HBI Series on Gender, Culture, Religion and Law

Published by: Brandeis University Press

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HBI Series on Gender, Culture, Religion and Law

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Citizenship, Faith, and Feminism

Jewish and Muslim Women Reclaim Their Rights

Jan Feldman

Religious women in liberal democracies are “dual citizens” because of their contrasting status as members of both a civic community (in which their gender has no impact on their constitutional guarantee of equal rights) and a traditional religious community (which distributes roles and power based on gender).

This book shows how these “dual citizens”—Orthodox Jewish women in Israel, Muslim women in Kuwait, and women of both those faiths in the U.S.—have increasingly deployed their civic citizenship rights in attempts to reform and not destroy their religions. For them, neither “exit” nor acquiescence to traditional religious gender norms is an option. Instead, they use the narrative of civic citizenship combined with a more authentic, if alternative reading of their faith tradition to improve their status.

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Polygamy in Primetime

Media, Gender, and Politics in Mormon Fundamentalism

Janet Bennion

Recently, polygamy has become a “primetime” phenomenon. Television shows like Big Love and Sister Wives demonstrate the “progressive” side of polygamy, while horror stories from victims of abusive marriages offer less upbeat experiences among the adherents of the fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS Church).

Bennion, herself a product of Mormon polygamy, seeks to dispel the myths and misinformation that surround this topic. This study, based on seventeen years of ethnographic research among the Allred Group (Apostolic United Brethren) and on an analysis of recent blog journal entries written by a range of polygamous women, examines the variety and complexity of contemporary Mormon fundamentalist life in the Intermountain West.

Although Bennion highlights problems associated with polygamy, including evidence that some forms are at high risk for father-child incest, she challenges the media-driven depiction of plural marriage as uniformly abusive and harmful to women. She shows how polygamist families can provide both economic security and social sustenance for some women, and how the authority of the husband can be undermined by the stresses of providing for multiple wives and children. Going beyond the media’s obsession with the sexual aspects of polygamous marriage, Bennion offers a rich description of familial, social, and legal contexts. Throughout, she makes the case for legalizing polygamy in order to allow greater visibility and regulation of the practice.

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Self-Determination and Women’s Rights in Muslim Societies

Chitra Raghavan

Contradicting the views commonly held by westerners, many Muslim countries in fact engage in a wide spectrum of reform, with the status of women as a central dimension. This anthology counters the myth that Islam and feminism are always or necessarily in opposition. A multidisciplinary group of scholars examine ideology, practice, and reform efforts in the areas of marriage, divorce, abortion, violence against women, inheritance, and female circumcision across the Islamic world, illuminating how religious and cultural prescriptions interact with legal norms, affecting change in sometimes surprising ways.

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