noy into you

Yesterday, I was watching a conversation online about Christian dating, and one of the men mentioned that feminism and the rise of feminism has made it increasingly difficult for men to be leaders in their homes. While I agreed with him to an extent, it got me thinking about how the word ‘feminist’ gets used in Christian culture, particularly in more conservative circles.

I’ve stated before that I don’t choose to identify as feminist but despite this, I’ve been called a feminist several times. The word is often lobbied jokingly by Christian men at me in any discussion about sexism but the undertone is always the same. It’s an undertone of dismissal and disapproval.

Essentially, calling a woman a feminist in any conversation about how Christian culture, church organisation  or congregations participate and encourage unhealthy and derogatory attitudes or behaviours towards women is an easy way to shut down conversation and encourage others to label the person as a ‘liberal’ or ‘heathen’. It’s an easy way to prevent someone from bringing any concerns to the table. It’s an easy (and often sexist and patronising) way to suggest that a woman has been ‘brainwashed’ by popular culture and is clearly spending more time reading Germaine Greer than her Bible.

Instead of being committed to the truth as taught in the Bible, a lot of Christian men are committed to wordly power structures that give them license to exercise the leadership that Jesus calls them to with little of the servanthood he embodies.

This is why a substantial amount of white  Christian men could find themselves voting and supporting a man who boasts about grabbing women’s genitals and has had several sexual assault claims against him. This is why pastors in positions of power within our church can take advantage sexually of female members and are excused by the majority male leadership of our churches. This is why the rate of spousal abuse and domestic violence are pretty much the same in evangelical circles as outside.

There appears to be a concerted effort in some Christian circles to abjectly deny that there IS a problem in Christian circles with gender bias and sexism. It’s a lot easier to write off any attempts to address these issues as ‘feminism creeping into the church’ than it is to actually interrogate how the church as well secular society have strayed from the Biblical ideal of male-female relationships.

Yes, the Biblical view of men and women is distinct and often at odds with what modern liberal media espouse in many aspects and I don’t expect some feminists reading this to be entirely happy with what I believe, but that doesn’t mean that our own practices have been perfect. Why do we find it hard to believe that Christian culture, which historically has subjugated and demeaned people for centuries on the basis of race, would still have a perfect practise when it comes to gender? Why would we even for a minute, in arrogance think that it is impossible for us to have also gone wrong when it comes to our treatment of women? The civil rights movement of the 60’s not only changed the world, but changed the church. We acknowledge that the impact of this could only have been positive in the ways that it caused the church to take a look at racial injustice within its ranks. We still have a long way to go with addressing racism within the church. Is it not then possible, that the feminist movement although imperfect in many ways, could allow us to examine the injustices of sexism within the church?

But it’s not about feminism.

Tenuous claims of protecting the faith against feminism is just your excuse for continuing and excusing behaviour that has no grounding in the principles of your faith, but rather the sexism you’ve been taught-  which unfortunately extends across religion and culture. I’m not talking about gender roles and whether the man should be the head of his household. I’m talking about you sleeping with 10 women but viewing a woman in church who has slept with 10 men as ‘loose’. I’m talking about women who have been taken advantage of sexually by pastors who command power in congregations where a significant proportion of women are single and lonely being labelled as ‘Jezebels’ who have ’caused God’s anointed to stray’. I’m talking about women getting disfellowshipped for pregnancies out of wedlock but Pastors who sleep with congregants simply getting moved to another district. I’m talking about women paying the majority of the churches tithe but being underrepresented in decision making processes. None of these things can be excused by any Bible text.

I’ve heard people say that as a church we should be committed to spreading the good news of Jesus rather than tackling minor issues like sexism within the church. While I agree that as Christian individuals and a community that the gospel is our priority,  the idea that other ‘minor’ issues will just sort themselves out without any concerted effort is extremely naive. We have had centuries of preaching the gospel without any real attempts to address these issues. The results of this has been that we’ve had people become Christians and then worship at segregated churches. We’ve had people become Christians and also suffer sexual abuse at the hands of a church deacon. We only have to look back at the history of 1000 years of preaching the gospel to understand that sometimes, specific problems need to be specifically addressed. Most importantly because these problems actually are a specific hindrance in our attempts to reflect Christ to the world.

So next time you start to use the word ‘feminist’ to shut down conversation, chuck that word out of your vocabulary. Instead, ask what you have been told to ask. Which is – is it Biblical, is it true, is it good, does it reflect Jesus? And whether it’s feminist or not, if the answer is ‘Yes’, then it deserves to be listened to.

 

 

gender-roles

I grew up in a household where my Dad is about as feminist as a conservative Christian man can be.

On women’s ordination: “Your Mum would probably make a better pastor than a lot of men I know”.

On stay at home parents : “If someone needs to stay at home, whoever earns the least should stay at home, and if that’s the man, tough luck for him“.

On earning more than a man: ” Never be dependent on someone”.

This was, however, inevitably interrupted with the proclamation “I AM THE HEAD OF THIS HOUSEHOLD!” at various critical moments in my childhood.

Despite that, the overwhelming ideology I grew up with was the idea that although men and women were different and that my faith called for different roles within the family, outside of the home I was destined to be a super-duper CEO/Prime minister/consultant neurosurgeon, large and in charge and no one, certainly no man, could tell me anything.

I still passionately believe that having women at the top of their profession is not only positive, but necessary, and I get more than a little bit excited when I see women, especially black women, running companies, heading businesses and being exceptional in their field.

In a relationship though, I like the man to be in charge.

And it’s not a reluctant acquiescence or a part of my faith that I struggle with. People that suggest that every woman SHOULD stay at home and look after children and that their primary function in life is to incubate and birth offspring? Yes, I find that insulting (especially to women who will never get married) and frankly, silly..But the man being the ‘leader’ in the relationship? Nope, it actually comes as a massive relief.

Being the type of women who is relatively successful in most people’s eyes, and has had the privilege of a good education and hopefully a developing career, I actually welcome having someone make decisions on my behalf sometimes. Of course I want a partnership where there is mutual respect and admiration, but I choose to be in partnerships where the man takes on a leadership role. That’s just me. I simply cannot abide passive men who let me drag them through the whole relationship by the scruff of their skinny fit jeans. Simply put, I need Tyrone to get a spinal cord and some vertebrae to go with it. A spinal cord that I cannot easily crush with my manicured hands.

Now, I’m sure some feminists will see this as a level of Stockholm syndrome. Perhaps I’ve been so indoctrinated into viewing women’s role as being naturally in subjection to men, that I’ve not only accepted it, but begun to like it….and I don’t really care.

In fact, my brief internet browse on this topic didn’t yield much apart from a lot of articles where feminists were in a quandary about whether the fact that they liked men to dominate them in the bedroom made them somewhat un-feminist. Most of them (inevitably) concluded that as long as they had decided that they liked it, it was fine. Obviously I’m biased, but I’m inclined to think that part of the reason some women feel drawn to these sexual behaviours is because we’ve managed to erode so much of what I believe are natural roles within male-female relationships. Men and women are different – yes, biologically different. Their brains are structurally different. We’ve had a tendency to exaggerate these differences and use them to state that women are incapable of certain things, but the solution to this is not to deny that differences exist, the solution is to redress the imbalance.

We’re scared that if we adopt traditional gender roles at home, we won’t be able to switch it off at work, and we won’t be able to fight the continuing battle against unequal pay, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the massive glass ceiling that exists for women.

I’ve become very comfortable in my own gender ethics. I’m perfectly happy being a super-boss in the workplace and having a traditional home life. I don’t find it contradictory or confusing – the office is not my living room.

The problem is that the majority of women want to be romanced, have men open doors, buy them dinner on the first date and all the other things that 13 year old day dreams are made of. If we are striving towards a form of egalitarianism proposed by some branches of feminism that eradicates gender norms, then of all that has to go with it. At the very least those practices can’t be gender specific.

I don’t feel bad about demanding equal pay for equal work while wanting someone to pay for the first or second (Or all?) dates and eventually coming home to scrub his shirt collars. It’s my belief system, it’s my choice.

There’s no need for all this wrist-wringing – just relax and release. You can lean in at work and then come home and lean over the hob if you want to. With no apology.

Ladies, what’s the deal? do you like men being in charge? What do you believe? Men, do you like being the ‘leader’? Or do you  think it’s unfair to burden you with that responsibility?