Making the Difference: Gender, Personhood, and Theology

Making the Difference: Gender, Personhood, and Theology

Making the Difference: Gender, Personhood, and Theology

Making the Difference: Gender, Personhood, and Theology

Synopsis

This book examines the category of gender as it has been and is now understood in the social sciences and its pertinence for religion and theology. Graham's clear work draws on contemporary critical studies of gender (especially feminist scholarship, postmodern theory, and critical studies of men) to shed light on gender's profound import for the understanding of human culture and identity.

Excerpt

The changing nature of relationships between women and men is one of the most remarkable features of contemporary Western society. Many women now possess a range of opportunities and expectations of which their great-grandmothers would never have dreamed; and virtually every aspect of our lives – work, legislation, politics, family life, media portrayals and sexual behaviour – reflect the transformation of attitudes and roles which has taken place in the past two generations. Many of these changes have been and remain controversial; but as the twentieth century draws to a close, issues of gender roles and relationships occupy a central place in our individual and collective concerns.

Although they have been relatively slow to respond to many of these developments, the West’s religious traditions have not remained unaffected. Many of these faith-communities are experiencing renewed attention to the roles and status of women, and finding that their position is often controversial and problematic (Holm, 1994; King, 1993; Ahmed, 1992; Plaskow, 1990). in general, men have controlled and formulated the doctrines, texts and rituals of these faiths, and women have been relegated to an inferior and subordinate status. However, encouraged by the impetus of ‘secular’ institutions, religious groups are being required to reexamine traditional teachings pertaining to the activities and horizons of women, and the precise nature of male-female relations.

Many studies have identified a contrast between radical and egalitarian teaching in the classical traditions, which was subsequently obscured by other cultural factors that regarded women as inferior to men. Others have focused on the retrieval of forgotten women in positions of leadership and influence; or reappropriated female characters and symbolism – in worship of goddess figures . . .

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