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As we’ve seen several times before, women have been the subjects of discussion in almost every religion. This is the case because most religions see a difference between men and women, especially in previous centuries. Here, we’ll be looking that the different roles women play in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and how they compare to the role women have in today’s society.
Let’s start with Judaism. Direct from Ellwood, he states that, “Throughout it’s long history, Judaism has exhibited a certain ambivalence towards women” (Ellwood 263).
What does this mean? Well, simply that women are seen on two opposite sides of the spectrum when talking about Judaism. On one hand, they are praised as wives, mothers, and women in general. They are even talked about in scripture as heroines, and given scriptures of their own for being such influences in the religion. Then, on the other hand, they are also seen with suspicion. This, like in many other religions, is due to the eyeing of sexuality and seeing women as a temptation rather than anything else.
While this is still the case, especially in scripture, Ellwood talks about how unique Judaism is because women are so prominent – despite their flaws, as seen by men. Women have shaped the religion, just like men have, but the difference is that the religion actually recognizes those women for what they did. What’s different is, “Perhaps unique to the Jewish tradition, however, is its apparent refusal to pin down one idealized conception of womanhood” (Ellwood 263).
This is very important because it shows how the religion isn’t set on keeping women down or locked away – out of the public eye.
Judaism, despite its suspicion of women, gives them the praise they deserve – something that is hard for other religions to say.
So next, we move on to Christianity. Christianity has changed its view of women several dozens of times. At one point, it was thought all women had to be kept celibate. Then, with the rise of Martin Luther, that was found to be no longer the case. During the Second Great Awakening, for example, “Together with like minded men, these women became leaders of progressive causes that disputed church orthodoxy” (Ellwood 332). You see, women in the society of Christianity may not have been seen as equal, but they were respected. In the church, however, that was a different story. The church thought that women should just be placeholders – to bear children, tend to the house, and serve their men with Christ in their hearts.
And finally, we take a look at Islam and how women are seen in the Islamic religion and tradition. Ellwood says, “…there are sayings of the Prophet included in the hadith that make clear that equality is the central message of Islam…” (Ellwood 383). But again, we are seeing some sort of ambivalence going on as the next passage states, “…certain passages in the Qur’an and hadith appear to modify this message, indication that men are superior to women and that men are to be women’s protectors” (Ellwood 383). Again, this seems to be a maneuvering tool for men, so that they can claim women are equal, but still hold some sort of grudge against them. It is similar to Judaism, as there seems to be a certain appeal of women that those two religions do not like.
Now, looking at Hummarabi’s Code and exploring how women were seen in general, it is somewhat of a shock how well they are seen in these religions. According to Hummarabi, “If a man wish to separate from a woman who has borne him children, or from his wife who has borne him children: then he shall give that wife her dowry, and a part of the usufruct of field, garden, and property, so that she can rear her children. When she has brought up her children, a portion of all that is given to the children, equal as that of one son, shall be given to her. She may then marry the man of her heart.” This, to me, seems like these women are simply seen as objects. They can be passed off from man to man or settled with some money or some land. That is ridiculous. These women are people who should be treated with respect and dignity, just like they are in whatever religion they practice. It is no secret that women, no matter what religion, have been seen as the lesser equal to men – even to this day. Imagine what they had to go through knowing Hummarabi’s Code was what these religions were going off of.
In this day and age, women still aren’t seen as equals. I think, in these three religions, we have come drastically far though. It is important to see the roots of each religion and to know where and how this inequality started – that way, we can fix it. It’s always hard to change someone’s mind when they’ve grown up with an idea in their head, in this case, people who have been raised to believe in any of those three religions. But, with time and patience, we can learn to understand that equality is simple and that religion should not dictate a person’s status in society – no matter gender, sexual orientation, or overall beliefs.
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