Feminism and Religion (Part 2.)


I am so thankful to those that contributed in to the last post and I hope you guys enjoyed hearing from them also, it really helped make what I researched more personal. This post #Part2 is gonna share more of what I read and also some more of my thoughts. I hope that the two articles help those that are struggling with either feminism because of religion or religion because of feminism understand the ‘dichotomy’ from different perspectives, and I hope it gives them more knowledge to work with as they find their ground. More generally, I hope everyone enjoys the read, and if you have more to add, drop something somewhere (comments or email or dm or anything!) xxx

In the first article I read, I came across the phrase “politics of religion”; even though we try to remove the divine from the earthly, we have somehow managed to make the divine a tool of the earthly. Patriarchal forms of society have manipulated religion, using it to legitimate female subordination alongside its use to justify baseless acts of cruelty – but religion isn’t intrinsically sexist or violent. Christine Schenk, talking about Christianity specifically, says that those who argue that Christianity is sexist “paint Jesus with the same chauvinist brush of those who think they fully represent him”. As a feminist herself, she points out that Jesus never excluded anyone, His teachings were of love and acceptance and she says that this, and Jesus Himself, give her the strength to be a good feminist - same here sis!

Christine notes that in practicing mainstream world religions, feminists tend to be more spiritual, embracing feminist theology which focuses on personal experience and what can be gained from holy scriptures, as opposed to the laws set by man. Women can, and do, indeed find these religions to be liberating. Women can use religion to increase their social influence, for example evangelical women are revered in certain communities, and they can use religious groups as a support system, such as women bible-study groups. Although many Western thinkers see the hijab as a form of oppression, some Muslim women see it as a “symbol of liberation”, reinforcing the idea that religion is liberating and thus empowering to women who choose to follow it.

Aside from mainstream religions, feminists are more likely to practice "non-institutional kinds of spirituality". As shown in part 1, doctrine from the 3 main world “religions come down on the wrong side of many policy issues” that are important to feminists, forming a good basis for feminists to reject religion. Spiritual practices, such as the female priesthoods, fertility cults and mother earth goddesses that existed in the Middle East roughly 6,000 years ago, are being revived, with growing in popularity in the West, notably amongst feminists. These celebrate the power of women, by worshiping female divinities and using rituals as a way of promoting positivity about menstruation and childbirth.

In my humble opinion (this is where it gets biased), feminism and religion can go hand in hand. I think it is about the individual and how they choose to interact with both feminism and religion. As an advocate for feminism, it is dangerous to say that religious people cannot be feminists as that discourages them from identifying as feminists. Megan Carpentier, who come for Cath Elliot’s article (mentioned in part 1) in a super mature and sense-making way, makes the point that she “can’t imagine why people would condemn feminism at all after that sort of indictment of religious faith!”

Cath Elliot catalogues her bad experiences with a number of religions and uses her personal experiences as a bases for condemnation. But her personal encounter with specific branches of different religions doesn’t grant her the authority to decree that feminists cannot practice religious faith. Her arguments fail to understand that holy books and teaching have been interpreted by humans to form many different variants within a religion, so one religion cannot be held accountable for the things people do in its name. She gives examples of Susan B Anthony and Helen H Gerdener saying that ‘the pulpit’ is the enemy of women and a tool to perpetuate injustice, but ‘the pulpit’ is not Christianity. Helen H Gardener in the quotation Elliot uses actually put “‘authorised by the Bible’” in inverted commas, acknowledging the fact that these injustices are not actually authorised by the Bible, but people manipulate its teachings to justify their malefaction. Her inability to distinguish between the people who have used religion to oppress and undermine women is reminiscent of the phrase 'all Muslims are terrorists' – it’s ignorant. Some people do bad things in the name of religion, but does that mean it’s bad? I wouldn’t say so. Many people do awful things in the name of feminism, they do awful things in the name of love, in the name of family, in the name of their country in the name of freedom, I could go on. But point: people use any excuse they like to validate their depravity, if we question religion we should question everything anyone has ever believed in, surely?

Or maybe you don’t agree with me? Let me know what you think, I got very opinion-y and it’s making me rather uncomfortable, cos what do I really know? Not to mention I am dead biased given that I am the oxymoron dear Cath described: A Christian Feminist. Feminists saying one thing about faith and religious figures saying another thing about feminists makes it difficult for people to want to be both, in this way Feminism threatens religion, just as religion threatens feminism. I think that we should just focus on advocating one without berating the other.

Thank you guys for reading, I really hope I made sense and that I don’t have my head completely up my ass lol, if you think yes hmu I’d love to chat! xx

one last thing:

Links:

Quoted in text

Is religion the biggest problem facing feminism today? - Christine Schenk

Are Faith and Feminism Compatible? - Megan Carpentier

I'm Not Praying - Cath Elliot

Feminist Theories of Religions (Sociology)

References

Why Feminists are less religious - Kristin Aune

Feminist Theology

#religion