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How CAN you be religious if you are a feminist?

(227 Posts)

Given that misyogyny is absolutely inherent in Christianity, Islam and the rest (even when they try to dress it up as saying they 'revere' women and women are 'special' it;s still about women being defined by men as not quite human), how can a woman follow any of these myth systems without accepting that she's less than fully human and her imaginary friend thinks so too, otherwise why wouldn't it have smashed the patriarchy already?

lou031205 Sat 27-Mar-10 11:01:26

I think the problem with your argument starts with the word 'given'. I don't think that it is 'given' at all. I think that is a subjective premise, which in itself needs unpicking and debating, before you can move on to the subject of your title question.

DemonChild Sat 27-Mar-10 12:29:21

OK lou let's debate that assumption then. Because their are many examples of religion being used to control and subjugate women.

In Christianity women are not allowed the freedom to decide what to do with their own bodies, they cannot ascend to the highest authority (even in protestantism they cannot be bishops) and even though their main prophet said nothing bad about women and was openly friends with women (and undoubtedly married to one as it was illegal for jewish men to be unmarried in those days) by the fourth century christianity was already being twisted to promote male supremacy (look at the gospels they left out).

In Islam the gender apartheid is obvious. Honour killings, ritual genital mutilation and the veil are all methods of control. In strict Muslim states women have significantly less rights than men and many are executed on spurious claims.

In orthodox Judaism, women are considered unclean when menstruating and some men refuse any physical contact with any women who is not related (including a handshake).

In hinduism, the misogyny is revealed in the many she-demons and the characterisation of women as 'chaos' and disorder.

So, your premise is correct, one shouldn't assume a hatred of women in religion, but many examples can be found, you don't even have to look hard.

To answer your question SGB I don't. However if I believed in God(s) I would find it possible to reconcile God(s) with being a woman, but not any religion.

chibi Sat 27-Mar-10 12:39:06

i am a feminist, and (tenuously at the moment) a Catholic.

i have coped with misogyny by seeing it as part of the structure of the Church rather than inherent to Christ's message.

Christ loved women and valued them - they were the first to see him after the resurrection. I don't believe that he thought they were worth less than men. I think that came with the Church which as a human institution is fallible and capable of warping a divine message.

Probably this makes me a bad Catholic, you are meant to agree to all of it, not just pick and choose. I picked and chose the bits that suited my conscience - like how could my gay brother be sinning in his relationship with his partner? They are in love and he is v kind and a good man.

I was ok with the 'ignore the bits I can't agree to' until recently. At present I feel that my Church demands that I overlook too much (i have detailled this on another thread) in order to keep going and calling myself a Catholic. I have chosen to keep my relationship with God and sacrifice the churchgoing for now.

Blu Sat 27-Mar-10 12:42:38

Is there a difference between having a religious belief and being part of a reigious organisation?

Because many many examples you cite, DemonChild, are s a result of religion being bolted on to a patriarchal society. there is nothing in Islam which advocates GM, GM is a tribal / cultural phenomenum of some countries which adopted Islam. there are many Ismaic countries where GM would be an anathema.

Do you have to be in a church which doesn't allow female bishops in order to eb a Christian? The christian church didn't exist in Christ's time, after all!

I am nt religious at all. And I suspect that there are no mainstream woman-centred religions because there are no woman-centric societies from which they could have arisen.

In Christianity, as far as I know (am no scholar in the subject) the discrimination against women comes either from the old testament, or from the structured churches fo St Paul onwards - not actually from the reported teachings of Christ himself.

DemonChild Sat 27-Mar-10 13:10:16

Sorry, that was what I meant [longwinded emoticon] blush

If any gods exist I'm sure they're not misogynists (or racist or classist for that matter). It's the people involved who make such distinctions and until God joins the discussion, their's is the word we have to go with.

I'm a feminist and a (very liberal) Christian - it's only patriarchal society (and latterly capitalism) that has tried to make Christianity misogynistic.

In the Bible men and women are equal and in the early Christian church women had equal standing in the Church (were equiv. of bishops and stuff).

It's only interpretation that makes it seem misogynistic - same as being anti-homosexuality - tis not in the text (unless you interepret it as being there).

shonaspurtle Sat 27-Mar-10 13:27:39

I'm a member of the Church of Scotland where women (after many years of debate and reform) can hold any position of authority.

I think when you say Protestantism DemonChild you're actually talking about the Anglican Church. There are a lot of Protestant denominations.

cheesypopfan Sat 27-Mar-10 13:28:51

Yeah, i think much of your argument comes from the fact that organised religion has arisen from a parttriarchal prspective and is clearly sexist at times. The teachings of Christ were very often kind to oppressed women - haemorrhaging woman, woman at the well, adulteress etc. Yes, Paul's writings are tricky, but are also vcery contradictory, and very much need to be taken in the context of its time. He was very radical for his time and, once you study his letters, they are not as sexist as they first appear (esp if you cherry pick sentances). I can only speak for the Christian Church as this is what I have knowledge of, and it is very much still male dominated, which is frustrating. But I don't believe in the church persay, I believe in Jesus, and do voice what I see as injustice whenever I can - as do many others.

And your premise that it was illegal for Jewish men not to be married then is, as far as I know, wrong. It was unusual, but not illegal.

Rambling now.....

cheesypopfan Sat 27-Mar-10 13:31:55

And , yes, many Christian churches value women as equals -the methodist and church of scotland to name but two.

bloss Sat 27-Mar-10 13:35:26

Message withdrawn

Islam is also not necessarily mysogynistic either - the way it is carried out is to do with the culture of the country. If there are honour killings and genital mutilation that is to do with the society, not the religion.

Humans have always bent religion to fit their particular viewpoint.

bloss Sat 27-Mar-10 13:41:04

Message withdrawn

The fact that religions have been used to bolster up patriarchal attitudes does not make the religion itself mysogynistic, though may of the followers and the hierarchy may be. My church (Scottish Episcopal, part of the Anglican Communion) has had women priests for some years, without any of the "get-out clauses" which the C of E have. And they passed new rules a few years back to allow women bishops, though we don't actually have one yet (small church, few vacancies at bishop level since the rule was changed)

There is nothing inherently misogynistic about Christ's teachings and therefore by definition there can't be in Christianity (as it should be) even if there is in many Christian denominations even now.

Tinnitus Sat 27-Mar-10 14:18:06

@ cheesypopfan
@ Bloss

You are quite wrong, religious law took precedence in such matters and marriage was obligatory, Simply because procreation took place within marriage and most cultures at the time took steps to ensure continuation.

The idea that a man could be unmarried at the time and not have it used to defame him by the scribes and the pharisees is laughable.

Look to modern day rabbinical Judaism where they marry children off. Where do you think that came from.

OP You can of course be religious and a feminist. but there are quite a few misogynist faiths out there so just give them a wide berth and you should be fine.

If, as I believe, you are talking about the Abrahamic faiths then obviously not, they are clearly a boys club.

cheesypopfan Sat 27-Mar-10 14:28:42

Well, In all the theological studies I have done I have never come across that law as an obligation. Yes, religious law was dominant but that does not make it obligatory. Some prophets and holy men were unmarried and celibate. John the Baptist wasn't married. In fact the use and abuse of such laws was challenged continuously by Jesus during his time on earth. And he was, most certainly, defamed by the Scribes and Pharisees for the very fact that he did not abide by many Jewish laws such as healing on sabbath etc

dittany Sat 27-Mar-10 14:40:12

I think there's a lot of double think going on. Women see the misogyny but think it doesn't apply to them somehow.

Patriarchal religion is based on the hatred of women and the idea of man equalling god and god equalling man. Women and goddesses need not apply. It's blatant.

As for being part of patriarchal religion and a feminist, lots of us do anti-feminist things to survive in this woman-hating world, so I don't think there is a contradiction between being part of patriarchal religion and being a feminist. What would be anti-feminist would be to try and shut other women up from talking about it or defending the misogyny.

dittany Sat 27-Mar-10 14:41:22

Laurie, men and women are not equal in the bible. The bible is full of misogyny and edicts for women's submission to men.

dittany Sat 27-Mar-10 14:44:53

Should have said, it starts with Adam and Eve and continues on from there. The very first thing the bible does is to blame a woman for man's sin. Men (as a group) have taken that idea and run with it ever since.

There is also a massive reversal in the ability to create life, where god creates Adam and then Eve comes from Adam's rib. I think a lot of it is because men can't bear the thought that women are the creators, not them, so they had to create a god that replaced women.

ImSoNotTelling Sat 27-Mar-10 14:48:24

Ha. good one SGB.

I think that how people manage it is the same as they manage to use contraception and be a RC. ie they take the parts that speak to them and carefully ignore the other bits. Doesn't bear close scrutiny but then how many of us live absolutely consistently all the time. I worry about global warming but sometimes i buy stuff which has come halfway round the world. Type thing.

The main organised religions aren't top-fab for women true, but lots of people have a personal belief system/adhere to smaller religions which are different. So in those cases there is no clash.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 27-Mar-10 14:49:54

I have a religious faith, well, because I do. I can't not have it, and believe me, it's not from a lack of questioning. I practise that faith in the religion into which I was born and in which I grew up. Which is undoubtedly sexist and has a whole bunch of bad things going for it. There's not a blind acceptance by everyone, and I don;t think my imaginary friend thinks I am less than human (I don't agree that the church views women as less than human btw, although the powers that be obviously see us as different to men, and not in a good way...)

thumbwitch Sat 27-Mar-10 14:51:58

depends on your definition of religious really - if you mean follows an organised religion such as the ones you have mentioned then yes, the two ideologies do rather clash.

OTOH it is perfectly possible to have a faith and be a feminist.

In fact I appear to be repeating what ISNT said.

ToccataAndFudge Sat 27-Mar-10 15:11:18

My Vicar said she never wanted to be a bishop anyhow as there were too many meetings with boring people and not enough preaching.

We're a female dominated CoE church, church wardens, treasurers, organist, vicar, majority of the PCC - all woman


And last time I checked it was actually Eve that took the first bite of the apple and gave some to Adam, Adam blamed eve, Eve blamed the serpent. Which if you do beleive in God is all a bit silly really all the finger pointing as God knew who had done it anyhow.

dittany Sat 27-Mar-10 15:16:33

Lots of other people have noticed the misogyny in the Bible and have carefully collected quotes together:

"No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman.....Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die" (Ecclesiasticus 25:19,24).

"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I don't permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner"
(I Timothy 2:11-14).

"The birth of a daughter is a loss" (Ecclesiasticus 22:3).

"Keep a headstrong daughter under firm control, or she will abuse any indulgence she receives. Keep a strict watch on her shameless eye, do not be surprised if she disgraces you" (Ecclesiasticus 26:10-11).

"As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." (I Corinthians 14:34-35)

"When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Whoever touches her bed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whoever touches anything she sits on must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, he will be unclean till evening" (Lev. 15:19-23).

"If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her saying, 'I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,' …and no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of the town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father's house. You must purge the evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

"A bad wife brings humiliation, downcast looks, and a wounded heart. Slack of hand and weak of knee is the man whose wife fails to make him happy. Woman is the origin of sin, and it is through her that we all die. Do not leave a leaky cistern to drip or allow a bad wife to say what she likes. If she does not accept your control, divorce her and send her away" (Ecclesiasticus 25:25).

"Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God…A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head" (I Corinthians 11:3-10).

I don't really understand why women would put up with this. Would men put up with a religion that taught them this?:

"Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christa, and the head of the man is woman, and the head of Christa is Goddess…A woman ought not to cover her head, since she is the image and glory of Goddess; but the man is the glory of woman. For woman did not come from man, but man from woman; neither was woman created for man, but man for woman. For this reason, and because of the angels, the man ought to have a sign of authority on his head" (I Corinthians 11:3-10).

Actually that makes a little more sense, because every man does come from a woman. Don't think men have to cover their heads though - patriarchal religion can keep its ridiculous hierarchies.

SpeedyGonzalez Sat 27-Mar-10 15:27:46

Want to post quickly, will read whole thread later. SGB and DemonChild, you are both making the same mistake that many church leaders make - equating the Church with God/ Christianity.

Here are the differences as I see them:

The Church is a bunch of fallible, finite people of varied backgrounds, all with as many 'issues' as the rest of the world. Like everyone outside the Church, we all screw up from time to time in one way or another, and some people screw up bigger than others.

God - is an infinite being, therefore whatever we humans (being finite) try to do to represent or comprehend him/ her will always be in some way inadequate (i.e. how can a finite being fully understand an infinite being? Impossible).

Christianity - is the way that some of us try to understand and connect with this God. Again, it's inadequate but hey, we (mostly) do our best.

SGB, your feminism question is an interesting one and definitely worthy of consideration and discussion. In brief, I would say that Jesus was born into a culture which was in many ways very patriarchal. However, as ever, he stood outside the culture in order to challenge its prejudices. There are plenty of examples in the Bible of Jesus treating women of all backgrounds as equals. Seeing as the Church (i.e. the people) is meant to take Jesus as its example of how to be fully human, I think that's pretty conclusive.

So while some bigoted corners of the Church (people) may try to impose restrictions on women (don't get me started, grr), they are just betraying their own screwed-upness. Same as the nutters who bomb abortion clinics or claim that God created white people as the master race. All these different people's screwed-upness is about their problems, not the God they are trying to represent. So while I have a problem with all of them, I know that they and their ishoos are entirely separate from the faith that I practise.

That was meant to be a short post! grin

Hope this discussion continues, will be back in a few days!

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