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As explained further in J. At Barking, men and women lived separately, but within a single community. Early church theory would have had monastic women impose strict limitations upon Theoretical requirement of female enclosure increased over the centuries, and. The reversal of this theory took place later in the early medieval period. Despite its title, De Virginitate does not only offer insight into early medieval gender roles in its rules on chastity. The language of both the prose and poetic works can reveal a great deal about monastic ideals for both men and women in this period.

Aldhelm used both masculine coded and feminine coded metaphor, images of strength and delicacy - sometimes simultaneously - to describe his ideals. As may be expected since these writings were composed for an audience consisting of an abbess and her community, Aldhelm used a great deal of feminine and feminised metaphor.

McAvoy, Medieval Anchoritisms, p. Colgrave, in J. McClure and R. Collins, Oxford. It is not one related to their sexual function. In positioning female monastics as the daughters of the church, their place in religious and social hierarchy is to an extent detached from their sex. Feminine imagery also appears in the work of Aldhelm through tropes of visual symbolism; flowers, jewels, sweet scents and precious treasures. Again inverting modern expectations, Aldhelm does not reserve floral imagery for female monastics.

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While male monastics can be associated with femininity, it is the female member of a monastic community whose very identity is feminine. It is impossible to deny that this implies a sex-based gender difference. What is important to note is how much more subtle this difference is than might be presupposed. Both men and women were described in feminine terms, albeit to varying extents, and this broader pattern likely had a powerful effect on how the inhabitants of Barking Abbey related to one another. The Church is structured in a patriarchal manner, with all Christians as children of God the Father.

Patriarchy, however, positions male children above female adults. By presenting women as children of God, not wives, Aldhelm was in fact presenting men and women in monastic communities as equal to one another in Church hierarchy. Virginitate, but it is most used in the poetic version, which uses an extended military metaphor in his description of vices and virtues. While historians including Emma Pettit have interpreted this as an attempt by Aldhelm to reassure his male audience that monasticism did not necessarily separate them from masculinity,.

If this were to be an example of Aldhelm creating an alternative masculinity, it would be extremely significant that this was a form of masculinity that women were not only able, but indeed expected to access. Elsewhere Aldhelm also used masculine imagery when he compared study of scripture to athletics, an exclusively male pursuit in both the Greek and Roman cultures. Secular men were considered lesser than those who had chosen a religious life because they were more open to feminine fluidity, rather than being bound by selfdiscipline and a monastic rule.

Were the nuns of Barking, then, incorporating feminine aspects to create an alternative masculinity, or performing an alternative femininity by making use of traditionally masculine associations? A third possible conclusion exists: that the community at Barking, and other double houses like it, were creating their gender to be predominantly neither one nor the other.

The clearest method by which these arguments can be examined is by looking at forms of masculinity and of femininity, and those aspects which can be folded into neither of these concepts, each in their turn. Since monastic lifestyles tend have been considered an alternative form of masculinity it is this assumption which must be addressed first. Aldhelm does provide some evidence that monastic life required masculinity. The concept of sex and gender being independent of one another is not contemporary to the time, and it is disrespectful toward transgender individuals to use their identities to examine this form of social phenomenon.

Aldhelm encouraged female monastic masculinity through stories of female martyrdom. A focus on sexual violence may have been to emphasise the need for monastic women to cast aside their femininity. To be feminine was to be open to sexual violence like that suffered by St Lucia, whose method of murder was rape with a sword,. This is not to say that these women performed masculinity in the same manner as secular men.

A form of masculinity enacted by monastic men and women would be one disconnected from procreation. It was also divorced from another major source of secular masculinity: war. Those whom had taken holy orders were prohibited from carrying weapons, and from shedding blood. The frequency of such metaphorical usage may indicate that the male monastic audience required reassurance that they could be monastic and masculine simultaneously — indicating that the majority of their interactions implied any monastic masculinity was inferior at best and imaginary at worst.

Some scholars have concluded that an alternative. Aldhelm, Carmen De Virginitate, p. However, both the prose and verse De Virginitate use a great deal of imagery of motherhood as well as warfare. However, this ignores the fact that as a double monastery the community at Barking contained both men and women — feminine images cannot be assumed the result of the audience while masculine metaphor is not treated in the same manner.

Aldhelm frequently utilised the imagery of motherhood, monastic life as marriage to God. Indeed, a female anchorite once complained to St. Columbanus that she was unable to go on a pilgrimage overseas because of her sex. In the case of male anchorites feminising language was used to highlight their supplication to God. With procreation and legitimacy central to society, a refusal to do so could not simply be another form of femininity.

Female celibacy induced a violent reaction in Late Antique society. For this reaction to be used to control female monastic individuals centuries later, it must have involved an element of social transgression, not merely alternative femininity. Refusal to comply with gendered expectations is a powerful form of social transgression; not only for a woman to refuse femininity as is relevant in this particular example, but also for a man to refuse masculinity. McAvoy, Medieval Anchoritisms p. The association of monastic life and angelic aspiration implies that the ultimate lifestyle model for these groups was one of neither masculinity nor femininity.

Another item of evidence for a monastic identity free from masculinity and femininity can be found in linguistics.


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Aldhelm presented monastic values as inherently cross-gender. He used saints of both sexes to provide his He described feminine beauty as Surprisingly, his interpretation of this did not dismiss the religious potential of women. To combat femininity, Aldhelm exhorted monastic women to become actively non-sexual.

Monastic physical appearance was intended to conceal sex and prevent the replication of lay gender roles. However, monastic women could apparently achieve perfection regardless of their sex. This also indicates that men within monastic houses did not necessarily hold even informal authority over their female counterparts, as would be expected from the misogynist gender structures of Christian theology.

What can be concluded from the study of Aldhelm of Malmesbury and Barking Abbey is that the work of theologians was not necessarily reflected in Anglo-Saxon gendered social relationships. Gender roles were far more complex than Christian theology implies. What is certain is that while monastic life incorporated aspects of both masculinity and femininity, it cannot be defined by either role. Men and women in monasteries were expected to be chaste. Monastic chastity enabled a lifestyle in which the behaviour of men and women within both double and single-sex religious establishments was more like that of other monastic individuals than to either men or women in secular society.

Chastity was not the sole requirement of a monastic lifestyle. In fact, chastity itself is only one aspect of the culture of asceticism which shaped monasticism from its inception, brought to western Europe by John Cassian.

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Since monasticism was also defined by prayer, to determine whether masculinity and femininity played a role in the structure of early Anglo-Saxon monastic life, it is therefore necessary to examine the relationship between monastic individuals and prayer, as well as aspects of their asceticism. Monastic asceticism meant a life ruled by rejection of physical comfort.

As well as chastity through celibacy, this meant adhering to dietary and dress limits. In the early Anglo-Saxon period, the majority of houses in England did not follow a codified monastic rule. This selfdiscipline was shaped by the expectations of each community,. Monastic women adopted asceticism with enthusiasm. Since their access to penitential acts was limited because monastic women were discouraged from pilgrimage or hermitage, extreme asceticism became popular with women. One such act was to consume no food but the Host, a an expression of being sustained by God alone.

Indeed, their attitude towards food was one of the main divisions between monastic and clerical or episcopal living. Aldhelm praised St. Hollywood and P. St Radegund, for example, was reported to have enclosed herself in her cell throughout Quadragesima Lent. Monastic asceticism also required labour. This was particularly emphasised by the Benedictine Rule but was by no means unique to it. There was no sexual division of labour, even in monastic houses which separated their male and female members.

Food production, caring for the sick and elderly, and Pre-Benedictine double monasteries rarely extended their segregation to producing different versions of their Rules for the male and female halves of their communities. It could be argued that this was because duties which to the modern eye appear to be masculine were not perceived as such in this time.

In a militaristic agrarian subsistence society, sex was unlikely to be reason enough Vita Bertillae, trans. Jo Ann McNamara, in J. McNamara, J. Halborg and E. Gender in the Early Medieval World, p. With the presence of warfare threatening the loss of male labour, a woman would have been expected to be capable of subsistence farming.

This was, however, limited to the peasantry, and therefore has a complicated interaction with ideals of femininity. A noblewoman would not be expected to farm, but neither would her husband. In this case, it is enough to say that both men and women in mixed-sex communities were expected to participate in agricultural labour to provide for the community.

The precise relationship of this expectation to secular gender roles is unfortunately speculative at best, but it strengthens the argument that men and women in early AngloSaxon monasteries had the same roles and aspirations. One area in which male and female monastic experience of asceticism differed was when considering the implications of monastic dress. Elites were frequently attracted to monastic life.

Monastic asceticism involved the abandonment of all adornment and physical vanity. Aldhelm, in the De Virginitate, made a point to mention that monastic women should present themselves in simple clothes with unadorned hair, rather than curled and coiffed as they would have been accustomed to doing in secular life. Both men and women were expected to wear sex-concealing clothing, however. The rules did not differ, though the response to noncompliance perhaps did.

By removing monastic dress, these women were presenting themselves as feminine, not as monastic, and therefore threatening the integrity of the community. Visual elements such as dress have long been held to be integral to the formation of Foot, Monastic Life, p. By failing to abide by monastic asceticism, Coldingham Abbey was effectively destabilising the legitimacy of Anglo-Saxon monasticism. It is likely that transgressions of this sort by female monastics were considered far graver than a similar act by a man of the community, because of the medieval belief in female susceptibility to sin.

When performing femininity they ceased to perform monasticism. Ascetic behaviour was central to the very nature of monastic life, and displaying this asceticism through clothing was fundamental in demonstrating monastic unity. Similar garb enabled identification of men and women as one community and potentially one social gender.

One of the more tangible ways to assess this is by looking at the intercessory role of monastic houses. Requests for intercessory prayers are therefore an indicator of the valuation of male and female prayers in Anglo-Saxon monasteries. Considering the significant relative loss of information on women from history in general and the early Anglo-Saxon period in particular, a great deal of evidence of female holy power survives.

This intercessory function was influential in encouraging royal connection to monastic houses, since their founders and the descendants of their founders would therefore be prayed for in perpetuity within those establishments. Intercession therefore motivated the establishment of a number of monastic houses, including female ones. In Saxony over half of all royal charters issued before There is no certain contemporary evidence which implies gendered flaws were considered when choosing a saint to venerate.

However, the moral and symbolic lesson of this moment was still relevant several hundred years after Germanus crossed to Britain, and was therefore included in the work of Bede. The evidence provided by the surviving tales of saintly intercession, and of the role religious houses played in this process, shows that male and female prayers were considered equally powerful. Even Aldhelm, whose lists of saints emphasised the power of male saints over female, asked that the women of Barking pray for him. Unlike intercession, liturgical experience did change according to sex.

Interaction with the liturgy did not involve prayer alone. Monastic education was fundamental in enabling that worship, and the structuring of religious space also had an effect on how monastic men and women related to prayer. The social construction of space can reinforce or create segregation by gender, therefore having a Ingram, and J.

Giles , D. Killings ed. Evidence for this gendering of space is found less often in surviving early Anglo-Saxon cases. It was a fundamental element of both Benedictine and Cistercian monasticism,. Even after the Benedictine reforms of the ninth century, in which enforcement of enclosure played a central role, male and female laity had access to monastic houses of either sex.

Early English monasticism was not rigorously separated by sex. Many religious spaces could be entered by the laity, and in those places the division between lay and monastic or clerical was considered more important than differences of sex within the religious community. However in the specific case of lay entry into religious space, this division does become the primary social divide. Spatial segregation became the norm in the late Anglo-Saxon period and after, particularly for women.

Gendered spatial segregation in monastic houses could never be complete. Since women could not be ordained, male access to female religious space was necessary for the performance of Mass and other crucial liturgical acts. This male presence in sex-segregated female communities was not ubiquitous in the seventh or eighth centuries. Merovingian convents, which had a great deal of influence on AngloSaxon monasticism, frequently left the sacrament of confession to the abbess or her senior nuns.

These abbesses were not priests,. In the late eighth century Alcuin of York No matter which method of mass performance was chosen, there was a level of negotiation required to enable female monastic practice. The period before the Benedictine reform in English monasticism was one in which the ordained monk was rare. Male establishments would therefore also have needed an outsider to perform certain parts of the liturgy if no member of the community had been ordained, or else go against Church ruling and have a non-ordained brother perform those duties.

The clericalisation of monasticism which began to occur in the ninth century interwove clerical misogyny, made virulent by the banning of clerical marriage due to the Gregorian Literacy was not commonplace in early Anglo-Saxon society, but this limitation was not gendered. The extent of literacy among female monastics, however, has been obscured due to the disproportionate loss of the works of female authors over the centuries. In the past, this has caused historians to assume that absence of evidence was evidence of absence, and monastic women were not as literate as their male counterparts.

Murray ed. The De Virginitate, for example, was addressed to Hildelith and the community at Barking. It appears to have been composed in response to a request from Hildelith and others that Aldhelm advise them on the topic of chastity and monastic life. This is just one example among many of female absence throughout history being brought about as a result of institutional sexism and the cultural devaluation of women.

Monastic women were not merely literate. It was common for both female and double monastic houses to contain scriptoria, and produced manuscripts for a variety of audiences. One such connection was that between Whitby and Chelles. Since it can be comprehensively proven that monastic women were literate, the gendering of literacy itself must be considered.

Were literate women behaving in a masculine fashion? Some feminist historians have argued just that. Horner appears to have been strongly influenced by third wave feminism. Theorists of this school perceive phallic imagery with an almost obsessive frequency, as though genitalia were communists and they the Senator McCarthy. Though the surviving documentation implies otherwise, this was in reality a small proportion of the Anglo-Saxon population.

Though building a complete picture of female literacy is rendered near impossible by centuries of endemic loss of female works, it is possible to conclude from the available evidence that literacy was not limited to biological men. Those women living monastic lives had the same access to literacy as men did, and for the same purpose: the maintenance of Church unity and for the performance of liturgical practice. Their literacy was part of monastic identity, and, though appropriated as a masculine trait for the thousand years or more separating the Anglo-Saxons and the modern day, does not support the theory that monastic women enacted an alternative masculinity alongside monastic men.

It is far more accurate to say that monastics of all sexes performed a gender unrelated to their biology, and instead drawn from their intellectualism and relatively privileged position in society. In their ascetic lifestyle and relationship with prayer, men and women in monastic establishments had far more in common than teleology would lead one to presume.

With similar levels of education, they were able to engage with prayer to a similar extent. This meant that their public reputations for efficacy of prayer and intercession were not directly linked to sex, although later royal preference for male establishments may have influenced the decline of double and female Similarly, McAvoy has interpreted the Benedictine concept of climbing a ladder to Heaven as phallic imagery. Early medieval Christianity believed Heaven to be in the sky, and the most common method of getting oneself off the ground in that period was by climbing a ladder.

The men and women of early Anglo-Saxon monasteries were also similarly expected to participate in strict asceticism, which involved limiting their food intake, controlling their dress, and participating in physical and mental labour. Any gendering of monasticism, therefore, must be equally applicable to both sexes. This essay thus far has predominantly discussed the ways in which expectations and practices of early Anglo-Saxon monastic men and women resembled on another. To determine if monastic life constituted a third gender, the idealisations of both monastic men and monastic women must also be compared to gendered ideals among the laity.

How did monasticism relate to secular gender identities? Previous studies have concluded that monastic life constituted a second, subordinate masculinity. Monastic women have been greatly distanced from their secular counterparts, however. In the De Virginitate works, as discussed above, the use of language serves to promote femininity and motherhood, without encouraging the women of Barking Abbey to apply such imagery to their selves. His reinforcement of the centrality of moral aspirations, and their masculine nature, through military metaphor, created a perception of the lay feminine as un-monastic, which would necessitate selfdenial of feminine gendered identity by his monastic audience.

St Mary of Egypt had a version of her Vita written in Old English, and so presumably was touted as a model for Anglo-Saxon monastic women. This in turn shows a recommended path for monastic. Askwith, T. Watt and C. Lay femininity placed women in the social roles of wives and mothers. Non-participation in the sexual life cycle was simultaneously crucial in monasticism, and in the separation of monastic women from socially understood femininity. Despite this, women in Anglo-Saxon monasteries were not separated from participation in the world.

Strict enclosure of monastic women was not to be enacted until the Benedictine monastic reform of the late tenth and eleventh centuries. In their interactions with the world, Anglo-Saxon religious women did not show an affinity with the experiences of their secular peers. In the Hodeoporicon, the Anglo-Saxon nun Hygeburc self-identifies more closely with a group of monastic men than with a lay woman. That monastic women were not feminine is not a particularly radical conclusion.

More contentious is the question of whether monastic men were masculine. A particularly difficult stumbling-block the historian must cross when attempting to answer this is the quantity of works by early medieval works which present monastic life as masculine. There has been a tendency in studies of these texts to take them at their word. Bullough is one of the few historians to argue that masculinity was as much drawn from the body as femininity was. With secular masculinity, the dominant form among the population obscured though this fact may be by the quantity of extant documentary evidence which is from a religious perspective , being fundamentally linked to procreation, physical protection, and providing for the family,.

These lay behaviours created the dominant masculinity; by their nonparticipation in the fundamental actions of masculinity, men in monastic communities did not portray themselves as masculine. Yet monks were physically male, and were therefore perceived as men by their society, subject to male temptations. Rather, this conclusion has only come to be commonly accepted due to an entrenched and limiting attachment to a gender binary.

If, despite reliance on military metaphor in the writings of Aldhelm, John Cassian and others, male monastic gender identity was not drawn from the body, there exists an interesting debate on from where monastic men did draw their identity. It has been convincingly argued that Roman masculinity shaped monastic behaviour, particularly the vir ideal, which had in common with monastic life an emphatic focus on both education and self-control. These Roman ideals were not, however, based on sex.

Social class had fare more impact on the stratification of society. To use Roman heritage as evidence of masculinity also requires the assumption that genders were unable to change or adapt once they have developed, when in reality early medieval identities were flexible and highly Leyser is relying on an appeal to emotion here. Hadley, Masculinity, p. This is not to suggest that monastic life was gender neutral. Gender neutrality is only understandable within a gender binary, a concept which is now outdated.

This has not prevented historians from attempting to find a societal binary within this period of history. This is a distinction between the physically healthy, Christian male and all others. It would be more accurate to describe this binary as one drawn by late antique and early medieval theorists, not the reality of Anglo-Saxon society. Theory and practice do not always agree - for example, the dominant assumption in early medieval archaeology was for some time that weapons signified a male grave, and jewels a female one.


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Advances in archaeological techniques have, however, discovered a great many graves which do not follow this pattern, as shown by the women buried with weapons in Heslerton, Yorkshire, or the men buried with jewels in Sewerby, a different burial ground in the same county. Monastic men did not participate in hegemonic early medieval masculinity, both in theory and in practice, as their ascetic, abstinent lifestyle proved, in much the same way as monastic women did not perform femininity.

Herbert McAvoy, Medieval Anchoritisms, p. They saw monasticism as masculine because they did not separate gender from sex; hence, behaviours in which men participated had to be masculine. This is not seen as emphatically in the case of monastic women, and Bullough, among others, has concluded that this is because women could increase their social status by acting as men. Unfortunately it is impossible to know how monastic women perceived their gender identity, since work by female authors has rarely survived to the present day, a result of institutional misogyny over the millennium since the Anglo-Saxons were writing.

One could speculate that monastic women may have perceived themselves as performing an alternative femininity. This thought experiment has no intrinsic historical value, but does demonstrate the problems caused by concluding from limited evidence. Alternative masculinities and femininities have been useful concepts for historians since the gender history revolution.

Recent development of gender theory means that it is possible to now move beyond these intellectual structures created twenty years or more ago. The idea of a third gender is just as valid as that of an alternative masculinity since both men and women had access to it. Monasticism was far more significant in the formulation of identity among men and women in religious houses than sex, and this monasticism dominated their interactions with society.

Their dominant social definition was not one of masculinity or femininity, but of the monastery. Anglo-Saxon society was not solely structured by gendered relationships, whether these were of men and women, or the masculine, feminine, and monastic. The intersection of these social structures influenced gender identities, both in dominant and potential alternative forms.

A young man in this form of society has more authority than a middle aged woman. In the Anglo-Saxon period, however, this was not the case. As secular men aged, however, their status did not continue to improve. Nor did it remain static.

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Burial evidence implies that elderly laymen in this Anonymous, History of Abbot Ceolfrith, trans. Farmer, in D. Farmer ed. This unexpected structure may be related to the importance of the life cycle in creating Anglo-Saxon gender roles. A man past his physical prime could not farm, and he could not fight. This fails to explain why the same decline in status did not occur with secular women, whose social position was predominantly based on childbearing.

A more comprehensive explanation may rely in the different expectations from men and women at their physical peaks. In societies dominated by war, to die in battle was considered the ultimate in masculine behaviour. An elderly man was, therefore, a lesser man, since he had not had the dignity of dying in battle. For women, the social prominence of childbirth meant that the ultimate in femininity was a woman who had been able to have many healthy children, and survive herself, hale and hearty.

Unlike masculine old age, elderly women could prove their value by their physical presence and that of their children. The position of masculine head of the family however would have fallen to a younger, physically capable man. When this social structure interacted with monastic institutions, it underwent a great deal of change. To maintain the authority of the Church fathers over time, male old age needed to be reconceptualised as valuable to society, not proof of failure.

Monastic veneration of mental, not physical qualities enabled this. Prioritising wisdom, gained through age, reduced the importance of being physically able. As such, elders in monasteries could have been excused from physical labour, not on the grounds of incapability, but because they were busy with spiritual matters, which were not only more important, but more socially useful than the production of food and other sundry tasks involved in monastic life.

This did not only improve the status of elderly monastic men, however - since they prioritised mental capabilities, this meant older nuns and abbesses could also access this form of authority. They were in particular need of this reverence for age, as a leader of a double house could not access the status of secular middle aged women, since they did not give birth though references to motherhood did abound in descriptions of significant abbesses like Hild of Whitby, particularly by male writers like Bede, Life of St Cuthbert, trans. Webb, in Farmer, The Age of Bede, p.

Bede, EH IV. Monastic hierarchy did not elevate youth and vigour in men, or childrearing in women. In later Benedictine society, male youth was feminised within monastic life. Both male and female senior monastics derived their social position from a very different socialisation of aging to that which existed within secular society. Another way in which construction of gendered identities related to lay society was through the influence of secular social hierarchy. The relationship between secular elites and monasteries was generally a very close one.

Despite the egalitarianism of the early Christian church, as monasteries developed into social institutions secular class hierarchy was replicated within religious houses. The majority of double houses and other monastic establishments were led by individuals from significant noble families. In many cases they were Anglo-Saxon royalty. Hild, abbess of both Hartlepool and, later, Whitby, was a daughter of a nephew of King Edwin of Northumbria,. These connections with royal houses were commonplace, with royalty sponsoring the foundations of monasteries across the country.

One example is in Kent, where according to a Life of King Alfred the house of Minster-in-Sheppey was said to be founded specifically to be led by Seaxburg, wife of the late king of Kent, Eorcenberht. Foot, S. II, Aldershot , p. Since abbesses were frequently of elite or royal heritage, their lifestyles within monasticism offer an opportunity to examine aspects of femininity in monastic life. There are elements of continuity between the life of an abbess and the life of, say, a queen. Queens were expected to play diplomatic roles, particularly as intercessors in the name of mercy.

Hild is portrayed as a For example, abbesses of double houses were in positions of authority above both men and women, monastic and secular. The role of abbess was one in which women exercised authority. Since abbots were also expected to fulfil these roles for their communities, it is inaccurate to describe this as a feminine form of authority. Church hierarchy required that the leaders of communities both discipline and nurture their communities.

Despite the. This essay has attempted to analyse monasticism in both theory and practice, and compare the monastic life to that of the laity. Certainly it differed in a variety of ways from post-Norman Conquest monasticism in England. Early Anglo-Saxon monasteries were also very much unlike the religious houses which speckled the countryside in the late Anglo-Saxon period after Viking raids reached English shores.

The conversion period was one in which monasteries in England flourished,. There was a great deal of variation between monastic houses — in fact what they had in common was their responsiveness to circumstances. Aspects of monasticism which would later be considered synonymous with that life, like sexual segregation, were not yet entrenched in rules.

In Coldingham, for example, the men and women whom had taken holy orders intermingled. These communities maintained a form of sexual equality between men and women which had originated in the very earliest days of Christianity,. In the pre-Viking period, however; Anglo-Saxon and Frankish women were far more nearly equal to their male contemporaries than religious women of the high middle ages. They were well educated and self-confident, and the limit of their authority depended to a great extent on the networks of kinship, power,.

Unfortunately, bar the surviving letter of Leoba to Boniface, all documentary record of monastic life in early Anglo-Saxon England was written by men. This leaves an extremely limited perspective for the historian to analyse. It is only with careful analysis and a certain amount of creative logic that the female monastic point of view can be reconstructed. However, what is apparent from works like those of Aldhelm is that cultural expectations of monasticism, while drawing from both masculine and feminine imagery, were able to synthesize into a unique method of interacting with the world.

Sadly, the majority of the double houses Aldhelm was directly addressing, including Barking Abbey, were destroyed in Viking raids. Monastic interaction within houses and with the laity was not solely governed by theory, however. Men and women performed the same duties as one another in both double houses and on a wider geographic scale. Similarly, both sexes were educated and subsequently expected to engage with the liturgy. They were also expected to achieve similar levels of asceticism.

These similarities were so strong that it has led some historians to conclude that the medieval world was divided solely on religious lines, with class or gender barely impinging on this utopia of Christian unity. Since gender is constructed in an intersectional manner, it is safe to say that gender in the monastery functioned very differently to the masculine and feminine beyond the cloister. However it does serve to highlight that the monastic lifestyle, particularly related to celibacy and asceticism, did not replicate the gender structure of the secular world.

Gender identity in the early medieval period was strongly related to the physical body. Medical understanding ascribed different moral values to the sexes. Monasticism, however, required not just celibacy but a total detachment from the physical world. This is not to say that men and women in early Anglo-Saxon monasticism functioned as one and the same. Women were not able to become ordained clergy as well as members of monastic communities, and their transgressions were considered far more dangerous than those of men. Monastic women, however, were detached from the roles secular women were expected to play, particularly among nonaristocratic women.

Among aristocratic women, the devaluing of childbearing was a significant difference between their lay and religious lives. Monastic men were also unable to participate in masculine gender activity. They were forbidden to shed blood, indulge in feasting or drinking, or to break their vows of chastity. This alienated monks from traditional masculinity.

Interpretations of surviving texts have defined monastic lives as a form of subordinate masculinity. This is not necessarily accurate — monastic men consistently emphasised the masculinity of their actions, in no small part to reassure themselves that celibacy and asceticism did not separate them from their secular peers entirely. After all, the majority of men and women in the medieval era did not choose to live monastic lives.

When examined objectively, their behaviour and ideals were just as far from dominant secular masculinity as monastic women were from femininity.

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Monastic women were not enacting a subordinate masculinity in practice, although the rhetoric presented them as such. This language indicates more clearly the similarities between monastic men and monastic women than it does the alignment of their gender role. With their rejection of physical sources of gender identity, their celibacy and asceticism, and their role as intercessors through prayer, monastic identity was unlike secular gender identity in almost every way.

Even if we assume a sexual binary,. A third gender, while also perhaps overly simplistic, is the only way to investigate these monastic communities without the obfuscation of teleology. Early Anglo-Saxon monasteries were not paradises of sexual equality. However, they did not operate under the same intersection of identity sources as their contemporary secular society, or the monastic structures which followed them. Rosier, J. Ingram, J.

Killings, D. Farmer, D. Colgrave, B. Webb, J. Stephen of Ripon, Life of Wilfrid, trans. Scholarship Adams, T. Bullough, V. Hadley, D. McAvoy, L. Eddleston's studies focus on the anthropological and sociological aspects of religions and philosophies. This paper is her undergraduate dissertation and was supervised by Professor Douglas J Davies. Elective abortion for personal or social convenience is contrary to the will and the commandments of God. Church members who submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions may lose their membership in the Church.

The official church position on abortion is one that is the result of historical, social, legal, and theological factors. There are also Mormons active within the church who still dispute this judgement. However the flexibility woven into their pronouncement is primarily due to their emphasis on personal agency and the lack of authoritative revelation. I also believe that an intrinsically flexible theology is part of how the church has coped with historical pressure to conform to American values. The effect of this in the case of abortion is that the Church has aligned its position on abortion closer to mainstream American values and American law.

The Church has changed its position on fertility controls in the past due to the behaviour of Mormon individuals and there are a number of parallels to be found between the cases of birth control and abortion. See Terryl C. It is essential to separate our understanding of Mormon attitudes to abortion from the attitudes of other major American religions. Uniquely for Mormons the cosmic plan for salvation relies on large family groups with strong bonds.

It is also unlike Catholicism which puts emphasis on the Pope and its clergy class as an essential part of salvation. This means Mormons are more likely to think of moral knowledge as ongoing and adapting for different periods of history rather than being purely scripturally based. Mormons view on abortion is currently one that aligns with other religious groups. However the ultimate motivation for their position is different and could change distinctively depending on circumstance. The evidence I am using to support my hypothesis aims to show the relationship between Mormon teachings and cultural trends that effect average Mormons.

My primary sources comprise three main elements. The first is the resources that the Church claim as authoritative, this includes scriptural documents, resources they make available on their website, and the testimonies of Mormon Church leaders. Alongside these I have other primary sources from the media, the work of Mormon academics, and other non-official Mormon groups which help demonstrate the wider scope of the abortion issue.

The official Church resources are my most important body of evidence. I will use these resources to both to show what the Church is saying about abortion, and more importantly when it communicates its message, how this message is conveyed, and to what audience. One of the great challenges due to the rapid expansion14 of the Church is the fact that great numbers of people with extremely different life experiences are entering the religion. They then try to interpret church doctrine within the frame of their own cultural narratives. This may put pressure on the Church to maintain theological and doctrinal unity under the pressure of so many new voices.

It is a. Ludlow New York: Macmillan, , p. Dialogue and Exponent II are not official Church sponsored organisations but I have chosen to consider them as they give us an insight into the attitude of individual Mormons who are not church leaders. These Mormons have to reconcile official beliefs with their own understanding of their faith and the morality of the largely non-Mormon world around them.

This can only give us a limited perspective as they only appeal to particular kinds of Mormons. Dialogue allows contribution from non-Mormon authors and explicitly states that they encourage a variety of viewpoints. Despite this considering the place abortion has had in feminist movements I believe it is a particularly useful kind of perspective to consider. This is especially as feminism is such a strong cultural trend in America but seemingly not within Mormonism. Mormonism has developed in a culture that has been hostile to its beliefs and practices.

My hypothesis will be demonstrated in two major phases in this essay. First I will establish the background and theological basis of teaching on abortion, then examine the current state of the abortion issue for Mormons. In the first phase I will demonstrate how the structure of Mormon Theology lends itself to a flexible interpretation of fixed core values of family. I will then go into further detail of the theological ideal of family and the beliefs about the body and gender this corresponds to.

This will explain the lens through which the Church and individuals assess the abortion issue. I will then explain the history of the birth control debate which the most closely related issue the Church has had to face to date and why this sets certain theological precedents for the debate today. I will also explain the significance of the separation of abortion from the idea of murder in Mormon thought within the wider context of the Abortion debate. From this I will have demonstrated the historical roots that have formed the current position into its current shape.

Both by its design as an introduction to the church for young members and new converts but also its accessibility online. My research is focused on comparing Mormons in America to non-Mormon Americans for this reason. In the second phase of my argument I will first analyse statistical data and attempt to show that there are indications that individual Mormons are committed to the Church teaching on abortion, but not unanimously. I will explain how the structure of Church life can act as a regulatory force in opposition to external pressure. I will then go through the main external pressures on the Church and individuals and demonstrate through the data I have discussed, historical precedent of the influence of media and political rhetoric.

I will then demonstrate using the work and writings of individuals how this pressure has and still may influence Mormon views on abortion. Mormonism does not have a creedal system27 and its belief that truth will be revealed over time means any teachings are extremely flexible. The second reason for the dynamic nature of Mormon theology is the relative youth of the religion. Mormonism has only existed since the year ,36 which means there has been a lot less theological interpretation of existing scripture than there has been for longer established religions.

Leone argued that theological development like we see in other Christian churches might actually be a detriment to Mormonism.

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This means there is a lot of room for Mormon scholars and leaders to make new interpretations of scripture based on current events. Givens, People of Paradox, p. This is not entirely independent as it is supplemented by prayer and discussion with church leaders. Leone, Roots of Modern Mormonism, p. Black priesthood is a primary example of this. While there have not been any publically announced visitations by the Godhead since the appearance to President Lorenzo Snow,41 there have been declarations of revealed truths.

It is essential to understand there is a subtle difference between an announcement given by a church president of his own ideas,42 and when the announcement is a new revelation from God. Many Mormons acknowledge that the president of the Church, despite his prophetic status, is still human and can be flawed or mistaken in his beliefs but his divinely inspired revelations would not be questioned in the same way. Because of this Mormons reject the concept of predestination and the concept original sin or natural depravity. Mormons do not believe their intelligence is created by God49 nor do they believe they are destined to be servants of God in the typical Christian sense.

Mormons believe their intelligence is co-eternal with God50 and their compliance and obedience to God is an act of their free will to aim towards their own benefit.


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Mormon Theology of the Body, Family, and Gender Family and its natural extension into pro-natalist ideals are core theological values in Mormonism. This emphasis is largely informed by their view of family being intrinsically involved with salvation, their afterlife, and the Godhead. Givens, People of Paradox, pp. Mormons are encouraged to think for themselves and question pronouncements.

Oaks is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and consequently a high ranking member of the church; and is giving a speech at an extremely important event for Mormons, the General Conference. Structure of the Godhead The Godhead in Mormonism is not a single entity with different hypostatic modes as it is in other branches of Christianity.

God as the father is the most important and is joined in a kinship bond with Jesus Christ who is his messenger and Son. Both God and Jesus have corporeal bodies. The Holy Ghost is the final member of the group, and is considered incorporeal. Additionally Christ is the Firstborn of God not his only son. This is important to consider when Mormons are evaluating the importance of their pregnancies. Each child is linked to an extended cosmic family. Vision of the Afterlife Similarly to the life of the Godhead, Mormons are bound to their family members after death,59 and live post-mortal lives.

In the post mortal realm friendships, marriages, and parental relationships continue. Some Mormons have believed that their spouse is someone they met in pre-mortal existence,63 and that their children had chosen them in their pre-existence. Through this theological view abortion becomes an act that severs bonds that would have led to eternal happiness.

Gender in Mormonism Paying close attention to the gender issues that exist inside Mormonism is essential for a full understanding of their attitude towards abortion. In the United States an adult woman cannot be forced to have an abortion and abortion is legal for at least the first trimester This causes abortion to become closely linked with issues of female bodily autonomy. It also brings up the issue if male parents have rights over a child or fetus. If the woman is financially dependent on her partner or family this may increase the pressure to Ludlow New York: Macmillan, , pp.

See Stephen E. Alternatively, they may be children of Heavenly Mothers and Fathers who ultimately descend from God. The afterlife is imagined as having different levels of glory. Levine and others, 'Roe V. Women in the US have legal equality and so have the right to run for office, vote, work, and own property.

This means women in the US have access to the financial independence that may be necessary to make their own choice and the right to affect the legal policies that control the right to abort. The Mormon understanding of gender is uniquely tied to their theology. As reproduction carries on into the afterlife the sexual division of Male and Female takes on eternal rather than temporal meaning. Pre-existence also affects gender concepts but in a more nebulous way as gender could be pre-existent or assigned before birth.

In this case gender would not be random but assigned possibly based on qualities or actions of your spirit. This also strongly effects how Mormons view womanhood as a temporal state. Hinckley to the Relief Society in We, [ All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. The statement also defines strict and traditional roles to be carried out within families. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.

Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. This also restricting their access to political and legal decisions by preventing them from running for office or working in a politically influential career such as journalism. Typical of Mormon theology the piece is not nearly so dry cut and its formulation allows for a number of interpretations.

This is explicit elsewhere as in The Honored Place of Woman, a speech given by Ezra Benson the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in which attributes a desire to work outside of home to be the result of selfish and even satanic influences. President Gordon B. If Mormon women are dependent on their husbands and fathers and prevented from entering careers that affect legal policy this changes the relationship Mormon women have to abortion.

A Mormon woman may feel unable to disobey the wishes of her husband or father, especially as priesthood allows him to embody the church within their family. She may be unable to privately access funds to pay for an abortion. Also her identity would largely revolve around her status as a mother which the idea of having an abortion can potentially challenge. Mormon women can feel a great deal of pressure to live up to the idealised image of motherhood the church presents. It is extremely popular in popular Mormon thought75 despite its absence from official scripture and church teaching.

Divine life for Mormons is the ultimate aim for salvation and so a realistic goal for everyone. So divinity does not necessarily imply the same power and importance as the Heavenly father. The Mormon concept of eternal and pre-existent reproduction means it seems rational that there is a divine partner to the Father, she does not necessarily need to be an equal.

In one article77 Kirsten Olsen was appalled when she was told that the Heavenly father was likely to be participating in divine polygyny. This seems largely because she self-identified with a heavenly mother figure. While Mormon women may not share her concerns about divine polygyny the theme of self-identification appears to be common. Self-identification with the divine was the subject of another Exponent discussion article. None of the ten expressed any doubt that there was a divine feminine, though their ideas range a great deal.

Equality between heavenly mothers was a common theme. Motherhood is not a temporary state but eternal and exalted. The fact she is not mentioned in core scripture or teaching also supports the idea of female passivity. Motherhood in this way becomes an internalised ideal which abortion could contradict. The article by Jorgenson along with several Exponent II articles see following references show this is a matter of some interest for Mormons and Academics studying Mormons.

As with proclamations about gender roles, the church appears to have become more liberal over time towards the use of Birth Control. While Abortion is a method for controlling births it differs essentially from other birth controls. This is because abortion destroys a fetus rather than preventing conception. However this essential difference may not necessarily be as important in Mormon theology where the sin of abortion is not strongly tied to the destruction of life as it is to the strong imperative of pro-natalism.

There is no actual condemnation or explicit permission of the use of birth control in the text. The first reliable birth controls were being introduced to America when Mormonism was in its infancy. For Mormons the second coming and True to the Faith, p. For Mormons Perdition is a state outside salvation even with repentance. Their theology that prized increasing families was key to their resistance to birth control. For Mormons the second wave of BC99 debate in themed twentieth century is far more significant Before this the church had strongly opposed this issue, part of their complaint was that the pill was dangerous for the physical health of women far more so than the dangers of childbirth.

This slow softening of the Church position on birth control is very similar to the progress of the abortion debate. The current church position which contains a number of exceptions strongly resembles the church position on contraception in Abortion is becoming more acceptable in non-Mormon circles, abortion is legal, and knowledge about the safety of abortion is increasing in ways the church cannot control. The church has reason to fear that Mormons will begin to have abortions so undermining church teaching as they began to use birth control against their guidance in the s.

True to the Faith, pp. Davies, An Introduction to Mormonism, p. Birth control. Smith reminds readers that in childbearing we should consider the health of the mother and children. Many interviewees insist that governance in the digital world is about giving guidance and advice on usage rather than banning access Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget read here.

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