An Age Cohort Analysis of Femininity Among Catholic Women in the United States

Author: Haley Gray
Major: Sociology
Approved: Fall 2019
Status: Completed

The research conducted examined the intersectionality of religion and femininity among Catholic women in the United States. A cohort analysis examining age was utilized in order to examine how a woman’s age and her following of Catholicism intersect and divert from each other. 19 interviews were conducted with Catholic women falling into one of two categories, 18-30 years old and 31years and older. The research primarily focused on the lived experiences and beliefs of Catholic women. When referring to Catholicism I am primarily referring to their practices and beliefs. I argue that the way in which Catholic women practice their religion and identify with being a woman is primarily impacted by the generation they were born and subsequently raised in. I found that Catholic women share similar experiences growing up and in adulthood, however, how they interpret these experiences in relation to their femininity and role as women differed by age cohort. Catholic women under the age of 30 are more critical of Church practices, such as the views and practices related to birth control and have more progressive beliefs and practices compared to Catholic women over the age of 30. Catholic women 31years old and older described stricter religious practices and greater alignment with traditional beliefs and values that the Church holds. Both age cohorts shared a fear that if the Catholic Church does not modernize, specifically regarding gendered roles in the Church, practicing will become obsolete. The gendered roles commonly identified included that of the priest, a man’s role, and subservient roles such as parish administrators and cleaners of the Church, mostly taken on by women. Despite calls for change and criticisms, all of the women interviewed emphasized pride in their Catholicism and gratefulness for the values instilled in them through the practice of their faith.

Gray Distinction Project Final