Holy History: Religion and Women
women and religion: what is at stake?
Feb - 04:22 pm
Group: Discussion Leaders
Member No.: 67
Joined: 29-February 04
are significant difficulties associated with
feminist discussion of religion.
Religion is understood by many to be a
deeply personal series of understandings
of oneself and the world and ways of structuring
one’s own identity and interactions
accordingly. It is inextricably bound up
with (a) notions of the sacred, (
notions of spirtuality and morality perceived to sit to a considerable
extent outside and beyond social relations and individual psyches
even as they inform and are constitutive of them, and © the
development of cultures and civilisations and the collective
internalisation of cultural identity.
It follows from this that religion is a highly complex affair.
First, the usual wonderful iconoclasm of feminism, where nothing
is sacred and nothing taboo, seems to tone itself down where
some discussions of religion or spirituality are concerned -
although this is contextually and historically specific as well.
Second, just as there is no such thing as a society without a
culture, there exists no culture without religion – or
at the very least, spirituality. Even largely secularized Western
societies continue to be founded on Christian values.
Third, religion is bound up with social, political and economic
power structures, and within those can be both oppressor and
a vehicle for resistance - and sometimes both at once! In Australia,
strong feminists and indeed lesbians engage positively with religion
- whether we are talking about dominant Christianity or religions
associated with racialised minorities. Yet those same religions
are also highly oppressive to women in many ways and many contexts.
In Indigenous Australian communities, as in Papua-New Guinea
and many communities across the Pacific, women have engaged with
Christianity as a vehicle both for healing and for finding feminist
voice. Yet the Church in Australia was centrally involved in
some of the worst atrocities committed against Indigenous Australians,
such as the forced removal of children from their families and
ensuing institutionalisation, farming out to domestic service
and so on.
When I asked Reverend Dorothy McRae McMahon to speak on lesbianism
and religion last year at the University of Sydney, and asked
her how she would like to frame her topic, she said: 'Why bother?
That's the question I always get asked!'
So, why have women 'bothered' with religion throughout Australian
history? How has it empowered them? How has it disempowered them?
How, also, have women been engaged in battles for secularism
and against the Church's involvement in structures that are oppressive
Feb - 08:27 pm
Member No.: 69
Joined: 29-February 04
Bronwyn - thanks for your blurb - it sounds
like this topic will be challenging and one
that I have lots of interest in. Last year
a small group of us started a Spirituality
and Social Work Group on our Albury Wodonga
Campus of La Trobe University for much the
same reasons that you have posed in your
There were some of us who held strong spiritual beliefs and were
disenchanted/disengaged from mainstream religion and as there
has been a resurgence of spirituality and social work I felt
it was time to test out just how people arrived at their spirituality
and how that might then impact on their practice as social workers
as much as on their personal professional/spiritual journey.
Interestingly, this year some members who participated last year
are now seeking to bring the group much more into religion, what
ever that might mean so I will be curious as to how this will
be played out. Anyway most likely enough from me and I hope that
there will be some interesting discussion.
Cheers - Virginia