Lisbeth Mikaelsson on Religion and Gender

Gender has always played a significant role in the everyday lives of people. This is no more true than in the case of religion and there is a burgeoning field in religious studies dedicated to the study of the role of gender within religions. From dress codes to notions of purity to questions of the legitimate of power the topic of gender is one few scholars can afford to ignore. With a whole range of issues to be investigated Lisbeth Mikaelsson gives us an introductory insight into the complex topic of religion and gender: the issues it raises, the way we go about it, who’s doing it and why.

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Lisbeth Mikaelsson is professor of religion in the department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion at the University of Bergen. More recently she has shifted her specialism from religion and gender to new religious movements and is currently studying the Prosperity Movement. She has published a number of books and articles in Norwegian. In English she has published on the topic of Gender in Armin Geertz’ edited volume New Approaches to the Study of Religion and the journal Numen.

3 replies
  1. Avatar
    Christine Pugh says:

    Mikaelsson’s description of the ways in which the story of Adam and Eve (the second of two separate creation myths in the Bible) has been used by ruling classes to promote patriarchy brings up a chicken and egg question. Just because the story has been used to prop up a patriarchal institution does not mean that it is inherently discriminatory. Is the story itself patriarchal, or has it consistently been read in patriarchal terms to promote the ideology of a male ruling elite? Although Mikaelsson gives convincing examples of the ways in which the story of Adam and Eve has been used to denigrate women, I was not convinced by her arguments that it was the text itself that caused this interpretation. The story of Adam and Eve may well be a patriarchal text, but Mikaelsson did not convince me.

    I found Mikaelsson’s characterization of myths as “stories that you cannot take really seriously” to be highly problematic. Scholars of mythology, although they often acknowledge that myths should not be taken literally by scholars and other highly educated individuals, do not claim that this precludes their being taken seriously. I was also uncomfortable with her assertion that scholars have an “implicit unbelief” and wonder how she would relate this to methodological agnosticism vs. methodological atheism.

    Christine Pugh

    Wilfrid Laurier University

    • Avatar
      David Robertson says:

      So much of history is reading our present concerns back into the past. Mad Men is a topical example – so often, the plot beat is “we wouldn’t do that now”.

  2. Avatar
    Amara says:

    The concept of religion and gender is something new to me. This podcast was very informative in providing an explanation as to why gender is an important topic in the field of religious studies. This is particularly because many religions make divisions between men and women. Religions are important for how gender is viewed by society. I believe that all religious studies scholars should have a grasp on the relationship between gender and religion because it is an important method for understanding society.


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