Gender and Religion

Very strange combination as religion is probably the most responsible for the oppression of women. After all it was written by old men who hated women. First do know I am not a fan of any religion. I don’t see how going to a certain building one day a week guarantees you a place in a heaven and those who don’t guarantees a place in hell. Makes no sense to me as does the fact that Christians actually pick and choose what verses to abide by and which ones don’t serve their purpose so they ignore it. How fitting for them yes? But let’s not get into that as I will TRY to stick to the anthropology side of this all, but do forgive me if I rant. Like a good Christian you can ignore it if you choose to.

So gender believe it or not doesn’t always mean female or male. It is the cultural construction of sexual difference. Take for example gender roles. Tasks and activities a culture will assign to a particular sex; women do the work at home, men work outside the home and bring in the dough. What I just exampled there can be said to be a gender stereotype (characteristics we think of as typical for males and females) and we are all aware of the gender stratification;  that is the unequal distribution of rewards given to men and women. To put it even plainer, the fact that men get paid more than women for the same damn job.

There are many societies that women inherit the land, control food production and redistribute it. And there are societies where women are nothing more than livestock. And just for general knowledge, if you are female you may want to stay out of Papua New Guinea. Not a female friendly place. There are a lot of activities us Westerners would consider strange or even taboo. For example there is the Etoro culture that believe women are soul suckers and that the soul resides in the semen of men. They believe this so strongly that only 100 days out of the year are they allowed to have hetero sex with their wives. The other 260 days are spent away from the wives living with other men where the boys will, since they can’t produce semen on their own they acquire it from their elders. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

We tend to stay close to our own society’s norm when it comes to gender. There are those brave wonderful souls who dare go against said norm, mostly in the States and UK then other cultures/places. Thanks to the Internet we are more aware of what people desire and what fetishes there are. Sadly the Internet also has desensitized people against violence and sex. If you take a good look at things you would notice the the US are more desensitized against violence and UK are more desensitized against sex. UK people’s jaws drop when they see the kind of violence we allow on the television (Watch the latest episode of Person of Interest for a great example–it’s a good show too) while we Americans would gasp and avert our eyes from all the boobs UK tv and other places allow to be shown. In either culture it is quite difficult for parents to shield their children from either sex or violence where the Internet is concerned.

While we have no idea when “religion” began or who thought it up in the first place there is different types of religion:
Animism: a belief in spiritual beings
-Often associated with mana “luck”
Totemism: sacred emblems symbolizing common identity.
Magic: supernatural techniques intended to accomplish specific goals.
-Imitative magic: voodoo dolls
-Contagious magic: using objects a person had contact with to harm that person.

So why on Earth do we even have religion? Apparently supernatural beliefs help people. They need some supernatural force to explain events (cause science is evil), accomplish goals, reduce anxiety (since it’s a good idea to put faith into something that could leave you feeling empty when you don’t get your way. How many people were praying Romney would win the White House in 2012?), helps them to face death (at least this one I can understand and support), and so that they can endure just about any crisis. September 11. Nuff said.

But you know I’m going to expose the black side of religion. Other purposes religion seems to have are ecological (helps people survive in their environment, ex: India and the sacred cow), social control (powerful motivation in name of religion ex: Crusades, witch hunts) and revitalization movements (times of change, religious leaders emerge ex: Christianity). And there are the ‘Rites of Passage’ which has three phases to transition from one stage to another which are (1) Separation, (2) liminality (limbo phase, cut off from normal society, communities are collective liminalities) and (3) incorporation. This is practiced by nuns, boot camps and cults.

So let’s quickly talk about the four main types of religion (which fit into the three types of religion mentioned above):

Shamanic: Shamans are not full-time religious leaders. They are usually associated with hunter-gatherer societies and serve as a guide, sometimes undertakes a “journey” for someone in the band. For example Rafiki from ‘The Lion King’.

Communal: Communal religions have shamans, but they also have community rituals and everyone takes part in these rituals. This is typical of small farming societies (horticulturalists) and often have belief in several deities. Think Ancient Egypt and their many gods and goddess or Greece with their many gods and goddesses.

Olympian: Associated with state organization and marked social stratification. Full time religious specialist; Priest sometimes even Priestess. Also believe in many deities; again think Greek and Roman. They have gods/goddesses of love, war, death,fertility etc. “Anthropomorphic”= ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human, especially to a deity.

Monotheistic: Very similar to Olympian religion; priests, state organization, etc. but all supernatural control is under ONE being or god. Example: Catholics, Christians, etc.

Like cultures, religions mix. Syncretisms is what it’s known as. Voodoo is African, Caribbean, Roman and a Catholic mix. Cargo Cults are Christian and Metanesian mix and Revitalization movements are often a mix of old and new religions to make something ‘different’ and unique.

Next week we’ll be talking about Art and The Modern World System.

Until next time remember that sharing your religion should not involve shoving it down someone else’s throat as they may have a gag reflex and you’ll end up with egg all over your face.

Categories: Anthropology, Cultural | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Gender and Religion

  1. Very informative take on gender and religion. I would just like to add that even though religion can be oppressive, it can be empowering for many people.

    Anyway, great post! I agree with you that people should stop forcing their religion (or any belief systems, for that matter). I’ve been an atheist for some years now, but it’s difficult to live that way in a country that claims to be “the only Catholic country in the world”.


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