Term Paper: Amish Religion Women

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[. . .] Their role in society as dictated by their religion is to get married and produce offspring for their husbands, and their roles adequately reflect this (Olshan & Schmidt, 224). Women are not expected to contribute financially to the family, but rather their role as caretaker and mother is established from the time of birth Olshan & Schmidt, 153). Women are assigned the role of caring for children and elders, cooking, cleaning and gardening.

Most of the women also hand sew the clothes for the family. Women are also responsible for providing groceries and household items for the household. Only Amish women may work in the garden, cultivating vegetables and flowers (Olshan & Schmidt, 154). Women must also teach their daughters about their place in the world, and young girls are typically assigned tasks such as washing dishes and cleaning laundry in their quest to learn how to be caretakers (Olshan & Schmidt, 152).

Women in the Amish belief system are considered "inferior" to men, a belief that is based on religious principles. The Amish believe that God created order between men and women, and that the women's place is subordinate to men, as exemplified by many sections of the bible. Corinthians 11:3 states that "The head of the woman is the man" (Kraybill, 72) And Titus 2:5 states that the role of women is to be "Discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands" (Kraybill, 72). As the Amish interpret the bible literally, women are subjected to these principles, and thus have their husbands rule over them entirely.

Though men have the final say in the Amish religion in all matters of home and family, women are still able to voice their preferences (Olshan & Schmidt, 217). The submissive role of women should not be interpreted to suggest that women are treated like slaves however in Amish culture; rather a woman is expected to co-exist with her husband, and both people are expected to be treated with respect and dignity (Olshan, 217).

Within the Amish community the role of women is respected, though her role may be frowned upon by today's modern women. Women are responsible as maintainers of the home, and caretakers and teachers of the children. Women are allowed to vote in church business meetings, but only men can be nominated for such duties as related to the church, and women have no real formal power within the church (Hostetler, 154). Amish schoolteachers are often women but women are not encouraged to achieve a higher status within the community (Hostetler, 150). The status of women within the community is high however, as women are admired for contributing to the community in many ways Hostetler, 262).

ANALYSIS

Women live a life subordinate to men within the Amish culture; this is a fact that cannot be denied. According to today's modern standards, the women would most likely be judged rather harshly. The idea that a woman's place is barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen is somewhat valid within the Amish culture. This role however, is not seen as unacceptable by members of the Amish community. One might argue, that if women within the Amish community had the opportunity to realize all of the freedoms available to women living "outside" of the Amish culture, they might soon become unsettled with their current lifestyle. Perhaps this is why the Amish try so fervently to shield their members from outside society.

The religious doctrine of the Amish culture very strictly interprets the bible. Biblical scripture was written centuries ago when the role of woman was indeed that of caretaker and housewife. Women's roles within the bible are limited to serving their husbands, producing offspring and caring for the home. Men always had the final say; men in fact wrote the bible. This isn't an issue for people living within the Amish community however. Women are respected and their role in society is regarded as critical and very important. Men cherish their wives, and women are allowed to voice their opinion. They are by no means considered inferior to men. Rather, men simply follow their "innate" role, as dictated by God according to strict biblical interpretation. Men are supposed to serve as head of the household, and women are supposed to obey their husbands according to ancient biblical practice.

There are many that would argue that the Amish religion is in fact outdated, and that women should be exposed to more modern practices and outside freedoms. Women's rights activists would have a field day within the Amish community. Interestingly, some modern practices have been adopted by members of the Amish community. However these modern adoptions seem to benefit the men within the community, rather than the women.

One example is the use of technological advances to ease tasks assigned to men. The roles of Amish women "entail primarily domestic tasks, which are clearly defined and recognized" (SFU, 2004). Such tasks could more easily be expedited through the use of modern technological advances, even something as simple as a vacuum cleaner could assist Amish women in completing their household duties for example. Women therefore, as members of society should focus their interests on domestic technology, because such technology would influence their responsibilities (SFU, 2004). However, the lack of domestic technology used in Amish culture further evidences the subordinate role that women play. Women are not part of any sort of formal power structure within the Amish faith, and thus any major decision making that might allow adoption of domestic technology lies on the shoulders of men, men who are likely not interested in adopting such practices (SFU, 2004).

Part of the problem is that the functions of men are so separate from that of women, that men could not possibly perceive the benefit of adding domestic technologies to their current structural system. Technology is generally considered to favor men, a philosophy exemplified by Donald Kraybill who quotes an Amish woman as saying, "The joke among us women is that the men make the rules so that's why more modern things are permitted in the barn than in the house...We keep saying that if them men would mow the lawns there would be engines on them, and I am sure there would be" (Kraybill, 15 & SFU, 2004). Men, as the breadwinners have indeed adopted some modern technologies including the use of gasoline powered engines to help with farming, but no such technology has been added to help women carry out their domestic tasks.

Unless women within the Amish community speak out regarding the restrictions imposed upon them by their religious doctrines, it is unlikely that the current system of practices will change any time in the near future. Many Amish women joke about their roles as reflected in the statement regarding technology and men. Again, the most important point to emphasize is that women are not forced into the Amish faith. Like men, women have the choice upon reaching an age considered adult, to accept or reject the faith. They know that by accepting the faith they are committing themselves to a lifestyle of subordination to men. Yet most women accept this role. Perhaps this is because they are not aware of the possibilities that might be afforded to them by modern society. Even those women that are aware of the possibilities available to them might not be willing to accept them.

The religious doctrine of the Amish faith requires that anyone who is not considered pure or anyone who rejects the faith be shunned by the community. Therefore, if a woman does decide to venture out on her own, she is in fact relinquishing any ties she has to her family and community, and may never come back. This is an extraordinarily frightening prospect for many women living within the Amish faith, and as such most women would prefer to simply accept their role as subordinate to men. The differentiation of roles was decided upon by biblical scriptures. The religious beliefs within the Amish community are governed by strict interpretation of the bible. The religion should in fact be considered "old fashioned" at best, because it promotes old fashioned idealisms that are most prevalent throughout the bible.

Bibliography

Amish Religion." Available: http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/amish.html

Hostetler, John Andrew. "Amish Society." Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Fourth Ed: 1993.

Kelly, L. & Yoder, D. "America's Amish Country." America's Amish Country Publications. Berlin: Ohio, 1992. Available: http://amish.net/lifestyle.asp

Kraybill, Donald B. & Olshan, Marc A. "The Amish Struggle with Modernity." University Press: New England, 1994.

Niemeyer, L. "Old Order Amish: Their Enduring Way of Life." Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Nolt, Steven M. "A History of the Amish." Intercourse, PA: Good Books: 1992.

Olshan, M., & Schmidt, K. "Amish Women and the Feminist Conundrum, The Amish Struggle with Modernity." London: University Pres of England: 1994.

SFU. (2004). "Symbolism in Technological Adaption." Available. http://www.sfu.ca/~anethert/ham/amishwomentech.html

Stoltzfus, L. "Amish Women: Lives and Stories." Good Books: Intercourse PA: 1994

Smucker, Donovan E.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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