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Contradictions, Contextuality, and Conceptuality: Why Is It that Luther Is Not a Feminist?

Department of Theology, University of Aarhus, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 3, Dk-8000 Aarhus, Denmark
Religions 2020, 11(2), 81; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11020081
Received: 22 January 2020 / Revised: 31 January 2020 / Accepted: 6 February 2020 / Published: 10 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Luther’s theology and Feminism)
It is the aim of this article to constructively discuss some of the feminist critique that has been raised against the sixteenth century reformer, Martin Luther, and concomitantly to demonstrate the complexity, and primarily liberal aspects, of his view of women. At its outset, the article points to the fact that there are many different types of feminism, the biggest difference existing between constructivist and essentialist feminisms. Having placed myself as a constructivist feminist with a prophetic-liberating perspective, I ponder how feminism as an -ism can again earn the respect it seems to have lost in the wider academia. I suggest that feminists nuance their use of strong concepts when assessing historical texts, viewing the assessed texts against the backdrop of their historical context, and that feminists stop romanticizing the Middle Ages as a golden age for women. In this vein, I point to the problem that many feminists make unsubstantiated and counterfactual statements based on co-readings of different strands of Protestantism, and that they often uncritically repeat these statements. I problematize, first, the psycho-historian Lyndal Roper’s claim that Luther should have held some of the most misogynist formulations known, which is absurd against the backdrop of the misogyny found in the centuries before Luther, especially in medieval texts by the Dominicans /the Scholastics. Second, the claims of feminist theologian Rosemary R. Ruether’s that Luther, like Calvin, worsened the status of women, which are counterfactual. View Full-Text
Keywords: feminism/s; Martin Luther; nuancing of concepts; contextualizing of texts; Lyndal Roper; Rosemary Radford Ruether feminism/s; Martin Luther; nuancing of concepts; contextualizing of texts; Lyndal Roper; Rosemary Radford Ruether
MDPI and ACS Style

Wiberg Pedersen, E.M. Contradictions, Contextuality, and Conceptuality: Why Is It that Luther Is Not a Feminist? Religions 2020, 11, 81. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11020081

AMA Style

Wiberg Pedersen EM. Contradictions, Contextuality, and Conceptuality: Why Is It that Luther Is Not a Feminist? Religions. 2020; 11(2):81. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11020081

Chicago/Turabian Style

Wiberg Pedersen, Else M. 2020. "Contradictions, Contextuality, and Conceptuality: Why Is It that Luther Is Not a Feminist?" Religions 11, no. 2: 81. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11020081

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