Monday, December 2, 2013

Religious Narratives and Women's Rights.

            Religion affects culture and is a part of culture. The main way that religion is a part of culture is by providing a social narrative for the masses to follow. Religion has many characters, but we are going to focus on Christianity and the Abraham traditions for now. The very nature of our gender roles comes straight from the Bible. The Abraham traditions believe that the sex organ people are born with defines what role they play in society. The roles are molded by the narratives of the patriarchs and matriarchs found in the text. In this blog we will explore the two main matriarchs and how women have been treated based on these matriarchs. Eve and Mary are the main female characters, but I fully acknowledge that there are others. The reason for picking these two is their roles as mothers to life. Eve is the mother of human life, and Mary is the mother of spiritual life in the form Jesus. The narrative of these characters have created the virgin and whore contrast we see women suffering under today.
            Eve was the naughty wife that disobeyed and caused the downfall of mankind. The question that modern humans need to start asking themselves is whether or not this narrative made its way into western culture. Do we treat rogue women as dangerous and needing of a man's control? There are many ways to frame the question, but let us break down the narrative. The woman acted on her own and was easily tricked into doing something that she should not have done. She led her husband astray and caused the downfall of humanity. She thought on her own and become dangerous to humanity through her disobedience to God. This caused her husband to go against the will of his God, which shows a system of hierarchy right away with dangerous subordinates acting on their own thoughts. The rogue woman acting on her own caused the downfall of humanity, which leads us to the innocent virgin that saved society through obedience.
            Mary is a virgin from the very beginning of her story in the Bible. This shows that she is a good little girl submitting to the hierarchy. She stays in her place by doing her part giving complete possession of her sexual experiences in exchange for marriage. She only has one man that she submits to, and her husband submits to only one God (hierarchy complete). Her obedience of the hierarchy is what earns her the privilege to be the mother of the world's savior. She is a character that transcends the hierarchy by getting to mate with God, which is her husband's master. Mary does not think for herself or act on her own. She obeyed the hierarchy and what is asked of her. The narrative repeatedly talks about how Mary was obedient to God. This shows a narrative where a woman is exalted above all others due to her unquestioning obedience. This leads to the question of whether or not these characters have been a part of how women have been treated in western society.
            Eve thought on her own and went rogue, and caused the downfall of mankind; Mary obeyed the hierarchy and became the exalted mother of salvation. Has this narrative caused the foundation of how women have been treated throughout History (obeying virgin and rogue whore)? I believe that this is wrong and the fact that we strap women into a narrative like this with only two choices is wrong! Granted, there are lots of other women in the Bible that could be picked to represent women, but these two characters tend to pop up over and over as the main female characters. Modern humanity needs to break out of this trap it has set for women for hundreds of years. Whether this is done by picking new female role models to exalt in our religious texts (there are lots that get no attention), leave this narrative behind, or create a new narrative for women to model themselves after is for society to discuss and debate to a conclusion. The point of this blog article is to point out how these religious narratives are far more than just stories, and how the narrative of these two women creates the foundation of how western society has treated its women for hundreds of years. 


  1. Good post, Josh. You present a lot that is worth thinking about. I think you brush a little too quickly over the historical contexts that Biblical texts (others) were birthed in. As a New Testament scholar I believe that it is dangerous to judge ancient peoples by our modern rules/standards/norms, etc. The irony is that we tend to judge ancient society by a Judeo- Christian ethic which was being developed as part of the narrative that you mentioned.

    I also think that it is important to be clear on how Judaism, but even more Christianity, has elevated the role of women. And while we are at, we could also discuss children, slaves, and others who Jesus and those who followed Him, went out of their way to challenge social norms.

    Another reason that these kinds of discussions fascinate me is that they tend to avoid discussing how another world religion treats women. Islam is one of the largest religions in the world yet it seems that in the West we tend to tiptoe around it. A study of how Islam has elevated women versus how Christianity has elevated women over the last five hundred or thousand years would not be politically correct but it would be interesting!

  2. I think the implications of this dichotomy go even beyond what you implied here. This dual expectation causes all sorts of problems. For an excellent look at this subject, check out Film Crit HULK's article on the subject here ( It's long but definitely worth a read.