Different religions tend to have a standard view of women: they are inferior to men, and their bodies are designed for only one purpose, which is to procreate.
As such, women worldwide struggled to feel like they matter for many years, with a patriarchal society defining their worth for them. And despite the significant progress we’ve already made since then, many present societies and households still exhibit sexism, whether intentionally or subconsciously.
If you’re a parent, especially that of a son and a daughter, you might be able to tell if you’re treating both of your children fairly. Your instinctual response would most probably be an “of course!” But what do you do when your boy cries or your girl refuses to make her bed?
A lot of parents, sadly, tend to shame their sons for being emotional and berate their daughters for being bad at housework. If they are a religious family, they might even use the teachings of their faith to make their children feel guilty about not fulfilling their gender roles.
Signs That You Are Not Empowering Your Daughters
Women are often the subject of gender role disputes. Though the number of women leaders is now relatively abundant, they still earn less than their male counterparts, especially if they’re women of color.
The pay gap is born out of sexism, which is rooted mostly in religion. If churches, societies, business industries, and governments continue to hold on to outdated teachings and misinterpreted scriptures, then gender equality will remain beyond the reach of many women, including transgender women.
Gender inequality is bred at home. It starts when we train our daughters to be sweet and gentle. We would reward them for showing empathy and cooperation, then punish them for putting themselves first or, as pointed out above, for being bad at housework.
Research from 1994 showed a typical parenting behavior that’s still very much observed today. The 1994 issue of Adolescence had confirmed that parents are more protective of their daughters and more permissive with their sons. That shows when we allow our sons to be out late at night but restrict our daughters from doing the same unless a trustworthy man accompanies them.
While there’s nothing wrong about being concerned for our daughters’ safety, it teaches them that they need to be dependent on someone’s protection for their well-being. And meanwhile, sons are raised to be self-reliant, goal-oriented, tough, aggressive, sexually assertive, and unemotional.
The other qualities we tend to instill on our daughters are being compliant and accommodating. Whether unknowingly or otherwise, we train them to seek approval from others, especially from relatives and the communities they’re in. As a result, these thoughts are often in a woman’s head, according to a psychotherapist:
- I don’t speak up for myself because I want people to like me.
- I don’t want to be difficult and cause problems, so I cooperate even if it’s against my will.
- I get resentful when I put others’ needs ahead of my own.
Ask yourself what you often tell your daughters. Do you ask them to stop being dramatic when they express discomfort or distress? Do you tell them to be nice to their brothers, even if their brothers treat them poorly? If they don’t feel like doing your favor, do you guilt-trip them by claiming that they don’t care about your feelings?
If we want our daughters to grow up successful, confident, and with a solid sense of worth, we should allow them to speak up for themselves, make decisions for their own, and, most of all, we should respect them. Treating them like inferiors isn’t Christ’s way of loving. Jesus regarded women highly and never tolerated discrimination against them.
Using Your Faith to Empower Your Daughters
Like many notable women of faith, you can also empower your daughters while following your church’s teachings. Feminist theologians have raised the issue of gender inequality in religious communities, challenging misinterpretations of scriptures. Zainah Awnar, a founding member and director of the organization “Sisters in Islam,” aims to promote gender equality through an Islamic framework. Several Jewish feminists in the 1970s founded a social justice group called “Ezrat Nashim” in hopes of giving men and women equal opportunities for leadership within the Jewish communities.
To follow their example and support their cause, be active in your church as a family, and consider participating in religious family events. Through volunteering together, you may realize that compassion, kindness, and helpfulness aren’t traits that define womanhood, but instead, traits that develop a Christ-like human being, regardless of their gender.
With that, may we learn that our religion shouldn’t dictate our daughters’ worth and that they’re just as important and capable as our sons.