Walking the Line: Religion and Feminism

           By Kali Nelson

Religious themed necklaces sitting on a white background.
Some of the religious necklaces I have received.

Easter has almost come and gone and I am once again reminded that I walk a thin line between my religion and my feminism. For the last month, I have been doing a lot more thinking about how sometimes my religion and my feminist beliefs conflict. I find it hard to believe that my God loves me but also doesn’t believe that I am a second-class citizen.  Feminism and Religion have long been on separate paths but it time to see that the two can and should work together.

I would like to note that I don’t have many experiences with other religions besides the one I was raised in, which is Catholicism. I will try my best to bring in other religions and if I get something wrong please let me know.

Books laying and standing in a group, all of a religious nature
A pile of religious books that the author keeps in her dorm room.

Many women have gone through the struggle of trying to come to terms with the fact that many religions are founded on patriarchal beliefs. But the bigger problem for these women is that if they decide to become feminist and keep their faith, they get bombarded with accusations of not being a real feminist. Society needs to stop this; these women are still feminists. There is a real push from these women to change their religion from the inside, the organization Catholics for Choice, believes that men and women should have access to contraception. Women of every religion are working to change their religion to recognize that some of its teaching are sexist and some are accomplishing this goal.

There is Anat Hoffman, who was arrested for praying out loud at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. She is working with a group of women who want to be able to pray at the wall aloud, with a prayer shawl, and a Torah. These women are pushing back against the conservative men who say that they cannot do these things. She serves on the board for Israel Religious Action Center, which stands in opposition of the ultra-orthodox administration.

Or, Dr. Amina Wadud, who lead a mixed gender prayer service for Muslims. The big problem here is that some don’t believe that women should be imams. Another problem that protesters had with Dr. Wadud is that women prayed alongside men. Traditionally women prayed in separate rows or other parts of mosque. She is part of a movement that is trying to elevate the status of women in the Islamic faith.

I bring this up because many religious feminists have long been downplayed. They must prove they are feminists instead of being believed. If the feminist movement wants to be as intersectional as it says it is, it needs to notice and accept that some feminist will be religious and that doesn’t make them any less of a feminist. Feminists complain that religion is hurting women but we hurt them to when we refuse to believe that women cannot be both religious and feminist.

In an article posted on Everyday Feminism, written by Jennifer Zobair, Gina Messina-Dysert and Amy Levin they conclude with,

 “We recognize that many people think it is only a feminist act to leave patriarchal traditions. We contend that it can also be a feminist act to stay, and we look forward to the day when doing so puts neither our faith nor our feminism in question.”

I agree with these women, it is a feminist act to stay. To decide that this is where you want to practice your feminism, to make it more equal for everyone, is brave. It is easy to say that religion is based on a patriarchal view and that it needs to change, but it is another thing go out and try and change it.

A priest and I standing side by side outside under a tree in the sun.
My Priest and I after my graduating classes baccalaureate.

But I also want to point out that my religion plays a much bigger part than a place for women to try to improve their lives. Going to Mass is soothing for me. I know what to do, the repetition is calming. Going to church, in general, helps me to sort out my life, my religion has shaped me as a person and I have tried to be less religious, thinking that this would make me a better feminist but in all reality, I am a feminist because of my religion. I cannot separate myself from it because it is part of who I am, so I work to change it. To make my religion more accepting.

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One thought on “Walking the Line: Religion and Feminism

  1. I agree that feminism and religion CAN go together. Jesus involved women in His ministry and of course, His mother Mary holds a place in the our redemption of great honor. Religion is a human institution in which we exercise our faith and worship our Creator. Being human, religion is not perfect. While honoring timeless truths that have been taught, institutions will also continue to grow in inclusivity. I think it’s important to remember that we don’t worship the intricacies of a religion, but we worship our God. This is a good blog on the subject as well: http://blog.franciscanmedia.org/was-jesus-a-feminist

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