June 21, 2009

Gender and Religion

Since I've started thinking about doing a religion major, I've noticed a pattern:
"So what are you going to study?"
"Religion."
"...Oh." -brows furrow with concern- "So what do you want to do with that?"
"Actually, I want to work in politics."
"...Oh."

Someone actually accused me of plotting world domination, which is pretty awesome.

But even I'm kind of confused by it. I mean, haven't I spent the past year looking at women's studies programs? (Granted, the college I picked doesn't have one, but I looked at them everywhere else.) Sure, I like religion, but how does that work with my gender and politics interests...?

Then again, the more I think about it, the more perfect it seems. I mean, look at the election and subsequent protests in Iran. The pictures coming out of the conflict showing pretty women with their head scarves pushed back and their fingernails painted are significant not only because of all the problems with the election, but because in dressing like that, women are violating dress code laws put in place because of religious rules.

And what about everything here in America? We obviously mix our religion and politics, but a lot of it is wrapped up in gender, too. On the one hand, you have the Quiverfull movement and the True Womanhood manifesto, using scripture to encourage traditional gender roles for women. On the other hand, there's feminist theology, which I didn't even know existed until I stumbled across it on wikipedia. If religious feminists have a message, it's not getting across. Why not?

That's just what I can think of off the top of my head. Any other cool connections I can look at?

6 comments:

annajcook said...

I don't necessarily have any suggestions for other "cool connections," but I think studying religion as a way into thinking about politics totally makes sense. This may, of course, be because I got my introduction to feminist political activism through a feminist theology class! I highly recommend checking out feminist theologians in all their many iterations -- an awesome group of thinkers and activists.

Have you read any Karen Armstrong? She's an historian of religion, a former nun, and has some really awesome books out about world religions and religious responses to modernity. My favorite is The Battle for God but all of her work is interesting, including her memoir The Spiral Staircase.

I also think the relationship between religion and social justice activism is a fascinating one -- because religious communities are often outspoken members of both sides of a given debate, and use faith to justify their positions. Check out the liberation theology movement and the Catholic worker movement for examples of radical Christian critiques of capitalism and political inequality . . . religious folks can often be "liberal" in some respects and "conservative" in others -- for example Catholics who are pacifist and oppose the death penalty and the war in Iraq while also rejecting same-sex marriage and family planning.

Anyway -- I think your plans for world domination sound awesome and I look forward to reading about them on your blog in the years to come ;).

Brandon said...

You definitely should study religion in college; I get the vibe that you are the kind of person who will research as many schools of thought that you can become aware of existing. It also will give a decent idea of what all of these moral codes developed out of and how relevant they are to today's society. I personally have only found one religion that comes close to agreeing with my own set of ideals and I assure you that it is not a major belief system.

Whatever you choose to do, if the opportunities are not already available for you to take then make them. If some organization is trying to bring you down for being a woman and/or being gay, then create opportunities for yourself to rise above it. Just remember: all of the great women who have paved the way for the world to even come to this point did not have anything handed to them.

annajcook said...

Just saw this review and thought of your post:

http://feministreview.blogspot.com/2009/06/garland-of-feminist-reflections-forty.html

Spiffy said...

Yay! Thank you for the links, recommendations and advice, both of you, I really appreciate it!

Brandon said...

Not a problem! In fact, I know it feels better when you know people are listening. Sometimes, I could swear that half the people on my space FL are ignoring or avoiding me.

Keep posting and I will lend knowledge I have to give.

James said...

I recommend religion as a field of study. Lots of fun!

And then go on for your law degree, the most important, it appears, formal training for those going on to do political work...

Two cents...