'A Rank Usurpation of Power' - The Role of Patriarchal Religion and Culture in the Subordination of Women
32 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2008
Date Written: December 15, 2008
This article is concerned with the way in which the power of religion and culture is used to perpetuate the hegemony of patriarchy and the subordination of women. First, I will use a historical perspective to describe the advent and the perpetuation of patriarchy and the historical interrelationship between patriarchy and patriarchal religion. I will then present and analyze the insightful critiques of early American feminists of the patriarchal nature of both church and state. Next, I will argue that despite the constitutional separation between church and state patriarchal religion continues to directly and indirectly influence the law and constitutes a significant force perpetuating the hegemony of patriarchy. I will further argue that the current legal protection afforded patriarchal aspects of religion and culture seriously undermines women's ability to achieve equality. While freedom of religion and association and the right to culture are as important to women as they are to men, I will show that the way in which these rights are understood and applied serves to perpetuate gender hierarchy and to deprive women of equality and freedom rather than to ensure their freedom of religion and culture or to guarantee them equal respect. Finally, I will suggest that incorporating an analysis of power into our liberal theory of rights will transform our understanding of religious freedom, toleration, and freedom of culture and association in a manner that will make them more compatible with women's rights.
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