editor.

"How do we build a more equitable world?
If you want a formula from me,
I would say first: ensure there is gender equality"

— Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Sex Difference in Christian Theology ~
Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God

Megan K. DeFranz, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015

The Gender Agenda
Mary Anne Case, The Tablet, 8 September 2016

1. The Religious Roots of Gender Violence

Source: The Religious Consultation
Violence Against Women
in Contemporary World Religion:
Roots And Cures

Daniel C. Maguire
Professor of Moral Theology & Ethics, Marquette University, and President, The Religious Consultation On Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics

Note: The following is quoted (with permission) from Violence Against Women in Contemporary World Religion: Roots And Cures, Daniel C. Maguire and Sa'Diyya Shaikh (Editors), Pilgrim Press, 2007, 248 pages.

Excerpt from Chapter 9, "Buddhism and Violence against Women" by Ouyporn Khuankaew, pp. 176-177:

"The following are forms of suffering identified by the participants to be caused by Buddhism itself:

  • "Young girls do not have an opportunity for education in the temple.
  • "Women are told, often by a monk, that the reason they were born as women is because they did not accumulate enough merit in their previous lives; thus, they could not be born in male form.
  • "Women are often told by monks to be patient with abusive husbands.
  • "Women who experience suffering, especially sexual violence, are not able to seek spiritual help from monks because they are not sure of their safety and are not sure the monks have the experience to help them.
  • "Women are not allowed to enter certain buildings or areas inside temples.
  • "Women are told that they are an obstacle to the monks' celibate life.
  • "In some temples paintings about Buddhism depict women as inferior.
  • "Some temples note in their chanting books that certain sutras are exclusively for monks and male novices to chant.
  • "The institution of Buddhism defines women who have abortions as religiously immoral.
  • "Generally women are not selected to be part of the temple committee. The roles they are assigned are merely bringing offerings to the monks, and cooking and cleaning when there is a temple festival.
  • "Monks and religious institutions are silent about gender-based violence.
  • "In Thailand it is common to hear news about a monk who exploits women sexually or financially by mislreading them into believing that he has a spiritual power to make them attractive to men or to bring back a huband who left his wife for another woman."
  • Editor's Note: A similar list follows with special forms of suffering for Buddhist nuns. With some variations, all the major patriarchal religions exhibit analogous symptoms of misogyny.

    For further study and reflection on religion-induced gender violence:

  • Colloquium On Violence & Religion (COV&R), Official website for exploration, criticism, and development of René Girard‘s Mimetic Theory.
  • Violence Against Women: Philosophical and Religious Foundations of Gender Morality, James W. Prescott, New Perspectives, 1995.
  • Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay, James Alison, Crossroad, 2001.
  • Religion, globalization and violence against women, Rose Uchem, Conversations for a Better World, 2009.
  • A Cry for Dignity: Religion, Violence, and the Struggle of Dalit Women in India, Mary Grey, Equinox, 2010.
  • The Masculinity Conspiracy, Joseph Gelfer, CreateSpace, 14 August 2011.
  • The Forgiving Victim, James Alison, The Raven Foundation, July 2012.
  • Reconsidering women in relation to religion, Ekklesia, 21 August 2012.
  • International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Ekklesia, 25 November 2012.
  • Catholic Priest Blames Italy’s Stiletto Murders on Women, Barbie Latza Nadeau, The Daily Beast, 28 December 2012.
  • Violence against women has no religious justification, Badria al-Bishr, Al Arabiya, 18 March 2013.
  • Religion Can Advance Women’s Rights: Carter Center Conference Mobilizes Faith Groups to Advance Women's Rights, The Carter Center, 28 June 2013.
  • Religion, Patriarchy and Women’s Gender Identity, Jenny Ubi, Ours Magazine, 11 July 2014.
  • Scars Across Humanity, Elaine Storkey, SPCK, 2015.

  • For an interesting chronology of significant dates and events in overcoming patriarchy in various religious traditions, click here.

    For an extensive biblical exegesis on the original unity of man and woman in the mystery of creation, see Original Unity of Man and Woman: Catechesis on the Book of Genesis, John Paul II, St. Paul Editions, 1981. See also The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan, Pope John Paul II, Pauline Books, 1997, and Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, Pope John Paul II, Pauline Books & Media, 2006.

    2. Heterosexuals and Homosexuals in Religion

    Definition of Gender Balance

    Gender balance is 50/50 male/female presence in a group. So it is a matter of numbers, but it is more than just a matter of numbers. Gender balance is required in both responsibility and authority, in the family and in all human institutions. It must become internalized to the point in which patriarchal individualism and male hegemony are neutralized by a new sense of communion between men and women, and between humanity and nature. It must be a fully inclusive sense of communion that overcomes any exclusivism on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, or any other reason. It must be a communion that seeks the integral development of each and every human person, from conception to natural death. And it must be a communion in which all humans endeavor to take care of each other while also taking care of natural resources. Nothing in this world is perfect, and this new order of things will not be perfect but, far from being utopian, it is in fact inevitable if humanity is to survive in the long term.

    Gender Imbalance in Religion

    Patriarchy preceded all the major religions that exist today, and biased them all from the beginning in favor of heterosexual male hegemony and domination (Cf. Genesis 3:16). This section is a synopsis about the universality of the deeply ingrained prejudice - undoubtedly based on male-only images of God - that must be overcome if organized religion is not to become an obstacle to integral human development.

    Since their inception most religious traditions have absorbed the patriarchal mindset of male hegemony, and awareness that this is a prejudice to be overcome - rather than a sacred tradition to be conserved and transmitted - is a new phenomenon. Perhaps the impending economic and ecological crises, and the unavoidable need for all humans to collaborate in transitioning to a world of solidarity and sustainability, will induce a religious renewal and help to overcome pseudo-dogmatic resistance to change.

    3. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Judaism

    Star of David
    Courtesy of Wikipedia
    Based on the Wikipedia article on Women in Judaism:

    The role of women in Judaism is determined by the Hebrew Bible, the Oral Law (the corpus of rabbinic literature), by custom, and by non-religious cultural factors. Although the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature mention various female role models, religious law treats women differently in various circumstances.

    Relatively few women are mentioned in the Bible by name and role, suggesting that they were rarely in the forefront of public life. There are a number of exceptions to this rule, including the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, Miriam the prophetess, Deborah the Judge, Huldah the prophetess, Abigail who married David, and Esther. In the Biblical account these women did not meet with opposition for the relatively public presence they had.

    According to Jewish tradition, a covenant was formed between the Israelites and the God of Abraham at Mount Sinai. The Torah relates that both Israelite men and Israelite women were present at Sinai, however, the covenant was worded in such a way that it bound men to act upon its requirements and to ensure that the members of their household (wives, children, and slaves) met these requirements as well. In this sense, the covenant bound women as well, though indirectly.

    To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.

    The Wikipedia article includes a very comprehensive bibliography and a directory of links to Jewish religious sources. With regard to current trends on the role of women in Judaism, the following articles may be of interest:


    Recommended for critical historical analysis of gender in the Hebrew Bible:

    I Will Love Unloved: A Linguistic Analysis of Woman's Biblical Importance
    J. J. McKenzie, University Press of America, February 1994

    A Gender Neutral God/ess:
    Be Inclusive but MAKE NO IMAGES was the Religious Change

    J. J. McKenzie, Amazon Digital Services, August 2012 (Kindle Edition)

    Scholarly analysis of gender issues in both the Old and New Testaments

    4. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Christianity

    One Sacred Community by Mary Southard CSJ
    Based on the Wikipedia article on Gender Roles in Christianity:

    Gender roles in Christianity vary considerably today as they have during the last two millennia. This is especially true with regards to marriage and ministry.

    Christianity traditionally has given men the position of authority in marriage, society and government. This position places women in submissive roles, and usually excludes women from church leadership, especially from formal positions requiring any form of ordination. The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and many conservative Protestant denominations assert today that only men can be ordained—as clergy and as deacons.

    Many progressive Christians disagree with the traditional "male authority" and "female submission" paradigm. They take a Christian egalitarian or Christian feminist view, holding that the overarching message of Christianity provides positional equality for women in marriage and in ministry. Accordingly, some Anglican and Protestant churches now ordain women to positions of ecclesiastical leadership and religious authority (ministers, pastors, priests, bishops).

    Despite these emerging theological differences, the majority of Christians regard women with dignity and respect as having been created alongside men in the Image of God. The Bible is seen by many as elevating and honoring women, especially as compared with certain other religions or societies. Women have filled prominent roles in the Church historically, and continue to do so today in spite of significant limitations imposed by ordination restrictions.

    To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.

    Christians for Biblical Equality


    Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) is a nonprofit organization of Christian men and women who believe that the Bible, properly interpreted, teaches the fundamental equality of men and women of all ethnic groups, all economic classes, and all age groups, based on the teachings of Scriptures such as Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV 2011). CBE affirms and promotes the biblical truth that all believers—without regard to gender, ethnicity or class—must exercise their God-given gifts with equal authority and equal responsibility in church, home and world. CBE's statement, "Men, Women, and Biblical Equality,” lays out the biblical rationale for equality, as well as its practical applications in the family and community of believers. The statement is available in 33 languages. To select a language and read the document, click HERE.

    MUST READ: Ideas Have Consequences: Faith, Gender, and Social Ethics, Mimi Haddad, Priscilla Papers, Volume 28, Number 1, Winter 2014, pp. 5-10.

    The Junia Project

    "The Junia Project is a community of women and men advocating for the inclusion of women at all levels of leadership in the Christian church and for mutuality in marriage. We believe that when interpreted correctly, the Bible teaches that both men and women are called to serve at all levels of the Church, and that leadership should be based primarily on gifting and not on gender."

    Some recent articles in the Junia Project blog:

    Univision Global Survey of Roman Catholics

    Source: Univision Global Survey of Roman Catholics
    Bendixen & Amandi, February 2014

    Equal in Faith Video 2015

    Source: Equal in Faith, 8 March 2015

    5. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Islam

    Islamic Symbol
    Courtesy of Wikipedia
    Based on the Wikipedia article on Women in Islam:

    The study of women in Islam investigates the role of women within the religion of Islam. The complex relationship between women and Islam is defined by both Islamic texts and the history and culture of the Muslim world. The Qur'an makes it clear that men and women are equal, however the Qu'ran states in 4:34, "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in the husband's absence what Allah orders them to guard." Although the Quran does say this, the superiority of men is interpreted in terms of strength by the context - men maintain women. This verse however refers to a relationship between a husband and wife, not in society as a whole.

    Sharia (Islamic law) provides for complementarianism, differences between women's and men's roles, rights, and obligations. However neither the Quran nor Hadith mention women have to cook or clean. The majority of Muslim countries give women varying degrees of rights with regards to marriage, divorce, civil rights, legal status, dress code, and education based on different interpretations. Scholars and other commentators vary as to whether they are just and whether they are a correct interpretation of religious imperatives.

    To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.

    Some additional references:

  • The Women of Islam, Lisa Beyer, Time Magazine, 25 November 2001.
  • Mauritanian Islamic leaders ban genital mutilation, Mohamed Abdel Wedoud, Magharebia, 15 January 2010.
  • Women in Islam, Catherine of Siena Virtual College, 2010.
  • Gender Equity in Islam (Foundations of Spiritual and Human Equity), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 29 March 2011.
  • Gender Equity in Islam (The Economic Aspect), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 30 March 2011.
  • Gender Equity in Islam (The Social Aspect), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 4 April 2011.
  • Gender Equity in Islam (The Legal/Political Aspect), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 7 April 2011.
  • Gender Segregation and Inequality inside Israel and Palestine, International Middle East Media Center, 30 November 2011.
  • International conference calls for gender equality in Muslim societies, Today's Zaman, Istanbul, 23 December 2011.
  • Within, Without: Dialogical Perspectives on Feminism and Islam, Sara Ashencaen Crabtree and Fatima Husain, Religion & Gender, February 2012.
  • Muslim Women in India Seek Gender Equality in Marriage, Nilanjana Roy, New York Times, 24 April 2012.
  • Islamic Feminism: Method and Strategy, Lanny Octavia, Qantara, 28 June 2012.
  • Egypt Revolution Makes It Worse for Women, Cam McGrath, IPS, 2 November 2012.
  • 'Our Books and Our Pens Are Most Powerful Weapons', Malala Yousafzai, delivered this address on education to the United Nations Youth Assembly on 'Malala Day', her 16th birthday, 12 July 2013.
  • The Ice is Breaking, A Sober Second Look, 17 October 2013.
  • Malala Yousafzai and the Global Fight for Gender Equality, Knowledge Wharton High School, 17 October 2013.
  • Does the Koran allow wife-beating? Not if Muslims don't want it to, Ayesha Chaudhry, The Globe and Mail, 27 March 2014.
  • Scholar spotlight: Dr Zainab Alwani, reclaiming gender equality in Islamic scholarship, Omar Shahid, Aquila-Style, 10 October 2014.
  • Muslim feminism unveiled, Anthony Berteaux, The Daily Aztec, 9 March 2015.
  • The funeral of patriarchy, Mona Hassan, The Nation, 29 March 2015.
  • Like a virgin, Sam Ambreen, The News Hub, 25 April 2015.
  • The invisible woman, Umber Khairi, The News, 26 April 2015.
  • Women fit only to deliver children,Gender equality un-Islamic, says Sunni cleric, Aboobacker Musliar, Saharasamay Live, 29 November 2015.
  • Musliyar's remark on gender equality 'baseless, misconceived': Lucknow Cleric, ANI, Catch News, 29 November 2015.
  • Women across faiths challenge patriarchy within religion, Vijay Bate, The Hindu, 9 March 2016.
  • Patriarchy, ISIS, and Female Slaves, Mahfuz Quazi, Countercurrents, 20 March 2016.
  • Asma Lamrabet: Deconstructing Patriarchy in Islamic Thought, Alexandra Krauska, Morocco World News, 27 July 2016.

    Gender equality and how Islam sees it
    Muhammad Eusha, Dhaka Tribune, 24 September 2013

    6. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Buddhism

    Dharma Wheel
    Courtesy of Wikipedia
    Based on the Wikipedia article on Women in Buddhism:

    "Women in Buddhism is a topic that can be approached from varied perspectives including those of theology, history, anthropology and feminism. Topical interests include the theological status of women, the treatment of women in Buddhist societies at home and in public, the history of women in Buddhism, and a comparison of the experiences of women across different forms of Buddhism. As in other religions, the experiences of Buddhist women have varied considerably.

    "The founder of the religion, Gautama Buddha, permitted women to join his monastic community and fully participate in it, although there were certain provisos or garudhammas. As Susan Murcott has commented: "The nun's sangha was a radical experiment for its time" [Murcott, Susan (1991). The First Buddhist Women:Translations and Commentary on the Therigatha. Parallax Press. page 4.] Dr. Mettanando Bhikkhu says of the First Buddhist council: "Perhaps Mahakassappa and the bhikkhus of that time were jealous of the bhikkhunis being more popular and doing more teaching and social work than the bhikkhus. Their anti-women prejudice became institutionalized at that time with the eight garudhammas, the eight weighty restrictions. We must discontinue that prejudice. There is no anti-women prejudice in Jainism and they survived in India; whereas Buddhism had prejudice and did not survive in India" [see The First Council and Suppression of the Bhikkhuni Order]. Although it must be said that this is factually incorrect, because there are jain sects like the Digambara sect, which believes that women are capable of spiritual progress, but must be reborn male, in order to attain final spiritual liberation. It is also highly doubtful that the garudhammas were motivated by Mahakaasapa's being jealous, as he is said to be an enlightened one and one of the principle disciples of the Buddha. Furthermore there's no support within canon, to suggest that the bhikkunis were more popular, taught more or that they did more social work than Bhikkhus.

    "The various schools and traditions within Buddhism hold different views as to the possibilities of women's spiritual attainments. Feminist scholars have also noted than even when a woman's potential for spiritual attainment is acknowledged, records of such achievements may not be kept - or may be obscured by gender-neutral language or mis-translation of original sources by Western scholars. According to Bernard Faure, "Like most clerical discourses, Buddhism is indeed relentlessly misogynist, but as far as misogynist discourses go, it is one of the most flexible and open to multiplicity and contradiction."

    To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.

    Some additional references:

  • The Place of Women in Buddhism, Swarna de Silva, Enabling Support Foundation, 1994.
  • A Grand Declaration of Gender Equality, Writings on Buddhism, Soka Gakkai International, 1996.
  • Full Ordination of Women in Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, 2007.
  • An Argument Against Gender Discrimination Within The Buddhist Sangha, Anthony Burns, International Buddhist College, Thailand, 2007.
  • Buddhism and Women, BhudaNet (with links to other resources), 2008.
  • The Position of Women in Buddhism , L.S. Dewaraja, Buddhist Pub Soc, Sri Lanka, 2011.
  • Ordination of Women in Buddhism, Wikipedia, 2011.
  • Buddhism Gender and Sexuality, Patheos, 2011.
  • Buddhism After Half the Sky, Danny Fisher, Patheos, 17 March 2013.
  • Thai Women Don Monks’ Robes, Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau, IPS, 1 November 2013.
  • Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in Theravada Buddhism, Ajahn Brahm, FABC, 25 May 2014.
  • Putting an End to Buddhist Patriarchy, Ajahn Brahm, Tricycle, 30 January 2015.
  • Women clergy fight for equality, set example in Thailand's scandal-rife Buddhism, Associated Press, Fox News, 12 September 2015.
  • Thai female monastics continue push for gender equality, Heather Wardle, Lion's Roar, 18 September 2015.
  • 7. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Hinduism

    Symbol of Hinduism
    Courtesy of Wikipedia
    Based on the Wikipedia article on Women in Hinduism:

    The role of women in Hinduism is often disputed, and positions range from equal status with men to restrictive. Hinduism is based on numerous texts, some of which date back to 2000 BCE or earlier. They are varied in authority, authenticity, content and theme, with the most authoritative being the Vedas. The position of women in Hinduism is widely dependent on the specific text and the context. Positive references are made to the ideal woman in texts such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, while some texts such as the Manu Smriti advocate a restriction of women's rights. In modern times the Hindu wife has traditionally been regarded as someone who must at all costs remain chaste or pure. This is in contrast with the very different traditions that have prevailed at earlier times in 'Hindu' kingdoms, which included highly respected professional courtesans (such as Amrapali of Vesali), sacred devadasis, mathematicians and female magicians (the basavis, the Tantric kulikas). Some European scholars observed in the nineteenth century Hindu women were "naturally chaste" and "more virtuous" than other women, although what exactly they meant by that is open to dispute. In any case, as male foreigners they would have been denied access to the secret and sacred spaces that women often inhabited. Mahabharata and Manusmriti asserts that gods are delighted only when women are worshiped or honoured, otherwise all spiritual actions become futile.

    There is a wide variety of viewpoints within the different schools and sects of Hinduism concerning the exact nature and gender (where applicable) of the Supreme person or being; there are even sects that are skeptical about the existence of such a being. Shaktism, for example, focuses worship on the goddess Devi as the supreme embodiment of power, or Shakti (feminine strength; a female form of God). Vaishnavism and Shaivism both worship Lakshmi with Vishnu and Parvati with Shiva respectively as beings on an equal level of magnitude (the male and female aspects of God). In some instances such as with Gaudiya Vaishnavism, specific emphasis is placed on the worship of God's female aspect (Radharani) even above that of her paramour Krishna. Thus it could be said that Hinduism considers God to have both male and female aspects, as the original source of both.

    To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.

    Some additional references:

  • Landmark Step to Gender Equality, Bina Agarwal, The Hindu, 2005.
  • Women in Hinduism, Hindu Wisdom, 2008.
  • Gender equality is passé, let us usher in gender partnership, V. N. Mukundarajan, The Hindu, 2010.
  • Shaming numbers, Editorial, The Hindu, September 2011.
  • Global patriarchy and women of a lesser God, Birma Tirmizi, Express Tribune, 6 January 2014.
  • Why Patriarchy?, Sarita Sarvate, India Currents, 17 January 2015.
  • 8. The Resilience of Patriarchy in Religious Institutions

    Gender Imbalance in Religion and Religious Governance

    Persisting gender imbalance in religious thinking and leadership is a serious obstacle to the advent of post-patriarchal families. From the perspective of cultural evolution, religious patriarchy may now be the biggest obstacle; for gender equality and gender balance are by now well established as irreversible social trends due to practical economic incentives, but the collective unconscious is still deeply biased by religious practices and rites that perpetuate the mindset of male hegemony. In terms of human fertility, for example, it would be well for some institutions to stop fulminating condemnations about abortion and birth control methods, and start selling the value of virtues such as self-discipline and abstinence. But there is a fear, not entirely unreasonable, that we may throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to reforming religious traditions that have served humanity well since time immemorial. About 80% of the world population is "religious" in the broad sense of believing in God and adhering, at least to some extent, to one of the major world religions. However, it is time to recognize that all these religions were founded after the agricultural revolution (10,000 years or so ago) long after patriarchy had become normative; and they all were, from their inception, contaminated by the phallocentric syndrome as evidenced by the most ancient sacred texts. Given the limitations of human language, and official protestations about God transcending gender notwithstanding, "when God is male, the male is god." It is time to overcome the vexing resilience of patriarchal structures in religious institutions.

    Sharia Law - Source: Author Unknown

    Papal Apology - Source: Kirk Anderson



    Of the Same Flesh:
    Exploring a Theology of Gender

    Susan Durber, Christian Aid, July 2014

    [Christian Aid & ACNS, 29 July 2014] Excerpts:

    Being made male or female should be a gift of God, not a weapon of oppression says a new paper by Christian Aid, "Of the Same Flesh: exploring a theology of gender."

    The paper examines how global poverty affects women more than men and explores how Christian theology can provide a positive vision of gender which can make it a blessing not a curse.

    Author, the Revd Dr Susan Durber, Christian Aid’s theology advisor, said many Christian Aid partner organisations in developing countries are transforming the way in which gender is lived in their communities through engaging in theology and working with church leaders.

    “Christians believe that our being made ‘male and female’ is a gift of God, and should be experienced as joy for humankind”, she said. “It is a scandal then that our gender is so often experienced not as joy, but as a place of oppression.

    “When it becomes a source of persecution and fear, this is a distortion of God’s intention for creation. From machismo cultures that skew masculinity, to the striking evidence of the poverty and exclusion of women, there is a sense that the world is not as it should be in relation to gender. This is the common tragedy of humankind, but it is also the particular pain of the most poor and vulnerable.”

    “Turning to the Scriptures to shape a theology is not a straightforward process and interpretation should never be simplistic and naive. We need to read with care and learn how to become interpreters who can find the blessing within, behind or even sometimes apparently against the grain of the text.”

    “Theologians and church leaders have key voices in shaping the way that gender is understood, experienced and lived out in communities across the world”, Dr Durber said. “The Bible says that God made humankind in God’s image, male and female.  This is not a generalised banality about an abstract ‘sameness’, but a radical celebration of a difference that should be strongly rooted in equality and justice.”

    The full report can be found here



    This may be the most promising theological development pursuant to gender balance in church and society


    Original Unity of Man and Woman: Catechesis on the Book of Genesis, John Paul II, St. Paul Editions, 1981.

    The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan, John Paul II, Pauline Books, 1997.

    Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology Of The Body, John Paul II (Author), Michael Waldstei (Translator), Pauline Books, 2006.


    Theology of the Body International Alliance, Theology of the Body Institute, The Cor Project.

    Source: John Wijngaards Catholic Research Centre

    Open Letter of Sister Theresa Kane to Pope Francis

    Pope Francis, although your formal titles are Holy Father and Supreme Pontiff, I take this sacred opportunity to greet you as a brother, a friend, a collaborator in our service to and with God and with others.

    I have no doubt your many years in Argentina engaged with the many economically poor people has been a powerful source of strength and grace. Those experiences prepared you to be noted for our deep pastoral spirit, your desire for collegiality and your vision that all of us in the Catholic community are called to be holy -- to be saints!

    I am a Catholic woman, a woman religious, a Sister of Mercy, born and raised in the United States, New York City. Through both education and life experiences, I have come to a conviction that anything less than all women in the Catholic community having the possibility of being in all ministries of our church is not only a deficit, not only wrong; it is a scandal to our church and to our world.

    For a long time I have believed the Catholic community might serve as a role model and an instrument of reform for governments and religions throughout our world that allow and even legislate that women are less than fully human; that women are objects to be exploited; that it is acceptable and even at times believed natural to violate, to beat and abuse women physically, psychologically and sexually.

    For the Catholic church to be agents of God’s message to our 21st century, we need to have a vision that the degradation of women worldwide, in all countries of our planet, is the primary, root issue of social and religious violence and not of God.

    We as a Catholic community are called to proclaim fully and lovingly to our entire planet community that such scandalous beliefs and actions of gender inequality are forms and expressions of idolatry. When idolatry is present God is not in our midst. We need to bring a loving, caring, creative God into the center of our everyday lives by eradicating all forms of gender inequality. Only then will God as Companion, as Mother, Father, as our Divine Source of grace be present in our world.

    I urge you, Pope Francis, to listen to the women of our church and world who cry out in anguish as women throughout the ages have done. Only radical (at its roots) gender equality in church and in society will begin to diminish the violence, hatred and other forms of inhumanity in our world today.

    Sister Theresa Kane, WOW Conference, Philadelphia, 19 September 2015
    Theresa Kane's message to Pope Francis: Eradicate scandal of gender inequality
    John G. Stackhouse
    InterVarsity Press, 2015

    The Bible says that women should keep silent in church and that they should pray and prophesy. It calls wives the weaker partner and says that men and women are equal.

    When it comes to understanding what Scripture says about men and women, those on both sides of the debate can and do marshal strong evidence from the Bible. Why are they able to do this? John Stackhouse boldly contends it is because Scripture in fact says both things.

    Does the Bible contradict itself then? Not so. Rather, in this revised and expanded edition of Finally Feminist, Stackhouse describes the single approach in Scripture that guides us with clear direction on these important matters of relationships in the church and the family.

    Are you looking for an approach that takes the whole Bible into account and not just bits and pieces of it? While treating Scripture with utmost seriousness, Stackhouse moves us all beyond the impasse in this important debate.

    9. Dismantling the Patriarchal Gender Binary in Religion

    Originary Feminism

    Eric Gans

    Originally published in
    Chronicles of Love and Resentment, 11 February 2012

    I regret having waited for so long to explore the issues raised by the integration of the difference between the sexes within GA’s egalitarian, reciprocal vision of the human. Adam Katz’ addition of firstness to our vocabulary facilitates this new reflection on women’s place in human culture, which I will baptize originary feminism.

    Although I have always disliked the deliberate stridency of the term phallogocentrism, it cannot be denied the merit of expressing what might be deemed the originary sin of the human logos—whose connection with the original sin of Genesis will be discussed below—since according to our hypothesis the reciprocity of the originary exchange of signs (although not necessarily that of the ensuing sparagmos and feast) would have involved men alone. No doubt our insistence in assuming that the originary event was an essentially masculine affair, although borne out by all the evidence of human civilization, is a major explanatory factor in both the largely masculine composition of GA’s interest group and GA’s relative failure to penetrate the victimary thought-patterns of the academy. I would rather stop thinking altogether than surrender to PC and “feminize” the originary event. But having hypothesized that men were the inaugurators of language and that women, who inherited the same evolving speech apparatus as men, acquired it only subsequently, GA needs to reflect on the historical interaction between this differential relationship to representation and the different biological and social roles of the sexes, including the persistence until very recently of male firstness as an unproblematically dominant status and the rapidity of its dissolution in advanced postwar societies.

    If the originary hypothesis assumes that men invent/discover language, it is not because women are somehow “less worthy,” but for the simple reason that the sex that does not bear children has every reason to be more violent than the one that does. Given that human infants need additional postnatal care to give their mimetically advanced brains time to develop, their mothers must be more specialized anatomically than those of related species. By the same token, males can afford to specialize in more violent pursuits, whence the enhanced dimorphism characteristic of our species. If we have learned one thing from Girard, it is that the defining trait of our species is the threat posed to its social organization by its own violence. If we accept this view, it follows that it is the males, the bearers of this violence, who crucially need representational culture, and hence that women, primary in their importance to our biological survival, would logically be second to men in their acquisition of the signs of culture. Women’s greater biological value is a mixed blessing: it results in honor killings, harems, and pornography as well as love lyrics and women and children first. Rather than “diplomatically” avoiding discussion of woman’s cultural secondarity in our victimary age, we should rather insist on this secondarity and its consequences, both by way of explaining the limitations of women’s cultural role in the past and of exploring the results of the extraordinary feminine liberation of the postwar era.

    Women’s near-total exclusion from the social-political process throughout all but the most recent years of human history is surely no news to feminist herstorians; the news is rather how suddenly this exclusion, taken largely for granted since time immemorial, became a scandal. In advanced industrial countries, women’s progress since WWII has been so spectacular that we have to make a real effort to remind ourselves that French women couldn’t vote until 1945 and even American women got the vote only in 1920. Among the fruits of the postwar application of the Nazi-Jew paradigm to all unequal institutional relationships, I have tended to pay more attention to the intergroup triumphs of the Civil Rights movement and the end of colonialism and apartheid. But postwar feminism, whose emblematic manifesto was Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 Le deuxième sexe, is in many ways the Holocaust’s most significant “gift” of all, the most profound demonstration of the ultimately deferring nature of firstness.

    These developments reveal that however many hundreds of thousands of years ago men invented/discovered representational culture (and however backward women’s status still remains in many parts of the world), women as fellow human beings are eventually bound to acquire not merely the power of speech but the opportunity of using language and other forms of representation with the same social facility as men. That the victimary thinker sees this resentfully as retrospective proof of (male) humanity’s inherent injustice rather than of its fundamental if deferred reciprocity reflects the perhaps eternally unsettled state of the question of firstness, the great cultural issue of the postwar era. When is inequality justified as a means to future equality? Perfect reciprocity can exist only in a state of deferral, and once the victimary cat is out of the bag, it becomes impossible to deny the legitimacy of another’s resentment. In this as in all human endeavors, resentment is the mother of the conflictive historical evolution by which it can eventually be converted into love.


    Let us begin our reflection on originary feminism by observing that in the Garden of Eden, it is Eve, the representative of woman’s cultural lateness, who takes the first bite of the fruit and is therefore first to acquire “knowledge.” For biblical thought, the first human to heed the voice of resentment was female. But the substance of the “knowledge” she obtains has never been clearly understood. It is a first step in the right direction to note that the substance of the “apple” itself is not the point, that the wisdom it imparts comes wholly from disobeying the injunction not to eat it. But this does not tell us how to interpret Eve’s disobedience: what exactly does God’s injunction aim to prevent the human couple from discovering, and how should we explain the sexual shame that is the immediate consequence of this discovery?

    At the point of the snake’s temptation, language already exists as a classification system. Indeed, the circumstances of its gift to Adam by God, properly interpreted, offer confirmation to our thesis of male firstness:

    Yahweh God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate.’ So from the soil Yahweh God fashioned all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them; each one was to bear the name the man would give it. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts. But no helpmate suitable for man was found for him. So Yahweh God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And while he slept, he took one of his ribs and enclosed it in flesh. Yahweh God built the rib he had taken from the man into a woman . . . (Jerusalem Bible, Genesis 2:18-23)

    What is fascinating about this second version of creation is that it is only through naming the animals that Adam discovers that he has no “helpmate,” with the consequence that woman has to be made from his own body. Language is given to the man in order to name the animals, which in our hypothesis would be the first creatures subject to sacred interdiction and the obvious candidates for the originary central object. Only in a world already governed by this “sacrificial” sacred does woman appear. This must not of course be understood biologically, but in terms of the birth of culture. Here biblical intuition confirms that of the originary hypothesis; the sacred and with it, we may suppose, the sacrificial is applied to the animal before the human world. The woman is created “late” because her accession to the realm of culture and sacrality is late.

    Yet the world is still innocent. Let us not be in too much of a hurry to smile at the naivete of assuming that language, hence the sacred, can exist in the absence of sacred interdiction. This Edenic world of originary obedience may not correspond to any real state of nascent humanity, but it corresponds quite well to a naïve anthropology for which in a prelapsarian world transgression is not merely punishable by death but simply presumed unthinkable.

    Let us recall that these texts were composed in a hierarchical society that had lived through the usurpation of the big-man and his transformation into king and emperor, and that the big-man’s sin is not lack of reciprocity with his fellow humans but usurpation of the god’s role at the center of the circle of redistribution, the transformation of a shared and partial ministry into a unique sacred stewardship. This usurpation is no doubt the basis, not for “original sin” itself, but for our consciousness of it, for which it offers an explicit model. And given that GA proposes a hypothesis of the masculine origin of language, it is of the greatest interest that this consciousness is associated in the Bible with female resentment. The archetypically resentful snake speaks to Eve rather than Adam because her sex’s secondarity with respect to culture makes her the more susceptible of the two to his message.

    Thus the most fundamental content of Eve’s “knowledge” is simply that of language itself. Whereas Adam is given language by God, Eve must usurp it in a world where only males use or have the right to use language. It is this primary usurpation that is at the base of all the other subversive contents we may wish to attribute to the “knowledge” Eve acquires, including most importantly that of the essential equivalence between the human users of language and the divine center in which desire is concentrated: “See, the man has become like one of us, with his knowledge of good and evil” (3:22). Formulated in GA terms, this is the understanding that both God and (hu)man depend for their Being on representation, each standing as the guarantee of the other.

    The anthropological content of the entire biblical passage is best understood in terms of firstness. Woman’s lateness with respect to culture allows Eve to understand not only Adam’s firstness but God’s. That is to say, the knowledge her disobedience provides is that just as Adam’s relationship to her is one of firstness—meaning that he is first to engage in the human activity of representation but that, as with all firstness, those originally excluded will in principle acquire the same ability through imitation of him—so God’s creation of humanity is itself an example of firstness. This is the real anthropological lesson of God’s “man has become like one of us.” The mastery of representation that is God’s is but one step beyond that of man, just as man’s was one step ahead of woman’s. The Christian felix culpa that problematizes God’s transcendental superiority (to which corresponds in Jewish tradition the gift of the Torah itself) reveals that this transcendent status is in fact a quality that God possesses first in order that (even if superficially against his will) humanity eventually acquire it. The couple’s sin is to have exposed the myth that God’s transcendence is ontologically inaccessible to humanity. This is formulated as “the knowledge of good and evil” because it is the awareness that one is free to obey and consequently to disobey the interdiction that founds the sacred and God’s transcendent status. To put this in epistemological terms is to invert the situation and become aware that the interdiction is itself the product of humanity’s self-aware or free renouncement, mediated by the sign-as-aborted-gesture-of-appropriation.

    The most intriguing question raised by the biblical story is that of the connection between Eve’s and subsequently Adam’s “knowledge” and the seemingly unrelated phenomenon of sexual shame: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked” (3:7). Eve eats first, reversing her lateness, but the discovery of nakedness belongs to the couple indistinguishably. Given woman’s late acquisition of culture/language, we may assume that when man alone possessed (the right to) language, sexuality was a form of object-desire, as indeed many “misogynistic” cultures do their best to affirm even today, often with great brutality toward women who dare assert their subjectivity. Eve’s acquisition of language demonstrates that human sexuality is irremediably part of culture in a way that eating and sleeping are not. Although the collective desire for food leads in our hypothesis to humanization, outside the collective context, food’s reality is that of a passive object whose sacrality can only be maintained through a supplementary deployment of cultural energy, for example in the Torah’s many dietary restrictions. Sex, on the other hand, is inherently sacred; it takes the form of a gift exchange between two people even independently of such social institutions as the “exchange of women.”

    The symmetry of man and woman asserted by the Biblical passage is not originary but new; it imitates the interactions of deferral in the originary event. The man who had seen the woman as an object of appetite must now see her as a fellow participant in desire. Just as in the originary configuration the central object was transfigured from a simple object of appetite to a desired Subject that made necessary the abortion of the gesture of appropriation and its conversion into a sign, so the woman who enters culture is no longer a mere object of sexual appetite but a person who obliges the man to defer his desire before implementing it. This mental “foreplay” makes the anticipated reality of sex “shameful” in the same sense that the originary producers of the sign demonstrating their renouncement of the central object were expressing their “shame” for desiring what was defined by their gestures themselves as forbidden. Only in the orgy of the sparagmos could all shame be lifted by the symmetry of the appropriative gestures of all. Similarly, the taboo status of the words for sexual organs and activities resembles that of the name-of-God, the originary sign being too potent a reminder of the concreteness of the originary central object. The “monotheistic” One God who cannot be named cannot be pointed to either in the center of the circle; the flames of the “burning bush” hide his being just as the clothes God provides Adam and Eve cover their nakedness.

    We can see a parallel development to the conversion of Eve’s resentment at lateness into the discovery of the symmetry between God and humanity in the origin of lyric poetry with Sappho (see “Naissance du Moi lyrique: du féminin au masculin,” Poétique 46 [Spring 1981]). In opposition to Homer’s celebration of the army, whose role in guaranteeing the society’s survival makes it “objectively” significant, Sappho asserts her preference for “what one loves” as the ultimate criterion of the cultural object. As so to speak a corollary to Eve’s discovery, Sappho discovers/invents that the individual love of the lover is just as good a model of the creation of significance as the collective “love” of the social order, since both share the same scenic structure modeled on the originary desire for the center.

    It is not coincidental that Sappho’s love object, like that of nearly all love poetry, is female. For biological reasons that need no elaboration here, women’s bodies are of particular significance, and have consequently been the privileged objects of the sign-enhanced or cultural selection that produces human beauty. Yet although men’s differential attraction to women “selected” the latter for sexual beauty in the course of the evolution of the species, it was nonetheless a woman who first valorized the objects of this selection as worthy of the same quality of esthetic attention as les affaires d’état. We should understand Sappho’s affirmation as an archetypal example of love’s transcendence of resentment—in this case, resentment of woman’s secondary cultural status—as the source of artistic creation.

    It may well be the most important achievement of the victimary era to have finally revealed the real significance of women’s cultural lateness. For although firstness is a necessary precursor of lateness and the resentment that accompanies it, it is the latter, not the former, that is humanity’s typical state. In romantic-Heideggerian terms, we are all thrown into the world, which is to say, characterized by lateness with respect to human culture. But if this is so then it is truly the daughters of Eve who are the most typical human beings. So perhaps we are justified in using she instead of he after all…


    Eric Gans is a literary scholar, philosopher of language, and cultural anthropologist. Since 1969, he has taught, and published on, 19th century literature, critical theory, and film in the UCLA Department of French and Francophone studies. Gans invented a new science of human culture and origins he calls Generative Anthropology, based on the idea that the origin of language was a singular event and that the history of human culture is a genetic or "generative" development of that event. For more information on this author, click here.

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