Interfaith and Gender

  • How do gender-based differences in religious experience — education, obligations, spheres of influence — affect dialogue across faith communities?
  •  Are women’s voices from each tradition presented as authentic? authoritative? alternative? (at all?)
  • How are gender-specific power issues acknowledged?
  • If women cannot be “clergy” or take certain leadership roles in some faith communities, how can interfaith “clergy” efforts be inclusive?
  • How are worship and learning experiences organized across the egalitarian/gender-segregation divide?
  • How are historical and contemporary gender inequalities addressed?

These were among the questions I had, as a newcomer to interfaith dialogue a few years ago. While I did not expect to find “answers,” necessarily, I did expect that, after years of interfaith dialogue around the world, there would be at least a framework for considering them. I assumed there would be a literature and some regular practices in place.

But my queries to practitioners of interfaith dialogue met largely with blank stares, sometimes anger: Why threaten a delicate set of communications with a “side issue”?

I have since discovered some academic literature on the subject but very few — I found one, actually, but assume there must be others — sets of dialogue guidelines that specifically address gender.

When I set up InterfaithandGender.org, in 2011, I wrote that it was “launched in a kind of desperation.” In 2014, as I move resources from that site to “A Song Every Day,” I still hope to create a place to share thoughts and resources wherever this topic has already been considered. While there has been some movement over these few years, I don’t think enough has changed for me to re-write this closing paragraph:

Where it is usually an afterthought at best, let us begin to address — explicitly and with care — the ways in which gender interacts with interfaith experience. Working together we can develop a framework for asking helpful questions and putting gender-related issues on the table in interfaith dialogue.

If I’m wrong, and I’ve somehow missed a groundswell of activity and improvement, please enlighten me: I have not followed this as closely as I would have liked.

Interfaith and Gender Pages

A Modest Beginning” by Esther Ticktin
Current Interfaith Guidelines: An Overview
Gender Considerations for Dialogue
A View from the Margins
Of Plumbing and Gender
See also posts tagged “gender”

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