Feminism in Religion

The Washington Post has an online discussion forum called On Faith. Periodically (once a week?), they submit a question/topic to a panel of writers from various religions. This week’s is

What is religion’s role in gender discrimination?

I highly recommend the answers.

  • A Catholic priest quotes Pope John Paul II and asserts “that man and women [sic] are equal in dignity” but “that equality does not mean uniformity.” And then descends into predictable homophobia.
  • As a counterpoint, a Catholic feminist asserts that “gender discrimination is pervasive within almost all religion” and goes on to give appropriate examples.
  • A Christian Science teacher says that a “narrow view of manhood and womanhood” is unhealthy but that religion can help us rise above it.
  • The resident Quaker [tells a hilarious story about bible literalism and then] calls us “to return […] to a state of original harmony” with each other and with the Divine.
  • One Secularist‘s response is called “Religion lies about women”, which pretty much says it all, but the whole thing is very worth the read.
  • A Christian evangelical opines that “complementarianism” is great but it can be taken to say that women are inferior…or that men are inferior, so it’s all just a big misunderstanding (oh, and women should be modest).
  • Another Secularist is baffled that any woman would still be a religionist given what her religion almost surely thinks of her.
  • A liberal rabbi argues that “men and women really are different. Therefore we need both equally,” in leadership positions in religion.
  • The lone pagan (who runs this awesome website, which is what turned me on to this particular series) argues that women need Goddess—and indeed are trying to read Her into their holy books (under the assumption that the Divine is genderless) only to be suppressed by the ruling [male] establishment.
  • A United Church of Christ minister’s short but sweet spleen venting makes me want to know more about his religion (I thought I knew what someone from the Church of Christ would have said—and it’s not what he says).
  • The Unitarian Universalist lists the disservices many religions have done to women but ends on a hopeful note.
  • A pastor of Advent United Church of Christ agrees that there is work to be done but says that, “when too much change occurs, that’s when fundamentalism riles up” and so the current rise of fundamentalism is actually proof that things are getting better.
  • Another evangelical says that men and women are different and that’s good, because “justice dies if romance rules”. So…I guess you either get equality or you get a healthy heterosexual relationship, but you can’t have both!!!
  • I encourage you to go and read all the answers in their entirety—they’re definitely worth it. You will be unsurprised to know that everyone who says “different but equal is still equal” is a man, but heartened to know that those who say women deserve even a small seat at the table are of both genders.

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