I’m reposting something I wrote a year ago. It was my most popular article ever written with more than a thousand viewers. So I thought it was worth posting again.
Quickly — I want to thank all my visitors from the homepage of wordpress.com. Welcome! Wow! A lotta love happens when you get featured on the homepage. Until yesterday, this was a little ol’ blog visited by some of my friends and a few Facebook contacts. I was essentially writing to myself and my lurkers (I do have quite a few of those.)
It would kill me to have you think I’m some ranting feminist and that’s what this blog is about. Because that is not true, about the blog, I mean. I am a feminist. And I can rant (at times.) Okay quite often. But I rant — ahem write about many topics. I post my poetry, and talk about all sorts of things from politics, faith & (dis)belief, family & parenting, depression & mental health. It’s varied.
I’m a Haus Frau, free-lance photographer and generally vexed person who writes. If it were not for my faith I’d be mean and ugly things would come out of my mouth. But if you find anything golden here it is because of grace of God in my life. Melody
I started writing these thoughts about two months ago. But Nicholas Kristof’s article in today’s NY Times entitled, Religion and Women, got me thinking, again. I am a regular reader of his Op-Eds.
DO you believe this little girl does not have the right to the same opportunities? Even if she felt called to be a pastor?
Kristof mentions Jimmy Carter’s speech to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia, which I read when it was first posted online.
(I think I’m “in love” with Jimmy Carter because he lives his life with principles. And standing up for women is sexy! But that’s irrelevant here.) I don’t have complete or even very coherent thoughts on the topic yet, I just want to ask some questions:
- Is feminism as simple as giving women equality in work, home, church life?
- Do women deserve access to anything that men have access to? Why do some men have such a problem with this?
- Do you believe your daughter has a right to every opportunity that your son has? Why would a loving God say she doesn’t? What can’t our daughters do?
Personally, I think oppressing a woman, from war lords raping women in the Congo, to Afghani men who throw acid on girls faces, to men who psychologically abuse women, or the British woman who was arrested for being raped in Dubai, all of this should make us sick to our stomachs and even more culturally accepted things like putting women down, objectifying women. And yes even keeping them from leadership opportunities they are obviously qualified, all of these things give men the chance to believe that women are inferior human beings. And when you do that, bad things happen in our homes, institutions and relationships.
Sexism is any mistreatment of women, ranging from violence against women, to treating women as inferior, to objectifying a women. Any time women are treated in any way other than a respected human being with every opportunity in the world!
“Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified,” former President Jimmy Carter noted. “The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo.”
Jimmy Carter sees religion as one of the basic “causes of the violation of women’s rights.”
As a member of The Elders, a small council of retired leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela, he is speaking out. The Elders are focusing on the role of religion in oppressing women, and they have issued a joint statement calling on religious leaders to “change all discriminatory practices within their own religions and traditions.”
Why do I have a problem with women not being elders at my church? Because in its simplest form it is saying:
- That women are not trusted by God with the complete story, or
- that women somehow don’t have what it takes to lead the church, or
- that women don’t have full access to God, or
- that women don’t have the wisdom and life experience,
- We do not have whatever it takes.
Oh, believe you me I know (some) churches will allow you to do anything else! Serve, give, teach, be missionaries. Just not be the spiritual guide. It just doesn’t feel right. In my gut.
Eugene Cho, is a pastor and leader and all around amazing, wise and prophetic person who has written and thought about this subject saying:
“Shouldn’t we work together to build a culture (even amongst our own churches) of respect and dignity? How do we do that beyond the debates of the ordination of women? How do we do that in our lives, families and churches (or must it be connected to the issue of ordination?) What’s clear to me is that it’s really difficult to pursue these things when we don’t hear directly from women. Or allow ourselves to listen to women… aka – that we take a posture of humility and submit, believing that God can actually speak through women as well. Why?”
I’ll tell you why. Because they do not fundamentally believe they should be listening to women. You can’t convince me otherwise.
Surprisingly, in a progressive place like Madison we settle for less on this subject. It is rare in Madison that are women subjected to overt forms of sexism. Most of the men I know are loving and open-hearted. And so, in the church especially, women let a lot go. We ignore the whole Elder and women being ordained issue, just glad we’re all getting along. And in fact my church is ahead of many other Evangelical churches in the area.
What I don’t like is that we aren’t willing to talk about these things. We need to talk about these things. The fact that we don’t talk about it is painful to me. I believe if we want grow, to heal, and to have everyone truly empowered and working out of their gifts and abilities, it is crucial that we be willing to talk.
It takes an immense amount of energy to challenge someone on their sexism. It is much easier to sit here and write about it. Even a situation that is simple and straightforward, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, sent me into a tailspin for about 12 hours. I knew it was sexist. I couldn’t believe how bad I felt and wondered how my sister, an ordained minister in her own church felt being spoken to in such a demeaning manner. I suppose in some ways I forgot, being out of the workplace and not heavily involved at church, that this is still common, and widespread.
It would seem that sexism would be easy to recognize. As with any type of discrimination, sexism can be both personal and institutional, obvious and much more subtle. Do you think you could spot sexism when it occurs? These are all in the category.
- Definitely commenting on a woman’s looks when you should or could be talking ideas with her can be a form of sexism.
- The use of pejorative names like ” ‘girls’ at the home office” and other patronizing terms can be a form of sexism.
- A teacher or pastor or youth worker offering more attention to one gender can be a form of sexism.
- Only hiring people of a certain gender for a specific type of job can be a form of sexism. (Every support role in a church or ministry being filled by one gender, female.)
- Expecting only people of a certain sex/gender to be interested in specific activities can be a form of sexism.
- Identifying activities, roles and chores as male or female can be a form of sexism.
- Steering students towards specific subjects based on their gender can be a form of sexism.
Mutual respect, openness and conversation are what we need.
I have rung the bell too many times within my church on the role of women. I try to be respectful and teachable. But I am tired of being told “Talk to so and so, who is a woman who leads…” so that she can tell me why she’s accepted the fact and is okay that she will never be an elder in the church. Pass.
I’ve decided it’s the denomination that speaks. Women are not pastors or ordained in our denomination. I cannot change the Evangelical Free Church of America denomination (Or can I? my son would say. But I know I cannot.) so I have to decide if I can live with it.
And it comes down to whether I can counteract the message, subtle as it is from the platform, that says to my 12-year-old daughter sitting in the pew — you will never do that job. You will never be a pastor. You don’t need to study scripture as seriously as the boys, because you aren’t accepted at their seminary. Women do not preach. You will not see women preach in our church.
I just think that’s sad. It makes me very sad.