Tag Archives: Women and Religion

Vance, “Women in New Religions”

In March, NYU Press released “Women in New Religions” by Laura Vance (Warren Wilson College). The publisher’s description follows:

Women in New Religions offers an engaging look at women’s evolving place in the birth and development of new religious movements. It focuses on four disparate new religions—Mormonism, Seventh-day Adventism, The Family International, and Wicca—to illuminate their implications for gender socialization, religious leadership and participation, sexuality, and family ideals.

Religious worldviews and gender roles interact with one another in complicated ways. This is especially true within new religions, which frequently set roles for women in ways that help the movements to define their boundaries in relation to the wider society. As new religious movements emerge, they often position themselves in opposition to dominant society and concomitantly assert alternative roles for women. But these religions are not monolithic: rather than defining gender in rigid and repressive terms, new religions sometimes offer possibilities to women that are not otherwise available. Vance traces expectations for women as the religions emerge, and transformation of possibilities and responsibilities for women as they mature.

Weaving theory with examination of each movement’s origins, history, and beliefs and practices, this text contextualizes and situates ideals for women in new religions. The book offers an accessible analysis of the complex factors that influence gender ideology and its evolution in new religious movements, including the movements’ origins, charismatic leadership and routinization, theology and doctrine, and socio-historical contexts. It shows how religions shape definitions of women’s place in a way that is informed by response to social context, group boundaries, and identity.

“Women and Religious Traditions” (Anderson & Young, eds.)

Last month, Oxford University Press released “Women and Religious Traditions” edited by Leona M. Anderson (University of Regina) and Pamela Dickey Young (Queen’s University). The publisher’s description follows:

Women and Religious Traditions uses a critical feminist lens to explore the roles and interactions of women with major world faith traditions. Within each particular tradition, the text examines the history and status of women, family structures, sexuality, and social change, as well as texts, rituals, and interpretations by and for women.

Thirteen experts contribute nine chapters and five case studies, including a new case study on women in Chinese traditions. This third edition builds on the strengths of the first two, with the addition of lived religion content in each chapter, an expanded introduction to the study of women and religion, new research on Buddhist nuns, and up-to-date material on women’s current political position in Islamic countries.

Bauer, “Gender Hierarchy in the Qur’ān: Medieval Interpretations, Modern Responses”

In May, Cambridge University Press will release “Gender Hierarchy in the Qur’ān: Medieval Interpretations, Modern Responses” by Karen Bauer (Institute of Ismaili Studies, London). The publisher’s description follows:

This book explores how medieval and modern Muslim religious scholars (‘ulamā’) interpret gender roles in Qur’ānic verses on legal testimony, marriage, and human creation. Citing these verses, medieval scholars developed increasingly complex laws and interpretations upholding a male-dominated gender hierarchy; aspects of their interpretations influence religious norms and state laws in Muslim-majority countries today, yet other aspects have been discarded entirely. Karen Bauer traces the evolution of their interpretations, showing how they have been adopted, adapted, rejected, or replaced over time, by comparing the Qur’ān with a wide range of Qur’ānic commentaries and interviews with prominent religious scholars from Iran and Syria. At times, tradition is modified in unexpected ways: learned women argue against gender equality, or Grand Ayatollahs reject sayings of the Prophet, citing science instead. This innovative and engaging study highlights the effects of social and intellectual contexts on the formation of tradition, and on modern responses to it.

Jouili, “Pious Practice and Secular Constraints: Women in the Islamic Revival in Europe”

In May, Stanford University Press will release “Pious Practice and Secular Constraints: Women in the Islamic Revival in Europe” by Jeanette S. Jouili (College of Charleston). The publisher’s description follows:

The visible increase in religious practice among young European-born Muslims has provoked public anxiety. New government regulations seek not only to restrict Islamic practices within the public sphere, but also to shape Muslims’, and especially women’s, personal conduct. Pious Practice and Secular Constraints chronicles the everyday ethical struggles of women active in orthodox and socially conservative Islamic revival circles as they are torn between their quest for a pious lifestyle and their aspirations to counter negative representations of Muslims within the mainstream society.

Jeanette S. Jouili conducted fieldwork in France and Germany to investigate how pious Muslim women grapple with religious expression: for example, when to wear a headscarf, where to pray throughout the day, and how to maintain modest interactions between men and women. Her analysis stresses the various ethical dilemmas the women confronted in negotiating these religious duties within a secular public sphere. In conversation with Islamic and Western thinkers, Jouili teases out the important ethical-political implications of these struggles, ultimately arguing that Muslim moral agency, surprisingly reinvigorated rather than hampered by the increasingly hostile climate in Europe, encourages us to think about the contribution of non-secular civic virtues for shaping a pluralist Europe.


Amira El-Azhary Sonbol, “Gulf Women”

ImageLast fall, Syracuse University Press published Gulf Women (2012) edited by Amira El-Azhary Sonbol (Georgetown University). The publisher’s description follows.

This groundbreaking collection of essays provides a greater understanding of the history of the Gulf and the Arab world and is of relevance to Muslim women everywhere. Featuring research never published before, Gulf Women is the result of a project aimed at finding sources and studying the history of women in the region. The chapters cover ancient history and the medieval, early modern, and contemporary periods. Presenting discourses on the life of women in early Islam, women’s work and the diversity of their economic contribution, the family—and how it changed over time—as well as the legal system and laws dealing with women and family from the pre-modern to the modern periods, this is a pioneering collection by leading scholars from Arab and international universities.

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Gedicks on the Affordable Care Act’s Contraception Coverage Mandate

Frederick Mark Gedicks (BYU – J. Reuben Clark Law School) has posted With Religious Liberty for All: A Defense of the Affordable Care Act’s Contraception Coverage Mandate. The abstract follows.

 The “contraception mandate” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 poses a straightforward question for religious liberty jurisprudence: Must government excuse a believer from complying with a religiously burdensome law, when doing so would violate the liberty of others by imposing on them the costs and consequences of religious beliefs that they do not share? To ask this question is to answer it: One’s religious liberty does not include the right to interfere with the liberty of others, and thus religious liberty may not be used by a religious employer to force employees to pay the costs of anti-contraception beliefs that they do not share.

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Waters on Hosanna-Tabor’s Potential Impact on Reproductive Rights

Jessica L. Waters (American University School of Public Affairs) has posted Testing Hosanna-Tabor: The Implications for Pregnancy Discrimination Claims and Employees’ Reproductive Rights. The abstract follows.

In April 2009 Jaretta Hamilton, a married elementary school teacher, was fired after her employer school learned that Hamilton became pregnant prior to her wedding. In October 2010 Christa Dias, an unmarried technology coordinator for two schools, was fired after her employer learned Dias was pregnant via artificial insemination. In 2011, Emily Herx, a married Language Arts teacher who was struggling with infertility, was fired after the school where she had been teaching for seven years learned that Herx was undergoing in vitro fertilization treatments. In the fall of 2011, Cathy Samford, an engaged middle school science teacher and volleyball coach, was fired after her employer discovered Samford’s pregnancy.

Can the employer schools of these four women legally fire them for attempting to become pregnant or actually becoming pregnant? Because the schools in question are religiously-affiliated schools, in the wake of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC the answer may be yes.
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Ashe on Women, Religion, & American Law

Marie Ashe, Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School, will publish Women’s Wrongs, Religions’ Rights: Women, Free Exercise, and Establishment in American Law.  Please see the abstract below:

 This article provides an historical examination of American Constitutional law concerning religion as it has evolved through three periods: the Mormon period of the late nineteenth century; the religious pluralism period of post-WW2 decades; and the multiculturalism period that began around 1990 and that remains underway. It examines Supreme Court interpretations of First Amendment provisions pertaining to religion, and it contextualizes those interpretations to explore their implications for women’s liberty and equality at each of the three periods. Its argument is that Constitutional doctrine relating to religion – through its multiple doctrinal reversals – has consistently entailed and depended upon negative constructions of women, sacrificing women’s liberty and equality interests in order to prefer and to cultivate the liberty and equality interests of churches.