On Divinity and Marginalization: Western Christianity and African Spirituality as Impetuses of Gender In/Equality
This paper seeks to determine whether the presence of powerful women in African religious tradition allowed for the existence of similarly powerful women in their society while the apparent absence or disregard for powerful women in Western Christianity resulted in the exclusion of women from the political and social realms. Since many pre-19th century African and European governments were heavily influenced by religion, it was a significant tool of socialization in both contexts. Therefore, the gender dynamics modeled in these belief systems were likely reflected by their respective societies. This paper compares and contrasts women’s positions in African civilization and women’s positions in Europe, drawing on historical accounts and formal research to determine the extent to which religion influenced the governance of the associated countries and how this, in turn, impacted their social structures. Prominent women in African religious tradition such as Aset will be juxtaposed with female rulers such as Hatshepsut and the “male daughters” of the Igbo as examples of the flexibility and respect inherent in African womanhood. To the contrary, the lack of prominent women in Western Christianity will be compared with the historical marginalization of European women and the resulting necessity for feminism. Ultimately this paper argues that the flexibility of gender roles within African spiritual systems resulted in a similar versatility in African politics and societies while the subordination of women in Western Christianity led to the subordination of women in European culture.
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