2.1.4- Belief Systems Impact on Gender Roles

Ani Mayasandra and Anuj Thaker

Opening Summary

Gender roles have been a huge part of civilizations ever since the beginning of time. Religion helped dictate what the roles of each gender were. Men were generally viewed as the leader of the family and were always high ranking officials in the religious communities. Women on the other hand have been regarded as support systems to men. Civilizations automatically adapted this type of thought because their belief systems took a certain stance, which recommended that people of that belief system went with it. The reason for this is uncertain, but many sources say that because women give birth, they needed to be protected. For example, India had a gender specific society. The Gupta Empire was a prime example of this, as women were denied educational opportunities. Even today, some of the practices separating men and women still exist.

Sita waits for Rama to come and rescue her, suggesting that women were looked at as distressed victims, and not as powerful.

The Basic Gist
Who: The people whose lives were affected because of the role that belief systems had on gender. Those who practiced religions such as; Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Jainism, and Buddhism.

What: The impact that classical religions had on the people that followed the religion in terms of gender roles.

When: Classical civilizations surfaced around the time of 950 BCE to 36 CE. This time frame encompassed the beginning of most of the classical civilizations

Where: The majority of these religions were started in Europe and Asia

China during the Han Dynasty.

The area of the Gupta Empire, which reigned from 320 to 600s CE.

Map of Europe in the Classical Era.

Case Study

Christianity was a religion that surfaced based on the teaching of Jesus. According to the New Testament, Jesus was the Son of God. Going against the norm of the time, Jesus was said to have helped women publicly and treated them with respect and dignity. With the beginning of the early Christian church, many argued that it should be a “man’s church” as the New Testament was written by men. Modern Views however vary depending on the perspective that Christians have. There are two major perspectives of Christianity in modern history.

Egalitarian Perspective

· Men and women created equal by God

· Women subject to marriage and “Womanly restrictions” do not follow the true picture of Christianity

· Paul of Tarsus conveyed Jesus’ teachings when he wrote, “there is no male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.”

· Did not have gender specific roles in life

Jesus talks with a woman.
Jesus talks with a woman.

Complementarian Perspective

· The husband is given the responsibility by God to protect and provide for the family

· The wife is to respect the husband, serve him, and nurture the children

· Roman Catholics generally give women roles such as teachers and nuns

· Old and New Testament gave men leadership over women

· Believed that ministers of the church had to be men to represent Jesus, “Son of God.”

Christianity in the twenty first century however has for the most part equalized the role of men and women. However, although people believe men and women to be equal, there are certain things that do show inequality in gender. One of these factors is the fact that it is nearly impossible for a woman to become head of the church also known as the pope for Catholics.

Final Analysis



M: Men participated mostly in the military to fight whereas women were barred from the military

S: Women were in charge of taking care of the kids and were regarded weaker than men

P: Men held high positions in the political structure and women were not given many responsibilities

R: Both males and females followed religion but only males generally held high ranking positions in the religious society

I: Men got to study at a religious place of worship and women were not allowed to study in most religions


E: Men worked and provided for their families

Works Cited:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gupta_Empire

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gupta_Empire
  2. http://www.exoticindia.fr/article/sundarakanda
  3. http://bharatanatyam.co.uk/bharatanatyam.html