Gender and Religion
Gender affects so many facets of life, ranging from family roles, employment and remuneration amongst others. Researchers are increasingly exploring the concept of gender aznd its relationship to religion. Most research concentrates on how traditional concepts of gender affects the roles women play within the church. Bartowski and Read (2003) explore the question of religion within the Muslim community as well as within the protestant churches. The exploration is carried out by comparing how protestant churches approach the question of gender, to how Muslims approach the question of gender under the elitist platform that advocates for female submission. The findings indicate that indeed women reaffirm the traditional gender conceptions and roles as professed by the bible, engaging in acts of submission. Gender roles as highlighted through the research conform with societal and traditional conceptions of gender. Most women found no problem conforming to expectations, in line with the various religious doctrines they operate under. However, a number of Muslim women seemingly struggle to conform to traditional roles, as well as understand the significance of the veil in the traditional religious concept. This can be construed to signify a deeper debate and problem. More and more women are agitating against traditional religious roles, perhaps even going as far as to challenge the very doctrines upon which the church is based. The problem is however not unique to Islam, as Christian women also seemingly struggle to conform with their traditionally assigned roles. Women are increasingly agitating for better leadership positions within the church, something a majority feel should be a foregone conclusion given the fact that they are the majority within the church.
Jenkins and Marti (2012) explore the actions of one such group, known as “God Chics.” The researchers while admitting that the relationship between gender and responsibility in conservative religious organizations is one that encourages submission, more so when considered plainly in the form of how gender affects marriage or institutional power. The researchers provide a different angle and view of the relationship and gender, arguing that women are increasingly agitating for more responsibility within the church; with the question of age also affecting the roles they perform. God Chics in itself, provides an opportunity for older women to play a totally different role: that of possessing godly wisdom. Similar to claims made by Bartowski and Read (2003), the researchers argue that God Chics represents one of the many ways through which women are attempting to redefine the traditional roles that have been accorded to them within the religious circles.
Both articles present the view that feminism is even taking root within the church, to the extent that women are increasingly albeit silently challenging the traditional roles that have been accorded to them within the church. This is being done through the invention of different action groups with exclusive female membership. These groups are then being used to ensure that women gain greater responsibility for particular aspects of the church program. These groups have essentially allowed women to redefine their traditional roles and gain responsibility without ideally challenging the doctrine of submission preached within the church. Women have successfully cut out fresh roles that allow them to break the glass ceiling that had previously curtailed their assumption of positions of responsibility, practicing what Bartowski and Read have come to refer to as “veiled submission.”
Bartkowski, John P., and Jen’nan Ghazal Read. 2003. “Veiled Submission: Gender, Power, and Identity among Evangelical and Muslim Women in the United States. Qualitative Sociology 26: 71-92.
Jenkins, Kathleen E., and Gerardo Marti. 2012. “Warrior Chicks: Youthful Aging in a Postmodernist Prosperity Discourse.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 51: 241 256.