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środa, 17 stycznia 2018

Women in Hutterite Community

The Amish, Mennonite and Hutterite religious groups all arose in Europe during the Protestant Reformation. Collectively, they are known as Anabaptists because they practice adult baptism rather than infant baptism. They also commit to pacifism and segregate themselves from the general population. Because the Catholic majority saw these views as heretical, the Anabaptists were persecuted in Europe, eventually resulting in the migration of many followers to North America. Today, about 45,000 members of the Hutterian Brethren Church live in over 400 colonies. In my essay I will analyze women’s roles in the Hutterite  society and consider reasons which prevent them from changing their position.

The Hutterite notion of gender roles is strictly 16th century, and this strikes many people as unacceptable. They believe in a hierarchy of relationships that is ordained by God. Men have higher status than women, and the elderly deserve the respect of the young. The sex and age ranking is seen in all settings, be it church, school, work, or meals. Women have no voice and no opportunity to compete with men. Males sit on one side of the room and females on the other, with the oldest in the back.

The Hutterite communities have a communal lifestyle and have embraced modern technology in their agricultural practices. They use tractors to farm the land and computers to conduct business with the outside world. However, they may be old-fashioned and dogmatic - women play a very traditional role and the major decisions about the running of the colony are taken by elders, who are all male. One of the Hutterite rules is that a member must ask the permission of an elder to step outside the community. Everything from food, clothes, spectacles and other accessories are provided by the community and in return the menfolk are expected to offer their labour to build homes and do other work required in the colony.

But not all Hutterites can cope with such an insular and claustrophobic life. Some people decide to run away and start a new life in the big city. The price they have to pay is the loss of family ties. The schooling system successfully separates Hutterite children. Having close, primary, intimate, concrete relations with the colony and only a secondary, generalized relationship with the outside world, Hutterites find it hard to interact with strangers, so defection is rare. Fugitives are not prepared to live independently so very often they have to come back.

Women are responsible for various housekeeping duties such as sewing, cleaning and caring for her family. The average Hutterite woman gives birth to at least 11 children. Old people are looked after by their daughters. Women also manage community duties such as cooking, baking, gardening and food preservation. Work fills all day long so there is no time for philosophy.

The Hutterites invented a matching procedure during which once or twice a year the marriageable youth were assembled, and the preacher gave each male a choice of three females from which to select a wife. The man had to wait for the next time if he did not want to marry any of the three. This changed to personal choice in 1830 following the uproar caused when a young girl refused to marry an older man. The Hutterites can marry only members of the Hutterian Brethren Church. Of course, marriage is defined as the holy union of one man and one woman. When a couple marries, the woman leaves her home colony and lives at her husband’s colony. Marriage is seen as a sacred ceremony which stands for the life of the couple.

The Hutterites, who for hundreds of years, through trial and error, have realized that the maximum size for a colony should be 150 people. They have been following this rule for centuries. Every time a colony approaches this number, the colony is divided into two separate colonies. They have found that once a group becomes larger than that, “people become strangers to one another” and they believe, that somehow it changes the community seemingly overnight. At 150 the colony with spontaneously begin dividing into two smaller clans and a new colony is formed. According to Robin Dunbar, this figure seems to represent the maximum amount of people which can have a real social relationship with one another. This increases also the ability to control the closed group.

In my opinion, many conditions shape the women’s attitude towards their lack of equality in the colony. First of all, the principles of Hutterite belief determine the place of the woman in this framework. They cultivate the tradition of their ancestors. Second, members of the community are expected to work and adhere to the faith. Fear of rejection or banishment is strong and serves as a tight form of social control. Third, life in the isolated groups ensures safety. The space outside Hutterite colonies, that is the general North American way of life where individualism and capitalism are emphasized, is seen as based on greed and personal gain, considered by the Hutterites to be the epitome of carnality. In today's world, buffeted by the economy and the threat of redundancy and homelessness, this cradle to grave culture may seem attractive.

* Fragment moich rozważań w nawiązaniu do zagadnień poruszanych na kursie z psychologii religii: "Migration and Religion. Past and Present in V4 Countries."

1 komentarz:

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