Final Exam SOCI 3600 Women and Religion notes
Macrosociology is an approach to sociology which emphasizes the analysis of social systems and populations on a large
scale, at the level of social structure, and often at a necessarily high level of theoretical abstractiMacrosociology
also concerns individuals, families, and other constituent aspects of a society, but always does so in relation to larger
social system of which they are a part
Microsociology is one of the main points (or focuses) of sociology, concerning the nature of everyday human social
interactions and agency on a small scale: face to face.[1Microsociology is based on interpretative analysis rather than
statistical or empirical observation,and shares close association with the philosophy of phenomenology. Methods
includes symbolic interactionism and ethnomethodology; ethnomethodology in particular has led to many academic sub-
divisions and studies such as micro linguistical research and other related aspects of human social behaviour.
Macrosociology, by contrast, concerns the social structure and broader systems.
AFeminist and interdisciplinary approach to women in religion, to women and religion.
•The objective of this course is to understand why women who are discriminated against in some
religious traditions, treated like cattle with no rights, genitaly mutilated, who have their bodies (sexuality,
child-rearing, clothing) controlled, who are ideologically subjected to feelings of guilt through idealistic
discourses about purity and virginity..... Nevertheless continue to not only practice their religion, but also
perpetuate its discrimatory, patriarcal oppression by teaching their daughters and sons to submit
themselves to the same beliefs and rituals.
What could possibly appeal to these women that they find some kind of compensation for the abuse, neglect,
physical violence and/or inferiority status that they endure in their religious communities?
To try to answer these questions we look at the macro and micro dimensions of religious traditions, East and
West, including native and neo-pagan, as well as new spiritualties. We ponder the weight of spirituality in
response to the bondage to institutionalized religion.
We also want to distinguish between categories of women / men (socially constructed), male / female
(conventionally gendered), and the feminine / masculine (types of energies running simultaneously through the
physical body). This mapping allows us to rise above labelling, to include LGBTQIH (Lesbians, Gays,
Bisexuals, Transgendered, Queer Questioning, Intersex, Hijra third gender) / GSD (Gender and Sexual
What has been at stake for feminists who have been raising issues, discussing gains and struggles faced by
women in religious traditions that they continue to embrace in often conservative ways, is the need to reveal a
new worldview, a nomos (Berger) by which women can still call themselves Muslim, Catholic,Anglican,
Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, etc. Yet these women can emancipate themselves from dogmatic views that
cripple their agency and reduce them to servants, mothers, impure beings, and so on. For this shift to actually
impregnate little by little the religious traditions at stake, women need to redefine themselves too. Not just
daughters of a male omnipotent god, by also goddesses giving and sustaining life, equal to men in their
potential to achieve spiritual awakening, carriers of energies of love, compassion, enlightenment, divine grace
and sacredness. Women, girls, daughters, grand-mothers as a powerful community of spirits that transcends the
institutionalization -at the macro level- of religious beliefs and spirituality. Women can empower themselves
and strengthen their bonds by expanding their consciousness (using their imagination and concrete action) into
unlimited mystical, social, ethical, spiritual fields, contributing also to the dissolving of gender barriers and
most importantly, to human suffering.
Sociological and theoretical aspects of the study of women in religion / women and religion. Exposition of an
The woman as goddess? Carol Christ's phenomenological, psychological and political reflections. In Shange's Broadway play For Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, the
statement 'I found God in myself and I loved her fiercely' prompts Carol Christ to ponder what the political and
psychological effects of this 'fierce new love of the divine' can be.
First we need to understand the importance of religious symbols and rituals to measure the effect of a symbolic
male God on women.Astudy on incest in Christian families revealed that many of the girls sexually abused by
their fathers kept silent because of the subconscious, subdued submission to male authority as exemplified by
their Christian submission to the male God and Jesus that they were holding as of a sacred nature in their hearts.
Symbols such as a male god have profound psychological effects on men and women. They create inner, deep-
seated, acceptance of the dominating power of men over women and children.From this acceptance of the
dominant role of men in families unfolds the possibility for men to impose the same schema into the social and
political realms of society. Countless movies reproduce over and over this theme. Name a few here...
The experiential methodology used in this course is meant to help us all unlock some of the fears of the
unknown associated with a shift of perception from a male-centred, male-dominated religious dogma, to a
neutral or feminine perception of the divine and the sacred realms. Mindfulness of the thought process acting
in the background of our busy daily life, and awareness of the social construction of the legitimization of male
superiority are steps towards empowerment, balance, freedom of choice and harmony. To start today we are
listening and visualizing Pema Chodron's talk on Fear and Fearlessness (the courage to face our own fears and
Studying religion from a sociological perspective implies an interdisciplinary approach by which we look at
both macro and micro aspects of religious and spiritual phenomena and discourses. Deconstructing
religious dogma, rituals, symbols and myths that reify our conception of reality and provide answers to
our existential questions requires that we look at psychological, political, cultural, social and economic
dimensions of the ideological weight of religious beliefs onto social groups.
Women and gender studies, for instance, take us into the questioning of what a woman is, what being female
means. As a category, 'woman' is fluid. Nevertheless, in religions it is solidified and women are prescribed
specific roles. Most of the time they are not seen as important to their traditions wherein the are subjected to the
dualism male-female. Research on transsexuals has shown how constructed are male and female, masculine and
feminine categories. When it comes to homosexuality, Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) as
well as the Ba'hai faith, contain dogmatic views that oppose and vilify homosexuality. In other traditions (such
as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikkhis, the dogma is softer, as the call to practice non-violence tames the
discriminatory discourse against homosexuals. Sexual energy in the latter is perceived as a means to elevate
oneself spiritually, so the views about sexuality tend to be non-dichotomous contrary to theAbrahamic
traditions that separate the purity of the soul from the impurity of the body.
Women and Hinduism / Women in the Hindu Traditions
Hinduism has to be perceived as a total way of life with a multitude of deities, rituals and traditions in the vast
continent of India with over one billion of people. Women's roles in Hinduism differ from one state to the other,
with southern states -still enforcing the Laws of Manu- being more conservative and oppressive towards
On top of the geographical disparities in the treatment of women, the caste system sets women up in terms or
access to religion and secular education, to wealth, to professional and other occupations.
The belief in samsara (the cyclical, ever-changing cycle of births and deaths ( as well as in karma (law of
cause and effects of our actions) creates a sense of determinism by which women tend to accept their cultural
and social conditions without any questioning. Traditionally, women are to fulfill their destiny by getting married, being chaste, loyal, and subservient to their
husbands who they are to perceive as gods. The belief that the soul of the woman is to be attached to the soul of
the husband to be worthy, leads widows to commit sati as they do not have any hope of salvation or a social life
after the death of their husband. The fact that many girls are married to older men has increased the number of
young widows in India and created a real concern for these women who are not allowed to get remarried and
are at the merci of a son or in-laws.
At the other end of the chastity spectrum the Devadesi practices throw girls in a life of prostitution and poverty
to realize the goddess ideal in the minds of their fathers and other males.
Hijras, androgyny and other sexual complexities get dealt with according to various tantric conceptualisations
Here are a few themes that you might want to develop:
- The changing role of women in Hinduism. Influence of colonisation and Western patriarchy.
- Worship of the Goddess: female deities in Hinduism. Women's rituals.
- Laws of Manu and total subordination of women.
- Spiritual music and dance.
- Female teachers. Sri MataAmritanandamayi
- Hindu practice in the West
-Key terms: Vedas, Brahman / Brahmin Dharma Karma SatiAshram Bhakti Tantric / Tantrism Puja Shakti
Kundalini Guru Samadhi Hatha Yoga.
Afew words on research: on the York libraries website you can access research guides to help with preparing
for your presentation and deepening your knowledge about women and their religions. Go to Research guides.
Under Humanities, choose Religion. Click getting started / texts online / Finding articles. You can
use Reworks to automatically create a bibliography (APAor MLA).Anumber of encyclopedia and
introductory texts are recommended. OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (for theory and classics), as well as
Databases and Catalogues per se.
Women in Judaism / women and Judaism
Judaism is an ancient tradition (Abraham and Sarah are recorder living at around 1900 BCE).About 15 million
Jewish people are living today, with as many in Israel as in NorthAmerica (about half a million in Canada).
About 51 % are Jewish women who transmit the religion and its customs to their children, as adherence to
religious laws is a central theme in the development of Jewish life. Being a Jew is first of all belonging to a
people, a tribe, and Jewish identity is by blood. DNAtesting has been developed for Jews to find out to whose
tribe of Israel they relate, the Levite, the Cohen, for a total of nine different Jewish groups.
Yet, Jewish history in the biblical period is dominated by men.
- Women in the Hebrew bible
The Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible is the foundation of Jewish spirituality. After an egalitarian first version by
whom God created 'in His image... male and female He created them' (Genesis 1:27), a second version (Genesis
2-3) presents a religious basis for the subordination of women. Not only is God presented as male deity, but He also creates man first, and then a companion to the man. Eve, the first woman, is blamed for the loss of
innocence and happiness of humanity. But Eve is also the mythological mother of all humanity. In the
Abrahamic traditions (Judeo-Christian-Muslim) she has chosen knowledge over obedience.
Many women people the Jewish Bible.Among the matriarchs of the first period there are Sarah (Abrahams
wife who had migrated from Canaan -Israel), Rebecca was Isaac's wife (Isaac son of Sarah andAbraham) and
gave him two twin sons Esau and Jacob; Leah and Rachel, Queen Esther, etc. So Women have played a role in
Jewish history, yet writing the Torah and being a rabbi have been reserved to Jewish men and purity rules have
prevented Jewish women from gaining equality. It is the recent history with the fundamental role of Jewish
women to promote and defend Zionism (think of Henriette Szold), as well as authorize themselves to
modernize their interpretation of the bible to become rabbis (think of Sally Priesand in 1973), that has lifted up
Jewish women above the traditional Jewish laws that kept them inferior to Jewish men.
- Traditional Jewish laws concerning women. RachelAdler about menstruations and purity. Within Orthodox
Judaism, strict Jews follow closely the Torah and the Talmud, as well as traditional rabbinic legal decisions.
Orthodox Jewish women live within a pattern of traditional gender roles with home and family as their primary
sphere. The men are the religious and social leaders. Sexuality is strictly confined to marriage and Orthodox
women are constrained by rules of modesty, including not sitting near or socialize with men other than their
own husbands or close relatives.At the synagogue for congregational prayers, Jewish women have to be
shielded from men's view by a screen or curtain. They are to avoid sexual contact with their husbands during
and after menstruation and after childbirth. Discrimination and silencing of Orthodox Jewish women is
denounced by the more liberal of them (think of Tova Hartman and Tamar H. Miller Halbertal).
Of course Judaism like other religions has developed in various branches with a number of liberal movements
in the 19th and 20th centuries that have embraced the renaissance, the secularization of society and modernity.
The influential Feminist theologian Judith Plaskow wrote: 'Afeminist critique of Jewish God-language begins
with the unyielding maleness of the dominant Jewish picture of God.' in Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from
a Feminist Perspective, 1990.
Ritual washing common among Orthodox Judaism: tevilah full body immersion after sexual intercourse with
ejaculation or contact with a corpse or a carcass, netilat hand washing after many different types of activities
from getting up in the morning, to making bread, to eating a vegetable at Passover. One important ritual
common to all branches is tahara, the death washing ritual to honour the body of the deceased family member.
Women only wash women. Prayers are recited and the body -up to ears and nails- is slowly and carefully
Women in Buddhism / Women in the Buddhist traditions
Buddhism is both a religion in Asian, Buddhist countries, and a philosophy of life in the West where millions of
Westerners - half of them women- practice some form or ritual derived from Buddhist teachings.
While Buddhism per se considers gender as socially constructed and another delusion of the samsaric realm,
nevertheless social and cultural patriarchal structures have prevented women from being fully ordained as
monks are, should they choose to embrace the Buddhist path, in the Hinayana traditions? In the Mahayana and
Tantric Buddhist communities of Japan, China, Tibet, historical developments have varied, all linked to the
economic situation of women and their families.
The creation of an order of nuns (Bikkhunis) from the time of the historical Buddha has been met with
resistance throughout history with almost the complete disappearance of Bikkhunis in the 20th century. Today,
there is a resurgence of Bikkhunis communities that parallels the increase of status of women inAsia and in the
West, to a certain extend. Female deities abound in Mahayana and Tantric branches of Buddhism. Let us mention two examples. Kuan
Yin (Kwan In) the Bodhisattva in China (male in the first depictions then female), Tara (21 different ones to
represent different qualities of energy) and the yogini Yeshe Tsogyal in Tibet, are praised and visualized by men
and women alike.
Women in the Chinese traditions.
Confucianism and Daoism. Yin and the Moon
Confucianism was founded in the 6th century BC where the philosopher and court adviser Confucius wrote
rules of conduct that some worship and live by as a religion