Religions and Gender

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Religions and Gender

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Gender Studies, Religion

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


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    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Learning objectives

    • The student is able to describe analytically how certain aspects of gender have been or become an issue in religions
    • The student is able to articulate major parallels and differences between a number of religious traditions in their approaches to gender issues in the past and present
    • The student is able to switch from the religious insider view to the academic outsider view and back again

      This course introduces students to a broad spectrum of religions in the past and present dealing with aspects of gender. Gender issues related to male and female models in religious narratives, historical shifts in the religious status of women, mother goddesses and female power, religious views of homosexuality, notions of masculinity and power in religious politics, will be addressed across cultures and religions. The variety of religious traditions under consideration illustrates religious diversity. But there is more to it. Careful comparisons enable students to discover underlying patterns of similarity. Six sessions will focus on the following six themes:
    1. Male and female role models and stereotypes in ancient narratives: mythological and legendary couples and gender differences in the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic, the Greek Odyssey epic, the Hindu Mahabharata and Ramayana epics
    2. The changing religious status of women during three crucial shifts in the world history of religions: the Neolithic, Axial Age, and Modernization breakthroughs
    3. Cross-cultural comparison of mother goddesses and female power: the Shinto goddess Amaterasu in Japan, the Hindu goddess Durga in India, the Greek goddess Demeter in Minor Asia
    4. The image of Mary in Christianity and Islam: virgin, Madonna, mother, heroine, virtue, saint, queen
    5. Religious politics and symbols of masculinity and power in contemporary Hinduism
    6. Religious rules and attitudes regarding homosexuality in Buddhism and in Islam


    Written exam


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