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The Patriarchal Whip of Religion on Society

Stefan Colangelo 212275988 Richard Last HUMA 1110 A Thursday March 17, 2016
Colangelo 2 It is accurate to suggest that gender inequality is an ever present problem in today's society. But in taking a deeper look at the substantial issue, is one of its main sources of instigation from religion? There is imbalance in the way in which men and women are treated and respected in the Bible. And despite the blatancy of this concern, studies conducted on the disparity in religion, culture, and gender are still relatively new. In Mallory Nye's Religion: The Basics, Darlene Juschka comments, "it is evident that some fields of study are less receptive to feminist perspectives...The study of religion has been one of those disciplines." There is a lack of recognition and awareness for the issue, mostly due to androcentrism. Although this will be discussed in further detail later on, it is important to understand this concept as a point of reference. Androcentrism denotes that the male perspective is held at the central point of one's world view and therefore holds great weight for why the female perspective has not been properly acknowledged. But the Bible is not the only source of gender prejudice. Greek mythology encompasses similar distinctions in sexual orientation and their respective male and female role imbalance in society. Despite there being obvious differences between Biblical and Greek interpretations of their belief and practice, the topic of gender is one that generally can be agreed upon more often than not. In both pieces of literature, women are given caregiver roles with men holding the true positions of power and authority showcasing a fundamental lopsidedness. Through a detailed comparison of both ancient Biblical and Greek fundamentals, interpretations of the theme of gender will be analyzed as a means to illustrate the presence of discrimination in the past, and show how it
Colangelo 3 has instigated the current inequalities between men and women in present day Western civilization. The Book of Genesis demonstrates in many instances how Christian traditions have been oppressive for women. The Bible tells the story of Adam and Eve with this unequal depiction at its core. When God reached the day of creation he created a man and only a man. This is significant as it suggests that creating men first or in general, is more important to the world than the creation of a woman. Witnessing Gods first priority is a major gender inequality. In addition, the Bible than stated that from Adams side- his rib, a woman was created. "But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man" (Genesis 2:20-22). Scholars interpret this as the Bible depicting women as having a considerate role in which her duty is to care for her man and remain by “his side.” Once again this plays into the superiority of being a male human being. As the story unravels, Eve succumbs to temptation and makes the mistake of accepting the forbidden fruit. It is fair to question the convenience in this scenario whereby the female falls victim first to the mistake before the male. It suggests a form of sexism almost as if men cannot make mistakes unless their counterparts do first. In Greek mythology, there is a story that seems to hold a relatively similar structure. Zeus asked Hephaestus to make Pandora- the first woman. This is similar to Eve having been technically created from man as well and
Colangelo 4 having been the first woman on Earth. Pandora was given a box containing many ills for mankind and was told not to open it. Eventually temptation and curiosity gets the best of Pandora and she ends up revealing the box' contents allowing all evil spread over the Earth before she is able to close it. Of course there are several differences between the two accounts, but the similarities should be acknowledged. Before evil was ever present in the world, the first woman in both situations is tempted and in efforts to satisfy her desires and curiosity makes the punitive decision that she was explicitly commanded not to do. It is apparent these stories from a gender inequality standpoint, favour men and belittle women. Literary stories such as these are clear examples of why there is a distinct influence on today's society and continue to be. Women are not treated as seriously as men are in Western civilization.

Nye also discusses a feminist writer by the name of Mary Daly who effectively brings to the forefront how deity can have an impact on why certain discrimination is prevalent. "The concept of belief in male deity leads to profound sexual inequalities." Daly means to elucidate that men over time have utilized the concept of God, which is in actuality a very gender- neutral representation of power, towards their own benefit. Women suffer under male control simply due to the misconception painted by men that God is a masculine entity. The idea of androcentrism is transparently present in this view of God in the Bible. Men instituted their selfish dominance on women and actively set themselves above them. But this not only is
Colangelo 5 prevalent in the Bible. This concept very similarly can be seen in Greek literature as well. Although the Gods in Greek mythology are both male and female, by looking deeper into the type of God each one represents, reveals crucial bias for males in society. Zeus, the king of the Gods, is in fact a male. In addition it should be noted that most of the male Gods have very dominant and boisterous duties (i.e. Poseidon- God of the sea, Aries- God of war). On the other side of the spectrum most of the female Gods hold very fragile and care giving positions as goddesses (i.e. Aphrodite- Goddess of beauty and love). Although the Greeks have acknowledged women with the positions of status as Goddesses, the amount of power is essentially limited. It can also be argued that these care giving and kind goddesses showcase an element of sexism that a female cannot hold a position of strength and fortitude. In any case women have had no choice but to participate in these set religious beliefs ironically implying they are participating in their own exploitation and oppression. Daly discusses how there can be no reform in gender inequality without, "...castrating the maleness from our conceptualisation of God." Effectively she is indicating that without de-masculinising God there can be no progress for women within society in improving the gender imbalance.

Analyzing it from a feministic perspective and what is happening currently in western culture, much of it can be attributed to the beliefs of the Greeks and Christians. The history of patriarchy is not without a current effect; and, male-dominance is fully supported by the
Colangelo 6
Judaic/Christian ancestors whose traditions (Isaiah 54, Ephesians 5:23, 1 Timothy 2:14) reveal the ancient dispositions of the bronze age and its influence that extended to our contemporary era in the Western world. Another explanation of how religion has moulded our gender imbalanced decisions lies in the significance on how women presently are two times more likely to pick the Liberals over the Conservatives: "For some analysts, the easy explanation is that the premier's image as a strong-willed ex-jock who moved from running a small business into being a full time politician is more likely to appeal to men than women." This is an example of the gradable quality of socialization which depicts how the majority vote is highly gender based. Assuming the perspective that most women, while avoiding the general sense of essentialization, and clearly indicating that it relatively varies from one person to another being morally superior, is true, then women would be appealed to certain aspects like benefiting the caretaking features of society. Assuming the essentialization is factual, an obscurity lies in deciphering whether or not the outcome is due to socialization or genetics. Social scientists deal with this strain of thought, conjecture and the proofs that either support or debunk them. However, one core concept that suggests why most women would support the Liberal party as opposed to the Conservatives is due to the promising liberation from the patriarchy which has suppressed them for centuries. Patriarchy is an impactful concept and has been in society coupled with androcentrism since the dawn of religion. Most leadership roles seem to be held by only men and in very rare cases, women. In most religions, at least in the major ones, women are not allowed to be priests, making there an evident discrimination for
Colangelo 7 men. James Obelkevich alludes to this problem in Christian society saying, "To link the study of feminine piety, the question of the sexual division of religious labour, or the nature of religious authority in the past with discussion of developments in feminist theology and debates about admission of woman to the priesthood in the Catholic and Anglican churches today, seemed a simple and obvious recognition of a connection. We were wrong." If Christianity instills in its people that priests can only be male, does that not influence our children that somehow men are more respected or the dominant gender? It is traditions such as priesthood, that have shaped the reasoning in society within the last two thousand years. To assume androcentrism is not a very real and present issue is hypocritical. As Valerie Saiving puts it, "The question of androcentrism...is also important for the self-understanding of women. I believe that the conviction within the feminist movement that women must work out their own points of view for themselves, in conversation with other women, is correct." As a moral species we need to raise proper awareness for an issue that has tempted society to be lopsided.

In conclusion, it is apparent that both the Greek and Biblical interpretations have rendered a silenced discrimination towards women. It has been silenced simply because of the
Colangelo 8 element of tradition. Religion is a very cultured and conservative concept. It has held status quo through the dawn of time with very little reform to its policy and custom. The biggest barrier for women to relinquish their oppression in their respective societies is having supported their religion until now and having followed the faith. It is however understandable that women were in many cases forced to believe in certain aspects of tradition and culture, but put simply, if any realistic reform was going to emerge in Christianity, it would have occurred when the religion was first established. That is to say women should have done a more active job at rebelling and removing the elements of sexism in religion at that time instead of accepting them. Taking a look at present day society, it is evident that reforming Christianity for certain customs due to its conservative principles is almost impossible. A point of reference would be their policy on gay marriage. In an ever more progressive society, gay marriage should be reformed in this religion yet it has not. But for there to be an active change in the way religion goes about their daily activities there needs to be an active and cooperative effort from both men and women. As Saiving elucidates, "If our understanding of what the holy has meant to human being in other times and places and to the oppressed in our own culture is distorted, then our understanding of ourselves and our vision of the future may be distorted also." The sad truth though is men's innate display of androcentrism will keep that from ever happening. The ego of the common man has become so inflated throughout time that for there to be a sudden decrease in attention and power, would be sacrilege. Even considering the many current reasonable and marked changes in societal structure to help with
Colangelo 9 the gender inequality issue, when it concerns the discussion of religion and the potential modification of traditionalist ritual, there will not be much change in the near future or ever.

Colangelo 10
Works Cited

Nye, Mallory. Religion: The Basics. 2nd ed: London and New York: Routledge, 2008.
Obelkevich, James and Lyndal, Roper. Disciplines of faith: studies in religion, politics and patriarchy. Routledge, 2013.
Muszynski, Alicja. The Social Construction/Deconstruction of Sex, Gender, Race and Class. In AP/SOSC 1000 9.0: Introduction to Social Science. Penguin Books, 1995.
Saiving, Valerie. Androcentrism in Religious Studies. The Journal of Religion, 1976.

--------------------------------------------
[ 1 ]. Nye, Mallory. Religion: The Basics. 2nd ed: London and New York: Routledge, 2008.
[ 2 ]. Nye, Mallory. Religion: The Basics. 2nd ed: London and New York: Routledge, 2008.
[ 3 ]. Nye, Mallory. Religion: The Basics. 2nd ed: London and New York: Routledge, 2008.
[ 4 ]. Muszynski, Alicja. The Social Construction/Deconstruction of Sex, Gender, Race and Class. In AP/SOSC 1000 9.0: Introduction to Social Science. Penguin Books, 1995.
[ 5 ]. Obelkevich, James and Lyndal, Roper. Disciplines of faith: studies in religion, politics and patriarchy. Routledge, 2013.
[ 6 ]. Saiving, Valerie. Androcentrism in Religious Studies. The Journal of Religion, 1976
[ 7 ]. Saiving, Valerie. Androcentrism in Religious Studies. The Journal of Religion, 1976.…...

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