Trying to Understand the Feminine in Religion

by

Does the root of the never-ending gender controversy lie with religion? This has been a concept I have struggled with since the time I was old enough to understand gender roles in my own society. But where did these roles come from I wondered. I began to think that perhaps religion had something to do with it, since I had heard so many times “wives submit to your husbands” and other similar verses. After hearing many mixed messages from different churches and pastors concerning this topic, I decided to read the Bible from front to back in hopes of finding my own conclusion. From the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, a misogynistic view begins to develop. It is challenging not to see the fall of mankind as mostly Eves fault rather than Adams. Is this why women are cursed–always being oppressed and mistreated throughout history? I struggled with the story of the fall and with other verses in the Bible that seemed to place man ahead of women. One also can’t help but notice that only two females have their own books in the Bible, and all twelve disciples were men. 

Years later I heard a sermon correcting the misconception that the Bible states, “wives submit to your husbands.” This particular pastor explained the passage as stating, “wives submit to your husbands, and husbands submit to your wives equally.” This makes much more sense to me, because for any relationship to work, we must at times submit to each other. In a healthy relationship both people make sacrifices and both submit at times. After hearing this sermon I began to think that part of the reason our religion seems so patriarchal is because it has been extremely misinterpreted and men have abused the Bible in order to keep women beneath them. It was not until I traveled to Morocco and studied Islamic culture that I made the connection that this religion also has been misunderstood and abused. 

The prophet Muhammad granted women citizenship long before women were seen as equals in Western society, especially when recognizing that in the US women could not vote until 1920, hundreds of years after Muhammad. It’s very misleading that in a nation “under God, with liberty and justice for all” half of the population was denied their rights for so long. When studying the women in Muhammad’s life, one has to admit that Muhammad loved, valued and supported strong and independent females. On the other hand, it appears that the West values the opposite. This is demonstrated by philosophers such as Kant, who forces women to chose between being beautiful  or intelligent. A devastating and impossible choice as Mernissi points out. 

I still do not have the answers for why women have been oppressed and undervalued in many different cultures during all different periods of time. From what I have found by studying Christianity, it could easily be argued that it is a patriarchal religion and possibly even a misogynistic one. However, I think it is fair to say that both Christianity and Islam have been greatly misinterpreted and altered, and therefore used as just another way to oppress women despite the fact that at the heart of these religions they call for equality and praise the feminine. Image

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