Spanish version available in Homo Homini Sacra Res.

Fertility and motherhood —two vital but ordinary activities for any living organism— are the most important causes of the devaluation and degradation of women. In different cultures, women can only acquire a social status by marrying or having children. Social and moral codes regulate biological functions. The Judeo-Christian religion condemns menstruation and sexual intercourse before marriage. In addition, several religions have oppressed femineity, reaffirming androcentric and patriarchal attitudes. Such is the current case of Afghan women who have lost hope due to the return of the Taliban to political power, accustomed in their history to a bloody regime of stoning’s, beheadings, and the absence of opportunities for education and job offers.

Marriage and motherhood are the main reasons that allow female exploitation. For example, every Hindu woman must get married and become a mother. These acts are considered crucial initiation rites in women’s lives [1] to achieve a determined social status and maintain honor in their families. Hindu wives practice protection rituals and devotional acts for their husbands (pativratya) [2]. Additionally, Ramayana —one of the most important works of Ancient India— has imposed Sitam, the main character, as the archetype of a loyal wife [3] due to her demonstrations of submission to Rama. A clear example of this was the Sati ceremonies, held in India by the beginning of the 19th century, in which it was evident how a woman’s worth decreased in the absence of her partner. Other actions like the establishment of a dowry, in contrast to the wife’s price, are proof of the conception of women as an economic burden and nuisance to the husband’s family.

Likewise, androcentrism and patriarchy guarantee men’s high positions in the hierarchy. In fact, men are the principal receptors of their wives’ worship [2]. Although Islam condemned “female infanticide” [3] in most cultures, there is still a preference for a male son. The majority of cultures in history, except Navajo, Apache, and a few others, are patrilineal [4]. The most significant deities in most cultures are male: Zeus, Odin, Allah, Marduk, and Vishnu, occupying roles linked to royalty, the sky (Uranus), and superior kingdoms. Meanwhile, goddesses like Hera, Frigg, Zarpanitu, and Lakshmi were relegated to secondary roles linked to fertility, the earth (Gaia), and lower realms.

Even Buddhism and Christianism, religions regarded as pacific, show a grade of contempt towards women. Buddha himself was not very pleased with the idea of creating a female Sangha, given that it could limit the impact and lifespan of his teachings [5]. There is, in biblical terms, a Christian analogy: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16) [6]. In essence, women have to be controlled by patriarchal patterns, mainly in sexual terms. Also, it is a common belief that they are more sinful than men. Thus, they require masculine supervision.

However, women have been praised intermittently through history: The Virgin Mary, Joan of Arc, and England’s Queen Elizabeth I. According to biblical foundations, men and women were created in the image and likeness of God, being the same. Many ancient traditions and movements in the new age move towards the adoration of nature and the representation of ancestral goddesses. Now more than ever, women have access to better education, salary, and political functions. Nevertheless, equalitarianism is far from being achieved. If religion has always had an excuse to downgrade femininity, secularism and feminism seem like the solution to years of exploitation [7].

Cited works

[1] Gudorf, C. “Women in Hinduism.” FIU, 2012. Slide Program. 22 Jul 2012.

[2] Falk, N. and Gross R. “Unspoken Worlds: Women’s Religious Lives.” Third Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2001. Print.

[3] Gudorf, C. “Women in Islam: Reclaiming the Tradition.” FIU, 2012. Slide Program. 22 Jul 2012.

[4] Elkind, D. “Apache-A-Go-Go: Arigon Starr Went from Matlock to Alternapop Star in Indian Country.” Alice, Jan. 31, 2000: 18–. Ethnic NewsWatch. Web. 22 July 2012.

[5] Gudorf, C. “Women in Buddhism.” FIU, 2012. Slide Program. 22 Jul 2012.

[6] Multiple Authors. “Genesis 3:16.” Bible Gateway, New International Version, 2012. Web. 22 Jul 2012. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis 3:16&version=NIV. [7] Reilly, N. “Rethinking the Interplay of Feminism and Secularism in a Neo-Secular Age.” Feminist Review 97 (2011): 5 – 31. GenderWatch. Web. 22 July 2012.

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