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Holy History: Religion and Women

introduction, women and religion: what is at stake?
Posted: 29 Feb - 04:22 pm  

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Member No.: 67
Joined: 29-February 04

There 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, ( cool.gif 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 to women?
Posted: 29 Feb - 08:27 pm  


Group: Members
Posts: 3
Member No.: 69
Joined: 29-February 04

Hello 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 introduction.

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 rolleyes.gif

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