Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 13, No. 11, November 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. Patriarchal Gender Stereotypes in Religion
2. Conflation of Gender and Sexuality 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. Patriarchal Gender Stereotypes in Religion

The Role of Religion in Furthering the Patriarchal Agenda

Nishat Amber

This article was originally published in
Feminism in India, 22 June 2017

Nicea Icon ~ Wikimedia
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.

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.

Image via
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.

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


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 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

    A Religious Obstacle to Integral Human Development

    Luis T. Gutiérrez

    15 October 2017

    Adapted from a cartoon by Kirk Anderson, 1994

    Between the patriarchal plutocracy that undermines the common good, and the patriarchal theocracy that suppresses the divine feminine, it is hard to envision human civilization overcoming the current social/ecological crisis unless a radical cultural revolution happens in religious institutions.

    The Patriarchal Priesthood of the Old Law

    This article focuses on the Judeo-Christian tradition. Under the Old (Mosaic) Law, patriarchy was tacitly assumed to be the natural order of things. But patriarchy is not really divine law, and the most ancient biblical texts reveal that humanity -- male and female -- is created in the image of YHWH, who utterly transcends all limitations of human bodies. YHWH means "I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:14). For this reason, according to the Hebrew bible, no images of YHWH are to be made.

    For more on gender in the bible, see A Gender Neutral God/ess by Jennifer McKenzie, the author's website of meditations on the Theology of the Body, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 239, 370, and 2779.

    The Sacramental Priesthood of the New Law

    Jesus Christ, a divine Person, is the one and only Priest of the New Law. His priesthood is by no means contingent on the masculinity of the historical Jesus. For the sacramental economy, rooted in the mysteries of the incarnation and the redemption, the masculinity of the historical Jesus is as incidental as the color of his eyes.

    The sacramental priesthood of the New Law is ministerial, not patriarchal. 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.

    Needless to say, the Blessed Virgin Mary's unique vocation as Mother of God utterly transcends all choices made by the Church for apostolic succession after the resurrection, so it is absurd to assume that women cannot be apostles under the New Law just because Mary was not chosen to be an apostle under the Old Law.

    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.

    Chronology of the Discernment Process

    Patriarchy is an artificial culture, not essential for the Christian faith. Human flesh is the proper matter for all the sacraments, not masculinity or femininity. For a chronology of the discernment process about this vexing issue, see Religious Patriarchy in the Judeo-Christian Tradition. This is my perception of where we are at the moment:

    1. It is evident that ecclesiastical patriarchy has obscured the divine feminine for centuries
    2. People sense that the Church has wrongly assumed that patriarchy is divine law
    3. People intuit that the patriarchal priesthood of the Old Law is irrelevant under the New Law
    4. People discern that male headship in the Church is not a dogma of the Christian faith
    5. The continued refusal to ordain women is doing much harm to the Church as body of Christ

    The door is provisionally closed but not dogmatically locked, and this issue is not going away because the Christ-Church mystery cannot be reduced to a patriarchal marriage (Ephesians 5:32). Why should the Church remain frozen in the patriarchal culture of biblical times? Is the Church a woman with a male head? Analogies are useful, absurdities are not. In the sacramental life of the Church, it is time to let go of religious patriarchy. Obscuring the divine feminine by excluding women from ordained ministry is now an obstacle to integral human development and an integral ecology. For the glory of God, and the good of souls, it is time to recognize the irrelevance of religious patriarchy after the redemption and the resurrection.

    Flesh and Apostolic Succession

    From the beginning, the human person, man and woman, was created as a "body-soul" reality that subsumes the "body-gender" reality, which in turn subsumes the "biophysical body" reality, which in turn subsumes many other realities such as biological sex, the five senses, the color of the skin, etc. All men and women are made of the same created dust, the same created flesh, animated by the same kind of created soul. All men and women are naturally consubstantial, with unity in diversity in the image of the Trinity.

    Under the New Law, apostolic succession is not contingent on masculinity. Since the eternal Word became flesh (John 1:14), the sacramental economy is an economy of the flesh, and all the sacraments are administered in the flesh. Restricting apostolic succession to males is an obsolete practice inherited from the patriarchal priesthood of the Old Law.

    Wisdom and the Signs of the Times

    "There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology." Laudato Si' 118 Patriarchal religions are contaminated by an inadequate anthropology that exalts the masculine and demeans the feminine.

    "Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued." Laudato Si' 118 Patriarchal religions tend to undervalue the feminine genius, and therefore tend to undervalue the views of 50% of human beings.

    Many people sense that something is wrong about the patriarchal religious traditions we have inherited: "Half of people around the world think that religion does more harm than good." Global Views on Religion (IPSOS, 2017) Faith is always the same yet the source of ever new light, and new insight is emerging to the effect that religious faith need not be polluted by patriarchal gender ideology.

    In particular, many Catholics are becoming increasingly uneasy about the assumption that only males can be ordained to the priesthood. See, for example, this Global Survey of Roman Catholics (Bendixen and Amandi, 2014). The sense of the faithful is discerning that the sacramental priesthood of the New Law is ministerial, not patriarchal.

    A fundamental shift is required from exalting the divine masculine alone to balancing the divine masculine with the divine feminine. Divine wisdom can guide us through the collapse of patriarchal civilization and toward a post-patriarchal civilization. It is unwise to remain attached to patriarchal ideologies that obscure the divine feminine and suppress the feminine genius.

    Suppression of Human Development

    "Human development, if not engendered, is endangered" (UNDP HDR 1995). "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). But it is not only a matter of superficially balancing gender relations. It goes deeper into the structure of the personal subject as a body-soul, who is bodily male or female but psychologically (and spiritually!) masculine and feminine, even though the masculine polarity superficially prevails in men and the feminine polarity superficially prevails in women. Human development is suppressed when the anima is suppressed in men and/or the animus is suppressed in women, because any such suppression also impairs communion with God, communion with other humans, and communion with the entire creation; when human development is suppressed, justice and peace are also impaired and further development of an integral ecology becomes practically impossible.

    Integration of Human Development

    The alternative to impaired development is integral human development, i.e., development of the unique totality of each and every human person, taking into account body, mind, and spirit. After millennia of focusing on bodily and intellectual needs, which remain crucial, the time has come to focus on deeper psychological needs; and this is where the old patriarchal cultures are breaking down, for humans cannot and should not be reduced to a gender binary, let alone a gender binary that presupposes a hierarchical order of the masculine over the feminine. The alternative is to foster a peaceful demise of mortal patriarchy and the emergence of a new culture of balancing the masculine and feminine polarities of the human species. It is lamentable that religious institutions remain attached to patriarchal norms that impair the integral human development they otherwise try to foster in their social justice teaching.

    The social dimension of the vexing puzzle
    is the other side of the coin


    Luis Gutierrez is the editor of the Pelican Web and the Mother Pelican Journal.

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