There’s a trend that I’ve noticed among Christian women, specifically in their blogs (some examples are here, here, and here), to put a great amount of their gender identity into their religion, and for a while I wondered why that was. Why, for so many Christian women, is their gender such a salient part of their religion?It’s hard to not notice that many Christian-girl blogs tend to look similar: white background, a floral logo, and script fonts everywhere. They usually say something about being a daughter of the king or doing things in a God-honoring way. A common topic is how to manage romantic relationships and lust and how to not end up in a situation where a boy and a girl might be together with no supervision.
This begs the question: why didn’t I see blogs on how to be a good Christian man? Usually blogs from Christian men are just on how to be a Christian, and the fact that they have to practice this religion as a man doesn’t seem to be emphasized. This isn’t a phenomenon that I’ve seen in atheist blogs, either. My own blog isn’t, I hope, in any way girly; I don’t feel the need to call it The Closet Atheist Girl—A Daughter of Evolution or something silly and glaringly feminine like that. So why is being a Christian woman so different than being a Christian man?
I’ve decided that this must be some sort of subconscious thing. I can’t help but blame this on the fact that women aren’t granted the same place in religion that men are. The bible assigns roles to the genders, telling women what they ought to do and what they can’t do as the men go off, please God, and conquer the world. I see this emphasis on femininity to be a coping mechanism to fit in where one doesn’t quite belong. As the lesser sex in most religions (consider the role of women in the church as mothers and men as pastors and church leaders), women may need to intertwine their religious and gender identities as a way to compensate for how unnatural it is for the two to coexist—I see it as a bit of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
For some reason, it seems as though religion will crumble—or thinks it will crumble—if the two genders are not entirely polarized and separated. Forbidding homosexuality, cross-dressing, or being transgender isn’t enough: men and women must obey their own respective rule books within their holy texts. It’s very clear to me that women and men are encouraged to interpret the bible in different ways: this show itself in my Christian college as well as at my home church when bible studies are almost always divided between Women’s Bible Study and Men’s Bible Study; the only time I see an all-inclusive study is the one on Sunday mornings when the whole congregation gathers between church services.
This polarization is where the gender roles arise, including my personal favorite, the requirement of women to submit to their husbands. And perverse as it may sound, I’ve always perceived Christian women as somehow sexualizing Jesus, which may explain why they so often submit to him in the same way they submit to their husbands or use him to replace their romantic partners during “the single season” (which is something that I’ve never heard of men doing). Some of them need his permission to do anything at all, including wearing makeup or kissing a boy before the wedding.
This brings me to yet another reason why I love being an atheist. In our community, men and women are equal: we may have things that men or women more commonly excel at, but there are no rule books that say who is the greater sex or who must submit to whom, not to mention any aggressively male deities to bow down to. When you’re an atheist, a woman’s place is anywhere she wants to be, and there is no rift to reconcile between your atheism and the true equality that is at the heart of feminism.