Women who are the minority in the population, faces double oppression. That is, women experiences oppression in their own communities because they are known to be women and secondly, the majority oppresses them because they are the minority.
Religion has played a very significant role in changing the life of women over time. Despite the many positive impact that religion has brought in the life of women, these roles have also been changing over the past centuries and this has led to creation of limits for women. The limits that the religion sets for women are as follows:
In 1730s, the Great Awakening drew many women than men with the new message. During that period, women served at both the church and home because men were away involved in trade. The women interest for church also increased because of the childbirth dangers. Furthermore, women got the chance to express themselves in the church especially when they were making personal conversions narratives and explaining their experiences with Jesus, this gave women the courage to express themselves publicly, and these helped them to raise their grievances.
The women were also considered in the electoral process, for instance, in newly established Baptist churches, women were electing the new deacons, and in some cases, they speak in church like the lay preachers. On the other hand, there was strict Congregationalist that affirmed the women’s right to speak in the church, instead the women served as counselors and not preachers; as a result, it is limiting role that this religion set on the women. Because of this, some women went away to begin their own religious societies, for instance Sarah Osborn who organized women to form religious society.
In addition, to today’s religion, many Christian churches have changed due to differences in the biblical interpretation that has contributed a lot on gender discrimination. Myths in its literal definition mean stories that are critical in shaping the consciousness of people. The myths of creation in the biblical contexts found in the book of Genesis display a pure gender bias. The most biased myth is in Genesis, which states that the creation of women was an afterthought and in addition, women occupy the secondary position according to the order of creation. This biblical chapter has received different interpretations in various churches. This has been a contributing factor in the discrimination of women even in the leadership of the church.
Religious Influence on women before 1800
Men were favored most than the women because of the growing bureaucracy in the church. In addition, other churches viewed women as being “disorderly”. The number of women continued to increase in the church membership despite of being inferior.
Women Religious life
The African-American women migrated to the America with a number of religious that included the Islam and several other rituals that related to some rite of passage. These women slaves converted to Christianity slowly even though missionaries were restricted from converting the slaves.
The Baptists and the Methodists in the second Awakening welcomed the African American women in addition to the other uneducated and poor people. The West African elements of shouting and dancing magnified fervor evangelical revival meetings in the church in late 18th C.
The conversion of the African American women as well as their ever-growing Christianity influence contributed to the power and influence in the modern world since they could air their grievances to the world easily.
There exist beliefs that motherhood and womanhood in Christianity were the central ideology in the true womanhood and this is because women had the civilizing effect on the men. However, Beecher clearly defined the type of work that motherhood perform as being the training their children at home before they go to school, then the neighborhood, nation and later in the whole world. According to this ideology of womanhood, women were known to be the natural teachers. It is said that a true womanhood is the act of self-sacrificing and emphasizing the religious teachings of the protestants at their homes. Moreover, women were considered to bring balance in the sexual desires of the men.
In the current religious context, there are at least two distinctive dimensions of gender discrimination, which has developed ever since. The religious interpretations doctrine sometimes tries to justify or even advocate that indeed women should be discriminated. On the other hand, women who belong to the minority communities tend to suffer gender-based discrimination. For example, the constellation on the ban of the headscarf that affected the Muslim women adversely who later due to religious conviction, decided to cover themselves. In other countries, this has resulted to the expulsion of female students out of schools including the universities and in the labor market. There are several reliable evidences that have indicated that women always suffer discrimination frequently in the religious law application. It is therefore not a taboo any longer to demand equality on the rights of women over the intolerable beliefs given as justification of gender discrimination.
DuBois E., C. & Dumenil, L. “Through Women’s Eyes”. Bedford Books, 2008. ISBN 031246889X, 9780312468897.