Woodhead (2007) suggested women are more attracted to New Age Movements because they experience double alienation in the family…. they family fails to give them a sense of occupational identity, and they feel dissatisfied with their limited role as housewife and caregiver. New age movements offer a chance for self-exploration and can provide women with a sense of identity and self worth. (However this position has been criticized – forthcoming post).
For example, some elements of the New age encourage women to express their ‘authentic’ selves, rather than trying to reinforce their traditional socially constructed female roles as mothers and housewives.
However, at the same time, the New Age ALSO celebrates many positive aspects of femininity, such as subjective experiences, intuition and emotion, and this may also appeal to women much more than men.
The New Age movement may appeal especially to middle class women, stay at home mums, who have the time and the money to be able access the rather expensive and various New Age therapies; and the new age is partly about health and healing.
Finally, there is also the fact that New Age Movement is mainly run by women, who primarily seem to market their products and services to other women.
Criticisms of the above theories
- The New Age Movement is tiny, very few people and thus very few people show any interest in it!
- If women did join the new age movement because of double alienation, then most women should be working class, but they are not, most women are middle class.
- Most of the activities engaged in do not provide a sense of coherent identity, making up for dissatisfaction with life in general: seriously, how is a couple of yoga classes a week going to do this?
Limitations of ‘Traditional Gender Role Theory’ in explaining why women are more religious than men
Women’s higher levels of religiosity could be due to different age profiles: women live longer than men, and older people are more religious than younger people.
Also, it doesn’t explain the higher levels of religiosity among women who don’t accept traditional feminine roles. Most members of the New Age Movement are female, and very few accept traditional, hegemonic prescriptions of femininity.