Does Religion Oppress Women?

Religion is a very controversial topic but I think that it is a topic that people need to talk about just like any other topic. I identify as Catholic but mainly because that was the religion in which I was raised. My family for many generations have practiced Catholicism, so my parents raised me with the same beliefs. When I was younger I attended mass with my family every Sunday and I was raised believing that priests were able to speak to God and ask him to forgive us for our sins. However, it wasn’t until I was older when I began to analyze the structure of the religion more closely. I began to ask questions about the way women are viewed in the Catholic religion.
Men are the authoritarian figures in the catholic religion. Even in the bible, all of Jesus’s followers were male. The only two women who are spoken about is the Virgin Mary who is portrayed as the good woman because she had a child while still a virgin and Mary Magdalen who is portrayed as the bad woman because she is a prostitute. However, I did some research and came across an article from the Smithsonian that talked about how Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute. The article also provides historical information of how throughout time Mary Magdalene’s became to be known as a prostitute.
As I began to analyze the catholic religion, I realized that the priest is always male. Also, the religion teaches that women are supposed to save themselves and remain pure for their husband when they get married. For a woman to keep her virginity should be a choice, and not a requirement. The catholic religion also teaches women that they are supposed to be there for their husbands through thick and thin. I remember when I was around the age of 13 I would listen to my aunt talk to my mother and grandmother about her marital problems which consisted of my uncle cheating on her when he went out to bars every weekend, and not being around for their children. My grandmother would always suggest for my aunt to seek advice from a priest. Ultimately, my aunt did go to a priest for advice and I was shocked at what the priest advised her to do. The priest told my aunt that she had to be by her husband’s side and support him in all decisions. What about the husband supporting the wife? Why should she stand by his side if she does not want to be with a man who cheats on her?  Of course, the priest gave her that advice since divorce is unacceptable in Catholicism. This is a double standard because a woman is judged if she drinks, smokes, or leaves her partner. However, a man is not judged if he goes out to bars every weekend, cheats on his wife, smokes and leaves his family. At the time, I thought it was ridiculous advice but it did not bother me as much because I did not know that greater consequences this advice had. Now that I have learned so much about the oppression of women in other institutions I began to realize the Catholicism is structured upon patriarchy.
The belief that a woman should save herself until marriage is very oppressive. It should the woman’s decision whether she wants to wait until marriage to lose her virginity and not feel that she is obligated to do so just so that she will not be shamed by her family or future partner. Also, the belief that in order for a woman to be a good wife she is supposed to be available to sex whenever her partner pleases this objectifies women, promotes violence against women and makes marital rape acceptable. In Catholicism, women are stripped away from their reproductive rights because contraceptives are considered a sin. Although many woman do use contraceptives, many live feeling that they are committing a sin. Abortion is also considered a major sin. This becomes a problem when it comes to women’s reproductive rights (Stay tuned for an upcoming post on reproductive justice).

The oppression of other groups is also implemented by the Catholic religion. The LGBTQA community is not accepted in Catholicism. Those who are raised as Catholics and later come out as LGBTQA are forced to hide their identities in order to continue to be accepted in the religion they believe in. If they decide to reveal their identity they are forced to never come back.
I would like to make it clear that I am not suggesting for people to stop believing in Catholicism. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and that should always be respected. However, I do believe that it is important to analyze and critic the environments in which we are in. Even if you are not Catholic, you should analyze and critic your beliefs, you might find out many things that you probably have never realized.


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