Women have significant importance in society. They play a fundamental role in the improvement of a nation. In many societies, the place of women has been discussed for numerous times.
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Each society placed the women in their society variously. Their view of women had shaped according to their style of living, culture, laws, and religion. Even in the modern era, the place of the women is still not clear.
It can be seen the level of development of civilization by looking at how women are positioned in that civilization. Although women sometimes lived in a state of liberty, they mainly have limited life. Almost every emerging civilization had set limits on women’s freedom of expression and travel.
Unfortunately, in much of human history, women had treated as they were the second-class citizen and women were expected to be submissive. Mostly, they were depended on their husbands or fathers.
To give an example, in Ancient Greece, women did not have many rights. Women were not permitted to become a citizen of the Athenian city-state. Since they were not able to own their property, they were not able to hold full citizenship rights. Women actually had fewer rights than slaves because they were never allowed their own freedoms (GreekBoston.com).
Also, Emory Adams Allen stated that Athenian women were always minors, subject to some male- to their father, to their brother, or to some of their male kin (444). There was even this saying in Ancient Greece time ”The best woman is the one who never speaks” (Berktay 106)
As a matter of fact, many examples can be given from history such as Romans, Ancient Egypt etc. Though, the point is that the women in many societies somehow suffered enough. Surely, the suffering of women is not only belonging to the past. Still, women are exposed to verbal abuse, violence, they are forcing into the marriage etc.
It needs to point out that there is not only one homogenous and unchangeable woman concept. However, all the women regardless of their race, status, and religion had faced inequality at some point in their lives.
The way women are perceived in societies has many factors. One of the greatest factors can be their culture. Since the roles and activities of men are determined by the cultural systems in the societies, the effect of the cultural factor is essential. Culture cannot be defined as a single concept. It covers many aspects such as the style of living, manners, customs, arts, values, morals etc.
As anticipated, culture can differ from society to another one. For instance, Turks and Arabs are often confused to have a same cultural system just because they share the same religion. However, those cultural differences were even before the Islam. In pre-Islamic Arab culture, when someone has a daughter as a firstborn, it would be a shame for them. On the contrary for Turks, there were people who wanted Oghuz Lord’s prayers to have a daughter (Gökalp 26).
On the other hand, even after Turks’ acceptance of Islam, there were great differences between Arabs and Turks such as the monogamy. Arabs have a polygamy culture rather than the monogamy. For this reason, even though both nations are sharing the same religion, the disparities can be seen effortlessly.
After touching upon the effect of the culture briefly, now it should be mention another massive effect of perceiving the women, and that is the religion. This paper is an attempt to discuss how women perceived in Christianity and Islam.
Before discussing the place of women in Christianity, it is essential to know about the main concept of the human beings in this religion. ‘How human beings are portrayed in Christianity?’ The man is considered to be sinful and filthy. Therefore, when an infant comes into the world, (s)he will be baptized to purified from sins and filths. The reason for baptism is to get rid of the original sin which was Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience to God for eating a forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.
It needs to point out that, according to Bible, Adam committed the sin because of Eve tempted him. Eve is portrayed as a seductive woman. Furthermore, Eve is considered to be the first human who fell into sin. As if she is the initiator of all the evilness. Eve is also responsible for the original sin because she tempted Adam. For this reason, women had linked with evil concepts such as wickedness, sin, and seductiveness.
The view of women in Christianity has few problems. Church fathers, theologians, and authors have interpreted the bible to the extreme forms to create a widespread feminist literature. (Berktay 105) To give an example, Saint Augustinus, who preoccupied with an incomprehensible mystery of why God created the woman, states that a woman cannot be created only to be a companion for a man. Moreover, a woman simply cannot be created for helping a man because a man can perform this task better. Hence, Augustinus comes to the conclusion that woman has no value aside from child-bringing (Brundage 85).
Another North African Christian theologian Tertullianus, who was an extreme misogynist, declared as: You are the gate of hell woman! You are the first to oppose the law of God; you deceived such a man that even the devil would not dare come close to him. You easily ruined the man who was created in the image of God. Because of your blame, even the son of God must die! (Ruther 157).
The Christian Bible consists of two main parts, the first part is the Old Testament and the second part is the New Testament. Old testament almost has the same content in Tanakh which is the holy scripture of Jews. However, Tanakh is called Old Testament by Christians and they interpret Tanakh differently. The woman in Old Testament begins with Genesis 2:18 ” The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.I will make a helper suitable for him.” It can say that loneliness is not good for the man so that God created a helper for the man, and the helper was Eve. The word of the man refers to Adam. Suitable partner that is in the verse can be defined as a fitting partner for a man. Being partner is also relative to marriage.
Afterwards, Eve’s creation is mentioned in Genesis 2:21-22 ” So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” According to David Guzik, who is a pastor, God used Adam’s own body to create Eve to forever remind him of their essential oneness. Eve and Adam made from same substance. They are more alike than they are different (Guzik). The creation of the human race started in Adam.
In Genesis 3:16 ” To the woman He said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This verse is the God’s curse and punishment upon the woman. The Women were cursed with the severe pain. A woman has to be under the authority of a man, and a wife has to be under the authority of a husband. Man is to lead woman. A woman should be submissive and she must let him to rule over her.
Genesis 19 is about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, the man who offers his two daughters to the men to rape them instead of two angles that comes to the Sodom is ultimately dreadful. ”Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him. and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” (Genesis 19:6-8). The low place of women is can be seen easily in these verses, Lot is willing to prostitute his two daughters.
In Exodus 21:7-11
And if a man sells his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed. To sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he has betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he takes for himself another wife, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage shall he not diminish. And if he does not do these three unto her, then shall she go out free, without money.
During the ancient times, slavery was very common for both man and woman. However, when other male servants had right to walk out, female servants had no right to. As in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and the Collages book states that the reason for the different treatment of female slaves is to be found in the fact that a female slave was as a rule her master’s concubine (Perowne). These verses refer that it was alright to trade women and female slaves, and undesirable female slaves can be released without money. In addition to that, polygamy was allowed.
The distinction between having a male child and female child and it is consequences can be seen in Leviticus 12:1-5:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her customary impurity, and she shall continue in the blood of her purification sixty-six days.”
These verses are about the ritual impurity after the child-bringing. After a male child comes into the world and circumcised on the eighth day, the woman will be unclean until the eighth day. As David Guzik’s commentary on the main understanding of this ceremony is to understand the idea of original sin. Every birth another sinner was brought into the world, and the woman was here symbolically responsible for bringing a new sinner into the world. (Guzik).
Moreover, as it seen the period of impurities is increased when having a female child, and the reason for this can be a female child will also give birth a sinner in the future. Leviticus 21:9 states that ” And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the whore, she profanity her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” Since the daughter of a priest represents the religion she needs to be careful about her behaviors and she has the responsibility of being a daughter of a priest.
Therefore, they need to follow the religion accordingly. However, this verse states that if she dishonors of herself the consequences would be punished fiercely with burning. It is a massive punishment. It needs to emphasize that Why only the daughters of a priest are responsible to follow the religion properly and they are punished when they dishonor themselves but no sons? The sons of a priest are not even mentioned.
The way the widows and divorced women were perceived in the Old Testament was not that positive. To give an example, in Ezekiel 44:22 ” They must not marry widows or divorced women; they may marry only virgins of Israelite descent or widows of priests.” It is obvious that the priests were not allowed to marry a divorced woman or widows except a priest’s divorced wife. Discrimination against divorced women and widows can be observed through this verse.