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Critically examine the relationship between gender, religious participation and religious organisations

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Introduction

Critically examine the relationship between gender, religious participation and religious organisations. (40) Many feminist sociologists argue that religious institutions and beliefs help legitimise gender inequality. Like Marxists, feminists argue that religion is a source of domination and oppression. However, unlike Marxism, they see religion as a product of patriarchy, rather than capitalism. They argue that religion is patriarchal in that women are exploited by men and seen as subordinate. Feminist sociologists are interested in how women have become subservient and how religion has promoted patriarchy. This view is not just shared by female and feminist sociologists. Anthony Giddens argues that; " The Christian religion is a resolutely male affair in its symbolism as well as its hierarchy. While Mary, the mother of Jesus may sometimes be treated as if she had divine qualities, God is the father, a male figure, and Jesus took the human shape of a man. Woman is portrayed as created from the rib taken from a man." (Giddens 1997). Similarly, Karen Armstrong argues that; "None of the major religions have been particularly good to women." She argues that women continue to be excluded from key roles in religion despite the fact that woman participate more in organised religion. Evidence from the British Social Attitudes Survey suggests that 65% of church attenders living in Britain are women, compared to only 35% of men. This evidence suggests that women are subservient within religion as a result of patriarchy. ...read more.

Middle

Similarly, in 1992, the Church of England supported the ordination of women. Simon and Nadell (1995) conducted a study on women in religious organisations by interviewing 32 female Rabbis and 27 female Protestants. Their results showed that women conducted themselves in a totally different way than the male religious members. Female Rabbis were asked whether they "carried out their duties different to the male Rabbis of the same age and training". Almost all of the women replied "yes", describing themselves as less formal, more people orientated, more inclined to touch and hug, and less concerned about power struggles than the male clergy. This evidence suggests that some religious organisations allow women to have an important religious role. However, Simon and Knells study showed that female Rabbis conducted themselves in a totally different way than male Rabbis. Female Rabbis were more interested than caring for other people, rather than interested in power. Many Christian feminists argue that there will never be gender equality in the church if God continues to be associated with masculinity. Simone de Beauvoir (The second sex,1953) has a similar view on religion to that of Marxists. She argued that religion is used by men to control and oppress women and is a way of compensating for their low status. Like Marxists view, religion gives women the false belief that they will be rewarded for their low status in the afterlife. ...read more.

Conclusion

Similarly, in India, the rise of Hindu fundamentalism has made it difficult for the government to intervene with family life or to encourage greater freedom for women. Likewise, in Afghanistan, Iran and Israel, they insist on conserving women's traditional positions, making it difficult for women to gain control. Cohen and Kennedy (2000) argue that "the desire to restore fundamentalist religious values and social practices is associated with the fear that any real increase in women's freedom of choice and action will undermine the foundations of tradition, religion, morality and, it could be argued, male control." This evidence suggests that fundamentalism has restored traditional values in fear of increasing women's freedom. However, not all women are unwilling to return to traditional roles. Research by Woodhead and Heelas (2000) suggests that women converted to Orthodox Judaism in the U.S, as they were attracted to the status in the home that it provides them with. Overall, evidence suggests that gender; religious organisations and religious participation are linked together. Feminists argue that religion has promoted patriarchy, and that women are seen as subordinate to men, however, there is evidence to suggest that this has not always been the case. This is linked to women's status within religious organisations, as many women have a restricted role within religion, with few religions allowing women to have an important role, for example, a priest. However, despite women having a limited role within religion, evidence suggests that women are more religious than men. Jessica Pemberton ...read more.

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