Womanist between men and women. But this form of

Womanist theology and Feminist theology
are known as two major representations of liberation theology. This is because
they both deal with liberation from oppression; but their roots originate in
different situations because of the different challenges they faced. Feminist
theology’s aim is to address sexism and the dominance of men over women. This
type of theology finds its roots in a patriarchal society, where it places men
in a position of superiority. Womanist theology, on the other hand, also claims
equality between men and women. But this form of liberation theology also aims to
answer the question of race. Womanist theology is known to have emerged in the
framework of civil rights movement and racism, where the two main issues—sexism
and racism, were prevailing and needed to be addressed. Thus, this paper will
focus on Feminist theology, Womanist theology, how both types of liberation theologies
differ from each other by using Rosemary Radford Ruether’s “Sexism and God Talk” and Dolores Williams’ book “Sisters in the
Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk”. This paper targets to use
the two main sources mentioned to compare and contrast the principles and
issues stated by both theologies and also, expand on the underlying concepts of
the theologies. Finally, the paper will also discuss the issue of race beyond
gender that divides Feminist and Womanist theology.

            The
Feminist theology movement emerged in the United States around the 1960’s. This
movement spread across the world by first crossing the borders to reach Europe
and then, the rest of the world. This movement is known to originate in the
Christian religion. This type of theology emphasizes on women’s experience in
the political, cultural and social contexts of its time. It is also agreed that
even if the Feminist theologians were from different backgrounds, cultures and had
different level of educations, their work possessed the same underlying
principles. One of the fundamental principles the Feminist Theology movement
holds is the rejection of a patriarchal society. This is because the
patriarchal society is ruled by a divine being, a God, identified with
masculine characteristics. Hence, religion and the society, as a whole are
built upon a patriarchal model. The bible can be used as an example as it serves
as the foundation of the Christian religion and it is a patriarchal text. For
instance, the bible stresses on the fact that Eve
was created after Adam for the sole purpose to help him. Moreover, Adam named
Eve, which made her inferior to him. This is not only seen in the bible
as women are constantly being pictured and seen as weak creatures who are
guided by their emotions compared to men, who are portrayed as strong, rational
and powerful beings.

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            This
primary contrast between men and women anchors the idea that men dominate
women. This particular notion is what leads to the concept of androcentrism
being embedded in Feminist theology. Androcentrism is known to put men at the heart
of the society by referring to them as the model, which clearly disregards women
and women’s experience from traditions, cultures, religion and the society as a
whole. This concept, in a way agrees that women are beings who need to be
oppressed and controlled by men. Therefore, Feminist theology argues that women
seeking justice will only be liberated when the patriarchal idea of a society
dominated by men disappears. Feminist theology hence, aims to liberate and
empower women as they can relate to God, the church and the bible.

Women’s
experience should not be forgotten or overlooked but it should rather be
included as part of any religious text, symbol or story. Rosemary Radford
Ruether was born in a women centered, catholic family and is known to be one of
the most influential characters of Feminist theology. Her book, “Sexism and God Talk”, remains one of the
major contributions to the feminist theology. Ruether explains that the use of
scriptures and Christian symbols opposes the real essence of liberation theology
as they only represent the domination of men over women. To represent the exclusion
of women’s experience, Ruether use the Gnostic gospels, reinterpretations of
the bible and the experience of women oppressed by the domination of men. This
is what her theology highlight, the experience of women, which is excluded and
forgotten in theology. Ruether continued by stating that it is essential to
relate to former religions that symbolized their divine figures as females. In
her work, Ruether claims that God is not responsible for anything that harms
women. In fact, she discusses that a new God is here to create a new world
without rulers and servants, where all men and women are equal. Furthermore, Ruether
uses the idea that the church is the “bride of Christ and mother of all
Christians” to epitomize equality between men and women. Ruether’s work uncovers
its perspective in the fact that women are always placed in a position of
inferiority to men. It is true that men are always identified with strength,
reason and authority. These characteristics are also identified and attributed
to the ideas of freedom and evolution. In contrast, women are identified as
temptresses like Eve in the bible. Eve is described as someone who is always
guided by her emotions and passion, which is harmful and therefore, should
always be controlled. This idea of controlling women exemplifies how men
overpower women. The book, “Sexism and
God Talk”, stresses the fact that men and women are created in the image of
God. It is also stated that men and women develop different skills and
therefore must help each other.

Christian African American women faced
exclusion in the society. This made the Womanist theology emerged as it voiced
out the issues and concerns Christian African American women faced in the
United States. Despite all the misery and oppression they have been through,
their experience as Women and Black were not integrated in the Catholic Church,
Christian religion and society in general. Thus, Womanist theology is an
example of liberation theology, which focuses on the black women’s experiences
in the United States as well as the God-Talk. The God-Talk signifies the
understanding of the African American history as well as black women’s
relationship to God. Womanist theology argues that Black women’s experience does
not fit in the idea that the Catholic Church has of God as their voices have
been excluded. Therefore, Womanist theology targets to incorporate the Black
Feminine voice into the church, the community and the society in order to
empower and liberate African American Christian woman. Womanist theology also claims
that Black women’s contribution is beneficial and crucial to the society, the
history and the Black experience at large. Hence, Womanist theology engages in
a critical conversation with the Black theology dominated by the Black men’s
experience. Additionally, Womanist theology asserts the importance of the Black
women’s experiences in creation and survival throughout history in order to
improve the lives of African American women.

Dolores Williams, an African American
Womanist theologian represents the role and goal of Womanist theology in her
book, “Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk”. Throughout the journey of Hagar, the main character
of her story, Williams stresses on Black women’s oppression and struggles.
Williams also exemplifies in her work that the idea of liberation can only be
found in the struggle, therefore suffering is necessary for redemption and
liberation. Williams’ work established its milieu in the civil rights movement,
which left an unforgettable mark among the Black community, creating an intense
change in the relationship between White and African Americans. In fact, biased
judgments raised by the White supremacy created hatred, violence and animosity
between African Americans and White Americans, leading to drastic social and
religious reforms targeting African Americans. African Americans were perceived
as inferior, violent and filled with hatred. That perception of African Americans
reached the Catholic Church, which became reluctant to their presence leading
to the creation of Black Theology.

Black Theology
recognizes the oppression of the Black community. This type of theology became
the voice of the oppressed Black community. Black Theology as represented in
James Cone’s work, claims that there is no liberation possible without God.
Jesus represents the struggle of the oppressed and poor. Hence, there is no
freedom without struggle and freedom should be seen as a gift from God.
However, Black Theology failed to include Black Women’s experience excluding
them from the Black experience. This led to the creation of Womanist Theology
which defies both Black and Feminist theologies.

“Sisters in the Wilderness”, provides the
links between stories from the bible and the experiences of black women from
slavery. Hagar, a single mother, the “surrogate” of her owner’s wife represents
“the black slave’s condition”. When Hagar escapes from slavery in the
wilderness, she faces new struggles as she is left with no resources for her
and her son’s survival. The wilderness represents Black women’s emancipation
from slavery. Moreover, when liberated, Black women faced new struggles such as
gender inequality, class inequality and oppression. Hagar can be viewed as a
representation of Jesus in the fact that she has to suffer to be liberated and
“make her way out of no way” (Sisters in the Wilderness). Williams
represents God as a divine being who offers hope for survival as liberation
from oppression resides in the hope in God’s project.

Another aspect of Womanist theology is
that it states its similarity with Feminist theology as they both faced the
issue of sexism but also states that it includes Black women and their
experiences, compared to Feminist Theology. Indeed, Feminist theology’s goal
does not include race. The exclusion of race is what made Feminist theology to
be largely criticized by the African American community, as it does not include
or discuss Black women’s struggles and issues. Hence, Feminist theology is believed
to be non-universal since it does not include the experiences and difficulties
of women of all color and race. Moreover, a clear difference between Womanist
theology and Feminist theology is the fact that Black women have to deal with
two main forms of oppression including racism and sexism while White women’s
main concern is to fight sexism and the patriarchal model of society.
Furthermore, the idea of liberation in Womanist theology and Feminist theology
is different because Womanist theology seeks liberation for everyone, the
society as a whole, including males compared to Feminist theology, who aims to
only liberate women, excluding men and children, making them irrelevant to the
process. In short, Feminist theology creates a boundary between both genders. It
is also believed by Womanist theologians that Feminist theology wishes to divide
and separate the black community. The Black women feel torn and do not know if
they should stand with their community or fight sexism and the patriarchal
society, as they believe that both genders are essential to the community and
society. Thus, Womanist theology agrees with Feminist theology’s underlying
principles to some extent only while seeking liberation and survival for all.

Ultimately, this paper discussed both the
Feminist Theology and Womanist Theology. It stated the similarity of Feminist
theology and Womanist theology that is; they both support the fact that women’s
experiences and challenges faced have been forgotten by the theology in
general. They also share the same idea that men are viewed as beings, which are
more powerful than women and need to control women, taking the freedom of women
away. The paper also discussed the fact how both theologies differ as the
Womanist theology represented in Dolores Williams’ book, “Sister in the
wilderness”, fights both sexism and racism while the Feminist theology
exemplified in Rosemary Ruether’s book, “Sexism and God Talk”, addresses sexism
only. It is said that Feminist theology separates both genders while the
Womanist theology caters for women, men and children too. Womanist theology
focuses on the Black people’s experience, especially African American women who
believed that their experiences and challenges have been overlooked and
forgotten.