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Marina V. Vorobjova
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Gender Approach in Religious Studies:
An Attempt of Interdisciplinary Discussion


If we try to compare two spheres of scholarly research – religious studies and gender studies – we will at first glance not find anything in common. These disciplines have their own subjects of research, different goals and methods of research. However, if we look closer we will find “black holes” – particular moments that cannot be explained from the point of view of only one discipline and require specialists from other areas of knowledge. There are such well-known examples of cooperation as sociology and religious studies (sociology of religion), psychology and religious studies (psychology of religion), history and religious studies (history of religion), or philosophy and religious studies (philosophy of religion). We also know about interrelations between such disciplines as theology, ethnography, linguistics etc. with religious studies, which testifies of marginal character of this discipline and of its openness to other spheres of knowledge. However, religious studies scholars have not been paying due attention to gender researches that, as we think, could assist in solving many “problematic areas”.

Many researchers of religion have noted that the masculine and the feminine may show themselves differently in different religions. Shy steps in the direction of gender research have been taken (and are still being taken) by contemporary Russian and Western religious studies scholars but they are not structured and are founded more on an intuitive approach rather then a firmly based position.

If we take gender studies, we will see that the area of religion has been covered in them by both those who were the roots of the “feminist movement” to contemporary scholars (examples).

Therefore, we can speak of an inter-intrestedness of religious and gender areas of study.
This, in turn, means that there are some common problems which touch on interests of both of these areas. This is what we are led by when we turn to three “bordering” problems for Religious and Women's Studies:

1. Masculine and feminine gods: their images, functions and basic differences.
All of mythology is one way or another based on the opposition between masculine and feminine.
2. Perception of gender and the role of women in various religions.
As a rule, women in the social life have a role different from that which men have. This goes for religion also.
3. Woman and power: key to the problem

Different functions that gods play is nothing else but “competition” for power; the role women play in religion only proves that the struggle is still taking place. And this struggle goes on in order for the scale on which men and women are on the opposite ends to shift one way or another.

Thus, female religiousness is different from masculine religiousness and the very problem of gender must be taken in account when one or another religion or a religious belief is approached. Gender differences (superficial in rites or functional) may shed more light on the picture of religious life in case if a deep understanding of their essence is added to the fixation of superficial differences; sources of the problem and its “blasts” within history of feminism must also be understood on a deeper level.

Such interaction of gender and religious researches could do great good showing itself, for example, in NRM studies where masculine and feminine are not static things, but a way of religious life, that is built on particular stereotypes or, on the contrary, on denying them.

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