A topic of conversation that often occurs around the gender equality conversations is the issue of women having to act like men in order to be respected or even taken seriously by men. Many of us desire a world where people can be themselves (whatever that looks like) as they lead, teach, and live. With recent conversations regarding that issue on my mind, I came across this
article in the paper today.
The article discusses the ancient Albanian custom of "sworn virgins." This is a "tradition in which women take an oath of lifelong virginity in exchange for the right to live as men. The process is not surgical. Rather, sworn virgins cut their hair and wear baggy men's clothes and take up manly livelihoods as shepherds or truck drivers or even political leaders. And those around them treat them as men... The practice has existed at least since the 15th Century, when the region's traditions were first codified, according to Dones. The sworn virgins came into being for emergencies: If the family patriarch died and there was no other man to carry on, a provision was needed so that a woman could run her family.... In the mountains of northern Albania, throughout modern history, women have had very few rights. They cannot vote in local elections; they cannot buy land; there are many jobs they are not permitted to hold; they cannot even enter many establishments. An ancient set of laws called the Kanun still helps govern the region. The Kanun says, 'A woman is a sack made to endure.'...Some women took the oath if the family patriarch died. Others swore the oath out of a fierce streak of independence, and still others because it was the only way to avoid an arranged marriage without disgracing the selected groom's family."
So as long as the women set aside their sexuality and identity as a woman they could do anything men could do and were given respect. This revels the deeply cultural and not biological assumption of gender roles for many people. Some are saying that this custom was in a sense progressive and freeing for the women. It gave them a chance at a different life but at a very high cost. It makes me question assertions in the church especially that try to force women into set cultural roles in order for them to lead. in my opinion it is just as offensive to force a women to act "like a man" as to insist that she abide by stereotypes of what it means to be feminine. Let a women be herself (let men be themselves for that matter). She may naturally act more masculine, or more feminine, or something different than those cultural pigeonholes. But as we see, in Albania and in the West even today this is still an ongoing issue.
Labels: Culture, Gender Issues