Mary

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Eve, Mary-mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene are all prominent characters in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and to some extent are mentioned in the Quran. Regardless of whether or not a person believes these women really existed as portrayed within these religious texts, they had and still have a major impact on societal views towards women today. For women to be truly liberated and treated as equals to men requires the circumvention of conventional patriarchal, anti-feminist interpretations and misrepresentations of holy literature. According to Daly (1973) there is the “delusion that women should be ‘equal but different” (p. 2) stemming from how women are treated in the Bible but still going strong today. These texts influence how society constructs gender roles and norms for women which impacts equality rights, feminism, and oppression of women. Women today are still held hostage by these typologies leading to their continued oppression within society giving rise to feminist activism and the fight for equality between the sexes, which of course continues to be hindered within the patriarchal society. Mary the virgin is seen as innocent and needing protection, this supports the idea that women are weak and dependent upon the men in their lives to care for them. Eve is the good girl gone bad, the cause of humankinds fall and separation from God. This image supports the idea that women are evil and need to be controlled. Mary Magdalene, the prostitute, rounds out the construct for women supporting the idea that women without a man are sluts. These typologies have a significant bearing on the lives of modern women because they perpetuate an oppressive society where women are seen as less than men do. For women to be truly liberated and treated as equal to men requires “ a castrating of language and images that reflect and perpetuate the structures of a sexist world” (Daly, 1973, p. 9). To see how Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Eve typologies influence women today, it is best to look at how they have influenced women throughout history. For more than three hundred and fifty years, the Bible has been a “shaping influence in the lives of American women… [Who] have turned to the scriptures for insight into the nature of womanhood” (De Swarte Gifford, p. 51): they were certain its sacred pages would reveal Gods revelation about women, their Christian duties, and which sphere, the public or private, they belonged in. Dating at least back to the 19th century, people have been debating the construct of womanhood affecting all American institutions including but not limited to business, American legal system, and church policies. That debate is as strong today as it was when it first surfaced and the question remains the same; how are religious texts (such as the Bible) to be interpreted in regards to women and who should be doing that interpretation? These answers greatly affect how American women are perceived within society. When the Bible is interpreted, as if it often is, by men, within a patriarchal society, women are placed in a subordinate position, where they are continually subjected to oppression. Women are supposed to be like Mary, feminine, quiet, demure, mothers and homemakers. They are to solely occupy the private sphere. They are not to go out and work in the male dominated public sphere. This is often based on the idea that God gave women the private realm and men the public one, where men are to rule over the women. Women who step outside their role are like Mary Magdalene and considered abnormal and subjected to punishment it is only by getting back into the will of God (which Mary Magdalene did when she turned from her sin and chose to follow Christ). “Male interpreters…[of the Bible] held a traditional view of woman’s nature and sphere which did not allow them to take a fresh, unbiased look at the material in the texts, although they might sincerely believe that they were doing so” (De Swarte Gifford, p. 58)....
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