Master of Arts degree with a major in Sociology
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Religious women and feminist women are large demographics around the world, but relatively little is known about women who identify as both religious and feminist. In this thesis I ask: How do religious women hold feminist ideals when religion is seen by many feminists as an inherently patriarchal and oppressive institution? How does the interplay of their feminism and religiosity affect their life decisions and how they worship? How does having a religious feminist identity affect interactions with people in their lives? To address these issues I interviewed eleven (11) religious feminist women from a small rural community in Northern California. The women identified as Christian, Jewish and Muslim. I used structural symbolic interactionism, intersectionality, identity theory, and standpoint theory to analyze the data. My sample size was split between interviewing 6 Christian women, 1 Jewish woman, and 4 Muslim women. I anticipated interviewing more Christian women overall because of the access I had to the population and small size of the community. The age demographics of the interviews was relatively homogenous based on each religion, with Christian women being all over 35, the Jewish woman over 60, and the Muslim women all in their 20’s. Regardless of age differences, I found that the religious feminist women I interviewed were able to seamlessly and effortlessly integrate religion and feminism into their lives, and had done so for the majority of their lives. While there were minor instances of disagreements with their religious texts, they found processes of interpreting their texts in ways that were in line with their feminist beliefs. When asked about tense interactions within their lives, the women all shared stories of interactions with people in close social circles such as family members, religious peers and co-workers. They used micro-level agency to gauge their reactions to these tense moments, by trusting in their religious beliefs to “do the right thing”, while also utilizing the strength of their feminist beliefs to not stand down. While my intent was to focus on the difficulties of sharing 2 seemingly contradictory identities such as being religious and feminist, the interviews proved that religious feminist women feel more empowered by their religious beliefs than oppressed by them. Based on this, I call for more studies of religious feminist women to be conducted, and I call for more studies to use intersectionality as a tool for analyzing empowerment and liberation instead of oppression and domination.
Noble, Molly, "Religiosity and feminism: navigating gender constructions and ideologies" (2018). Cal Poly Humboldt theses and projects. 140.