Gender and Religion

Many have noted a lack of fit between the official androcentric ideology of Greek Orthodoxy, which is similar to Western Christianity in its unequal treatment of males and females, and actual everyday religious practice (Dubisch, 1995; Hart, 1992; Hirschon, 1998). While men have strong anticlerical views, and do not generally attend church except on high holy days, women are active participants in church liturgies, in caring for chapels dedicated to different saints, in caring for gravestones and cemeteries (Kenna, 1976), and in taking religious excursions to various miracle-working sites, such as the Church of the Virgin Mary on Tinos (Dubisch, 1995). Women are responsible for the religious "health" of their husbands, children, extended family, and ancestors. They fulfill this duty through mundane acts such as bringing home communion bread for nonattendees or arranging for the proper memorial ceremonies and other significant ceremonies focused around the house and the extended family and ancestors, as well as through caring for saints' chapels in the belief that the saints will likewise take care of their family. Thus, women play a crucial role in this key domain of spiritual life on Kalymnos and in Greece more generally.

One event that encapsulates the significance of women's relationship to the church on Kalymnos is the famous Rock War of 1935. Over the course of 3 days, the women of Kalymnos, armed with rocks, fought the Italian occupying army to a standstill in a successful attempt to thwart Italian plans to transfer control of the church administration of the Dodecanese to the Pope. The Rock War was the largest and most successful protest during the 30 years of Italian rule over the Dodecanese islands. It became a point of reference in the consciousness of future generations, who for many years after would say, "He or she was born or died at the time of the Rock War" (Sutton, 1999). While local history provides different interpretations of men's absence from the protest, I would argue that it simply reflects the fact that Italians were laying claim to control over Kalymnian women's central domain of collective activity.

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