religion

discussion
women
ATTACHED FILE(S)

Can we really blame religion for discrimination against
women?
By Amy-Jill Levine
Religion gets blamed for gender discrimination, xenophobia, militarism, the
inability to find a parking space when it’s raining, halitosis, and the Red Sox 2011
April record. Of course, we might give religion the credit for prompting the best of
human compassion and inspiring magnificent art, architecture, and music. But in
our current culture wars, it’s easier to dismiss religion entirely than it is to
challenge ourselves to follow the best in our own religious teachings.
Yes, some religious traditions suggest distinct roles for women and for men, and
yes, we especially in the United States should be wary of any system that
purports to be “separate but equal.” We should also be wary both of drawing
conclusions based on extreme examples and of imposing our values, whatever
they are, on others without first speaking with them.
The Muslim teenager who chooses to wear a hijab, the evangelical wife who
agrees to be “subject” to her husband, the Orthodox Jewish woman who sits in
behind a mechitza, the partition that separates men and women in worship, may
not see themselves as oppressed and marginalized. To the contrary, many see
themselves as honored by their tradition even as they honor it. The headscarf
conveys personal modesty and religious identity. The wife may be subject to her
husband, but the husband must love his wife “just as Christ loved the church and
gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5) – the passage asks much more of the
husband than it does of the wife. As for sitting behind the mechitza, it’s a great
place to find women’s solidarity.
As a member of an Orthodox synagogue (although the level of my orthodoxy is
under some question), I am content to forgo the activities from which I am
precluded – reading from the Torah in a mixed setting— for example. I had this
privilege in my former Conservative congregation, and I do not find that I miss it.
For me, the choice to be in an Orthodox setting works, and how dare anyone tell
me—or the woman who has just completed her term as the congregation’s
president!— that we are benighted. The issue is not constraint, but choice.
In the U.S., individuals who feel constrained by one religious setting may affiliate
elsewhere, or not at all. Some decide to remain in the system, loving much of it
and attempting to change the structures that they find troublesome. Certainly,
when particular cultural manifestations of religion prevent participants from
exercising their gifts, or mandate roles that seem to them unnatural or harmful,
then change becomes warranted. In some settings, change has been easily
accomplished; in others, it comes with the blood of martyrs.

That blood is usually shed when religion gets into bed with politics. When the
state determines on the basis of select religious law that men and women must
conform to distinct gender roles, then someone will likely get screwed.
The dominant biblical view is that women and men are both created in the image
of the divine, and they are both entrusted with leadership roles and
responsibilities. The Tanakh, the bible of Judaism, and the church’s Old and New
Testaments depict women as community leaders, teachers, judges, prophets,
sages, patrons, and moral exemplars. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women
have and to this day hold major legislative, juridical, and economic positions. In
many cases, it was religious teachings that encouraged them to achieve these
positions.
The problem is not “religion.” The problem is our tendency to substitute extreme
examples for the full panoply that is religious practice. The problem is that most
of us do not know the resources of our own religious traditions, let alone those of
our neighbors. The problem is coercion substituting for choice. And the problem,
finally, is blaming “religion” rather than learning about it and, perhaps, even being
inspired by it.
Amy-Jill Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, E.
Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies, and
Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and College
of Arts and Sciences.
By Amy-Jill Levine | 09:22 PM ET, 04/15/2011
Source: The Washington Post, in Guest Voices: Other Views on Faith and
Its Impact on the News
Posted at 09:22 PM ET, 04/15/2011
Reply 1
Amy Levine is overly optimistic regarding women’s status in religion. She states that religion denotes that women should tend to men’s roles, although they should also choose their paths (Levine). Females should not be perceived as ignorant of choosing particular positions in religious groups. Women should value themselves and familiarize themselves with the religion they choose and the readings so that they can be motivated to be independent of men. Nevertheless, I agree with the author’s claims. Religion is not the problem. The issue is the tendency to substitute extreme cases for the display that is a religious practice. Besides, the issue is that many people do not know their own religious tradition’s resources, let alone the religious resources of their neighbors. Thus, they finally blame religion instead of learning it. Besides, they can perhaps be motivated by it.
The female gender in Asia, India, and the Middle East still struggle to be independent religious leaders. They are often treated unfairly, unlike their male counterparts. However, we cannot blame religion for bringing such issues. For instance, the BBC News media reported that Islam’s holy book, the Quran, does not force women to dress in veils. It is a decision that people make (Mateen). Women should study and clearly understand the readings of their religions to understand their rights. Women’s role in India is perceived as supporting the family’s livelihood. The BBC News media showed Indian women assuming vital roles in the family’s religious activities (Pandey). The information in this article enlightened me. It offers better knowledge regarding the challenges that women experience in the contemporary world. Generally, I believe that both men and women should continue to fight for women’s rights in all life areas, including the social, economic, religious, and political arenas.
Reply 2
I think that the author is stating that we shouldn’t blame religion in regards to discrimination or gender inequality. But unfortunately religious beliefs are the main cause for female discrimination. The only aspect where religion doesn’t come into play is during the 1950’s where society suggested that women would be homemakers and men would be providers. But even that stems from biblical texts. Because women have always been made to be nurturers and to take care of their husbands. And men have been portrayed to be the financial providers who brought home the bread and butter. Basically the author is stating that women have the religious freedom to choose their beliefs and practices. That if they are being submissive to their husbands it is because the bible says so and they choose to honor their beliefs. Same thing with the example of the hijab signifying modesty. Women choose to cover their hair because they believe that it is the right thing to do. My reaction to this article is that some women don’t have some religious freedoms. If you go to certain countries in the middle east whether you choose to believe or honor that religion the laws state that you cannot do certain things. Currently we are experiencing the overturning of Roe vs Wade. And whether people want to admit it or not the morality and social issue regarding abortion stems from religious beliefs. Denying birth control, abortion, and other forms of emergency contraception is being done in the name of religion. I do agree with the fact that some women choose to honor their religion and maybe it fulfills them to do certain things based on what their religion allows. But I also feel that when religions mix with politics or laws that we lose that freedom. What was once a choice now becomes an obligation. So as much as the author might feel that women are not being discriminated because of religion, that is false. Religion is the root cause as to where these beliefs come from.
By Amy-Jill Levine | 09:22 PM ET, 04/15/2011
Source: The Washington Post, in Guest Voices: Other Views on Faith and
Its Impact on the News
Posted at 09:22 PM ET, 04/15/2011

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