Annelore Wolfelt World Religions Mr. Rocco Final Essay: “Religion Makes Women Subservient to Men” The differences between “eastern” and “western” religions are many and varied but there are some fundamental similarities within all religions. One of the common threads that run through almost every religion is that women are made to be subservient to men. The need to control and dominate women is found in both “eastern” and “western” religions. Confucianism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam all discriminate against women (to varying degrees), by placing women beneath men.
Each religion states the need for male dominance over women as a divine order that must and will be obeyed. Women are not featured much in the Bhagavad Gita except as a reference to something else. Therefore based off of classroom sacred text alone it is hard to tell what women’s status is in Hinduism. Although one may look at the lack of women in sacred scripture as an obvious sign that women mustn’t be very important if they aren’t even worth mentioning. However in the Laws of Manu, another Hindu scripture, women are briefly referred to.
It states that it is women’s nature to “seduce men in this (world); for that reason the wise are never unguarded in (the company of) females” (2:213). “For women are able to lead astray in (this) world not only a fool, but even a learned man, and (to make) him a slave of desire and anger” (2:214). Fear of being seduced by a woman and becoming powerless to her is a contributing factor to the need men have to dominate women. This fear that men have of women’s sensuality is a common thread throughout other religions and cultures. Men’s need to control women might stem from the fear that they themselves can be easily controlled by women.
In Confucianism we find the idea of equality between men, but that equality is based on a social hierarchy organized by the Five Constant Relationships: 1) sovereign to subjects, 2) father to son, 3) husband to wife, 4) older brother to younger brother and 5) friend to friend (Smith 175). This hierarchy establishes relations of dependency between men, including the duty to offer respect and obedience from those in a lesser position to those in a higher position, as well as the duty to show benevolence from those who hold a position of power over those who don’t.
The relation between the husband and wife shows the position of the woman as one dominated by the husband within the marriage. In all of the other relationships age and social standing is what decides who will hold the position of power within the relationship. But in the relationship between males and females, age and social standing don’t play the deciding factor of power in the relationship, gender does. By merely being a woman she is automatically given the role of obedience instead of one of power.
But in all fairness Confucianism does not show the systematic discrimination against women that is found in western religions. In Christianity women are blatantly made to be the weaker sex. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. ”(Colossians 3:18). “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing. (1 Timothy 2:11-15) Christians put the full blame of the Fall of Man on Eve, (and therefore all women). Because of this women are seen as easily corruptible and in need of the rule of man. Merely being born a female is seen as some sort of penalty: “if a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. ” (Leviticus 12:2) “But if she bears a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days. (Leviticus 12:5) Since its beginning Christianity has sought to dominate and discriminate women, and it continues to this day with women fighting for their reproductive rights against the Catholic Church. The West has (hypocritically) accused Islam of degrading women, chiefly because Islam permits plurality of wives. But the reality is that Islam gave more rights to women by making a stronger emphasis on the sanctity of marriage, giving girls rights to inheritance and outlawing female infanticide. But that is as far as Islam got to giving females any sort of ‘equality’.
Islam states that there is no equality between men and women: “The wives have rights corresponding to those which the husbands have, according to what is recognized to be fair, but men have a rank above them. ” (Quran 2:228) Women are still expected to be obedient to men and to serve them out of fear of punishment. “So virtuous women are obedient and guard in the husband’s absence what God would have them guard. As for those whom you apprehend infidelity, admonish them, then refuse to share their beds, and finally hit them. ” (Quran 4:34) Women are not even considered human beings but a man’s property: “Your wives are your fields.
Go, then, into your fields as you will. ” (Quran 2:223) The mere fact that women must cover themselves when they are in the presences of males so as to not tempt men (Quran 24:31) puts all of the responsibility on the woman instead of the man. I find it ironic that it is the woman’s fault for being desirable and not the man’s fault for having no self-control. As Simone de Beauvoir said in her book The Second Sex, “Man enjoys the great advantage of having a god endorse the code he writes; and since man exercises a sovereign authority over women it is especially fortunate that this authority has been vested in him by the Supreme Being.
For the Jews, Mohammedans and Christians among others, man is master by divine right; the fear of God will therefore repress any impulse towards revolt in the downtrodden female. ” When I am asked if I belong to any religion I say, “No. ” As a female I don’t want to belong to an institution that routinely discriminates, dominates, and exploits women the way these four religions do. Works Cited The Bhagavad Gita. Ed. Betty Radice. Trans. Juan Mascaro. London: Penguin Books, 1962. Print. The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
A Revision of the Challoner-Rheims Version. Edited by Catholic Scholars Under the Patronage of The Episcopal Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. New Jersey: St. Anthony Guild Press Paterson, 1941. Print. Laws of Manu. Trans. George Buhler. Sacred Texts Archive, 2011. Web. 1 June 2012. http://www. sacred-texts. com/hin/manu. htm Quran. Ed. Farida Khanam. Trans. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. New Delhi: Goodword Books, 2009. Print Smith, H. The World’s Religions. New York: Harper One, 1991. Print.