The issues of women’s participation in politics have been at the center of active discussions in recent years. Historically, this domain of human activity and self-actualization was dominated by men. As per obsolete views, it was beyond an average woman’s scope of tasks to make political decisions at any level. Nevertheless, recent developments in gender equality have proved otherwise, opening political involvement to billions of women across the globe. At the same time, experts and researchers remain convinced that residual inequality persists in the political sphere. In this regard, it appears relevant to review the various factors that either promote or impede women’s ability to succeed in this domain.
Among numerous aspects of this discussion, religion remains one of the most underrepresented ones. This paper seeks to explore the influence of religious affiliation on women’s political participation. More specifically, the study relies on the two opposite poles of the global political landscape: Russia and the United States. In order to answer the central question and determine the exact nature of religion’s influence on women’s participation in politics, the paper addresses the contemporary body of academic research.
Research question: Does religion instigate or hinder women’s political participation in the U.S. and Russia?
The research is organized in a qualitative form that explores and describes the phenomenon in question. This format is highly appropriate for the investigation of underrepresented topics that lack clarity and precision. More specifically, the research methodology can be described as a systematic review of the literature. For this purpose, an examination of the current body of academic knowledge has been conducted. Following the initial examination of the topic, the process of literature selection was launched. The search was conducted with the use of leading academic databases, including Google Scholar and Semantic Scholar.
Considering the highly specific nature of the central research question, the research relied on the use of keywords in various combinations. The queries included such notions as “influence of religion on women’s political participation” with country-based elaborations (“Russia”, “U.S.”, “Russia and U.S.”). The inclusion criteria implied that all pieces of literature were to be published in English in the past five years. In light of the condensed format of research, the final selection comprised three pieces of research that reflected the scope of the study to the maximum extent. Following the identification of fitting research materials, each piece of literature was thoroughly analyzed for qualitative evidence that would support the discussion. Finally, the findings were synthesized to provide an answer to the central research question.
Review of the Literature
While the factors that determine women’s political participation have become a subject of increased interest exhibited by experts and researchers, the intersection of the subject matter with religion appears understudied. One of the relevant articles on the current state of affairs in the United States is provided by Yanus (2021). This piece of research explores women’s political participation at all stages, from being actively involved in the nation’s political landscape to becoming election candidates. Yanus (2021) reports that the political underrepresentation of women persists in the United States in spite of the ongoing pursuit of overall equality.
The author refers to religion as one of the most significant determinants of such a situation. More specifically, “religious adherents express attitudes that are less supportive of women in positions of political leadership” (Yanus, 2021, p. 402). As a result, fewer women are able to attain a position of political power. Simultaneously, women’s communities feel less invested in the nation’s politics, often refraining from active participation.
The body of knowledge regarding the current state of the subject matter in Russia appears equally underrepresented in English-language literature. However, Tobias Köllner (2020) provides a comprehensive overview of the complex relationship between religion and politics in this county. In spite of being a multiethnic federation with large indigenous Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist communities, the Orthodox Church has always played a pivotal role in Russia’s politics. In older periods, the close connection between the clergy and the rulers was overt. However, the political landscape of present-day Russia has preserved this reliance on religion on all levels.
Similar to the United States, Russian religious voters tend to show less support for women in politics. However, most women retain the impetus to participate in the country’s political life through old beliefs. Historically, Russia’s religious community has been convinced that major political transformations are acts of God (Köllner, 2020). As such, political participation is a means of acknowledging this statement through active involvement.
However, a considerable body of research exists in regard to women’s political involvement on a higher level. More specifically, the authors seek to investigate whether their participation in politics can extend to decision-making. Rozhanovskaya and Pardini (2020) discuss the matter at hand by comparing Russia and the United States with an emphasis on the former. According to their findings, the actual involvement in political decision-making in Russia is hindered by the obsolete, male-centric views that remain engraved in the country’s landscape.
From this perspective, women can express their political will freely while being discouraged from becoming politicians themselves. Rozhanovskaya and Pardini (2020) that this issue is not as acute in the United States, but it still remains present. Religion becomes one of the key factors that instill such a tendency in both nations.
The investigation of the contemporary body of academic literature has yielded surprising results. Indeed, women’s political participation in both countries sees a strong influence on religion. More specifically, the process is affected by the views of different varieties of Christianity that prevail in each nation. In the case of the United States, their aspirations for strong role models negatively correlate with the religion-based lack of public support for women in politics. As a result, most of them are hindered from participating by this general tendency. In Russia, most women exhibit the opposite tendency, even though similar dogmas are at their roots. In this case, the effect of religion reveals itself on a higher level, preventing women from taking an active stance and engaging in politics directly.
Overall, the influence of religion on women’s political participation is reflected in the current body of academic knowledge. Researchers’ consensus is that this effect is strong and observable. However, the end results may vary, as the influence of religion interacts with the local socioeconomic and cultural contexts. Both Russia and the United States experience such effects of similar religious views. For the latter, it hinders women’s political participation, whereas the general tendency takes an opposite direction for the former. Ultimately, further research is required to provide a comprehensive understanding of the complex factors that determine women’s involvement in politics today.
Köllner, T. (2020). Religion and politics in contemporary Russia. London, UK: Routledge.
Rozhanovkaya, N., & Pardini, V. (2020). The status of women in Russian society | Conference report. Web.
Yanus, A. (2021). Religion, gender, and representation in American politics. PS: Political Science & Politics, 54(3), 402–405. Web.
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