Lesson #9: Fast Facts on Gender Socialization

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Many people are unaware of the difference between sex and gender. Sex is the biological difference between what is termed as “male and “female”. Gender is the socialization of the sexes. The terms usually associated with gender are “women” and “men”. When the sex and gender of a person are used synonymously biological differences are equated with social differences. This can put people into rigid boxes of what is considered “masculine” or “feminine” or create expectations of the ‘dominant’ and the ‘inferior’ sex. Socialization into rigid gender roles can contribute to increased vulnerability to intimate partner victimization for women. “Masculinity” has typically been associated with violence. The failure to understand the social construction of gender roles can cause a myriad of misunderstandings when different religions, ethnicities, and cultures intersect. Misunderstanding can perpetuate harm (2018).  Gender roles are expressed differently across religions and cultures.

Sometimes women in different religions, especially patriarchal religions, are misrepresented for their views about a woman’s worth compared to a man’s. Christianity and Islam teach that women and men are equal in holiness. Many people of patriarchal religious traditions do not agree with gender stereotypes and practice a more equal of division of household labour and income provision for the family than might be expected given their religion’s gender norms.

In Islam, the Qur’an states, “The believers, men and women, are allies (awliya) of one another. They enjoin the ‘common good’ (al ma‘ruf) and forbid the bad (al munkar), they observe prayers (salat) and give charitable alms (zakat) and obey God and his Prophet” (Qur’an, 9:71).

In Christianity, the Bible states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Gender stereotypes are based on beliefs about men’s or women’s roles. They may have a grain of truth, but gender stereotypes are based on generalizations and a lack of understanding about diverse gender roles. For example, a lot of people in western society tend to think that Muslim women “need saving” from their religion because it is oppressing them. Muslim women make choices in how they practice their religion. The public tends to stereotype women who chose to participate in conservative religious groups and practices because people do not understand religious women’s agency.  Thus, stereotypes of socially constructed gender identities in different religious groups lead people to categorize particular practices as “right” or “wrong” in an attempt to “save” women. Negative stereotypes can be the basis of hate crimes.

In the 2011 National Household Survey in Canada, the largest religion recorded was Christianity. Over two-thirds or 67.3% of the population was Christian. Out of the 22.1 million people who identified as Christians, Catholics remained the largest Christian religious group with 12.8 million.

In the same survey, over one million individuals identified as Muslims, which represents 3.2% of the nation’s total population (2011). Canadians are more familiar with Christianity than Islam, making people who practice Islam more susceptible to discrimination,  hate and violence.

Hate crimes are criminal acts motivated by a hatred of a certain group. Hate crimes serve as a catalyst in society to maintain inequality and distrust of other groups of people because of their ethnicity, religious identity, or gender. Canada is not exempt from the hatred of religious groups of people (2011).

Hate crimes accounted for 1.9 million police-reported crimes in 2016. And 33% of all hate crimes were toward religious groups. (Statistics Canada, 2016)

  • From 2014 to 2015 the hate crimes against Muslims went up from 258 to 270.
  • 54% of all Canadians have an unfavourable view of Islam (Geddes, 2013).
  • In 2017 there were 664 more hate crimes nationwide in Canada than in 2016; it rose by 47%.
  • In 2017, it was reported that 38% of hate crimes were violent, that decreased from 44% in the previous year.
  • Of all the hate crimes in Canada, 17% are against members of the Muslim population.
  • 29 out of the 200 hate crimes are targeted against Catholics.
  • 65 out of the 200 hate crimes are on Muslims.
  • 181 out of the 200 hate crimes against Jews (2013).

In the U.S:

  • In 2017, there were 234 anti-religious incidents. These cases took place in churches, synagogues, mosques and temples (2017).
  • Hate crimes based on religious beliefs rose by 22% in 2017.
  • In 2017, categorized by bias motivation, 20.6% were victimized because there was a bias against religion.
  • Of the 1,749 victims of anti-religious hate crimes:
  • 58.1% were victims of anti-Jewish hate
  • 18.6% were victims of anti-Islamic hate,
  • 4.3% were victims were anti-Catholicism hate (2017).

In the book So Many Christians, So Few Lions by George Yancy and David Williamson (2014), they examined the discrimination Christians face, especially against those coming from academia or educated figures that are in power, despite Christianity being the largest religion in the United States.

Comparatively speaking, Christians are being prosecuted at higher levels in non-Western countries such as North Korea (the most dangerous place to practice Christianity), India, Libya, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Eritrea. It is estimated that 1 in 12 Christians live in places where it is “forbidden, illegal or punished” by law to practice their religion (Christianity Today, 2018).

Women are the targets of religious hate crimes more often because they are more visible than men due to their clothing. Often what they wear represents them as part of a religion. Sexual harassment, misogyny and other forms of violence are crimes against women based on their gender, though when that intersects with religious identities it makes women more likely to be victimized by hate crimes.