1. Patriarchal Gender Stereotypes in Religions
The Role of Religion in Furthering the Patriarchal Agenda
This article was originally published in
Feminism in India, 22 June 2017
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
The role of religion in strengthening patriarchy in society is all too obvious. To state that religion is the most potent force and the most important nurturing factor behind patriarchy would not be an exaggeration. Columnist Katha Politt has suggested in ‘Free Inquiry‘, a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism, that religion is the ‘original‘ rule book of patriarchy. Indeed, if patriarchy is the social normal, it is largely because it derives its legitimacy from religion, the most important rule book pertaining to societal do’s-and-don’ts in any community.
Nicea Icon ~ Wikimedia
Almost all organised religions propagate the idea of male superiority. They paint women as physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually inferior to men. The latter get special rights and privileges on account of being ‘naturally’ superior to their female counterparts. For example, in Islam, the right to instantaneous and unilateral divorce is enjoyed only by men. The logic behind denying women the same right, as furnished by some classical jurists, is that ‘the female nature is wanting in rationality and self-control‘. This tendency of ‘patronising’ and ‘guiding’ is not restricted to Islam. Almost all religion and their holy texts advocate domination of females by males and advertise the same as something that is actually beneficial for the former.
According to Genesis 3:16, God told Eve that ‘…the husband will rule over you‘. This was after Adam and Eve consumed the forbidden fruit; a folly for which Eve was categorically held responsible. This is largely taken to mean that God entrusted men with the task to ensure that women do not make such foolish mistakes again. In other words, God charged men with the duty to ‘guide’ and ‘protect’ their wives. Ephesians 5:23 clearly states that husband is the head of the wife.
Hijab, Niqab, veils, sindoor and mangalsutra are all religiously-endorsed tools for showcasing sexual markers
The practice of Sati, or self-immolation by widows on the funeral-pyres of their husbands, thrived for centuries because it was rooted in the belief of futility of a woman’s existence without her husband. Unfortunately, the accompanying social conditions, a handiwork of religious rules and lores, only served to lend some truth to this premise. Though having no direct reference or endorsement in the Hindu scriptures, Sati was largely practised among certain Hindu communities because it conformed to the general idea of an ‘ideal’ wife as epitomised by Goddess Sati who immolated herself because she was unable to bear the humiliation heaped on her husband, Lord Shiva, by her father.
Also Read: The Quran Prescribes Hijab For Men, But Of Course We Only Focus On Women
In almost all organised religions, restrictions exist over a woman’s choices over her body, sexuality, lifestyle, clothes, and just about everything. Sexuality and reproductive rights is especially the problem-area with regard to women. Almost all religions advocate ‘sexual exclusivity’ for women while exonerating men from the same obligation. Hijab, Niqab, veils, sindoor and mangalsutra are all religiously-endorsed tools for showcasing and implying ‘sexual exclusivity’ of women.
Whatever reasons may be cited for the use of these ‘markers’ of sexual exclusivity and whatever arguments given in support of the same, it is but very obvious that the end-motive of the use of these markers is to rein-in and ‘protect’ the sexuality of women. Why, otherwise, in an institution having two people as partners, would only one partner be expected to ‘showcase’ their marital status and, hence, sexual exclusivity. The use of hijab, niqab and other forms of veils to ‘protect’ women from the male gaze and possible sexual ‘misadventures’ is well-documented and much debated. Most religious texts openly discriminate between males and females when it comes to expression of sexuality and sexual desires.
What is alarming is how deeply this religiously-endorsed patriarchy is seeped into the common psyche and behaviour. Incidentally, the Supreme God in all religions is always envisioned as a male. Scriptures are mostly written and interpreted by men who tweak and translate them to suit their own vision of the desirable social-order and preferable gender-dynamics in the same. Religious organisations, spiritual and temporal, are dominated by men and are largely off-limits for women though it is commonly acknowledged that the latter tend to be more religiously and morally inclined and possess the qualities needed for the discharge of duties that these organisations entail.
Orthodox Catholicism forbids women from becoming priests simply because a priest essentially plays the part of Christ and the latter happens to be a male. Also, as per Christian traditions, since Jesus selected only male apostles and did not ordain women, the inclusion of women is not considered desirable. Hence the exclusion of women from priesthood continues. In Islam, women cannot lead prayers as ‘imams’ in mosques and in mixed gatherings. Women can lead prayers in women-only gatherings as is the general pattern in South Asia, thereby, conforming to the policy of segregation as advocated by the Holy Scriptures.
Women priests in Hindu temples are extremely rare because women are ‘biologically’ unfit for the job as menstruating women are deemed impure and unfit for ‘sacred’ duties pertaining to God. This is also the reason why women are denied entry to places of worship when they are menstruating. The fear of divine reprisal prevents women from demanding equal rights in religious affairs and a more egalitarian social-order. They simply accept this discrimination as ‘natural’ and ‘god-ordained’.
Classical jurists believe that female nature lacks rationality and Self-Control and hence women shouldn’t be given equal rights as men
Through generations, women are conditioned to not only accept, but also gladly embrace, the status of a second-class citizen as assigned to them by their respective belief-system. This has a spill-over effect on other social indicators as well. The concept of role of genders in society is very much impacted by such religious underpinnings. Hence women are reduced to socially, economically and spiritually inferior beings whose primary role is procreation. Their natural realm is the home and their duty is that of a home-maker. Such blatant discrimination can only be normalised and ingrained in the common psyche by evoking the name of God.
What is ironical is that most of the organised religions of today were not discriminatory to begin with. In fact many scholars contend that religions were not patriarchal in the early stages of organised life. It is believed that early religions, or more appropriately worship, centred on female Goddesses during prehistoric times. It is believed that prehistoric societies and belief systems were matriarchal, as evident from their feminine-themed iconography.
Although there are no conclusive evidence to support this theory—yet there are debates in the academic circle with regard to the significance of these icons, with some believing that it points to a matriarchal belief-system in the said period while others believing that these images of women were actually nothing but prehistoric pornography. There is however, no doubt that women seemed to be revered as the Creator of life during this period, before patriarchy took hold of the narrative and edged out what appears to be, if not matriarchal, then at least an egalitarian belief-structure.
Image via Mother-God.com
Early Hinduism, too, is believed to be egalitarian. Chapter 10 of the Rig-Veda expounded the idea of feminine energy behind the creation of the universe. Many believe that the advent of Abrahamic religions led to the diminished status of women as far as the religious space is concerned. However, that does not appear to be true.
For example, with the advent of Islam, women came to enjoy a kind of autonomy that was unheard of in the pre-Islamic Arab. In pre-Islamic Arab women were viewed as objects and were constantly humiliated. Karen Armstrong in her book Islam: A short History has pointed out that ‘the women of the first Ummah in Medina took full part in the public life’. It was probably before men moulded the religion to suit their patriarchal leanings. It seems that eventually every religion or organised belief-system was hijacked by vested interests to further their own patriarchal agenda.
Also Read: On Feminism, Religion And Right To Worship
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nishat Amber is a probationary deputy collector by profession, an avid reader by choice and a writer by default. She loves tea, music, shopping and travelling – in that order.
2. Conflation of Gender and Sexuality in Religions
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.
- Religious Tolerance, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 1995-2011.
This web site offers an excellent synopsis (with passage quotations, annotated citations, and links to other web sites) about the status of women in the Bible and in early Christianity. It is structured as follows:
- During Old Testament times, when the roles of women were severely restricted
- Hebrew scripture passages treating women as generally inferior to men
- Hebrew scripture passages treating women as property of men
- Hebrew scripture passages describing women in other negative terms
- Hebrew scripture passages describing women as equal to men (very few)
- Hebrew scripture passages describing women as leaders (but not as religious leaders)
- During Jesus' public ministry to the people of Israel, when the roles of women were severely restricted in accordance with the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) traditions and practices
- Changing roles of women after the execution and resurrection of Jesus (circa 30 CE)
- Regressive statements by Christian religious authorities (all male) after the 2nd century CE
By following these lists of biblical and post-biblical statements, the reader is able to verify the descriptive versus prescriptive passages about women, and the significant discontinuities that must be researched, as pointed out in Section 1.
- The emerging field of women and gender studies now includes issues of men, masculinities, and spirituality. See, for example:
- Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women, Deborah Blum, Penguin, 1998.
- Two Wings of a Bird: The Equality of Women and Men, Bahá'í International Community, 1999.
- Does Masculinity Thwart Being Religious?, Edward H. Thompson Jr. and Kathryn R. Remmes, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, September 2002.
- Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, Judith L. Hand, Questpath Publishing, 2003.
- Biological Differences Between Men and Women With Respect to Social Stability and Aggression, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- Young Men, Religion and Attitudes Towards Homosexuality, Yasemin Besen and Gilbert Zicklin, Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality, Novermber 2007.
- Guide to Graduate Work in Women's / Gender Studies, Joan Korenman and NWSA, 2009.
- Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy, Joseph Gelfer, Equinox Publishing, 2009.
- The Patriarch's Nuts: Concerning the Testicular Logic of Biblical Hebrew, Roland Boer, Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality, June 2011.
- The Other Side of the Gender Equation: Gender Issues for Men in the Europe and Eurasia Region, Susan D. Somach, KDID Social Transitions, July 2011.
- What "America's Pope" thinks of gay marriage, priestly celibacy, and women priests, CBS Sixty Minutes Overtime, 21 August 2011.
- Was Jesus gay? Probably, Paul Oestreicher, The Guardian, 20 April 2012.
- Church of England: Is error really better than uncertainty?, Savitri Hensman, Ekklesia, 4 August 2013.
- Civil Same-Sex Marriage: A Catholic Affirmation, Lisa Fullam, New Ways Ministry, 15 April 2014.
- What Jesus Would Say to a Lesbian Couple, Aaron Milavec, Amazon Digital Services, 16 November 2015.
3. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Judaism
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:
- The Dragon in the Belly: Patriarchs, Judges, and Kings, Susan Wunderink, Christianity Today, 25 April 2008.
- Alina Treiger to become first female rabbi ordained in Germany since war, Kate Connolly, Guardian (Berlin), 3 November 2010.
- Gender Segregation and Inequality inside Israel and Palestine, International Middle East Media Center, 30 November 2011.
- Judaism 101: The Role of Women, Tracey R. Rich, 1995-2011.
- God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?, David T. Lamb, IVP Books, 27 May 2011.
- Rehovot film festival to focus on women and religion, Nirit Anderman, Haaretz, 3 October 2012.
- Women Activists Held For Violating Ban At Jerusalem Western Wall, Staff, RTT, 11 April 2013
- The Women’s Wall, Elliott Horowiz, The Tablet, 30 April 2013
- Women of the Wall Prevail, Sara Hirschhorn, Sightings, 9 May 2013
- Twenty Vile Quotes Against Women By Church Leaders from St. Augustine to Pat Robertson, Valerie Tarico, Blog, 1 July 2013
- Eve: The Woman of Unique Distinction, BibleGateway, 22 July 2013
- Why Should Women Pray to a Male God?, Elissa Strauss and Scott Perlo, Forward, 16 November 2014
- A giant step for Orthodox women clergy, Esther D. Kustanowitz, Jewish Journal, 5 May 2015
- Calling out the Jewish patriarchy, one blog at a time, Esther D. Kustanowitz, Haaretz, 25 May 2015
- Dismantling the Patriarchy is an Ecumenical Task, Marissa Stern, Jewish Exponent, 2 December 2015
4. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Christianity
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:
5. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Islam
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.
THE FOLLOWING IS TYPICAL OF THE PATRIARCHAL MINDSET
THAT STILL PREVAILS IN MOST OF THE WORLD RELIGIONS
Gender equality and how Islam sees it
Muhammad Eusha, Dhaka Tribune, 24 September 2013
6. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Buddhism
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
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
[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
THEOLOGY OF THE BODY
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.
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
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 Religions
Christians were strangers is a concise account of "how an obscure oriental cult in a corner of Roman Palestine grew to become the dominant religion of the Western world." There are now approximately 2.5 billion Christians worldwide, about one third of the world's population. But the Jewish culture of Roman Palestine was embedded in the patriarchal Roman Empire, and to this day Christianity remains contaminated by the patriarchal culture; a culture that, since the inception of human history, universally suffers from the curse of "original sin" (Genesis 3:16).
For social/ecological justice, and for the evangelizing mission of the Church, nothing is more urgent than letting go of religious patriarchy. Flesh and sexuality are not identical realities (St John Paul II, Theology of the Body). What matters for the redemption and the sacramental economy is that the eternal Word became flesh. It is time to recognize the irrelevance of religious patriarchy after the resurrection. Integral human development is about becoming fully human, body and soul, in interpersonal communion with others and in harmony with nature. Religious patriarchy is an obstacle to integral human development. Except for the will of the Church, masculinity is not a requirement for apostolic succession. Baptized women can and should be ordained to act "in persona Christi."
The patriarchal phase of salvation history is now passing away, and the conflation of patriarchal traditions and religious doctrines should be reconsidered in response to the signs of the times. In today's world, integral human development needs to go beyond the patriarchal gender binary. But every conceivable rationalization is being used to resist the demise of religious patriarchy. The following is a chronology of the process as it is unfolding in the Christian Churches and, specifically, in the Roman Catholic Church:
Religious Patriarchy in the Christian Churches
Annotated Chronology of Key Events
Original sin -- The original "unity in diversity" of man and woman became an impaired communion of domination/subordination -- Cf. Genesis 3:16
Emergence of the patriarchal culture -- starting at least 10,000 years or so, in conjunction with the agricultural revolution
Patriarchal covenant of the Old Law -- starting 1000 BC or so... primitive, artificial, phallogocentric, takes for granted the impaired communion of man and woman, derived from original sin, as "divine law"
Patriarchal culture of classical Greece -- "woman is a defective male" (Aristotle, later "mitigated" but not fundamentally refuted by Aquinas)
Patriarchal culture of the Roman Empire -- Even the language is patriarchal... "virtue" comes from the Latin "vir"
Within the boundaries of the Roman Empire, the early Christian Church eventually coalesced into five patriarchates: Jerusalem, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch.
Sacramental covenant of the New Law -- The dogmatic definition of priestly ordination as a sacrament (Council of Trent, 1563) does not mention maleness or masculinity as a requirement for apostolic succession
"Scandal" of women priests in the Anglican Communion -- Florence Li Tim-Oi ordained in Hong Kong, 1944
Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis about "what is required for validity in conferring of Sacred Orders" -- No mention of a maleness or masculinity requirement for ordination (Pius XII, 1947)
About the rite of ordination: "If it was at one time necessary even for validity by the will and command of the Church, every one knows that the Church has the power to change and abrogate what she herself has established."
Vatican II, Lumen Gentium -- "viri probati" can be ordained as deacons
"Scandal" of women priests in the Episcopal Church USA -- starting 1974 (approved 1976)
New doctrinal rationalization, Inter Insegniores, a literalist interpretation of the 12 male apostles chosen by Jesus under the Old Law to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1976)
After the resurrection and the ascension, the Church elected Matthias to replace Judas, and has since elected all successors to the apostles. Why is it that Matthias was chosen by the Church to be an apostle, and not Mary Magdalene? Because the witness of Mary Magdalene, or any other woman, was considered worthless.
New biblical exegesis -- Theology of the Body (TOB) on the sacramentality of the human body, human flesh, male and female -- John Paul II, 1979-1984
After the resurrection, under the New Law, the Church is given full authority to mediate all vocations. By the power of the keys, the Church can ordain women at any time, without waiting for the Lord to return and give permission. It doesn't make sense to say that the Church is not authorized to ordain women. In light of Sacramentum Ordinis, was Paul VI acting as a fool for Christ?
About the original unity of man and woman in one and the same human nature: "Bodiliness and sexuality are not simply identical... the fact that man is a "body" belongs more deeply to the structure of the personal subject than the fact that in his somatic constitution he is also male or female... it is a question here of homogeneity of the whole being of both." (TOB 8)
"It's a long way to Tipperary", John Paul II's visit to the USA, 1981, referring to the ordination of women to the sacramental priesthood
Publication of the Code of Canon Law, #1024, John Paul II, 1983
About complementarity in unity: The "complementarity" of man and woman is for natural reciprocity and interpersonal communion, not for artificial separation of social/sacramental roles based on cultural gender stereotypes. The sacramentality of a female human body is equivalent to the sacramentality of a male human body. The obvious implication is that any baptized person, man or woman, can be ordained to act in persona Christi... (TOB 13, 19, 33, 89, 96...)
"A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly."
Recognition of the equal dignity of men and women, but only males can be ordained -- John Paul II, Mulieres Dignitatem, 1988
"Scandal" of women bishops in the Anglican Communion -- Barbara Harris in Boston, USA, and Penny Jamieson in Dunedin, New Zealand, 1989
"Scandal" of women priests in the Church of England -- approved 1992, started 1994
For more info: Ordination of women in the Anglican Communion
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1577 (same as Inter Insegniores) and #1598 (under the New Law, the male-only priesthood is a choice made by the Church, not by Christ), John Paul II, 1994
Pontifical "executive order" to stop further discussion on women priests and bishops ~ Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, John Paul II, 1994
Lamentably, #1577 elevates the pre-Easter choice of the 12 male apostles to a patriarchal post-Easter doctrine (but not a dogma!)
Thankfully, #1598 recognizes that the the male-only priesthood is a choice made by the Church (first sentence) and who can make the choice (second sentence)
Again, the choice is made by the Church, not by Christ personally; so what about allowing the Risen Lord to call women, and see what happens?
Canon 1024 is, in effect, an artificial contraceptive (if not an outright abortifacient!) of female vocations to the sacramental priesthood
Pontifical "fake news" dubiously elevating the male-only priesthood to infallible teaching ~ Responsum ad Dubium, CDF 1995
"The door is closed" -- Francis, interview, 2013
Women cannot be ordained to the priesthood in order to preserve the image of Christ as sacrificial bridegroom and the Church as bride, thus effectively reducing the mysteriun magnum to a charitable patriarchal covenant (it should be noted that, thankfully, the ludicrous argument about the pre-Easter 12 male apostles is not repeated) -- Francis, Evangelii Gaudium #104, 2013
Detour about climate change and integral ecology -- Francis, Laudato Si', 2015
The letter is addressed to the bishops, not to the entire Church
It does not say it is a dogmatic definition, so it is not infallible as either extraordinary teaching (Pope ex cathedra) or ordinary teaching (Pope and bishops together have never taught infallibly that women cannot be ordained to the sacramental priesthood)
It is entirely written in past and present tense
It says nothing about what the Church can or cannot do in the future, so it is "definitive" for the the past and the present, but cannot possibly be "definitive" for the future, since it says nothing about the future
In light of the TOB, was St John Paul II acting as a fool for Christ?
Laudato Si' is a wake up call on the reality of the ecological crisis. However, patriarchy as a cultural driver of population growth is not mentioned. Social inequities, capitalist greed, consumerism and the idolatry of technology are thoroughly analyzed, but anthropogenic climate change is overstated and the population growth issue is grossly understated. Population and consumption issues can be distinguished, but cannot be separated.
John Paul II was "pointing in that direction" -- Francis, interview, 2016
Another commission about women deacons -- Francis, meeting, 2016
Another remark about "viri probati" -- Francis, interview, 2016
Why only "viri probati"? Why not also "feminae probatae"?
Recognition that patriarchy has often been abusive in family and society -- Francis, Amoris Laetitia #54 & #154, 2016
The Church celebrates "Corpus Christi," not "vir Christi"!
About gender ideologies (#56): "It needs to be emphasized that "biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated." Is this still the patriarchal gender binary? Can a human person be exclusively maculine or exclusively feminine? The body is normally male or female, but personal subjects are always masculine and feminine, because there is a feminine dimension in man and a masculine dimension in woman (Genesis 2). There is a "feminine genius" in Jesus, just as there is a "masculine genius" in Mary. Is the Church still constrained by patriarchal gender ideology?
Integral human development dicastery -- Francis, 2017 (human persons are spirited bodies, "body-souls," not just bodies, thus requiring integral development of the spiritual and corporal, subjective and objective, masculine and feminine dimensions)
The body is a sacrament of the entire person, but is not the entire person. Questions: Why is it then, that only persons with male bodies can be tested for ordination to the sacramental priesthood? Since priests and bishops are ordained to act in the person of Christ, and only males are ordained, how can they make visible the feminine genius in Christ? Why is it that the patriarchal priesthood of the Old Law is still normative for the sacramental priesthood of the New Law? To be a model of integral human development, the hierarchy of the Church needs male-female INTEGRATION.
God is not a patriarch. The Trinity is not a patriarchy. Humanity is not naturally a patriarchy. What matters is that God became human in the flesh, a unique human being like us in all things but sin, not that the historical Jesus was male. The risen Christ is the risen human, not just the risen male. The Church, as the body of Christ, is not a woman with a male head. The faith is always the same but always the source of new light. After the resurrection, religious patriarchy is utterly irrelevant for the sacramental economy under the New Law. As the patriarchal phase of salvation history passes away, integral human development needs to go beyond the patriarchal gender binary in both secular and religious institutions. Likewise, the patriarchal order of things must be overcome if we are to move from an ecology of human domination to an integral ecology of harmony between humanity and nature. For this reason, the artificial barriers that exclude women from roles of religious authority must be removed, in the Christian churches and in all religious traditions.
"Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and Predecessor of the Apostles, pray for us."
Note: This article is a revised version of Integral Human Development beyond the Patriarchal Gender Binary to focus on the misconception that the patriarchal culture is intrinsic to the Christian faith. By her unique vocation as Mother of Christ and Predecessor of the Apostles, the Virgin Mary shows that the patriarchal priesthood of the Old Law is utterly irrelevant after the redemption and the resurrection. The author is indebted to some especial friends and counselors for their assistance during decades of researching this vexing issue.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Luis Gutierrez is the editor of the Pelican Web and the Mother Pelican Journal.