Religion, Gender Roles, and Inequality
Substantive Blog Post #1 (Research for Final Paper)
For my final paper, I have decided to examine how religious interpretations influence female gender roles and inequality, with a focus on Christianity. As a female Christian, this is an issue that I am interested in due to my first hand observations in the church, and seek to understand more both about how these religious ideologies impact women, as well as ways that this can be changed. After doing my own personal soul seeking and religious study in the Bible, with the support of verses like “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28),” I do not adhere to the more orthodox interpretation of the Bible in terms of gender. I consider myself to be what author, Sarah Bessey calls a “Jesus Feminist.”
The first article I have selected for my research is called Ambivalent Sexism, Scriptural Literalism, and Religiosity (Burn and Busso 2005). In this study, authors Shawn Meghan Burn and Julia Busso examine the role of scriptural literalism and religiosity in perpetuating sexism in a Christian sample of men and women. Research questions considered in this correlational study include the following: How does intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity in addition to scriptural literalism influence ambivalent sexism? What factors determine whether sexism will be hostile or benevolent? In this research, hostile sexism is defined as “an adversarial view of gender relations in which women are perceived as seeking to control men through sexuality or feminist ideology (Burn and Busso 2005: 413).” Benevolent sexism is defined as “a chivalrous ideology that views women as best suited for traditional roles and as pure creatures needing male protection and adoration (Burn and Busso 2005: 413).”
Burn and Busso (2005) based their research on feminist theory in conjunction with prior research showing that religion determines one’s view of gender and gender roles in society and thus results in gender inequality. As such, previous research has shown that traditional, fundamentalist views of religion more readily promote the unequal treatment of women, due to the patriarchal origins of these views. Many of these fundamentalist views have historically supported their claims with the idea the that their source is divine. Their focus on the intrinsic and extrinsic role of religion gained its origin in research by McFarland (1989), which determined that once fundamentalism had been controlled, extrinsic religion made sexism more likely, and intrinsic religion made sexism less likely in men. Women were not impacted (Burn and Busso 2005).
The results of this study leaves several important takeaways for policy and practice. Intrinsic, extrinsic, and scriptural literalism results in a prevalence of benevolent sexism. This encompasses ideas that men should serve as the protector, women are better suited for parental characteristics, and husbands should serve a specific role in the household out of duty. Results also showed that religiosity lended itself to different types of benevolent sexism. For instance, those who took a more extrinsic, literal approach to Christianity were more likely to support heterosexual literalism, meaning husbands serve a protective role. Extrinsic religiosity also reflected that there should be gender differentiation as a result of women being naturally inclined to certain roles. With these results in mind, the article explains that policy and practice should consider religion as a component when determining disparities in female power and status. This reality is a major factor in perpetuating global gender inequality (Burn and Busso 2005).
Burn, Shawn M., and Julia Busso, J. 2005. “Ambivalent Sexism, Scriptural Literalism, and Religiosity.” Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29: 412-418.