Gendered holiness: the characteristics female college students assign to holy men and women

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Theological Studies


Department of Religious Studies


Advisor: Sandra A. Yocum


After surveying 82 Catholic female college students from around the United States on their definition of holiness for men and women, it is clear they equate gender-normative characteristics with holiness. In other words, a woman must possess gender-normative feminine characteristics to be considered holy, and a man must possess gender-normative masculine characteristics to be considered holy. After analyzing the Catholic Church's theology on the nature of women, it is apparent the Church strongly urges men and women to stay in their respective gender-normative roles, and develop a gendered set of characteristics. The Church names a specific and gendered set of characteristics for women; which can be seen in the androcentric interpretation of the Creation Story, and androcentric teachings such as complementarity theology and the feminine genius. The participant's definitions of holiness, and the Church's androcentric theologies strongly align. Meaning, the Church's theologies on the nature of women are explicitly and implicitly teaching young women that gender-normative characteristics are the sole path to holiness. Emphasizing a narrow path to holiness is harmful to young Catholic women because it inhibits them from living out their fullest, most Christ-centered selves. Additionally, it leaves all women who do not fit the narrow list of gender-normative characteristics without a spiritual home. Instead, the Church needs to embrace women as individuals who possess various God-given characteristics, personalities, and abilities.


Holiness Catholic Church, Sex role Religious aspects, Women in the Catholic Church, Catholic college students Attitudes, Theology, Holy women, Holy men, Holiness, Gender, androcentric, feminine genius, Catholic, characteristics of holiness

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