Oppression against women has many faces; the phenomenon has found numerous representations in modern culture. When considering the origin of the issue, many people point to religion as the source of inequality.
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The many facets of the subject matter, however, beg the question of whether it is rooted in religion or tradition. Seeing that the effects of the two factors are reciprocal, it can be assumed that, though both have had a tangible impact on the contemporary representation of women in the society, traditions have a significantly higher negative effect. While religious beliefs may have sparked the concept of gender superiority, traditions reinforce it, thus, contributing to the increase in gender biases.
A closer look at the way in which tradition affects the perception of gender and gender roles will show that it prevents reconceptualizing the role of women in modern society. Furthermore, the idea of gender roles flexibility seems alien to the traditionally patriarchal society. Therefore, it can be assumed that societal standards and traditions reinforce the concepts that may have been suggested by the misinterpretation of certain religious postulates (Agadjanian & Yabiku, 2015).
For instance, traditions have had an impressive impact on the development of women’s societal status in Zimbabwe: “These are related to the Human Capital Theory that gives insight into the value placed on both female and male children hence perpetuating the discriminatory practices of whom best to send to school” (Mushibwe, 2014, p. 76). The identified phenomenon indicates quite clearly that traditions define the role of women in the target society, restricting their education opportunities and, therefore, preventing them from playing any other roles apart from childrearing and housekeeping.
As a result, women are deprived of an opportunity to not only endeavor at excelling in other areas but also building a different image of a woman in the identified society. Consequently, the persistent image of a female personality as that one of a mother and a wife remains the only available opportunity. It would be wrong to claim that the said roles should be looked down at or dismissed as diminishing for women – quite on the contrary, the said options also allow women to fulfill themselves. That being said, women must be provided with a chance to choose between the specified options; otherwise, the issue of gender equality will remain unresolved.
Religion, in turn, only provides the premises for the development of the said behaviors and attitudes. One must admit that there are certain patriarchal tendencies in some of the religious philosophies; the said principles do not imply the superiority of one gender over another. For instance, Agadjanian and Yabiku (2015) explain that “women’s religious devotion is fully compatible with empowerment” (Agadjanian & Yabiku, 2015, p. 462).
In other words, religion does not enable one group to oppress another based on specific merits and characteristics; quite on the contrary, essential religious postulates typically revolve around reconciliation and conflict resolution as opposed to following militant actions foisted onto people by the rigid traditions that have been formed over centuries. Therefore, religion should not be viewed as the source of gender oppression and inequality; instead, problematic socio-cultural traditions should be examined as the likely source of gender biases that persist in contemporary society.
It should be borne in mind, though, that religion implies that the roles of men and women should be delineated very carefully and precisely, thus, providing very little space for any possible deviations. As a result, the prerequisites for the development of the societal standards and traditions that restrict women’s independence are built. That being said, religion does not suggest that certain members of the population should be discriminated against, belittled, or abused in any other way based on their specific characteristics. Quite on the opposite, religion often promotes fair treatment of all people; therefore, reinforcing the ideas of compromise, compassion, and cooperation in the community (Nyhagen & Halsaa, 2016).
Therefore, claiming that either religion or tradition should be blamed for the promotion of gender inequality in modern society would be wrong. Instead, the two concepts need to be considered in tandem. Seeing that both factors have had a tangible impact on the development of the current attitudes toward women all over the world, it would be reasonable to consider both religion and tradition as the source of the current issues in the relationships between the representatives of the two genders.
Furthermore, the fact that traditions have a significant impact on the development of men’s and women’s roles in society indicates that there is a need to reconsider the current approach toward traditions as something that defines a nation or any other group of people. Instead of being viewed as the factors that restrict the further evolution in the communication between the two genders, one should consider religion and traditions as the tools for introducing the principles of diversity and tolerance into the contemporary society, therefore, improving the communication process, reducing the number of conflicts, and promoting equality.
Agadjanian, V., & Yabiku, S. T. (2015). Religious belonging, religious agency, and women’s autonomy in Mozambique. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 54(3), 461-476. Web.
Mushibwe, C. P. (2014). What are the effects of cultural traditions on the education of women? The study of the Tumbuka people of Zambia. Hamburg: Anchor Academic Publishing.
Nyhagen, L., & Halsaa, B. (2016). Religion, gender and citizenship: Women of faith, gender equality and feminism. New York, NY: Springer.