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Women's Status in Eastern NRMs
Sylvia Fuller and John Levi Martin
Review of Religious Research
Vol. 44, No. 4 (Jun., 2003), pp. 354-369
Published by: Religious Research Association, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3512215
Page Count: 16
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There has been an unresolved debate as to the relative position of women in Eastern religious guru-based groups. While some sociologists see these as groups ideologically committed to traditional gender relations, often exploitative, and highly controlling of female members, others have seen them as pro-female in ideology and organization, and argue that even their emphasis on a traditional feminine role is liberatory. A comparative study of 35 communes from a national sampling frame demonstrates that both sides are right. Compared to other communes, these groups are both traditionalistic in gender ideology, and they tend to empower women. Indeed, these two factors are inseparable: these groups empower women because of their emphasis on traditional femininity and because of the domination of an extremely powerful male leader and the system of control over interpersonal relations he oversees. We find two routes to gender equality--one via norms of gender egalitarianism, and one via rules enforced by a charismatic (male) leader that prevents men from snow-balling initial status advantages they might have into generalized dominance. This has general implications for what constellations of leadership are likely to empower women.
Review of Religious Research © 2003 Religious Research Association, Inc.