Posted in Uncategorized

A2 Beliefs homework

Image result for uk protect the hijab

Please read this really interesting article (h_w_woodhead-muslim-women) by Leila Hadj-Abdou and Linda Woodhead, and answer the following questions:

Page 2:

  1. The article states that Muslims have become a “point of political contestation” since the 1990s. What does this statement mean?
  2. Why is gender at the centre of this?
  3. What three things have mobilised Muslims?

Feel free to skip pages 3-5

Page 6:

  1. When did Britain appoint its first Muslim female mayor?

Page 7:

  1. How many Muslims live in the UK?
  2. How many British Muslim women are economically inactive?
  3. How many Austrian Muslims have citizenship?

Page 8:

  1. Are Muslim women always allowed to wear the nigab, hijab etc in the UK?

Page 9:

  1. What are the aims of Protect Hijab?

Page 10:

  1. Do Muslim women have a national voice?

Page 11:

  1. What is Protect Hijab’s slogan and what does it mean?



Posted in A2 Sociology: Religion

Perspectives: Jesus was a feminist and so am I

I find myself living in an interesting tension. My Christian friends chide me for my overtly feminist views, while the atheist-feminist circles I move in despair at my commitment to what they see as a patriarchal religion.

It would be much easier to choose one or the other; Christianity or feminism, but I believe they should be – and are – utterly compatible.

Empathising with my non-religious feminist community is easy. From an initial glance Christianity does seem overtly male; its language is strongly masculine, using terms like father and son rather than mother and daughter, to describe two thirds of the Trinity.

Jesus and his men

The key players in the religion are mostly men: the patriarchs, the Jewish priesthood, Jesus, the 12 apostles and St Paul. Their stories are recorded in a sacred canon of texts, the Bible, written down by (you’ve guessed it) men.

Add to that a few voices from Church history like St Augustine, who once said that “women should not be educated in any way; they should be segregated” and it’s not exactly rocket science to grasp why many forward thinking women are initially suspicious of Christianity.

I’ll be honest, I have found the dominant male imagery of the Christian story difficult to embrace at times.

The Church has also directed its fair share of criticism toward me for being a woman who is passionate about teaching theology, and for campaigning on issues of gender equality. Suffice it to say, it has not been an easy journey.

So, why do I stay? Because I believe those masculine impressions of Christianity are not, by any means, the full story. When you take a long hard look at the life of Christ, you see a radical revolutionary.

Jesus didn’t just overturn the tables in the temple, he overturned the cultural norms of his society and sent them crashing to the ground. The way he related to women was a key part of this.

Jesus and his women

Women in the Anglican Church

Elizabeth Ferard (used by permission of Richard Mammana /
  • 1862: Elizabeth Ferard (pictured) becomes the Church of England’s first deaconess of modern times. The role is considered an office of the Church rather than part of the formal ministry
  • 1944: Florence Li-Tim Oi, was ordained the first female Anglican priest in Hong Kong. She voluntarily resigned her orders at the end of WWII
  • 1989: In the US, Barbara Harris is ordained as the first female Anglican bishop
  • 1992: The General Synod vote allows women to become priests in England- eight years after the law is proposed – the first 32 are ordained in 1994
  • November 2012: The synod rejects women bishops in England after failing to secure a two-thirds majority in the House of Laity

In an era when women were uneducated, not given a legally valid voice, and treated like property, Christ refused to bow to those cultural stigmas.

He talked freely with women to the shock of those watching. He encouraged women to engage in theological study. He also chose to appear to Mary after he rose from the dead, making her the first official witness of the resurrection and the person who delivered the news to the male apostles.

Many of Jesus’s followers were female. They were not included in the 12 apostles, but the community surrounding him was far larger than that. Women were also among his key financial supporters, paying the bills for him, his team and their mission.

So, Jesus treated women with dignity, equality and respect. But how about St Paul? Initially he may seem difficult for a feminist to embrace, but a deeper look into his writings suggests this is not the case.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul highly commends Junias, thought by many scholars to have been a female apostle. Paul also penned the powerful statement in Galatians 3:28 that there is “neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus”.

Many believe that these words transcend his culture-specific concerns about uneducated women teaching in Church.

Christianity and bra-burning

Even if I can convince my feminist friends that the Christian faith embodies radical equality for women, it is still a hard sell to persuade my Christian friends to embrace the term “feminist”.

They ask: “Isn’t it a shrill, harsh movement of bra-burning and man hating?” Yes, feminism has been caricatured by the media of the 1960s and is sometimes presented as abrasive and anti-men.

But the real meaning of the term needs to be reclaimed: true feminism is simply a belief in the total equality, dignity and value of women.

Christianity and feminism are often misunderstood by one another; each side needs a PR overhaul to slough off the old stereotypes and see with new eyes. Far from being an oxymoron, the two perspectives are deeply compatible.

I look forward to the day when eyebrows will no longer be raised at that notion, but in order to achieve this the Church must continue to move forwards in living up to the high standard set by Christ himself.

Hopefully he’ll continue his work of turning over temple tables in our generation, until women have an equal voice and an equal place inside the doors of his house.

Posted in A2 Sociology: Religion

Why feminists are less religious

In our survey of British feminists, more than half said they were either atheist or had no religion. Here’s why that might be

Feminism, said evangelist and Republican broadcaster Pat Robertson in 1992, “is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians”. The feminist retort: “Sorry I missed church. I was busy practicing witchcraft and becoming a lesbian,” has since made its way on to T-shirts, fridge magnets and bumper stickers.

Where religion’s concerned, maybe Robertson was right. Maybe feminism does lead women to reject traditional religion.

For our book about the resurgence of feminism in 21st-century Britain,Reclaiming the F Word: The New Feminist Movement, Catherine Redfern and I surveyed nearly 1,300 British feminists. We wanted to find out who the new feminists were, what inspired their engagement with feminism, which gender issues they were concerned about, and so forth.

One of our questions was: “Please describe your religious or spiritual views (including none/atheist/agnostic)” (the wording is worth mentioning, since how you ask questions affects the results, as debates on the religion question in the census reveal).

The results show that, when compared with the general female population, feminists are much less likely to be religious, but a little more likely to be interested in alternative or non-institutional kinds of spirituality.

When the 2001 census asked “What is your religion?”, more than three quarters of women said they belonged to a major world religion. In the smaller 2007 British Social Attitudes survey (which asked the question more openly), 60% of women said they regarded themselves as belonging to a religion.

But in our project, only one in 10 identified with a major world religion (mostly Christianity). Just over half the feminists said they were either atheist or had no religion. One in six was agnostic. One in 12 considered themselves spiritual but not conventionally religious and the rest answered in other ways (there were a couple of pagan atheists and Buddhist Christians, for instance).

It seems, then, that feminism does inspire women to reject religion.

Robertson was worried that feminism was challenging traditional Christian values – at least, values he considered Christian. Many liberals and feminists, concerned about the rise of fundamentalism and its erosion of women’s rights, conclude similarly that feminism and religion have little in common. As Cath Elliott put it:

“Whether it’s one of the world’s major faiths or an off-the-wall cult, religion means one thing and one thing only for those women unfortunate enough to get caught up in it: oppression. It’s the patriarchy made manifest, male-dominated, set up by men to protect and perpetuate their power.”

Sidestepping the arguments about whether or not religion is irredeemably oppressive to women (Christina Odone has refutedOphelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom’s recent claim that it is), it’s important to ask why feminists think like this. Is it that they have all undertaken a rational examination of the claims of different religions and found them wanting?

Some of them will, no doubt, have done this. But there are other possible explanations for this feminist antipathy towards religion.

The first is secularisation – in other words, the process of religious decline evident in much of Europe, especially from the latter half of the 20th century. Rates of churchgoing are falling, and younger people (who made up most of our survey participants) are especially unlikely to be religious because fewer of them were brought up to be so. Combine this with the gendered nature of secularisation – secularisation confines religion to the private sphere and the family and squeezes religion out from public life – and the reasons why feminists are less likely to be religious than other women become clearer.

Feminists challenged the traditional Christian discourse that associated femininity with service to family and church. Feminists argued for women’s right to decently paid employment in the public sphere. Feminists argued that marriage wasn’t the be-all-and-end-all of a woman’s life and she should be able to choose whether and when to have children. In other words, feminists are unlikely to be among the groups of women who are catered for by traditional religious institutions, which operate principally in the private sphere: women married with children who are not in full-time employment. There is no “natural fit” between feminists’ public, activist lives and traditional religion.

The proportion of feminists in our survey who were not heterosexual is high (40%). Given the tendency of many religious organisations to condemn homosexuality, it’s unlikely that these gay or bisexual feminists would feel at home in them.

Second, feminism’s intellectual public voice has largely been a secular one. As the philosopher Rosi Braidotti has argued, European feminists are heirs to the Enlightenment rationalistic critique of religion, and socialist feminism (with its dismissal of religion) was one of the major strands of British feminism in the late 1960s and 1970s. Even today, feminist academics tend to dismiss religion as unimportant and not worth of studying. It is likely that this secularism has influenced today’s feminists, perhaps without them noticing. (Whether this secularism has much to offer the millions of women who are, by socialisation or choice, religious, is a prescient issue that is being raised especially by postcolonial critics.)

Third, feminists’ lack of interest in religion is joined by a somewhat increased attraction to alternative or holistic forms of spirituality, from yoga, Reiki and Zen meditation to Paganism and Wicca. These forms of spirituality set themselves up as gender-equal, and this is probably why feminists like them.

In contrast to the perceived devaluation of women’s bodies in traditional religion, holistic spiritual practitioners have created female images of divinity, developed positive rituals around menstruation and childbirth and given women positions of spiritual authority.

We need to know far more than a survey can tell us about how religious attitudes are formed to tell whether these hypotheses are accurate.

In the 21st century, religion has become visible again. Around the world, state approaches to religion and secularism have significant repercussions for religious women’s wellbeing, so it’s vital that feminists consider carefully their approaches to religion – for other women’s sakes, if not for their own.