Leaders and Experts

Susan Starr Sered

in Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister

Published in print December 1996 | ISBN: 9780195104677
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853267 | DOI:
Leaders and Experts

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A feature of all the religions treated in this book is that both in theory and in practice leadership roles are open to women, and women predominate in most positions of authority and prestige. Although few of the female-dominated religions claim that women are “better” than men, quite a few assert that women are more suited (or uniquely suited) to fill leadership roles. Suffering is a theme that emerges repeatedly in the life stories of women leaders, and is used by many of the women's religions to explain why more women than men are leaders. This chapter argues that the feminization of suffering is used to justify women's religious leadership in societies in which leadership is perceived to be a male prerogative. Pain—a female prerogative—explains why women can be religious leaders. The two most common themes in the life histories of women leaders are illness and an initial resistance to taking up the leader role. In many of the female-dominated religions, the women who become religious leaders are women whose mothers were religious leaders.

Keywords: religions; women; religious leadership; pain; suffering; authority; prestige; feminization; illness; mothers

Chapter.  13874 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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