Women and Christianity: representations and practices
 
 

Conclusion and bibliography

In this chapter we have attempted to demonstrate how Christian tradition has defined and molded female identity. We can see in this construction a method of legitimising the role given to women in society and in the religious institutions, a role clearly subordinated to that of men. 

The necessity of pointing out these representations, which form the basis of Christian practices, led us to particularly insist on the unity of a European culture. From Northern Europe to Southern Europe women have been defined until recently as a being whose duty was to obey male authority both within the home and at church. In both Catholic and Protestant countries, a same fate is forced upon her: to be a virgin and then a mother. The difference between the two Faiths lays in the sacralisation of virginity in both Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. 

By discussing the issue of priesthood however we pointed out the gap that exists today between the position of the Protestant Churches on the one hand, and that of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches on the other. This gap can be explained by the image the two churches have of themselves: the principle of "universal priesthood" potentially opened the pastorate to women. More generally, one can ask if it is justified to believe that the protestant thought has facilitated the development of feminist concepts.

Even though there is a lot more left to achieve, it seems indeed that social relations between the two sexes are more egalitarian in the Northern mainly Protestant European countries than in the Southern countries (see other chapters in this course-book). This situation is partly due to the variable progress of the feminist movement and thought in the North compared to the South of Europe. However, a satisfactory explanation of this phenomenon needs to be found and in this respect the religious factor has often been mentioned. Protestantism, which is the main religion in Northern Europe, invites its congregation to establish direct contact with God without having to obey the authority of an obviously male Church, which is desacralised (or secularised). In this respect, Protestantism may have helped the autonomy of women and catalysed their demands for equality. We also have discussed in this chapter the fact that protestants do not sacralise virginity, at least officially. They do not have nuns. Catholic valorisation of virginity on the other hand has led to the stigmatising of women: women alone are said to be "soiled" by sexual relations. 

However, we have to face the fact that also Protestant Churches (see also F. Rochefort, 1998: 215-216 and J. Bauberot, 1991), similar to the Catholic Church, have adopted Paulís profoundly inegalitarian statements regarding women. It is therefore difficult to invoke solely the religious factors to explain the difference womenís status in the North and the South of Europe. Equally, it seems difficult to believe that religion has not played a role in the development of the gendered relations.
 

 
Bibliography in French and English

Jean-Pierre ALBERT. Odeurs de sainteté. La mythologie chrétienne des aromates. Paris, Eds de l'EHESS, 1990.

Le sang et le ciel. Les saintes mystiques dans le monde chrétien. Paris, Aubier, Collection Historique, 1997.

Marlène ALBERT-LLORCA. "Les fils de la Vierge. La broderie et la dentelle dans l'éducation des jeunes filles". L'Homme. n° 133, janv.-mars 1995. 

"La Vierge mise à nu par ses chambrières", CIio. Histoire, Femmes et Sociétés. Presses Universitaires du Mirail, n°2, 1995.

Monique ALEXANDRE. "De l'Annonce du Royaume à l'Eglise. Rôles, ministères, pouvoirs de femmes", in Histoire des femmes. Sous la dir. de Georges 

DUBY et Michelle PERROT, T. I. L'Antiquité, sous la dir. de Pauline SCHMITT PANTEL, PARIS, PLON, 1991.

Régine AZRIA. "La femme dans la tradition et la modernité juives", Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions : "La religion, frein à l'égalité hommes / femmes ?", juil.-sept.1996.

Jean BAUBÉROT. "De la femme protestante", in Histoire des femmes. Sous la dir. de Georges DUBY et Michelle PERROT, T. IV. XIXe siècle sous la dir. de Geneviève FRAISSE et Miclelle PERROT, PARIS, PLON, 1991.

Bible (La Sainte). Traduite en français sous la direction de l'Ecole Biblique de Jérusalem, Paris, Eds du Cerf, 1961. 

Caroline BYNUM. Jesus as Mother : Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages. Publications for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Berkeley- Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1982.

Holy Feast and Holy Fast. The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women. Berkeley. The University of California Press, 1987. Trad. franç. : Jeûnes et festins sacrés. Les femmes et la nourriture dans la spiritualité médiévale. Paris, Eds du Cerf, 1994.

Pierre BRECHON. "Le mystère des identités religieuses masculines et féminines" in Ni Eve ni Marie. Luttes et incertitudes des héritières de la Bible. F. Lautman éd., Genève, Eds Labor et Fides, 1997. 

Roland J. CAMPICHE. "Religion, statut social et identité féminine", Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions : "La religion, frein à l'égalité hommes / femmes ?", juil.-sept.1996.

"Femmes et religion : identité spécifique ou identité construite ?" in Ni Eve ni Marie. Luttes et incertitudes des héritières de la Bible. F. Lautman éd., Genève, Eds Labor et Fides, 1997.

Coran (Le). Essai de traduction de l'arabe annoté et suivi d'une étude exégétique par Jacques BERQUE, Paris, Sindbad, 1990.

Grace DAVIE. Religion in Britain since 1945. Blackwell Oxford UK & Cambridge USA, 1994. Trad. franç. La religion des Britanniques. De 1945 à nos jours, Genève, Eds Labor et Fides, 1996.

Jean DELUMEAU (sous la dir. de) La première Communion. Quatre siècles d'histoire. Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1987.

La religion de ma mère. Paris, Eds du Cerf, 1992.

Claudine FABRE-VASSAS. "La fiancée d'Aleph", Clio. Histoire, Femmes et Sociétés. Presses Universitaires du Mirail, n°2, 1995.

Agnès FINE. "A propos du trousseau : une culture féminine ?", in Une histoire des femmes est-elle possible ? Sous la dir. de Michèle PERROT, Marseille, Rivages, 1984.

Claude LANGLOIS. "Féminisation du catholicisme" in Histoire de la France religieuse. Sous la dir. de Jacques LE GOFF et R. REMOND, T. 3 : Du roi très chrétien à la laïcité républicaine. Paris, Eds du Seuil, 1991.

Françoise LAUTMAN. "Les relectures féministes de la Bible" in Ni Eve ni Marie. Luttes et incertitudes des héritières de la Bible. F. Lautman éd., Paris, Eds Labor et Fides, 1997. 

Jacques MAITRE. Mystique et féminité. Essai de psychanalyse socio-historique. Paris, Eds du Cerf, 1997.

 Jean MERCIER. Des femmes pour le royaume de Dieu. Paris, Albin Michel, 1994.

Martine MILLET. "Le ministère pastoral des femmes dans le protestantisme français", in La religion de ma mère. Jean Delumeau éd., Paris, Eds du Cerf, 1992.

Robert MUCHEMBLED. Culture populaire et culture des élites dans la France moderne (XVe-XVIIIe siècle). Paris, Flammarion, 1978.

Jean-Michel SALMANN. "Sorcière", in Histoire des femmes. Sous la dir. de Georges DUBY et Michelle PERROT, T. III. XVIe-XVIIIe siècles , sous la dir. de Nathalie ZEMON DAVIS et Arlette FARGE, PARIS, PLON, 1991.

Elizabeth SCHÜSSLER-FIORENZA. In Memory of Her. New-York, 1983. Trad. Franç. En mémoire d'elle. Essai de reconstruction des origines chrétiennes selon la théologie féministe. Paris, Cerf, 1986.

Martine SONNET. "Education et première Communion au XVIIIe siècle" , in La première Communion. Quatre siècles d'histoire. Sous la dir. de J. Delumeau, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1987.

Moniek STEGGERDA. ""Religion and Social Positions of Women and Men", Social Compass , n°40 / 1, 1993, 65-73.

Arnold VAN GENNEP. Les rites de passage. Paris, Eds Picard, 1981 (1ère éd. 1909).

Yvonne VERDIER. Façons de dire, façons de faire. La laveuse, la couturière, la cuisinière. Paris, NRF, Eds. Gallimard, 1979.

Liliane VOYÉ. "Femmes et Eglise catholique. Une histoire de contradictions et d'ambiguïtés", Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions : "La religion, frein à l'égalité hommes / femmes ?", juil.-sept.1996.

Geoffrey WIGODER (sous la dir. de). Dictionnaire Encyclopédique du Judaïsme. Adapt. franç. de Sylvie Anne GOLDBERG avec la coll. de Véronique GILLET, Arnaud SERANDOUR et Gabriel Raphaël VEYRET, Paris, Cerf/ Robert Laffont, 1996.

Max WEBER. L'Ethique protestante et l'esprit du capitalisme. Paris, Plon, Press Pocket, 1964 (éd. or. 1904-1905)

Economie et société. Paris, Plon, 1995 (éd. or. 1922).

Jean-Paul WILLAIME. "L'accès des femmes au pastorat et la sécularisation du rôle du clerc dans le protestantisme", Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions : "La religion, frein à l'égalité hommes / femmes ?", juil.-sept 1996.
"Les femmes pasteurs en France : socio-histoire d'une conquête" in Ni Eve ni Marie. Luttes et incertitudes des héritières de la Bible. F. Lautman éd., Paris, Eds Labor et Fides, 1997. 

English Bibliography

C. R. BOHN and J. C.. BROWN Christianity, Patriarchy and Abuse. A feminist Critique. New York, Pilgrim Press, 1989.

Mary DALY. Beyond God the Father : toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation. Boston (Mass), Beacon Press, 1977.

Roberta GILCHRIST. Gender and material Culture : the Archeology of religious Women. London, Routledge, 1994.

Kathryn GLEADLE. The Early Feminists : Radical Unitarians and the Emergence of the Women's Rights Movements, 1831-51. St Martin's Press, 1998

Aruna GNANADASM. No Longer a Secret : the Chruch and Violence againts Women. Risk Book Series, n° 58. Geneva, World Coucil of Chruches, 1993.

Hilary HINDS. God's Englishwomen : Seventeeth-Century Radical Sectarian Writing and Feminist Criticism. Manchester University Press. 1996.

Arvindi SHARMA and KK YOUNG, eds. Feminism and World Religions. State University of New York Press, 1998.

S. SHERIDAN and FM DENNY eds. Hear our Voice : Women in the British Rabbinate. University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Annette Joy VAN DYKE. The Search for a Woman-Centred Spirituality. The Cutting Edge : Lesbian Life and Literature. New York University Press. 1992.

Mary Jo WEAVER and Mary TURNER. New Catholic Women : A Contemporary Challenge to Traditional Religious Authrority. Indiana University Press. 1995.