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The Daily Universe

The changing, expanding role of women in religions

gender equality in religion essays

Pope Francis recently announced that women can now read during Mass and instituted the change to recognize the “ precious contribution ” women bring to the Catholic Church.

The change formally altered canon law to allow an already common practice where women participate as lectors who read at Mass and acolytes who help serve at the altar.

The Jan. 11 announcement reaffirmed women cannot be ordained to the priesthood and sparked further controversy for those who advocate for expanding the diaconate to include women, and for those who oppose.

According to The Associated Press, opponents of the change feel that it will be a “slippery slope toward ordaining women to the priesthood.”

Those who support the change think it will lead to including women in the priesthood, thus giving women greater authority in the church and helping fix priest shortages in several areas, according to The Associated Press.

Women’s roles in a variety of faith traditions have expanded over the last few decades to include higher leadership and greater authority, but some believe there is still progress to be made for women’s role in religions. Here is a brief look at the changing role of women in a few religions.

Catholicism

gender equality in religion essays

Pope John Paul II released an apostolic letter in 1994 saying priestly ordination is reserved for men alone. In this letter, he said the presence and roles of women in the church are “absolutely necessary and irreplaceable,” even when not linked to the ministerial priesthood.

Since then, many Catholic women have fought for the ability to receive the priesthood. Most notable is Women’s Ordination Worldwide, an organization dedicated to “working for women’s equality and ordination in the Catholic Church.”

Women’s Ordination Conference Executive Director Kate McElwee said throughout Pope Francis’ papacy, he has encouraged more dialogue on the inclusion of women in the church.

Although encouraging more dialogue doesn’t sound radical, McElwee said it was a “breath of fresh air” to discuss these issues more freely.

As the movement for women’s ordination grew, certain congregations started allowing female priests.

In 2014, the National Catholic Reporter announced a “new day is dawning” as more than 200 women claimed they were official Roman Catholic priests.

Pope Francis released a “ letter to young people ” in March 2019 where he acknowledged the hardships many female members have faced such as “a fair share of male authoritarianism, domination, various forms of enslavement, abuse and sexist violence.”

“A living church can react by being attentive to the legitimate claims of those women who seek greater justice and equality,” the Pope said. The church “can support the call to respect women’s rights, while not agreeing with everything some feminist groups propose.”

Pope Francis formally altering the law to allow women to be lectors and acolytes “feels like a small thing and inconsequential,” McElwee said, but it is one more thing to “cross off the list” in women gaining full equality in the church.

“There are so many areas for growth,” she said. Keeping women subordinated in the church is “very damaging” for individual women’s faith, and mental and emotional health she said.

For the role of women in all religions, “this conversation is only getting louder,” McElwee said.

A press release from Women’s Ordination Worldwide said the Pope’s “announcement contributes to a slow chipping away at the wall of anti-women exclusion that still lingers and corrupts the official church.”

BYU world religions professor Taunalyn Rutherford said this announcement is more impactful in the global South rather than North America or Europe.

“Any area where within the culture women tend to have more rights, they will already be doing these positions,” Rutherford said. She said this announcement will force the clergy to include women in those areas where the rights and freedoms of women are not as prevalent.

As Catholicism rapidly grows in Latin America, Africa and other areas that have female Catholic majorities, Rutherford said the church needs these female members to help fulfill the lay ministry roles and this announcement allows for that to happen.

Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City communication director Jean Hill said for Salt Lake, this announcement wasn’t a huge deal. “We have had altar girls and female acolytes for decades now,” she said.

Making the change official, Hill said, will be impactful globally. But for most of the U.S., “It’s nothing new to us.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

gender equality in religion essays

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long been under scrutiny for not allowing women to be ordained to the priesthood. The Church has always believed women and men are equal in God’s eyes, but their roles are dependent on gender.

Women in the faith are given leadership callings just as men are. They are called as teachers, ministers and leaders and have their own women’s organization. The Relief Society, founded in 1842, is actually the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world and has been a core part of the Church’s structure.

In 1979, President Spencer W. Kimball emphasized the Church’s love and respect for women in a General Conference talk. “Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world will be drawn to the Church,” he said.

In 2012, the Church lowered the age requirement for missionaries allowing women to serve at age 19. Since the change, Church leaders have placed a greater emphasis on the contributions women make even though they are not ordained to the priesthood.

Kate Kelly started the Ordain Women organization in March 2013, calling for equality and ordination for LDS women. According to Holly Welker from Religion Dispatches, the Ordain Women website started with 19 profiles of individuals expressing why they want women to be ordained. Today, there are over 650 profiles of women and men from all around the world sharing their experiences and reasons for wanting to be ordained.

Kelly was excommunicated by the Church in 2014. She continues to speak on gender equality and criticize the Church’s treatment of women.

A letter-writing campaign asking Church leaders to let women pray at General Conference was growing at the same time Ordain Women was founded. Just a month later, history was made when the first woman prayed at the Church’s semi-annual general conference in April 2013.

The number of women speaking in general conference each year continues to grow even though it is still male-dominated. Some people are elated to have more female voices, while others believe more needs to be done about the gender discrepancy.

In 2017, the Church adjusted their General Conference schedule to hold the women’s session annually during conference weekend, instead of the prior tradition of holding the meeting a week before conference.

The general women’s session still endures pushback for “missing” something , according to Exponent II, a webpage created for “sharing Mormon women’s voices.” The dedicated women’s meeting now commonly has greater speaking time for men due to all three First Presidency members speaking compared to previous years where only one spoke.

One of the most recent gender equality changes occurred in 2019 when President Russell M. Nelson announced women, as well as men, are allowed to serve as witnesses for sacred ordinances in the faith’s temples and at baptisms.

Even with the recent changes, some women are reticent to speak publicly about gender roles within the church. The Daily Universe approached several female BYU professors and Church historians for comment but many declined requests for interviews or did not respond.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

“All of Jehovah’s Witnesses are preachers, or ministers ​— including several million women,” the official Jehovah’s Witnesses’ website says.

The webpage continues to say that women don’t participate in the leadership of the church, but have a “full share” in public ministry and “work hard to be an influence for good.”

Resistance against the status of women has begun to occur in different groups of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

An ex-member of the religion spoke out to Independent in 2018 telling them women in the church are viewed as “a complement for a man.” He also said the church believes women should be submissive to their husbands, letting the husband make all important decisions.

A JW support group created a website in 2019 for youth members to have a place they can turn to. The mission of this group is to help youths “cope until they are able to leave home.”

The articles on this website claim the Jehovah Witnesses’ magazine The Watchtower , is not “truth.” They post articles sharing different member’s experiences in the church to help those wishing to learn more about the religion and to discuss the issues people are facing.

JW support said the Jehovah Witnesses are a patriarchal society where women cannot hold positions of authority and are to view men as their head. It also says that Witness women cannot teach unless no men are available, and when they do they must wear head coverings to show “submission to the headship arrangement.”

Evangelicals

The Southern Baptist Convention believes women are complementary to men and cannot hold any authority over men.

Similar to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Southern Baptists have women’s organizations and female missionaries. The Utah-Idaho Southern Baptists Convention provides monthly women conferences to help women “thrive” in their relationship with God.

In a resolution published in 1980, the Southern Baptists reaffirmed “the biblical role which stresses the equal worth but not always the sameness of function of women.”

Since then, various groups have sought higher leadership or ordination for women in this denomination, but not much change has occurred.

A major scandal arose in 2019 when hundreds of sexual abuse victims spoke out against church leaders. Many within the faith were vocal about the scandal, with some people claiming the sexist culture of the church was to blame. Others took the media chaos and used it to bring “new life” to the female ordination controversy.

During this call for gender equality, prominent Southern Baptist women spoke out about the expanding role of women.

Peggy Haymes wrote an opinion article detailing her struggle to become an associate minister and the progress that has been made. “As women, we’re still not at a place of full freedom to follow our calling, but it’s a different world than when I graduated from seminary,” she said.

Popular Bible teacher Beth Moore has gained praise and criticism as she grows in influence. She never claims to try to change Baptist beliefs, but the power she has in the Church is seen as a threat to those with authority. Evangelical women follow her lead as the number of female influencers in the church grows.

Other Protestants

Protestant religions generally have a “priesthood of all believers,” according to Rutherford.

In some of these religions, leadership and pastor roles are not ordained to an official priesthood because for them, every baptized Christian is considered a priest already. This means many of these religions have led the way with including women in pastor and leadership roles.

Females can be Lutheran bishops, Methodist elders, Baptist pastors, Presbyterian deacons and more. Rutherford said the prevalence of women in leadership roles depends greatly on the culture of that area.

“If the culture reflects a lower position of women, then the religion most likely will as well. They tend to work in harmony,” she said.

Rutherford said all religions differ greatly in their traditions and practices with regards to women and are so diverse that it’s hard to know what each church will do. While some Lutheran or Methodist denominations ordain women, others don’t.

Despite the fact that progress for women’s status in religions can be “very slow-moving,” especially in conservative traditions, “I think you would have to say in all religions there is a movement forward,” Rutherford said.

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Redefining Gender Equality in the Context of Religion Today

While globalization has brought some people and ideas closer together, the feminist movement has struggled to redefine itself in the modern age. After the success of western feminist movements, which liberated women from the confines of traditional gender roles in the 20 th century, the globalized 21 st century seemingly held promise for the spread of gender equality worldwide. Instead, feminist movements have faced surprising amounts of resistance worldwide, particularly from women. To overcome modern challenges, feminist movements must realize that western definitions and expectations of gender equality are incompatible with the beliefs and values of many people –  particularly those of faith – and that bridging this gap is key to truly improving the lives of women in today’s globalized world.

Feminism, faith, and religion are all terms that used and misused by members and nonmembers alike, and it is difficult define such complex value systems without oversimplification or misrepresentation. Although there are many variations and context-dependent challenges to feminism, for the purposes of this paper, the working definition of “feminist” that I will be using is activists and scholars whose goal is the “absolute and complete equality as far as is humanly possible in any given situation, at any given time.” [1] Feminism comes from all angles, as does Christianity, Hinduism, or any other type of religion, value system, or ideology, but like all labels, it is certain that there are those in a group who have opinions that differ from the consensus. For the purposes of this paper’s analysis, it is important to acknowledge such nuanced differences, but even more important to examine the fundamental beliefs of feminism and religion, broadly defined, and the implications for modern gender equality.

Feminism was originally about political equality at the ballot boxes, but challenges began when it moved, whether consciously or unconsciously, into cultural and religious spheres such as the workplace, home, church and temple. In the beginning, feminism fought for giving women the same political rights that men enjoyed – this was and is a value that everyone, whether a secular feminist, western Christian, or Indian Hindu, would affirm. However, as western feminism evolved and began to incorporate cultural norms such as equality in the workplace and home, the movement began to alienate those of faith. For someone with a western background, whether secular or religious, the concept and reality of female CEOs and breadwinners does not create cognitive dissonance since cultural norms and religious values are relatively distinct. For others, culture and religion are very much intertwined: familial and cultural roles may be linked with social and even religious values. Therefore, gender roles such as staying in the home might be perceived as gender inequality to the western feminist, but are actually a source of honor for women in other cultures, particularly those with deep ties to faith.

To the feminist, gender equality means equality in action – women should be able to do everything men do, and not be treated any differently. Equality to many feminists means sameness. To those of faith, gender equality means something quite different – it means equality in value . Consider feminism’s relationship with Christianity, a religion that shares a similar starting point in western culture and allows us to focus in on the disconnect between feminism and faith before its magnification by globalization and manifestations in other cultures. Some feminists say Christianity disrespects women, and some Christians say feminism disrespects religion. In effect, feminism and Christianity are working with two different definitions and expectations of gender equality. These different conceptualizations about what gender is and ought to be create a situation where the two are not on the same page and cannot have a meaningful conversation because they do not even acknowledge what the other is talking about. The Bible, as many Christians interpret it, indicates that God clearly intended man and woman to have different roles. Most mainline traditional Christians will affirm that gender roles are not a social construct and will point to specific passages from the Bible where men and women given different roles by God. However, as God equally values both genders, most Christians do not see this difference in action as a difference in value. Thus, gender roles and gender equality are not mutually exclusive ideas to the Christian, while, to the feminist, gender roles are the very definition of gender inequality. Where feminism sees a problem, Christianity does not see one. What feminism demands, Christianity cannot and does not want to give.

It is true that there is strong disagreement between feminism and Christianity as the two are traditionally and conservatively understood. The biggest problem, however, is not the disagreement itself but the lack of common language and mutual recognition.  Although feminists may disagree with Christians in their understanding of what gender equality is and ought to be, feminists seem to act in a way that indicates a claim of authority over gender equality and does not leave room for others’ values, thinking, and beliefs. Women ought to be as respected and valued as men are – on that all are in agreement – but we should agree to disagree on how that is practiced, as long as the basic principle of respect and value is being upheld.

Consider Taylor’s theory of cultural modernity, to which our current case of feminism and gender equality is quite similar. [2] As modernity arrives in different cultures, it looks different because the cultures it emerges in come from different starting points. Modernity in Europe does not look the same as modernity in Asia, and to expect the two modernities to look similar is almost laughable. As Taylor writes, “The belief that modernity comes from a single, universally applicable operation imposes a falsely uniform pattern on the multiple encounters of non-Western cultures with the exigencies of science, technology, and industrialization.” [3] The same argument can be made of feminism and gender equality. What feminists in the west identify as gender equality will and should produce different results in non-western contexts that reflect the different starting points of cultures. Gender equality should look different, and to expect the same kind of feminism in America and in Saudi Arabia is an unrealistic thought at best. Substituting Taylor’s modernities with our discussion of gender equality, we come to the conclusion: “The point of the alternative modernities thesis is that these adaptations don’t have to and generally won’t be identical across civilizations.” [4]

This is the core of the issue feminism faces in today’s globalized world. Feminists expect that others will have the same definition and expectation of gender equality, and that gender equality will look similarly across different cultures. Even before globalization made things more pluralistic and complicated, however, feminism never addressed the issue of different understandings of gender equality even with Christianity. Even given shared western culture and societal norms, feminism and Christianity are in unresolved conflict. In a place like India, where religious, cultural, societal norms and values are all different from that of the average western secular feminist, there is even more conflict and it is all the more important to understand what and where the core issue is.

Feminists have yet to recognize and address the issue of different understandings of gender equality. As Usha Menon describes in her piece examining feminism and women’s rights in India, the feminist approach there has been particularly unsuccessful and has alienated Indian female activists who believe that this brand of feminism is a perspective exclusive to the western historical and sociocultural context. The western secular feminist sees gender equality as sameness in opportunity and action in all spheres, and is advocating for this on the Indian woman’s behalf, but has the feminist stopped to consider what the Indian woman deems as gender equality and what she wants for herself? Indeed, “when feminists challenge family structures and work to dismantle them, the women of the temple town see such efforts as directly threatening their sense of identity and personhood. They do not see their conjugal families as oppressive kinship structures but rather as fluid, organic entities that are continually transformed and reconstituted by the essences and qualities of in-marrying women.” [5] To a western feminist, gender equality is sameness in the workplace and home, but to an Indian Hindu woman, this is not necessarily the case. The western concept of gender equality is so wedded to the values and beliefs of western culture that Indian female activists now say they do not want gender equality, but female empowerment. [6] From this, it is clear that if feminists cannot agree to disagree with socioculturally similar religions such as Christianity, much less religions such as Hinduism, they will only drive away the very people they want to help.

By first understanding the conflict that exists and recognizing the need for reconsideration and redefinition of what feminism and gender equality mean in the globalized contexts of today’s world, we can approach the fundamental object of conflict between feminism and religion from a new perspective. This discussion and clarification of what gender equality means is not merely an issue of semantics but rather, a real, practical step that can be the start to transforming and improving the current conversation, and extend it to the different contexts that globalization presents. Redefining gender equality is not meant to divert attention away from injustice against females, but to do exactly the opposite – by redefining the issue, we are re-orienting attention to the true injustices suffered by females around the world. Gender inequality, both in action and in value, is a real issue that we need to understand and address, precisely why a clear and nuanced conversation is needed.

Even if feminism and religion do not agree on what gender equality should be, acknowledging  differences and agreeing to disagree creates the opportunity for a new conversation. The goal is not necessarily to see things the same way, but to come to the table with a basic of understanding so that neither feminism nor religion sees the other as an adversary, but as a partner in promoting women’s issues. From this point, we can re-orient the conversation around female empowerment, a universal value that should be upheld by feminists, Christians, Hindus and all people alike. For women’s issues to move forward, this conversation is critical. A mutual understanding of terms such as feminism, gender equality, and female empowerment and an acceptance of differing views will translate into more nuanced and respectful relationship between religious groups and feminists. This understanding will allow for fruitful discussion of and solutions to the challenges women face in today’s globalized world.

[1]  Vasudha Narayanan, “Women of Power in the Hindu Tradition,” in Arvind Sharma and Katherine K. Young, eds., Feminism and World Religions (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), 26, quoted in Usha Menon, “Does Feminism Have Universal Relevance? The Challenges Posed by Oriya Hindu Family Practices,” R. Shweder, M. Minow, and H. Markus, eds., The Free Exercise of Culture (Russell Sage Foundation, Forthcoming), 97.

[2]  Taylor, “Two Theories of Modernity.”

[3]  Taylor, “Two Theories of Modernity,”180.

[4]  Taylor, “Two Theories of Modernity,”184.

[5]  Menon, “Does Feminism Have Universal Relevance?” 96.

[6]  Menon, “Does Feminism Have Universal Relevance?” 97.

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In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gender and Religion

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Gender and Religion by Sophie Bjork-James LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2019 LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0202

Gender is central to most religious orders. In turn, religions have a significant impact on gendered relations. The study of gender and religion stems from a broader interest in feminist anthropology, and multiple approaches to the study of gender and religion have been developed. An early approach explores the ways that religious practice influences male and female behavior. Studies in this vein explore changing gender norms attending conversion to new religions, or the ways that women’s and men’s roles are constrained and shaped by religious practice. More-recent work analyzes the ways that gender itself structures religious and spiritual ethics and practice. While patriarchal relations are central to many global religions, this is not a universal principle. Some religious orders emphasize cooperation and respect for women over hierarchy. Others may prioritize male leadership but indirectly provide women with types of ethical identities and spiritual positions that create spaces for women to practice their own agency and forms of power. The ethnographic record also demonstrates that there is often a significant difference between how patriarchal gender relations are prioritized in formal religious spaces and how they are practiced. Gender often shapes the religious meanings of space and materiality. Scholars studying women’s participation in nonliberal religious movements have shown that often women participate in patriarchal religions in the pursuit of their own interest. Even through submission, women can cultivate particular ethical selves or develop relationships that are understood as desirable. A broad literature exists exploring female submission and agency within patriarchal religious spaces, much of which challenges liberal assumptions that what individuals need is freedom. Through ethnographic explorations of female participants in patriarchal religions, scholars have exposed the multiple reasons women participate in religious gender hierarchies. Many religions have also recognized nonbinary gender roles. Within numerous cultures, including indigenous, Asian, and others, individuals occupying either transgendered or nonbinary gendered roles are granted special spiritual status. Thus, diverse religions display a variety of gendered systems. Some recognize gender identities as fluid rather than fixed during a person’s life course. Finally, a number of feminist scholars provide important critiques about the ways that religious women—specifically through wearing the veil or burqa or participating in female genital cutting—can become symbols of oppression that unite feminist and colonial logics, creating discourses of saving and inequality over solidarity.

There are several interdisciplinary readers that introduce the feminist study of religion ( Juschka 2001 ) and the study of gender and religion in general (compare Boisvert and Daniel-Hughes 2017 , Castelli 2001 , Franzmann 2000 ). Ortner and Whitehead 1981 provides an introduction to the study of gender within cultural systems, including religion. There are also several texts introducing readers to specific topics within the study of gender and religion. For instance, Ramet 1996 is an edited volume of cultures that allow for gender reversals or changes in individual gender identities. Armour and St. Ville 2006 is an edited volume accounting for the influence of Judith Butler on religious studies.

Armour, Ellen T., and Susan M. St. Ville, eds. 2006. Bodily citations: Religion and Judith Butler . New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

A cross-disciplinary exploration of the impact of Butler’s work on the study of religion, particularly on feminist religious studies.

Boisvert, Donald L., and Carly Daniel-Hughes, eds. 2017. The Bloomsbury reader in religion, sexuality, and gender . London and New York: Bloomsbury.

A reader combining key texts in the study of sexuality, gender, and religion.

Castelli, Elizabeth A., ed. 2001. Women, gender, religion: A reader . New York: Palgrave.

An interdisciplinary collection of essays exploring the contribution of feminist and gender-studies approaches to the study of religious traditions.

Ellingson, Stephen, and Christian Green, eds. 2002. Religion and sexuality in cross-cultural perspective . New York: Routledge.

An interdisciplinary edited volume on the relationship between religion and sexual norms in multiple cultures.

Franzmann, Majella. 2000. Women and religion . Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

A textbook exploring women’s roles in various world religions.

Gold, Ann. 2008. Gender. In Studying Hinduism: Key concepts and methods . Edited by Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, 178–193. New York: Routledge.

An overview of research on Hinduism informed by gender.

Herdt, Gilbert, ed. 1996. Third sex, third gender: Beyond sexual dimorphism in culture and history . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

An edited volume on various instances of cultural and religious gender systems containing more than two genders.

Juschka, Darlene M., ed. 2001. Feminism in the study of religion: A reader . London: Continuum.

A collection of essays spanning thirty years of feminist scholars on the study of religion.

Ortner, Sherry, and Harriet Whitehead, eds. 1981. Sexual meanings: The cultural construction of gender and sexuality . New York and Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Edited volume exploring gender and sexuality in various cultural arenas, including religion and indigenous spiritual practice.

Ramet, Sabrina Petra, ed. 1996. Gender reversals and gender cultures: Anthropological and historical perspectives . New York and London: Routledge.

A collection of essays exploring instances of “gender reversals,” or changes in one’s gender. Provides anthropological and historical accounts of the role of culture and religion in shaping these processes.

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  • The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World
  • 7. Theories explaining gender differences in religion

Table of Contents

  • 1. Women more likely than men to affiliate with a religion
  • 2. Gender differences in worship attendance vary across religious groups
  • 3. Women report praying daily at higher rates than men
  • 4. Religion is equally or more important to women than men in most countries
  • 5. Women and men about equally likely to believe in heaven, hell and angels
  • 6. In the U.S., religious commitment is high and the gender gap is wide
  • About this report
  • Acknowledgments
  • Appendix A: Methodology

Women’s generally greater level of religiosity has been observed by scholars for decades; it has shown up in surveys going back as far as the 1930s. 34  But not until the 1980s did academics begin a concerted effort to find an explanation for the phenomenon. 35

Initially, some scholars assumed women were universally more religious across all religions and cultures. This assumption was likely reinforced by the early concentration on patterns of religious behavior in predominantly European and North American countries with large Christian populations. Gradually, however, as studies paid increasing attention to other faiths and countries, different patterns of gender differences were detected. Researchers began to find that while women generally were more religious than men, this was not always the case.

More than three decades of research have yielded a large quantity of data and a greater appreciation for the complexities of the relationship between gender and religion – complexities reflected in the data presented in this report. But a definitive, empirically based explanation of why women generally tend to be more religious than men remains elusive. Indeed, as two experts recently wrote, this widely observed pattern is still “a genuine scientific puzzle.” 36

Here is a brief summary of some leading theories proffered by experts who have examined the religious gender gap. The explanations generally fall into three broad categories: nature, nurture or a combination of both. 37

Nature explains it

Under the “nature” umbrella are theories that variously attribute gender differences in religious commitment to physical or physiological causes such as hormones, genes or biological predispositions.

For example, Baylor University sociologist Rodney Stark postulates that men’s physiology – specifically their generally higher levels of testosterone – accounts for gender differences in religion. His argument rests on what he views as increasing evidence that testosterone is associated with men’s greater propensity to take risks, which he argues is why men are less religious than women. By inference, women are more religious because they have less risk-promoting testosterone. 38

Stark’s theory elaborates on an earlier thesis introduced by sociologists John P. Hoffman of Brigham Young University and the late Alan S. Miller. They noted that men appear to have a greater innate tendency to take risks, and therefore are more willing than women to gamble that they will not face punishment in the afterlife. As a result, men are less religious. Since women are generally more risk-averse, this theory posits, they turn to religion to avoid eternal punishment or to secure a place in heaven. Unlike Stark, Hoffman and Miller do not assign a specific source for men’s greater willingness to take risks. 39

Baylor University’s Matt Bradshaw and Christopher G. Ellison of the University of Texas at San Antonio argue for more exploration of genetic factors. Some studies of biological influences on religious life, they write, suggest that “genetic differences account for roughly a third of the variation” among individuals in various aspects of personal religious devotion. While the two sociologists recognize a role for social and environmental influences, they contend that “biological predispositions remain a viable, and untested, explanation for gender differences in religiosity.” 40

Still within the nature framework, Jeremy Freese of Northwestern University and James D. Montgomery of the University of Wisconsin postulate that psychological differences could throw light on gender differences in religiosity. They advocate for more research into which psychological aspects are most influential on religious devotion and how differences are shaped by genes and social environments. In particular, they would like to see more investigation into how personality traits typically associated with “femininity” and “masculinity” relate to gender differences in religiosity. 41  As an example of this type of research, they point to a 1991 study by Edward H. Thompson Jr., who surveyed the religiosity of 358 American undergraduates who had completed self-profiles using stereotypical feminine and masculine personality traits. 42  Thompson found that “religiousness is influenced more by a ‘feminine’ outlook than by being female.”

Nurture explains it

In the nurture category are theories that seek to explain the religious gender gap by such factors as socialization into traditional gender roles, lower rates of female workforce participation and national economic structures.

University of Aberdeen’s Marta Trzebiatowska and Steve Bruce, for example, contend that “nothing in the biological make-up of men and women … explains the gendered difference in religiosity.” These differences, the two sociologists write, are better explained by “an amalgam of different social facts” that include women’s dominant role in childbirth and death, which keeps women “closer to religion than men.” Another factor they cite is men’s pressure on women to be religious as a way to control female sexuality. 43

But the dominant reason for the gender gap, in the view of Trzebiatowska and Bruce, is the “time lag” in the way secularization in modern times has affected men and women. Men’s pre-eminent roles in the workforce and public life meant they “were generally affected earlier than women by the secularizing forces that reduced the plausibility of religious beliefs and turned religious rectitude from a necessary condition for citizenship into a personal preference,” the two write. As women become more like men in activities outside the home, they theorize, women also may become more similar in levels of religiousness. Indeed, the authors speculate that the religious gender gap may eventually disappear entirely, as gender roles become more alike and gender equality becomes more commonplace: “Enough women are now free of the social roles that coincidentally brought them into the orbit of organized religion to destroy the web of expectations that disposed them to be more favorable, as a class, to religion.”

In a related vein, researchers have looked at how women’s place in society, especially their rates of workforce participation, might affect their religious commitment. Based on 1983 data from Australia, sociologist David de Vaus of the Australian Institute of Family Studies and political scientist Ian McAllister of Australian National University report that lower rates of female labor force participation “are the major cause” of women’s greater religious commitment. Indeed, they find that full-time female workers are not only less religious than women who do not work, but also display a religious orientation similar to men. Work outside the home, the two hypothesize, could provide “sociopsychological benefits” otherwise gotten from religion and “makes religion less important and less relevant for some people.” 44

A somewhat different interpretation for working women’s lower religious commitment emerges from recent studies in the U.S. by Indiana University-Bloomington sociologist Landon Schnabel. He suggests that women in the labor force, particularly those in high-paying, full-time jobs, are less religious because they receive less social validation and affirmation from religious congregations compared with women who follow more gender-typical roles and expectations. 45  Sociologist Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University theorizes that as Christian women in Europe and North America increasingly entered the labor force starting in the 1960s, they felt the need to create more independent, career-oriented identities separate from or alongside their identities as homemakers. But since most traditional forms of Christianity did not support working women’s new identities, women’s overall religiosity decreased. “In this complex project of completely refashioning identity, traditional forms of religion are more likely to prove a hindrance to women than a help,” Woodhead writes. 46

An analysis of Pew Research Center data as it relates to female workforce participation and the gender gap is presented in a sidebar at the end of this chapter.

Social scientists David Voas, Siobhan McAndrew and Ingrid Storm, who are at the University College London and the Universities of Bristol and Manchester, respectively, argue that in Europe, the gender gap decreases (but does not disappear) with modernization. But they contend that the narrowing gap is due more to rising national income per capita than to secularization or growing gender equality. As women gain more security through economic development, “the appeal of religious commitment fades,” they write, adding that “it is also possible that with economic growth, women’s values converge with those of men in terms of secularity and rationality.” 47

Their theory dovetails with that of Harvard University’s Pippa Norris and University of Michigan’s Ronald Inglehart, both political scientists, who propose that differences in “existential security” best explain the religious gender gap. “Women often give higher priority to religion not because of their sex per se, but because they usually experience less security in their lives,” being more vulnerable than men to the hardships of “poverty, debt, poor health, old age and lack of physical safety,” they write. For this reason, “women give higher priority to security – and religion,” which “provides a sense of safety and well-being.” 48

A synthesis

The nature versus nurture debate is not likely to be settled anytime soon. The “nature” theories that focus on physical, biological or genetic differences between men and women have not found a measurable factor that has been definitively linked to greater religiosity. And the “nurture” theories that pinpoint social factors as the principle mechanism in explaining the religious gender gap all face a problem: Despite the vast social changes and gender role transformations of recent decades, the religious gender gap persists in many societies. As a result, contemporary scholars of religion seem increasingly to be converging on a consensus that the religious gender gap most likely arises from a complicated mix of multiple factors. As one scholar put it, “greater insight into gender differences in religiousness lies … in the acceptance of complexity.” 49

Do patterns of female labor force participation help explain the religious gender gap?

One theory discussed in Chapter 7 on why women generally tend to be more religious than men is that, in many societies, women are less likely than men to work in the labor force, a social role that some studies find is associated with lower levels of religious commitment. Scholars note that a focus solely on home management, which involves more attention and time spent raising children and caring for sick or elderly relatives, appears to encourage stronger religious commitment and more frequent religious activity. 50 Conversely, work often interferes or competes with involvement in a religious community, which can lead to less-frequent attendance at worship services and weaken a person’s religious identity. Work also offers alternatives around which to construct personal and community identities. In addition, it can broaden horizons beyond the family, exposing people to new ideas and ways of life that can challenge traditional religious dogma. Some experts also hypothesize that women in the labor force seek to conform to a prevailing male ethos that may not affirm religious commitment.

Testing the labor force theory

The labor force theory of the religious gender gap leads to two hypotheses. First, women working in the labor force should be less religious than women outside the labor force and therefore more similar to men in their levels of religious commitment. Second, in the aggregate, countries with larger shares of women working in the labor force should have smaller gender gaps overall, compared with countries where few women are in the labor force.

Across many countries, the gender gap with men is smaller for women in the labor force

The first hypothesis is supported by a Pew Research Center analysis of data from 47 countries with measures of employment status and religious commitment. 51  Across these countries, women working in the labor force are less religious, on average, than women outside the labor force across three measures of religious commitment. As a result, the religious gender gaps between women working in the labor force and men are much smaller than the gaps between women not working for pay and men. 52  For example, women working in the labor force are more likely than men to pray daily by an average of 7 percentage points, whereas women not in the labor force are more likely than men to pray daily by an average of 13 percentage points. These patterns persist even after accounting for characteristics other than women’s work status, such as educational attainment, age, marital status and religious affiliation (for more details, see the report Methodology ).

Pew Research Center’s analysis of the data also shows that this general pattern varies across countries. In many countries with large Christian populations, such as Italy, Greece, Chile, Mexico and the United States, women working in the labor force are much less religious than women outside the labor force and are more similar to men. The pattern is different, however, in sub-Saharan Africa, where in countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia, women and men tend to show similarly high levels of religious commitment, regardless of women’s work status. Meanwhile, labor force participation also appears to be less of a factor in many Muslim-majority countries, where there are smaller gender gaps in religious commitment to begin with, as well as in other non-Christian countries such as India and China. Despite these variations, the analysis finds that labor force participation is associated with lower levels of religious commitment for women, on average, leading to a smaller gender gap with men than the gender gap between women outside the labor force and men.

Gender gap in importance of religion varies for women in, out of labor force

The second hypothesis of the labor force theory anticipates that the share of women working in the labor force should have consequences for the size of the overall gender gap between women and men. In countries where most women stay in the home and few work in the labor force, overall gender gaps in religious commitment should be relatively large. And by contrast, countries with high levels of female labor force participation should have smaller gender gaps.

To test this second hypothesis, researchers combined data on the religious gender gaps among the general population in 81 countries using Pew Research Center surveys with data from the United Nations on the shares of women (ages 15 and older) working in the labor force and other country characteristics. 53

The analysis finds support for this hypothesis on daily prayer across countries where Christians represent at least 60% of the total population. Among these predominantly Christian nations, those with larger shares of women working in the labor force tend to have smaller gender differences in daily prayer (e.g., Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania) compared with countries where smaller shares of women are in the labor force (e.g., Italy, Greece, Argentina). Moreover, the strong association between female labor force participation and the gender gap in daily prayer across predominantly Christian countries remains significant even after accounting for national income. 54

However, women’s labor force participation does not appear to be related to the gender gap in daily prayer across Muslim-majority countries or across countries where neither Christianity nor Islam are predominant (e.g., India, China, Israel). In these countries, differences in the shares of women in the labor force do little to explain why some countries have large religious gender gaps and others have smaller ones.

This pattern – a strong negative association between the share of women in the labor force and the gender gap across predominantly Christian countries, and a lack of association across other countries – is clearest when it comes to the gender gap in daily prayer, but a similar pattern is observed in importance of religion. 55

In predominantly Christian countries, having more women in the labor force is associated with a smaller gender gap in daily prayer

There are several possible reasons the pattern is different in predominantly Christian countries compared with others. One factor could be how religion is socially framed as feminine or masculine. Some scholars have suggested that norms spread by Christian leaders in some countries have affirmed the role of women in the home, strengthening the religious commitment of women outside the labor force while indirectly undermining the religious commitment of women in the labor force. 56

Additional factors that might explain the varied relationships between women’s work status and the religion gender gap across countries include different cultural and religious perceptions of whether it is socially acceptable for men or women, regardless of work status, to skip weekly worship services or daily prayers. In addition, the kinds of jobs that men and women hold may differ from country to country, leading to different consequences for the relationship between labor force participation and religious commitment. For example, while large shares of women participate in the labor force in sub-Saharan Africa, their jobs often provide little economic security or stability. This may lead these women to rely more heavily on religion as a source of comfort and social support compared with women who hold better-paying jobs in more economically developed countries.

  • Gallup Jr., George H. Dec. 17, 2002. “ Why Are Women More Religious? ” Gallup. ↩
  • See bibliography of De Vaus, David, and Ian McAllister. 1987. “ Gender Differences in Religion: A Test of the Structural Location Theory .” American Sociological Review. ↩
  • Lizardo, Omar, and Jessica L. Collett. 2009. “ Rescuing the Baby from the Bathwater: Continuing the Conversation on Gender, Risk, and Religiosity .” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. ↩
  • Advocates of “nature” explanations often assert that women are universally more religious than men. See, for example, Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin. 2014. “Psychological Perspectives on Religion and Religiosity.” ↩
  • Stark, Rodney. 2002. “ Physiology and Faith: Addressing the ‘Universal’ Gender Difference in Religious Commitment .” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. See also Miller, Alan S., and Rodney Stark. 2002. “ Gender and Religiousness: Can Socialization Explanations Be Saved? ” American Journal of Sociology. ↩
  • Miller, Alan S., and John P. Hoffmann. 1995. “ Risk and Religion: An Explanation of Gender Differences in Religiosity .” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. In making their argument for risk-taking as an explanation for men’s lesser engagement with religion, Hoffman and Miller cited 17th century French mathematician Blaise Pascal. He posited that believing in God is less risky than not believing in God because the latter carries the possibility of eternal damnation. This is widely known as Pascal’s Wager. Miller and Hoffman’s argument is disputed in Roth, Marie Louise, and Jeffrey C. Kroll. 2007. “ Risky Business: Assessing Risk Preference Explanations for Gender Differences in Religiosity .” American Sociological Review. Others argue risk-taking level is based in socialization. See Collett, Jessica L., and Omar Lizardo. 2009. “ A Power-Control Theory of Gender and Religiosity .” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. ↩
  • Bradshaw, Matt, and Christopher G. Ellison. 2009. “ The Nature-Nurture Debate Is Over, and Both Sides Lost! Implications for Understanding Gender Differences in Religiosity .” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. ↩
  • Freese, Jeremy, and James D. Montgomery. 2007. “ The Devil made her do it? Evaluating Risk Preference as an Explanation of Sex Differences in Religiousness ” in Shelley J. Correll, ed. “Social Psychology of Gender (Advances in Group Processes, Volume 24).” ↩
  • Some of the stereotypical “feminine” traits include being affectionate, sympathetic, sensitive to others’ needs, compassionate, warm, tender, loving to children and risk-averse. See Thompson Jr., Edward H. 1991. “ Beneath the Status Characteristics: Gender Variations in Religiousness .” The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. ↩
  • Trzebiatowska, Marta, and Steve Bruce. 2012. “Why Are Women More Religious Than Men?” Pages 172-175. ↩
  • De Vaus, David, and Ian McAllister. 1987. “ Gender Differences in Religion: A Test of the Structural Location Theory .” American Sociological Review. De Vaus and McAllister wrote that their findings did not apply to women in the United States where workforce participation “does not appear to affect female religious orientation.” They hypothesized that this may be because in the United States “religion is much more part of the dominant culture than it is in Australia.” However, a small, 2013 study of elite working women in the United States produced countervailing findings. See Hastings, Orestes P., and D. Michael Lindsay. 2013. “ Rethinking Religious Gender Differences: The Case of Elite Women .” Sociology of Religion. ↩
  • Schnabel, Landon. Forthcoming. “ The Gender Pray Gap: Wage Labor and the Religiosity of High-Earning Women and Men .” Gender & Society. Using data from the U.S. General Social Survey, Schnabel suggested reasons for his finding that women and men at the top of the income distribution (earning $100,000 per year or more) are more similar when it comes to religious commitment than women and men at the bottom. Moreover, income appears to matter differently for women compared to men: while women tend to be less religious the more money they make, higher-earning men tend to be more religious than lower-earning men. Schnabel suggests that one reason could be the different types of validation that men and women receive in religious congregations. For men, money and social status through work may signal leadership potential. As a result, higher-earning men may be more likely than other men to be offered leadership positions within their religious communities, bolstering their religious participation and commitment. In contrast, high-earning women may receive less validation for flouting gender expectations that many religious groups have for women to be mothers and caregivers. ↩
  • Woodhead, Linda. 2008. “ Gendering Secularization Theory .” Social Compass. See also Brown, Callum. 2001. “The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularisation 1800-2000.” ↩
  • Voas, David, Siobhan McAndrew and Ingrid Storm. 2013. “ Modernization and the Gender Gap in Religiosity: Evidence from Cross-National European Surveys .” Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie. ↩
  • Norris, Pippa, and Ronald Inglehart. 2008. “ Existential Security and the Gender Gap in Religious Values .” Draft chapter for Social Science Research Council conference on Religion & International Affairs, New York, Feb. 15-16, 2008. ↩
  • Sullins, D. Paul. 2006. “ Gender and Religion: Deconstructing Universality, Constructing Complexity .” ↩
  • It is also possible that highly religious women choose to focus on home management, while less religious women opt to focus on their career or juggle work and family roles. In that case, religion would influence a person’s work status, rather than work status eroding religious commitment. For a discussion of these possible explanations see: De Vaus, David, and Ian McAllister. 1987. “ Gender Differences in Religion: A Test of the Structural Location Theory .” American Sociological Review. Trzebiatowska, Marta, and Steve Bruce. 2012. “Why Are Women More Religious Than Men?” Woodhead, Linda. 2008. “ Gendering Secularization Theory .” Social Compass. Schnabel, Landon. Forthcoming. “ The Gender Pray Gap: Wage Labor and the Religiosity of High-Earning Women and Men .” Gender & Society. ↩
  • Questions about employment status were only asked on a few of the surveys used in this report. ↩
  • As measured here, labor force participation includes part-time and full-time employment. In addition, “out of the labor force” includes women who are unemployed and seeking employment, those who are not looking for work, as well as students and retired people. ↩
  • Unlike the first analysis, which required survey data on religion and employment status measured at the individual level, which was only available in a subset of countries, this analysis compares gender gaps at the country level and their association with the share of women in the labor force. Because of this difference in the level of analysis, researchers were able to examine a larger number of countries by combining data on religious gender gaps from Pew Research Center surveys with other data from the United Nations on women’s labor force participation and other country characteristics. Kosovo and Puerto Rico are excluded from the analysis because of missing U.N. data on women’s labor force participation rate. In addition, South Africa is excluded because of missing U.N. data on income (gross national income per capita). ↩
  • National income is measured using gross national income per capita. ↩
  • For importance of religion, the negative association between the share of women in the labor force and the size of the gender gap is statistically significant across predominantly Christian countries before and after controlling for national income. However, the difference in association between predominantly Christian and predominantly Muslim countries is not significant. This is largely due to an outlier country, Algeria, which has low levels of female labor force participation and a relatively large gender gap in religion’s importance. The pattern for weekly attendance is not statistically significant among or across predominantly Christian countries. ↩
  • Woodhead, Linda. 2008. “ Gendering Secularization Theory .” Social Compass. See also Schnabel, Landon. Forthcoming. “ The Gender Pray Gap: Wage Labor and the Religiosity of High-Earning Women and Men .” Gender & Society. ↩

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Religion and Living Arrangements Around the World

Religion’s relationship to happiness, civic engagement and health around the world, eastern and western europeans differ on importance of religion, views of minorities, and key social issues, global uptick in government restrictions on religion in 2016, the age gap in religion around the world, most popular, report materials.

  • Appendix B (PDF): Tables showing absolute and relative gender gaps by country
  • Appendix C (PDF): Sources
  • Appendix D (PDF): Question wording from each survey

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A world of inequalities: christian and muslim perspectives.

Author: Lucinda Mosher

February 16, 2021

In A World of Inequalities: Christian and Muslim Perspectives , 15 leading Christian and Muslim scholars respond to the global crisis of inequality by demanding and modeling interreligious dialogue. Based on the Seventeenth Building Bridges Seminar (2018), this volume takes an intersectional approach, examining aspects of global inequality including gender, race and ethnicity, caste and social class, economic and sociopolitical disparities, and slavery. Essays explore the roots of these realities, how they are treated in Christian and Muslim traditions and texts, and how the two faiths can work together to address inequality. A World of Inequalities brings readers into the conversation, inviting them to engage in a similar dialogue by offering pairs of essays alongside texts for close reading.

download | PDF excerpts of this book (provided by Georgetown University Press)

Table of Contents

  • Participants 
  • Introduction

Part One: Overviews

  • Unjust Inequality as a Challenge for Contemporary Islam | Ovamir Anjum
  • The Challenges of a World of Inequalities for Christians Today | David Hollenbach, S.J.

Part Two: Muslims and Christians Facing the Reality of Inequality

  • Gender and Islam: Obstacles and Possibilities | Samia Huq
  • The Problem of Race in Christianity | Elizabeth Phillips
  • Nationality and Ethnicity in West Africa: An Economic and Religious Perspective on Inequalities | François Pazisnewende Kaboré, S.J.
  • Islam and the Challenge of Sociopolitical Equality: The Contribution of Religious Creed | Sherman A. Jackson
  • Caste and Social Class in the Christian and Islamic Communities of South Asia | Sunil Caleb
  • Slavery: Source of Theological Tension | Jonathan Brown

Part Three: Inequality, the Bible, and the Christian Tradition

  • Inequality in the Old Testament | Leslie J. Hoppe, OFM
  • Old Testament Texts for Dialogue on Inequalities 
  • For All of You Are One in Christ Jesus? The New Testament Witnesses on Ethnic, Economic, Social, Religious, Racial, and Gender Inequality | Christopher M. Hays
  • New Testament Texts for Dialogue on Inequalities 

Part Four: Inequality, the Qur'an, and the Hadith

  • Racial, Religious, and Gender Equality: Reflections on Qurʾanic Texts | Abdullah Saeed
  • Qur'an and Hadith Texts for Dialogue on Human Nature, Gender, Ethnicity, Religion, and Inequality 
  • Economic Equality and Inequality: An Introduction to Selected Qurʾanic Texts | Abdullah Saeed
  • Qur'an and Hadith Texts for Dialogue on Economic Inequality 

Part Five: Possibilities and Obstacles toward a Common Ethic of Equality

  • Three Strands Leading to the Edge: Considering the Possibility of a Common Ethic of Equality | C. Rosalee Velloso Ewell
  • Muslim-Christian Bridges: Toward a Shared Theology of Human Development? | Azza Karam

Part Six: Reflections

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A World of Inequalities

African Traditional Religion, Gender Equality, and Feminism

  • First Online: 21 May 2022

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gender equality in religion essays

  • Adepeju Johnson-Bashua 3  

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Gender inequality is one of the prevalent forms of societal problems hindering the progress of African societies and this is hinged on the rigid customs and traditions of the people. The intersection of culture, religion, and gender in the context of African philosophy has produced a clash between women’s right to non-discrimination and their right to freedom of religious practice because gender roles are primarily constructed through religion and culture. The central argument of this chapter is that gender relations from the standpoint of African traditional religion are complementary. This chapter aims to demystify gender stereotypes that convey African religion as strictly masculine and supports cultural practices that hinder women from participating fully in the development of contemporary Africa.

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Johnson-Bashua, A. (2022). African Traditional Religion, Gender Equality, and Feminism. In: Aderibigbe, I.S., Falola, T. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of African Traditional Religion. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-89500-6_23

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Gender Inequality: On the Influence of Culture and Religion Essay

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Gender inequality is an issue that prevails both in the Western and the non-Western worlds. Gender studies researchers are eager to develop a framework that would explain the systematic oppression of women globally. Some scholars find culture and religion to be contributing factors, thereby distinguishing between morally superior and inferior states. These researchers tend to believe that the culture of Muslim and African countries tends to be harmful and limiting to women. However, others argue that such an interpretation is dangerous as it leads to the cultural appropriation that divides women. Therefore, to understand more about the topic, it is essential to study the issues from various perspectives and find the connection of the discourse to other gender-related problems and theories.

In their book, Kristof and WuDunn (2009) explored whether Islam is representative of misogynistic views and beliefs. The authors argue that the Muslim religion and worldview are designed to empower females (Kristof & WuDunn, 2009). Historically, after Islam was introduced, women’s rights were primarily improved in the region, as the instances of female infanticide dropped significantly. Moreover, women started to be treated equally within the family and outside of it, as they were able to own property (Kristof & WuDunn, 2009). However, the Koran endorses certain aspects of gender-based discrimination, and various Muslim feminist scholars are advocating against many inequalities with their societies while still quoting the Koran.

Furthermore, the article by DasGupta (2012) criticizes the film Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women because various individuals misunderstood it, as the movie was often unethical. Some of the problems that DasGupta identified were a lack of representation of actual victims, but the focus was instead on the white male reporter and the actors. Thus, it ended up being used to turn women from the Western world against women from Islamic countries (DasGupta, 2012). The author believes that such rhetoric, when coming from the women from the Global North, symbolizes imperialism, misogyny, xenophobia, and racism that was projected on the way women look. The article by Molyneux (1985) examines the aftermath of the Nicaraguan revolution and its effects on women’s interests. The author notes that it is hard to determine the direct impact of the uprising on policymaking (Molyneux, 1985). Overall, the Sandinistas have certainly contributed to an appropriate representation of women’s interests, which brought in the improvement of women’s quality of living.

Lastly, in her article, Narayan (1998) argues that contemporary feminists reconsider the connection that gender and other minority groups have between each other as opposed to gender essentialism. The division is primarily based upon the idea that essentialists only consider a small number of women, which tend to be white, heterosexual, and middle class (Narayan, 1998). This one-sided approach is problematic because it leaves little space for women from minority groups to be heard inside and outside of the feminist community. This results in disproportional attention from the media outlets and lawmakers, giving little chance for different women to achieve their needs, leading to a division of Western and non-Western women within the movement.

Moreover, the idea of cultural essentialism is considered to be harmful to the feminist movement in general because it shifts the blame, making certain cultures responsible for sexism and discrimination. This approach of understanding sexism might be detrimental because men in the Western world are given the idea that there is no discrimination in their countries. After all, sexism is only a product of a non-Western region (Narayan, 1998). Moreover, this worldview is limiting the perception of misogyny. It does not take into consideration other factors that are involved in the issue, such as political background and history of the area.

I like that the topics of these readings are focused on the aspect of gender equality that many people choose to avoid. However, I did not favor that the texts were mostly representing the negative aspects of cultural essentialism, so the discussion felt less balanced. Before reading these materials, I was not aware of the negative consequences of evaluating gender-related issues from the perspective of culture. The movement that should be empowering females globally might be limiting and harmful to some parts of the world because of the misconceptions of different religious believes and community traditions. The developing world is changing, as the African continent is experiencing the aftermath of revolutions, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries are introducing reforms connected to gender rights. Therefore, it is crucial to differentiate between the religion, culture, and political structure of different parts of the world while evaluating gender inequalities in the region.

In conclusion, gender inequality has been subject to various interpretations and theories. Some consider religion and culture to influence the role that women have in certain societies, while others believe that such a worldview is harmful as it contributes to cultural essentialism. The former explains that colonialism leads to a misinterpretation of the actual causes of misogyny, racism, and other factors contributing to the systematic oppression of minority groups. Therefore, distinguishing between more and less superior cultures only leads to overall prejudice and intolerance.

DasGupta, S. (2012). “Your women are oppressed, but ours are awesome”: How Nicholas Kristof and Half the Sky use women against each other . Racialicious.

Kristof, N. D., & WuDunn, S. (2009). Half the sky: Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide . Alfred A. Knopf.

Molyneux, M. (1985). Mobilization without emancipation? Women’s interests, the state, and revolution in Nicaragua. Feminist Studies, 11 (2), 227-254. Web.

Narayan, U. (1998). Essence of culture and a sense of history: A feminist critique of cultural essentialism . Hypatia , 13 (2), 86–106.

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The Review of Religions

Gender Equality in Islam

gender equality in religion essays

Farhan Iqbal, Canada

A lot of discussions take place nowadays about gender equality in Islam. Much is criticized in Islam regarding the treatment of the genders. Quranic verses and Ahadith are pointed out where the tone in which the two genders are addressed is different and in cases like inheritance or giving testimony, the practical teaching is pointed out to be differentiating between the genders. In this article, I will explore these issues in a broad light, assessing what the Islamic teachings regarding men and women are, without going into any specific commandments, phrases, or teachings. In essence, I will address the general question:  Does Islam discriminate against women or men in its teachings?

Ex-Muslims and atheists, particularly, raise the allegation that Islam discriminates against women, and they have done so in numerous online posts, YouTube videos, and podcasts. In fact, this is one of their main points of contention regarding Islam. 

It should be clear from the outset, the Islam champions the equality of men and women. The Fifth Caliph, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) unequivocally states in light of Qur’anic teachings,

‘where the Qur’an says “created therefrom its mate” it signifies that Allah Ta’alah [God the Exalted] has made men and women in the same way and it cannot be said that one is dominant over the other.’ [i]

Why are rights sought from men?

It is indeed strange to see that some women who seek such rights are asking  men to grant such rights. Commenting on this, His Holiness (aba) once said: 

‘Further, another characteristic of this era, is that women have sought their rights from men and, as a result, some men have also formed groups in order to promote the rights of women. However, Ahmadi women should ask themselves that, who are men to bestow rights upon them when their Creator, Allah the Almighty, has Himself bestowed upon them all that they need and desire? They should understand that Allah has granted them true equality based on logic and wisdom. Indeed, the way in which women have been described in the Holy Qur’an, and the way in which it has established their rights, is completely unique and not found in any other religious scripture. [ii]

What is equality?’

In order to understand this issue, we also have to determine what it really means to be equal? Are we talking about  absolute  equality when it comes to gender relations? If we are talking about absolute equality, it must be clear that many (perhaps, all) atheists, secularists, and feminists do  not propose absolute equality of genders. Virtually everyone concedes that the two genders need to be treated differently in at least some life activities. Take sports for instance. If absolute equality was the goal in sports, we would be having tournaments with men and women playing together or against each other. But this is not the case at all, as  sex verification tests take place to ensure there is no  inequality by having a man pretending to be a woman playing in a given sport. Here, “equality” would be defined as women playing against women for a level-playing field. Had equality been  absolute , such tests would not have existed. Their existence shows that all of us are agreed that  nature has given  different  tendencies, aptitudes, strengths and personalities, to men and women . 

Now, let us take a more specific example that is also related to sports:  Physical strength . In this regard, it would be wrong to say that  all men are stronger than women, but it would be correct to say that men  in general are  stronger than women , given that the term “strength” here is being used to refer to physiological, muscular strength and not to other kinds of strengths like dealing with trauma, surviving illness, etc. where  women are in fact stronger . Hence, if men entered into sports competitions against women, they would have an unfair advantage. The issue is not then one of gender equality in the  absolute sense. Instead, it is an issue of gender equality in the  best sense. 

What that means is that it must be acknowledged that each gender has strengths and weaknesses that may or may not overlap. In certain respects, one gender has an advantage over the other, while in other respects, the other gender has the advantage. As one psychiatrist, Dr. Neel Burton, puts it, ‘biological advantages and disadvantages are more or less equally distributed between the sexes.’ [iii] In spite of these differences, God declares in the Holy Quran: 

وَ مَنۡ یَّعۡمَلۡ مِنَ الصّٰلِحٰتِ مِنۡ ذَکَرٍ اَوۡ اُنۡثٰی وَ ہُوَ مُؤۡمِنٌ فَاُولٰٓئِکَ یَدۡخُلُوۡنَ الۡجَنَّۃَ وَ لَا یُظۡلَمُوۡنَ نَقِیۡرًا 

‘But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven, and shall not be wronged even as much as the little hollow in the back of a date-stone’  [4:125]

In other words, as far as one’s spirituality and relationship with God is concerned, there is indeed absolute equality between the genders. 

His Holiness (aba) explains:

‘Whether due to a superiority complex or an inferiority complex, at times, men have considered themselves to be intrinsically different to women or women have considered themselves inherently different to men. However, the Holy Qur’an has categorically refuted this concept by saying that men and women are of the same kind. It has clarified that men and women have the same feelings and emotions, similarly as each man will be accountable before Allah for his deeds, so will each woman also be held accountable for her acts before God.’ [iv]

Understanding Gender Roles

What many see as  inequality between the genders in Islam is actually  equality in the best form . Due to the fact that women are born with the ability to give birth to children, and are naturally better equipped to care for a newborn’s needs, Islam has assigned them a more central role in terms of the upbringing of children. This does not mean that men do not have any role in this regard. It only means that the father has a supportive role while the mother has the primary role and responsibility in taking care of young children.

Conversely, Islam assigns the role of supporting the family financially on the husband/father, and the husband bears the heavy responsibility of ensuring that the family is well taken care of. This is laid out in the following verse of the Quran: 

وَ لَہُنَّ مِثۡلُ الَّذِیۡ عَلَیۡہِنَّ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِ ۪ وَ لِلرِّجَالِ عَلَیۡہِنَّ دَرَجَۃٌ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ عَزِیۡزٌ حَکِیۡمٌ

Explaining this verse, the Fourth Caliph Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) writes, ‘ And they (the women) have rights similar and equal to those (of men) over them in equity;  (i.e., for women, there are exactly equal rights as for men, as men have rights upon women. There is thus total equality and there is no difference whatsoever between the fundamental human rights of women and men.)  But men have a degree of advantage over them. And Allah is Mighty and Wise’  [2:229] . [v] What is that advantage? That is in terms of their responsibility as breadwinners, as the Quran says, ‘Men are guardians over women because Allah has made some of them excel others, and because they (men) spend of their wealth’ [4:35]. This teaching does not give any special privileges or rights to men as their responsibilities are greater. If anything, this teaching seems to be harsher for men, and makes life easier and more convenient for women. 

Regardless, in no way does Islam determine that the specification of responsibilities is a means for determining superiority or inferiority between genders, as His Holiness (aba) elaborates,

‘Both men and women have been given differing roles, however, this should not be misunderstood to mean that women are incapable of understanding the responsibilities placed upon men. This idea of differing responsibilities is entirely normal and according to nature. Even amongst men, there are differences that exist, whereby people have differing skill-sets and abilities. For instance, some men are trained as doctors, others become engineers, teachers, scientists or a range of other professions and jobs. Yet, no matter how skilled a doctor is, he is not superior to the other professions and in other fields as well and vice versa.’ [vi]

Islam grant true equality

Not only has Islam brought to light teachings on gender equality, it has championed them in every respect. For example, at the time of  Nikah [the Islamic marriage ceremony] it is incumbent upon the man to give a fair dowry to his wife. Further to that, whereas the rights to inheritance for non-Muslim women is a relatively new concept, it was a right explained by Islam 1400 years ago. Yet, even further to any sort of monetary equality is equality with regards to a commodity which is far greater, as His Holiness (aba) states,

‘at a time when girls were generally deprived of education, Islam championed their right to learning and categorically stated that every girl should be provided education and the means to better herself.’

But perhaps the greatest beauty of Islam’s teachings on gender equality is in the finer matters; the intricacies of it’s teachings. His Holiness (aba) elaborates, 

‘Islam has even guided us on the smallest matters and turned our attention towards true equality in all matters. For example, Islam teaches that if a mother is breastfeeding her child, it is for both her and her husband to decide together when is the right time to transition away from breastfeeding. No other religion has guided its followers and enlightened them in the way that Islam has.’ [vii]

Who serves whom? 

Further to its establishment of gender equality, the Holy Qur’an, in fact, places an esteemed responsibility upon men to provide for, and take care of women to every extent of their ability. It is stated in the Holy Qur’an:

وَ عَلَی الۡمَوۡلُوۡدِ لَہٗ رِزۡقُہُنَّ وَ کِسۡوَتُہُنَّ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِ

That is, it is the responsibility of the husband to provide  all the needs of his wife in terms of clothing, food, welfare, etc.. The Promised Messiah (as) elaborates that while the man has been bestowed certain abilities that lay this responsibility on him, he is also taught to treat his wife with the utmost kindness. He writes: 

‘The Holy Qur’an enjoins that if a man has given his wife a mountain of gold as a gesture of his affection and kindness, he is not supposed to take it back in case of divorce. This shows the respect and honour Islam gives to a woman; in fact, men are in certain respects like their servants. They have been commanded in the Holy Qur’an: 

وَ عَاشِرُوۡہُنَّ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِ

i.e., consort with your wives in such a manner that every reasonable person can see how kind and gentle you are to your wife.’ [viii]

In light of this quotation, it can easily be deduced that the Promised Messiah (as) is essentially arguing that the biological differences between men and women give them certain advantages and disadvantages over the other gender, not unlike what biologists and psychologists already acknowledge. However, at the end of the day, those advantages and disadvantages even out and each is treated equally, in the best possible sense. 

It is of interest to note that the Promised Messiah (as) has pointed out that the responsibility that Islam lays on the husband is so heavy that it makes him like a servant of his wife. What greater honour could Islam have given to women? Which religion or philosophy places the woman on such a high pedestal? The original wording of the Promised Messiah (as) is: 

اس سے ظاہر ہے کہ اسلام میں عورتوں کی کس قدر عزت کی گئی ہے ایک طور سے تو مردوں کو عورتوں کا نوکر ٹھہرایا گیا ہے

In other words, this teaching of Islam shows the tremendous amount of respect and dignity that is granted to women in Islam. In one way, the men are taught to be like servants of women. If anything, this teaching can be argued to have placed men at a disadvantage, a far cry from suggesting that women are being mistreated here. In essence, Islam respects the different capacities and abilities of men and women, and provides them roles that are best suited for them. 

The man’s role then is to be the breadwinner and provider of the family, while the woman’s role is to ensure the family unit is strengthened and children are brought up in the best environment. These are the primary roles of men and women, which of course does not mean that their other roles should be completely dismissed. As their primary roles are being fulfilled, women can work in a profession of their choice if they wish to earn a personal income. Similarly, men should play their part in the proper upbringing of children and providing their family the best treatment, as the Holy Prophet (sa) said: 

‘The best among you is the one who is best in treatment of his family’

About the Author:  Imam Farhan Iqbal is a missionary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He received his degree in Islamic Theology and Comparative Religions in July 2010 from Jamia Ahmadiyya Canada (The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s training seminary for missionaries.). He has served as an Imam for the Baitul Islam Mosque in Vaughan, Canada, for 5 years. He is currently serving as Imam of the Baitun Naseer Mosque, Ottawa, Canada. Imam Farhan has represented the Community in various interfaith events, radio programs discussing various matters of faith, and is co-host of the podcast The Conviction Project. He has also hosted several live and recorded programs on MTA (Muslim Television Ahmadiyya). He has co-authored 3 books, namely, Understanding Islam, The Quest of a Curious Muslim and With Love to Muhammad sa , the Khatam-un-Nabiyin.

[i] https://rorenglish.wpengine.com/13446/womens-rights-and-equality/

[ii] https://rorenglish.wpengine.com/13762/the-high-status-of-women-in-islam-2/

[iii] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201207/the-battle-the-sexes

[iv] https://rorenglish.wpengine.com/13762/the-high-status-of-women-in-islam-2/

[v] Islam’s Response to Contemporary Issues, pages 93-94

[vi] https://rorenglish.wpengine.com/13762/the-high-status-of-women-in-islam-2/

[viii] Ibid, pages 315-316

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Maasha Allah. So insightful and practical. May Allah the Almighty continue to shower His choicest blessings and understanding upon us all

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A Level Philosophy & Religious Studies

Gender and society

OCR Christianity

Introduction

  Gender roles refer to the psychological traits, place in society, and place in home life that a culture associates with male and female. Being a man or a woman comes with expectations attached to it about how a person ought to behave and the kind of life they ought to aspire to living.

The traditional view of gender roles are that men should be active in the world while women should be submissive to male authority and dedicated to homemaking and bringing up children.

These gender roles were seen as natural and therefore good either because God designed human nature to flourish when following them, or evolution designed males and females to be suited to different types of roles.

Feminists argue that gender roles are to some degree socially constructed, though they disagree amongst themselves about that degree. That being the case, it is wrong for society to push gender expectations on people. People should be free to do what they want with their life, so long as they aren’t hurting others. Gender roles being present everywhere in society manipulates people into thinking that they are natural which makes people accept them, go along with them and even believe them.

The result has been a cultural battle between feminists and traditionalists over their opposing views of gender and the opposing views on men and women’s places in society and family that follow.

Traditionalists see feminists as irrationally attempting to deny the reality of their own nature regarding what would make them happy.

Feminists see traditionalism as a man-made ideology which manipulates women into accepting the social role that it serves the interests of men for them to have.

Liberal feminism is the view that men and women should be equal in their rights and opportunities in society.

Radical feminism is the view that equal rights is not enough to guarantee equality because that does nothing to address or undo the cultural impact of thousands of years of oppression caused by gender roles. For equality to be achieved our culture needs to be challenged and changed.

Gender Traditionalism is the view that traditional gender roles are natural and that human life is best when following them.

Traditional Christian gender roles

In Genesis, Adam is created first and Eve is created from a part of Adam. It also says Eve was created to be Adam’s ‘helper’.

Augustine interprets this as meaning that a man by himself contains the imagio dei , but a woman does not. Only when combined with husband as his helper can a woman be in the image of God.

Eve’s was the first to fall into sin. Her punishment was pain in childbirth and that her husband will “rule over you” (Genesis 3:16)

St Paul says that because of this, women should not have authority over a man and can be saved through becoming mothers:

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one who was deceived, it was the woman … But women will be saved through childbearing”. (1 Timothy 2:12).

St Paul is also clear about this authority point within the family unit, stating that wives must ‘submit’ to their husbands:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands as you do the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church … Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the world” (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Aquinas said that this submission of wives to husbands is actually for their “own benefit and good” and required for “good order” in the family, since men are wiser and more rational than women.

Feminist biblical criticism

Feminist biblical criticism is the feminist approach to the Bible. It typically takes the liberal view of biblical inspiration.

Biblical Patriarchy is a key concept in feminist biblical criticism. It is the idea that the Bible is man-made for the purpose of subjugating women. If a man tells a woman to submit to a certain gender role, that’s not persuasive, but if that man tells the woman that the creator of the universe wants her to, that is quite persuasive, especially if both the man and woman actually believe in that God.

The consequence is that the Bible, or at least the sexist parts of it, are not the perfect word of God but written by men to further the interests of men. The idea is not that patriarchy is some secret conspiracy. Men, like all humans, have a tendency for self-interest. As Hume points out, reason is a slave of the passions. Men will therefore be subconsciously drawn to ideology that serves their interests. The view that men’s rightful place is being active in the world while women support them by being passive in the home, appeals to the self-interest of men. They therefore tend to support it, just as any group of humans would tend to support something which benefits them. When the Bible came to be written, it felt only natural to its authors to include verses that reflected their subscription to a patriarchal ideology.

Traditional Christians might respond that that the Bible is God’s inspired word. If God wants men and women to be different, then that’s what God wants. Of course, it can look like a conspiracy when you consider that all of the people in charge of Christianity throughout history have been men, but that’s how it would look even if it were truly God’s wish!

They might argue that women who reject these bible passages are essentially acting like Eve did when she disobeyed God. All humans are called to a high standard by God, but many prefer to disobey and disbelieve rather than submit to it.

Liberal feminist theology

would respond that the Bible is not the perfect word of God. It is full of errors and therefore requires re-interpretation

The liberal approach to the Bible views it as a product of the human mind, not the perfect word of God. It began during the enlightenment period where scientific, historical and literary critique began of the Bible. The Bible was shown to contain scientific and historical errors as well as literary evidence of the human author’s influence on the text.

This suggests that the scriptures were written by witnesses of God’s divine events in history like the incarnation, or times when God communicated or revealed himself. What came to be written down as a result however was merely what those people took away from such events, or from hearing about such events from the testimony of those who witnessed them. The words of the Bible are therefore just human interpretations of what the authors felt and understood of God’s revelation. The Bible is a human record of divine events.

The bible thus reflects the cultural and historical context of its human authors and requires interpretation and continual re-interpretation to ensure its relevance. It is not the perfect word of God. Liberal Christians will point out that Jesus himself seemed to be progressive in that in the sermon on the mount he modified some of the old testament laws. Christians should follow this example and continually update and improve Christian theology and ethics.

Ruether’s feminist theology  

Ruether would respond that the Bible contains patriarchal verses, but also verses that are in favour of equality. The Bible is therefore inconsistent on this issue and cannot itself coherently support the traditional patriarchal view of gender roles.

Golden thread argument

Post-Christian feminist theologians

Post-Christian feminist theologians (E.g. Daly & Hampson) however would regard the patriarchy in the Bible as evidence that the Christian God doesn’t exist because it’s man-made, which you can tell by the fact that the Bible gives men what is in their view a superior position to women. God did not make man, men made God.

Mulieris Dignitatum

  In 1988 Pope John Paul II wrote an open letter called ‘Mulieris Dignitatum’ – on the dignity of women – to defend Christianity against the accusation of sexism. He argued that men and women have different but complimentary qualities and abilities due to the nature God designed them with. So, while men and women are different, they are both equally valuable and in fact need each other. This is a defence of Gender Traditionalism and a divinely designed biological essentialism. This suggests that Christianity and the Church is not sexist and that a male savior can save women.

JP II made two different arguments:

Mulieris Dignitatum argument 1: Motherhood is a woman’s telos; natural purpose. J P II argued that women are ‘naturally disposed to motherhood’. Both physically in that they have a womb and also psychologically in that motherhood creates a ‘special openness’ in a mother to their child such that mothers develop their self-giving abilities and compassion. So, the fulfilment and purpose of the female personality, especially that of compassion, comes from virginity and motherhood. This argument is based on Natural law reasoning about telos.

Feminists typically respond that the attempt to embed gender roles in telos is no different to biblical patriarchy. Just as the sexist parts of the Bible were either consciously or unconsciously invented by men for the perpetuation of male dominance, so too is the idea that God designed the telos of males and females to have different goals/inclinations. Feminists. As evidence, feminists point to anthropological study of different human civilisations, where it is found that there is a large degree of variation regarding gender roles between different cultures. If we had a telos that gave us a natural inclination to behave along particular gender roles, we should not expect to find the diversity of approaches to and views on gender that we do.

They conclude that the Christian attempt to insist that God created women with a telos for motherhood is just a cultural invention by men in order to encourage women to adopt the passive social role of childrearing in the home so men can be active in the world and thus perpetuate their overrepresentation in important roles of power in our society (e.g. politics, business, etc).

Simone de Beauvoir also rejects the idea that motherhood is a woman’s telos. De Beauvoir was a radical feminist who was an existentialist like Sartre. Existentialists rejected telos. Sartre argued that there was no objective purpose/telos because “existence precedes essence” meaning humans exist before they have a defined purpose and so have to subjectively define their purpose for themselves. Sartre’s argument was a psychological one, that people cling to fabricated notions of objective purpose like telos because they are afraid of the intensity of the freedom involved in having to create their own purpose, which Sartre thought led to feelings of abandonment (by God/objective reality), anguish (over the weight of being completely responsible for your actions) and despair (over our inability to act exactly as we’d like due to the constraints of the world). It’s much easier to believe in objective purpose than face that existential angst.

Mulieris Dignitatum argument 2: There are important and valued women in Christian history/theology. John Paul II also pointed out that there are many female European saints and that Jesus coming to earth was only possible because of a woman, Mary, which he suggests shows the important place of women in Christian theology. The claim is that Christianity can’t be sexist since there are women it holds in high regard.

Simone de Beauvoir argues that the Christian valuing of Mary shows that it is only through being a man’s “docile servant that she will be also a blessed saint” in Christianity.

Mary Daly makes a similar point to Beauvoir but drives it further. Daly argues Mary is portrayed as a passive empty ‘void waiting to be made by the male’. She argues that Mary is a ‘rape victim’ because ‘physical rape is not necessary when the mind/will/spirit has already been invaded’. The idea that God raped Mary might seem like a startling claim, however consider that there was no consent asked for, and even if there was consent consider the power difference between God and Mary, which would make God difficult to refuse and devalue any given consent. God is the ultimate Harvey Weinstein. So, Jesus’ mother Mary is indeed put on a pedestal by Christianity, but only to encourage women to become passive, submissive and obedient so that women would all the better become the sexual property of men.

Illustration of Daly’s point: when the catholic church say they like and respect Mary – that’s just like a slave owner saying they like and respect the subservient obedient slaves.

Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir is a radical feminist. She makes a Marxist style argument that religion is merely a tool of the male oppressor group which keeps women under control in their oppressed place with false promises that they will go to heaven if they obey and claiming that women are associated with sin and temptation for men due to the story of The Fall.

De Beauvoir claims that “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.” This means she thinks that gender roles and differences are the result of socialisation, not biology. The gender divide started for biological reasons but its perpetuation is cultural. Men are physically stronger than women who are hindered by pregnancy, but men turned that biological superiority into socio-cultural superiority by using their power to instil gender norms. She argued that girls and boys are the same until a certain age, but boys are then socially pressured and encouraged to avoid affection and emotion and girls are socially pressured to think the meaning of their life is marriage. Men are thought of as adults when they get their first job, women are thought of as adults when they become married. Girls spend their youth “consumed” by waiting for marriage, whereas no boy considers marriage his “fundamental project”.

De Beauvoir argues that men behave as if only women who stay at home are “clean” while the others are “easy marks”. She thinks most mothers are thereby ‘intimidated’ into becoming mothers, so not making a real choice for themselves. She argued that motherhood forces women to sacrifice their own desires and selves for the sake of child-rearing. Liberal feminism seeks to give women the same rights and choices as men, but de Beauvoir criticised this for being insufficient, because it did not address the entire history of cultural oppression which denied women a chance to participate in history to become people. It’s not enough to give women choices when it’s their personalities and by extension ability to make choices which has been stunted by oppression.

De Beauvoir argued that there is no female biological nature because all women are different.

Many feminists argue that capitalism is the cause of patriarchy and recommend socialism but de Beauvoir thought it was a deeper cultural issue than that. She argued that to truly combat patriarchy requires people to “destroy the concept of motherhood”. There is no maternal instinct; how a mother feels about her child depends on the social context. As evidence for this de Beauvoir pointed out that many mothers dislike or resent their child in certain contexts. She attributes this to women being socially pressured into motherhood.

Radical Feminists are too negative towards motherhood. Some radical feminists seem to think that any woman who chooses to be a mother is suffering from ‘internalised misogyny’, meaning that woman has not made a free choice but has been brainwashed by patriarchal society. Liberal feminists argue instead that women should be free to choose what they like, whether that is motherhood or not. Mary O’Brien is a naturalistic feminist who argued that motherhood can be a positive thing if women are in control of their choice to become a mother. O’Brien thought de Beauvoir devalued motherhood.

Radical feminists have a point however that women are brought up in an environment which makes them less likely to think of themselves as scientists or business people and more likely to think of themselves as mothers and housewives. Beauvoir states that if motherhood is genuinely chosen, it can be positive. The problem is that a genuine choice for motherhood is so difficult to cultivate due to the oppressive culture that existed in the 1940s.

Steven Pinker

Pinker is an atheist and scientist who argues for biological essentialism. He is in favour of liberal feminism, arguing that there should be political and social equality, freedom of choice for women and that we should eliminate violence and discrimination against women. However, Pinker is critical of radical feminism which he thinks believes in ‘ tabula rasa’ meaning ‘blank slate’ – the view that the mind is blank from birth containing no human nature, so there is no brain sexual dimorphism. The result of that would be zero innate cognitive differences between men and women. Pinker accuses radical feminism of holding this view for ideological reasons rather than a rational appreciation of the evidence of e.g. prenatal testosterone, so he claims it is against science. Pinker therefore expects a society freed from all sexism to still nonetheless lack a 50-50 split of men and women in all professions and social positions. This is because men and women, on average, have different temperaments, interests and goals.

Criticism of Pinker: There has been a long history of scientists being extremely unscientific in the pursuit of discrimination against women.

Pinker isn’t unscientific, however.  

Culture could explain Pinker’s data rather than biology: Temperament, interests and goals are indeed statistically different for men and women, but that does not prove they are innate. Society might condition men and women differently in those traits.

Trait difference by gender is discovered cross-culturally however.

But, so is oppression of women and therefore the social conditioning that follows from oppression could be the cause of the universality of gender roles.

“The gender paradox” is the name given to the statistically observed phenomenon that as gender equality increases in a society, the gender split in terms of the different lifestyle and profession choices men and women make also increases. Some argue this is best explained by biological essentialism.

Anne Oakley

Anne Oakley, a sociologist, interviewed women about motherhood. She concluded that the so-called ‘maternal instinct’ comes from culture rather than biology. This was based on her observations that women don’t instinctively know how to breastfeed and that the mothers who neglect their children were themselves often neglected as children. This suggests Paul 11 is wrong to think that God created women with a maternal instinct.

Oakley also discovered many women found it frustrating to be a stay-at-home mother. This corroborates de Beauvoir’s claim that women are forced to sacrifice their life goals to bring up their children which seems unfair – why is it not equally the responsibility of the man?

Alternative explanation of Oakley’s data : However, it could be that childhood neglect creates traumas which interfere with the maternal instinct. That would explain why neglectful mothers tended to have been neglected themselves by their maternal instinct having been interfered with.

Nonetheless , if the maternal instinct evolved then it might not come from God which means it loses its moral authoritative force as something that ‘should’ be enacted.  

Counter-point: Still, if it genuinely helps women to become developed then they may want to choose to embrace the maternal instinct. It may also cause them suffering to ignore it.

No one knows: The science of human nature is very controversial and it is extremely difficult to prove anything on either side of this debate.

Possible exam questions for gender & society

Easy Should official Christian teaching resist current secular views of gender? Have secular views of gender equality undermined Christian gender roles? Assess Christian teaching on the roles of men and women in the family and society. How successful have Christian responses to secular views about gender been?

Medium Is motherhood liberating or restricting? ‘Christian teaching on the gender roles in the family and society is sexist’ – How far do you agree? ‘Traditional Christian views on gender roles are more successful than secular views’ – Discuss. Critically assess the views expressed in Mulieris Dignitatem. Are Christian challenges to changing attitudes about gender convincing? “Christian thought and practice has been undermined by contemporary secular views on gender roles” – Discuss.

Hard Is the idea of family entirely culturally determined? Has Christianity successfully adapted to changing views on family and gender? “Christianity should accept different types of family than the traditional” – Discuss. “Challenging Christian practice regarding gender roles has not has any effect” – Discuss.

Quick links

Year 12 Christianity topics: Augustine. Death & afterlife. Knowledge of God’s existence. Person of Jesus. Christian moral principles. Christian moral action.

Year 13 Christianity topics: Pluralism & theology. Pluralism & society. Gender & society. Gender & theology. Secularism. Liberation theology. 

OCR Ethics OCR Philosophy OCR essay structure OCR list of possible exam questions

What does gender equality look like today?

Date: Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Progress towards gender equality is looking bleak. But it doesn’t need to.

A new global analysis of progress on gender equality and women’s rights shows women and girls remain disproportionately affected by the socioeconomic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, struggling with disproportionately high job and livelihood losses, education disruptions and increased burdens of unpaid care work. Women’s health services, poorly funded even before the pandemic, faced major disruptions, undermining women’s sexual and reproductive health. And despite women’s central role in responding to COVID-19, including as front-line health workers, they are still largely bypassed for leadership positions they deserve.

UN Women’s latest report, together with UN DESA, Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The Gender Snapshot 2021 presents the latest data on gender equality across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The report highlights the progress made since 2015 but also the continued alarm over the COVID-19 pandemic, its immediate effect on women’s well-being and the threat it poses to future generations.

We’re breaking down some of the findings from the report, and calling for the action needed to accelerate progress.

The pandemic is making matters worse

One and a half years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the toll on the poorest and most vulnerable people remains devastating and disproportionate. The combined impact of conflict, extreme weather events and COVID-19 has deprived women and girls of even basic needs such as food security. Without urgent action to stem rising poverty, hunger and inequality, especially in countries affected by conflict and other acute forms of crisis, millions will continue to suffer.

A global goal by global goal reality check:

Goal 1. Poverty

Globally, 1 in 5 girls under 15 are growing up in extreme poverty.

In 2021, extreme poverty is on the rise and progress towards its elimination has reversed. An estimated 435 million women and girls globally are living in extreme poverty.

And yet we can change this .

Over 150 million women and girls could emerge from poverty by 2030 if governments implement a comprehensive strategy to improve access to education and family planning, achieve equal wages and extend social transfers.

Goal 2. Zero hunger

Small-scale farmer households headed by women earn on average 30% less than those headed by men.

The global gender gap in food security has risen dramatically during the pandemic, with more women and girls going hungry. Women’s food insecurity levels were 10 per cent higher than men’s in 2020, compared with 6 per cent higher in 2019.

This trend can be reversed , including by supporting women small-scale producers, who typically earn far less than men, through increased funding, training and land rights reforms.

Goal 3. Good health and well-being

In the first year of the pandemic, there were an estimated additional 1.4 million additional unintended pregnancies in lower- and middle-income countries.

Disruptions in essential health services due to COVID-19 are taking a tragic toll on women and girls. In the first year of the pandemic, there were an estimated 1.4 million additional unintended pregnancies in lower and middle-income countries.

We need to do better .

Response to the pandemic must include prioritizing sexual and reproductive health services, ensuring they continue to operate safely now and after the pandemic is long over. In addition, more support is needed to ensure life-saving personal protection equipment, tests, oxygen and especially vaccines are available in rich and poor countries alike as well as to vulnerable population within countries.

Goal 4. Quality education

Half of all refugee girls enrolled in secondary school before the pandemic will not return to school.

A year and a half into the pandemic, schools remain partially or fully closed in 42 per cent of the world’s countries and territories. School closures spell lost opportunities for girls and an increased risk of violence, exploitation and early marriage .

Governments can do more to protect girls education .

Measures focused specifically on supporting girls returning to school are urgently needed, including measures focused on girls from marginalized communities who are most at risk.

Goal 5. Gender equality

Women are restricted from working in certain jobs or industries in almost 50% of countries.

The pandemic has tested and even reversed progress in expanding women’s rights and opportunities. Reports of violence against women and girls, a “shadow” pandemic to COVID-19, are increasing in many parts of the world. COVID-19 is also intensifying women’s workload at home, forcing many to leave the labour force altogether.

Building forward differently and better will hinge on placing women and girls at the centre of all aspects of response and recovery, including through gender-responsive laws, policies and budgeting.

Goal 6. Clean water and sanitation

Only 26% of countries are actively working on gender mainstreaming in water management.

In 2018, nearly 2.3 billion people lived in water-stressed countries. Without safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and menstrual hygiene facilities, women and girls find it harder to lead safe, productive and healthy lives.

Change is possible .

Involve those most impacted in water management processes, including women. Women’s voices are often missing in water management processes. 

Goal 7. Affordable and clean energy

Only about 1 in 10 senior managers in the rapidly growing renewable energy industry is a woman.

Increased demand for clean energy and low-carbon solutions is driving an unprecedented transformation of the energy sector. But women are being left out. Women hold only 32 per cent of renewable energy jobs.

We can do better .

Expose girls early on to STEM education, provide training and support to women entering the energy field, close the pay gap and increase women’s leadership in the energy sector.

Goal 8. Decent work and economic growth

In 2020 employed women fell by 54 million. Women out of the labour force rose by 45 million.

The number of employed women declined by 54 million in 2020 and 45 million women left the labour market altogether. Women have suffered steeper job losses than men, along with increased unpaid care burdens at home.

We must do more to support women in the workforce .

Guarantee decent work for all, introduce labour laws/reforms, removing legal barriers for married women entering the workforce, support access to affordable/quality childcare.

Goal 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Just 4% of clinical studies on COVID-19 treatments considered sex and/or gender in their research

The COVID-19 crisis has spurred striking achievements in medical research and innovation. Women’s contribution has been profound. But still only a little over a third of graduates in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics field are female.

We can take action today.

 Quotas mandating that a proportion of research grants are awarded to women-led teams or teams that include women is one concrete way to support women researchers. 

Goal 10. Reduced inequalities

While in transit to their new destination, 53% of migrant women report experiencing or witnessing violence, compared to 19% of men.

Limited progress for women is being eroded by the pandemic. Women facing multiple forms of discrimination, including women and girls with disabilities, migrant women, women discriminated against because of their race/ethnicity are especially affected.

Commit to end racism and discrimination in all its forms, invest in inclusive, universal, gender responsive social protection systems that support all women. 

Goal 11. Sustainable cities and communities

Slum residents are at an elevated risk of COVID-19 infection and fatality rates. In many countries, women are overrepresented in urban slums.

Globally, more than 1 billion people live in informal settlements and slums. Women and girls, often overrepresented in these densely populated areas, suffer from lack of access to basic water and sanitation, health care and transportation.

The needs of urban poor women must be prioritized .

Increase the provision of durable and adequate housing and equitable access to land; included women in urban planning and development processes.

Goal 12. Sustainable consumption and production; Goal 13. Climate action; Goal 14. Life below water; and Goal 15. Life on land

Women are finding solutions for our ailing planet, but are not given the platforms they deserve. Only 29% of featured speakers at international ocean science conferences are women.

Women activists, scientists and researchers are working hard to solve the climate crisis but often without the same platforms as men to share their knowledge and skills. Only 29 per cent of featured speakers at international ocean science conferences are women.

 And yet we can change this .

Ensure women activists, scientists and researchers have equal voice, representation and access to forums where these issues are being discussed and debated. 

Goal 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions

Women's unequal decision-making power undermines development at every level. Women only chair 18% of government committees on foreign affairs, defence and human rights.

The lack of women in decision-making limits the reach and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergency recovery efforts. In conflict-affected countries, 18.9 per cent of parliamentary seats are held by women, much lower than the global average of 25.6 per cent.

This is unacceptable .

It's time for women to have an equal share of power and decision-making at all levels.

Goal 17. Global partnerships for the goals

Women are not being sufficiently prioritized in country commitments to achieving the SDGs, including on Climate Action. Only 64 out of 190 of nationally determined contributions to climate goals referred to women.

There are just 9 years left to achieve the Global Goals by 2030, and gender equality cuts across all 17 of them. With COVID-19 slowing progress on women's rights, the time to act is now.

Looking ahead

As it stands today, only one indicator under the global goal for gender equality (SDG5) is ‘close to target’: proportion of seats held by women in local government. In other areas critical to women’s empowerment, equality in time spent on unpaid care and domestic work and decision making regarding sexual and reproductive health the world is far from target. Without a bold commitment to accelerate progress, the global community will fail to achieve gender equality. Building forward differently and better will require placing women and girls at the centre of all aspects of response and recovery, including through gender-responsive laws, policies and budgeting.

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A Thorough Look at the Declaration of Sentiments

This essay about the Declaration of Sentiments discusses its significance as a foundational document in the women’s rights movement in the United States. Drafted in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention, the Declaration outlined the systemic inequalities faced by women and demanded equal rights. It mirrored the Declaration of Independence, asserting that women deserved the same rights as men. Key issues addressed include women’s suffrage, legal inequality, lack of educational and employment opportunities, and societal double standards. The essay highlights the document’s impact on subsequent advocacy efforts and its enduring legacy in the fight for gender equality.

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The Declaration of Sentiments, drafted in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention, marks a pivotal moment in the history of women’s rights in the United States. Modeled after the Declaration of Independence, this document articulated the grievances and demands of women, highlighting the systemic inequalities they faced and calling for equal rights. Its creation and adoption were led by prominent activists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who sought to challenge the societal norms that relegated women to subordinate roles.

The document begins with a powerful preamble that mirrors the language of the Declaration of Independence, asserting that “all men and women are created equal.” This deliberate choice underscores the foundational belief that women deserve the same rights and opportunities as men. The preamble sets the stage for a series of grievances that detail the various ways in which women were oppressed and discriminated against in mid-19th century America.

One of the primary grievances outlined in the Declaration of Sentiments is the lack of women’s suffrage. The document condemns the fact that women were denied the right to vote, arguing that this exclusion from the political process left them without a voice in the laws that governed their lives. This call for women’s suffrage was revolutionary at the time and laid the groundwork for future movements that eventually secured this right with the 19th Amendment in 1920.

The Declaration also addresses the issue of legal inequality. It points out that women had no legal identity separate from their husbands, effectively rendering them invisible in the eyes of the law. Married women could not own property, enter into contracts, or earn wages in their own right. This lack of legal recognition deprived women of autonomy and economic independence, reinforcing their dependence on men.

Educational and employment opportunities for women were also significant concerns highlighted in the document. The Declaration criticizes the limited access to education for women, which restricted their intellectual and professional growth. It calls for equal opportunities in education and the workforce, arguing that women should be allowed to pursue any occupation and achieve financial independence. This demand for educational and professional equality was crucial in challenging the traditional roles assigned to women and advocating for their right to self-determination.

Furthermore, the Declaration of Sentiments addresses the double standards and moral expectations imposed on women. It condemns the societal norms that judged women harshly for behaviors deemed acceptable in men. This criticism extends to the religious sphere, where the document denounces the exclusion of women from church leadership roles and the interpretation of religious texts that justified women’s subordination.

The impact of the Declaration of Sentiments was profound, both in the immediate aftermath of the Seneca Falls Convention and in the broader context of the women’s rights movement. While it faced significant opposition and skepticism at the time, the document galvanized activists and provided a clear set of goals for the movement. It served as a blueprint for future advocacy, inspiring subsequent generations to continue the fight for gender equality.

In the years following its adoption, the Declaration of Sentiments influenced numerous other women’s rights conventions and reform efforts. It helped to frame the discourse around women’s rights and provided a rallying point for activists seeking to challenge the status quo. The issues raised in the document, such as suffrage, legal equality, and access to education and employment, remained central to the women’s rights movement for decades.

The legacy of the Declaration of Sentiments extends beyond the specific grievances it addressed. It represents a broader assertion of women’s humanity and their right to participate fully in all aspects of society. The document’s emphasis on equality, justice, and human dignity continues to resonate in contemporary discussions about gender equality and women’s rights.

In conclusion, the Declaration of Sentiments is a landmark document in the history of the women’s rights movement. Its eloquent articulation of the injustices faced by women and its bold demands for equality laid the foundation for subsequent advocacy and reform. The Declaration’s enduring legacy is a testament to the courage and vision of the women who drafted it and the generations of activists who have continued to fight for the rights and opportunities it championed. By understanding and appreciating the significance of the Declaration of Sentiments, we can better appreciate the ongoing struggle for gender equality and the progress that has been made over the past century and a half.

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Guest Essay

The Gender Gap Is Now a Gender Gulf

A dense audience, mainly made up of men, many wearing red Trump hats.

By Thomas B. Edsall

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C., on politics, demographics and inequality.

Regardless of who wins the presidential election, the coalitions supporting President Biden and Donald Trump on Nov. 5, 2024, will be significantly different from those on Nov. 3, 2020.

On May 22, Split Ticket , a self-described “group of political and election enthusiasts” who created a “website for their mapping, modeling and political forecasting,” published “ Cross Tabs at a Crossroads : Six Months Out.”

Split Ticket aggregated “subgroup data from the cross tabs of 12 reputable national 2024 general election polls” and compared them with 2020 election results compiled by Pew, Catalist and A.P.

Combining data from multiple surveys allowed Split Ticket to analyze large sample sizes and reduce margins of error for key demographic groups.

The Split Ticket report identified the groups in which Trump and Biden are gaining or losing ground.

In Biden’s case, the analysis shows the president falling behind his 2020 margins among Black voters (down 23 percentage points); urban voters (down 15 points); independents, including so-called partisan leaners (down 14); Latinos (down 13); moderates (down 13); and voters ages 18 to 29 (down 12).

“These losses,” the report noted, “reflect withheld support for Biden, as Trump has gained less than what Biden has lost to voters declaring for undecided/other. In other words, they’re unhappy with Biden, but have not realigned with Trump.”

Biden did not fully make up for his losses with gains in other groups: Republicans (plus 3 percentage points); rural voters (plus 3); voters 65 and over (plus 2); voters 50 to 64 (plus 1) and white, non-college voters (plus 1).

Even though April was one of Trump’s worst months in terms of Black support, the study found that

among Black voters, in aggregate Trump is outperforming his 2020 margin by a whopping 23 points. Relative to 2020, Biden has lost more support (–16 points) than Trump has gained (+7 points), with the remaining 9 percent moving to undecided/other. If Trump matches his April polling vote share (15 percent) among Black voters, it would be nearly double what he received in 2020, and would be the strongest performance by a Republican presidential nominee in nearly 50 years.

Among Latino voters, according to Split Ticket,

Trump is outperforming his 2020 margin by 13 points. Once again, compared to 2020, Biden has lost more support (–9 points) than Trump has gained (+3 points). If Trump ends up winning 40 percent of Latino voters, it would match the highest performance by a Republican presidential candidate in the last 50+ years, George W. Bush in 2004.

White voters were far less volatile, according to Split Ticket:

Biden has dropped by 4 points, and Trump has dropped by 3 points, with the balance moving to undecided/other. Among white college grads, Biden’s vote share has dropped by five points since 2020, while Trump’s has dropped by 1.5 points. Among white non-college grads, Biden’s vote share has dropped by three points since 2020, while Trump’s has dropped by four points.

Much of the focus this year has been on young male voters, who are one of the critical wild cards of 2024.

“Young men have repeatedly been found in recent years to be apathetic toward voting , with young women in recent election cycles constantly turning out to vote at higher rates than young men,” Elaine Kamarck and Jordan Muchnick , both of the Brookings Institution, wrote in a recent essay, “ The Growing Gender Gap Among Young People .”

Kamarck and Muchnick noted the conflicting possibilities: “There are more women than men in the country; they make up a larger portion of the electorate; they are more motivated to vote, and vote blue.”

But, they added, the disaffection of young men has potentially significant implications:

We may be in the opening stages of a social backlash to the progressive social movements of the past decades. When significant societal change occurs, some may feel left behind or cheated. Right now, young men fall into that camp.

They added, “If the aim is to build a fairer equitable future where all feel they have a role and are respected, the polling of Gen Z appears to show we are moving in the opposite direction.”

Two years ago, the Survey Center on American Life , a project of the American Enterprise Institute, conducted a poll, the results of which provide insight into the defection of young men of all races and ethnicities from the Democratic Party.

The survey, Politics, Sex and Sexuality : The Growing Gender Divide in American Life, asked 2007 adults 18 and over a series of questions about masculinity and femininity. Men were asked to define themselves as “very masculine,” “somewhat masculine” or “not too or not at all masculine.”

Among Republican men, a majority, 54 percent, described themselves as “very masculine,” 39 percent as “somewhat masculine” and 7 percent as “not too or not at all masculine.”

Among Democratic men, 33 percent said they were “very masculine,” 53 percent “somewhat masculine” and 12 percent “not too or not at all masculine.”

The authors of an analysis of the survey, Daniel A. Cox , Beatrice Lee and Dana Popky , all of the American Enterprise Institute, found that in the case of women and self-defined femininity, there was only a modest partisan division: “Women across the political spectrum are roughly as likely to identify as feminine. Roughly four in 10 Democratic women (42 percent) and Republican women (39 percent) say they are traditionally feminine.”

In other words, self-defined femininity does not differentiate Republican and Democratic women, but self-defined masculinity reflects a key partisan division among men.

Where do two crucial Democratic constituencies, Black and Hispanic men, fit in? It turns out that in terms of self-defined masculinity, they are far closer to Republican men than to Democratic men, according to Cox, Lee and Popky: “A majority of Black men (55 percent) and Hispanic men (52 percent) say they are very manly or masculine.” On this measure, there is statistically virtually no difference between Republican men, Hispanic men and Black men.

In a June 2023 essay, Cox asks in the headline, “ Are Young Men Becoming Conservative? ” He points out that the trends among young men are less easily explained than the trends among young women.

Young men, Cox wrote, “have not had the same type of formative experiences as young women.” Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended the constitutional right to abortion,

was a political accelerant for young women. The #MeToo movement and Donald Trump’s election were seminal political events in the lives of many young women. These experiences continue to shape the outlook of young women who increasingly perceive society as hostile to women and believe that the experiences of other women in the U.S. are connected to what happens in their own lives.

There were, in Cox’s view, no “comparable experiences for young men.”

Without formative political experiences, Cox argued,

what emerges is a type of political apathy. Young men are less engaged on key political issues. For young women, three issues are uniquely salient: climate change, gun policy and abortion. Young men express far less interest in these issues. Young men seem to care more about economic issues — inflation is high on their list of priorities — but they appear less invested in culture war topics or issues that do not affect them directly. Despite being generally supportive of abortion rights, it is hardly a priority for young men. In a poll we released late last year, young men were approximately 30 points less likely than young women to say abortion was a critical concern (32 percent versus 61 percent, respectively).

All of this led Cox to ask:

Are young men adversaries or allies when it comes to issues such as gender equality? Young men appear to be quiescent when it comes to ceding the historic advantages men have enjoyed in American society. Whether this is due to the fact they believe these changes are just and fair or simply inevitable is unclear.

At the same time, “nearly half of young men believe that American society has become ‘too soft and feminine.’”

The growing gender divide between young men and women in the United States is part of a decade-long international trend, according to a survey of 300,000 men and women in 20 mostly advanced nations.

In “ Polarization Extends Into Gender via Young Adults Who Lose Hope ,” Glocalities , a marketing firm based in the Netherlands, found that

young women have significantly strengthened their embrace of liberal and anti-patriarchal values over the last decade while young men increasingly are lagging behind in this trend. In 2014 older men (aged 55 to 65) were the most conservative and younger men (18 to 24) were significantly more liberal; almost 10 years later, young men have become even less liberal than older men.

Both here and abroad, Glocalities reported:

Feelings of hopelessness, societal disillusionment and rebelling against cosmopolitan values partly explain the rise of radical right anti-establishment parties. Now young men are stagnating in their progress toward liberal values. The radical right in many countries increasingly resonates with disillusioned conservative segments among them, who do not feel that establishment parties are serving their interests. This trend has already impacted elections in Poland, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands and South Korea. If policy priorities and electoral strategies remain unchanged, this trend will likely impact the European elections in June, the U.S. presidential elections in November and more to come.

While feelings of hopelessness are common among young people of both sexes, the sense of despair is pushing males and females in opposing directions. Glocalities’ survey determined that there is a growing “anti-authoritarian trend among young women” who

are more worried about sexual harassment, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect and mental health problems. These worries explain the increasing anti-patriarchal trend among young women and, for example also the rise of the #MeToo movement since it went viral in 2017. Young women demand better prospects in combination with social justice and equality at home, in the workplace and beyond. Globally, young women are likely the most liberal group in human history.

Young men, in contrast, are “more focused on competition, bravery and honor” and “are more patriarchal in their orientations overall when compared with women and even when compared with older men.” The radical right “increasingly resonates with conservative segments among young men.”

One section of the Glocalities study focused on the United States. The study measured trends from 2014 to 2023 among age cohorts of men and women on two scales — one on hope versus despair, the other on control and patriarchy versus freedom and autonomy.

The despair-versus-hope dimension was based on questions “about feeling let down by society and feelings of pessimism and disillusionment about the future.” The control-versus-freedom dimension was “based on a set of strongly differentiating values regarding support for patriarchy versus support for emancipative values including gender role flexibility, gay marriage and unmarried couples cohabitating.”

The survey found that over the past decade, men over the age of 55 became happier and their values moved from controlling and patriarchal toward freedom and autonomy. Men ages 34 to 54 basically stayed in place. Men 18 to 34 moved decisively toward despair and modestly toward patriarchal values (and away from emancipatory values).

Women of all ages became stronger in their belief in freedom and autonomy. Young women, however, stood out, moving almost as much as young men from hope to despair.

I asked Martijn Lampert , the research director of Glocalities, to elaborate on developments over the past 10 years in the United States, including the influence of the #MeToo movement. He replied in an email, “The #MeToo movement globally was a strong driver for young women to become more liberal and emancipated, but we do not consider the #MeToo movement specifically as a driver for young men to shift to the right.”

Instead, in the case of young men,

we interpret the stagnating progress of men on the control-freedom axis to be caused by factors that affect their ambitions first and foremost. Given that their values focus a lot on success, status, recognition et cetera, the current situation does not facilitate this ambition. Because of this they not only become more pessimistic (as we see happening in the United States even more than in Europe), but also become more susceptible to populist forces and a “politics of bravery.’’

Young men, Lampert continued, “are not necessarily conservative in a traditional sense (and in the United States, young men are still more freedom oriented than older men) but are more geared toward ambition, bravery, honor, innovation, loyalty, success, wealth and luxury.”

While young men, in Lampert’s view, are not “a prime target for Trump or the MAGA movement, because Trump positions himself as culturally conservative while young men are still more emancipated and liberal, there certainly are young men who resonate with Trump’s bravery, ambition and his emphasis on success, honor and loyalty.”

What does the future hold?

“Based on the research outcomes, we expect the conflict between emancipatory/feminist values and patriarchal beliefs among young men and women to become more intense.”

Melissa Deckman , the chief executive of P.R.R.I. and author of the forthcoming book “ The Politics of Generation Z : How the Youngest Voters Will Shape Our Democracy,” described by email what she found in her research: First and foremost, “Gen Z women are unique from older generations of women in that they are more engaged in politics than their male counterparts.”

But, Deckman added, “while Gen Z women are fiercely feminist and progressive, Gen Z men are more ideologically diverse. P.R.R.I.’s study on Gen Z shows a gender gap, certainly, on ideology, but Gen Z men are still slightly more likely to self-identify as liberal than conservative.”

Deckman provided The Times with P.R.R.I. poll data showing that among young voters ages 18 to 25, women identify themselves as decisively Democratic (41 percent, compared with 18 percent Republican) and firmly liberal (47 percent, compared with 24 conservative).

Men ages 18 to 25 are Democratic by a much smaller margin (30 percent, compared with 24 percent) and much less liberal (38 percent, compared with 31 percent).

More ominous for Democrats are P.R.R.I.’s data on 13-to-17-year-olds, who will soon become eligible to vote.

Self-described partisanship among girls ages 13 to 17 was 31 percent Democratic to 20 percent Republican, an 11-point Democratic advantage, compared with a 23-point Democratic advantage among women 18 to 25.

Among boys ages 13 to 17, 24 percent said they were Democrats, and 23 percent said they were Republican, a one-point Democratic advantage, compared with the eight-point Democratic edge among men 18 to 25.

In their 2020 paper “ Precarious Manhood Predicts Support for Aggressive Policies and Politicians ,” Sarah H. DiMuccio , a consultant with the Danish firm Mannaz , and Eric D. Knowles , a professor of psychology at N.Y.U., suggested another set of reasons for Trump’s appeal to some men:

Perhaps more than any politician in recent history, Donald Trump has rooted his political persona in traditional notions of masculinity. As a candidate and as president, Trump presents himself as dominant, unyielding and virile. From threatening foreign nations with attack to alluding favorably to the size of his penis and testosterone levels, the president’s behavior suggests a desire to place his manhood beyond reproach.

In this light, DiMuccio and Knowles wrote,

we argue that support for harsh political policies, Trump and the present-day Grand Old Party reflects (in part) the psychology of precarious manhood. On this account, some men harbor doubts about their masculinity, which they, in turn, seek to reaffirm through voting behavior and policy preferences that can be characterized as “politically aggressive.”

The authors cited research showing that

laypeople tend to associate the Republican Party with masculinity and the Democratic Party with femininity. Moreover, a content analysis of primary debates in 2012 and 2016 found that Republican candidates utilized more aggressive discourse against their intraparty opponents than did Democrats — with Donald Trump proving to be the most rhetorically aggressive candidate in the history of American presidential debates.

To test their argument, DiMuccio and Knowles conducted a detailed geographic analysis of internet searches for subjects they determined signal anxiety over masculinity or precarious masculinity. The searches included hair loss, steroids, Viagra and more salacious subjects.

They then correlated the data with presidential voting in 2008, 2012 and 2016. In the case of the two earlier contests, Obama-McCain and Obama-Romney, there was no strong linkage between presidential voting and the level of precarious masculinity internet searches.

In the 2016 contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton, however, DiMuccio and Knowles found that “Trump received a higher share of votes in media markets where precarious masculinity-related searches were particularly popular and that this relationship held after adjusting for a range of search-based and demographic covariates.”

Why did the linkage between presidential voting and precarious masculinity emerge with Trump but not in the previous elections?

The authors’ answer:

Trump and the Republican Party he leads appear more consistently aggressive than high-profile G.O.P. politicians of the recent past — including Mitt Romney and John McCain.

“While the recent ideological evolution of the Republican Party may not have occurred without Trump,” the authors went on to say, it is “likely that these changes will far outlast Trump as a political force. Thus, we believe the link between precarious masculinity and Republican voting will generalize to future elections.”

Biden’s struggles with young men, however, have far deeper roots than precarious masculinity.

In 1949 the chemist Carl Djerassi and his co-workers synthesized norethisterone , a potent available progestin that eventually led to the emergence of oral contraceptives . For his obituary, The Guardian used the headline “ How the Inventor of the Pill Changed the World for Women .”

With the backing of two liberal Supreme Court decisions — Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965, overturning a state law prohibiting the sale of contraceptives, and Roe v. Wade in 1973, legalizing abortion nationwide — the birth control pill set in motion the slow but steady emancipation of women and the erosion of men’s dominance in politics and in society writ large.

In this context, the struggle over the 2024 election is the latest chapter in a long saga.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here's our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , WhatsApp , X and Threads .

An earlier version of this article misstated details of an analysis comparing previous and recent support for President Biden. The previous data is from 2020, not 2000, and the differences in support are in percentage points, not percentages. The article also misstated the title of a paper by Sarah H. DiMuccio and Eric D. Knowles. It is “Precarious Manhood Predicts Support for Aggressive Policies and Politicians,” not “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.”

How we handle corrections

Thomas B. Edsall has been a contributor to the Times Opinion section since 2011. His column on strategic and demographic trends in American politics appears every Wednesday. He previously covered politics for The Washington Post. @ edsall

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Improving the participation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is crucial for achieving gender equality and fostering innovation. Analyse.

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health , Education , Human Resources.

4. Improving the participation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is crucial for achieving gender equality and fostering innovation. Analyse.  (250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate

Reference: Live Mint ,  Insights on India

Why the question: Historically, academies have been male bastions with the significant exclusion of women scientists, irrespective of their contributions and work. Key Demand of the question: To write about how to improve participation of women in STEM courses and be made more inclusive and sensitive for women empowerment. Directive word:  Analyse – When asked to analyse, you must examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them in a summary. Structure of the answer: Introduction:  Begin by giving a statistic about the representation of women in higher academic sciences. Body: In the first part, mention how historically gender norms and patriarchal attitudes continue to affect women in academic sciences. Next, write about the measures that are needed make higher science inclusive and sensitive – promoting awareness, giving choice, continuous academic support, re-inclusion after a break, policy support etc. Conclusion: Conclude by writing a way forward.

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    What feminists in the west identify as gender equality will and should produce different results in non-western contexts that reflect the different starting points of cultures. Gender equality should look different, and to expect the same kind of feminism in America and in Saudi Arabia is an unrealistic thought at best. Substituting Taylor's ...

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    1. Men are less religious in more gender-equal countries. Sex differences in religiosity represent one of the most consistent findings in the psychology of religion, and are often described as nearly universal [1,2].Some researchers have suggested that women (versus men) are more prone to religious beliefs because they have a greater propensity for mentalizing (the ability to reason about and ...

  11. 7. Theories explaining gender differences in religion

    7. Theories explaining gender differences in religion. Women's generally greater level of religiosity has been observed by scholars for decades; it has shown up in surveys going back as far as the 1930s. 34 But not until the 1980s did academics begin a concerted effort to find an explanation for the phenomenon. 35.

  12. Gender Differences in Religious Practice and Significance

    Whilst small-scale, ethnographic studies have been most likely to recognise the significance of gender, dominant theoretical frameworks within the Sociology of Religion often remain gender-blind. Although there has been some debate about why women, in the West at least, are more religious than men, [1] [1] The evidence for women's greater ...

  13. Freedom of religion or belief and gender equality

    States should create a safe and enabling environment in which women, girls, LGBT+ persons are able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. Read the Special Rapporteur's reports on freedom of religion or belief and gender equality ( A/HRC/43/48) and freedom of religion or ...

  14. Gender, Religion, and Citizenship

    Gender and sexuality are among the most intensely conflictual aspects of religious citizenship around the world. Religion is a key factor that contributes to the continuation of inequalities linked to gender and sexual orientation, and therefore also to unequal citizenship between women and men (Nyhagen & Halsaa, 2016), and between heterosexual and LGBTQ+ people (Van Klinken & Obadare, 2018 ...

  15. Religious cultures and gender cultures: tracing gender differences

    All the contributions in this special issue demonstrate that religion(s), gender beliefs in religion(s), and the social practices of religious actors vary according to social context, time, and place. They trace gender differences across varying religious cultures and reconstruct how these differences are shaped by religious cultures. In this ...

  16. Gender and religion

    Gender and religion. Gender, defined as the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity, and religion, a system of beliefs and practices followed by a community, share a multifaceted relationship that influences both individual and collective identities. The manner in which individuals express ...

  17. A World of Inequalities: Christian and Muslim Perspectives

    Essays explore the roots of these realities, how they are treated in Christian and Muslim traditions and texts, and how the two faiths can work together to address inequality. A World of Inequalities brings readers into the conversation, inviting them to engage in a similar dialogue by offering pairs of essays alongside texts for close reading.

  18. Gender Inequality In Religion Sociology Essay

    There is gender inequality in popular culture, workplaces, sports, politics and religion. For this essay I have chosen inequality in religion. Religion has been around for thousands of years, when religion first started our world was different. We didn't have the technology we do today and men were regarded higher than women.

  19. African Traditional Religion, Gender Equality, and Feminism

    Abstract. Gender inequality is one of the prevalent forms of societal problems hindering the progress of African societies and this is hinged on the rigid customs and traditions of the people. The intersection of culture, religion, and gender in the context of African philosophy has produced a clash between women's right to non-discrimination ...

  20. Gender Inequality: On the Influence of Culture and Religion Essay

    Gender inequality is an issue that prevails both in the Western and the non-Western worlds. Gender studies researchers are eager to develop a framework that would explain the systematic oppression of women globally. Some scholars find culture and religion to be contributing factors, thereby distinguishing between morally superior and inferior ...

  21. Gender Equality In Religion Essay

    Gender Equality In Religion Essay. The evidence of gender equality is overwhelming throughout many religions. Many religions have a history of valuing men over women. Christianity and Islamic faiths are religions predominantly constructed by and for men. Women play a very small role in the forming of both religions and that tends to show in the ...

  22. Gender Equality in Islam

    A lot of discussions take place nowadays about gender equality in Islam. Much is criticized in Islam regarding the treatment of the genders. Quranic verses and Ahadith are pointed out where the tone in which the two genders are addressed is different and in cases like inheritance or giving testimony, the practical teaching is pointed out to be ...

  23. Gender and society

    Introduction. Gender roles refer to the psychological traits, place in society, and place in home life that a culture associates with male and female. Being a man or a woman comes with expectations attached to it about how a person ought to behave and the kind of life they ought to aspire to living. The traditional view of gender roles are that ...

  24. What does gender equality look like today?

    A new global analysis of progress on gender equality and women's rights shows women and girls remain disproportionately affected by the socioeconomic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, struggling with disproportionately high job and livelihood losses, education disruptions and increased burdens of unpaid care work. Women's health services, poorly funded even before the pandemic, faced ...

  25. A Thorough Look at the Declaration of Sentiments

    Essay Example: The Declaration of Sentiments, drafted in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention, marks a pivotal moment in the history of women's rights in the United States. ... The essay highlights the document's impact on subsequent advocacy efforts and its enduring legacy in the fight for gender equality. Category: Feminism. Date added: 2024 ...

  26. Overlooked No More: Hansa Mehta, Who Fought for Women's Equality in

    She campaigned for women's social and political equality and their right to an education. ... a 1981 collection of her essays. ... that would eventually supersede religious laws and ensure ...

  27. The Gender Gap Is Now a Gender Gulf

    The growing gender divide between young men and women in the United States is part of a decade-long international trend, according to a survey of 300,000 men and women in 20 mostly advanced nations.

  28. Improving the participation of women in Science, Technology

    Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. 4. Improving the participation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is crucial for achieving gender equality and fostering innovation.