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becky

Thanks Jonny for the insights - I welcome more input from Jenny. Fortunately there are guys like you that "get it," and that gives me hope.

Another area worthy of exploration is a dynamic I've observed here in the States (especially in evangelical and emergent circles) where a woman has to be the alpha dog often at the expense of other women. For example, I've been to numerous events and conferences where I've seen the woman in charge (who always makes sure she has a major role up front and center) invite men who are well known speakers/authors but will then turn around and invite her "female buddies." The end result is often lopsided with the men giving far more dynamic presentations, thus reinforcing the incorrect perception that men make better speakers/worship leaders. There seems to be a fear that by inviting women who might have a more accomplished resume than the organizer, then somehow the organizer won't be able to shine in the spotlight. I don't see this dynamic when men organize events mainly because they tend to solve this problem by inviting all men (including a female or two only if there are a sufficient number of complaints).

There are notable exceptions to this here in the US - kuddos to Brian McLaren for including women on his planning team and involving the local community at each stop of his Everything Must Change Tour. Likewise, Spencer Burke did his best to include women at Soularize 2007.

james hawes

Hi Jonny and Jenny, I think this issue about gender is a key area for new shapes of Church. My sense is that until the church understands issues like patriarchy, power, privilege and position there will be little 'new' happening, we will just re-invent the past.
Social construction, stereotypes and gender socialisation are so powerful within our culture and in the church. Becoming aware of these issues is just the start - change is much harder. Men and women are conditioned to assume certain roles and expected to act in certain ways. In terms of academic masculine studies there is an awareness of the danger of reducing men / manhood to 'this is what all men are like' to welcoming a range of masculinities.
I too am concerned about the Eldridge's stance on gender. Eldridge seemed to uncritically use Robert Bly's book work in 'Iron John' and his reliance and belief in the truth of fairy tales is incredible!!(most of these stories were written by men while living in a deeply patriarchal culture) Robert Bly's work is good stuff but it was written in a time of transition – when things for men were changing and as some have called the crisis of masculinity. Academic writers believe that Bly is guilty of a feminist backlash with his concern that men are becoming too 'soft' or feminized. This may be true, but then I would question the view that to be feminine is to be soft, I think this is more about the false feminine.
For men to change, I believe they have to face up to their privileged position in society, their sexism and to become aware of the areas that they avoid. Some of the issues that men will need to address about traditional masculine norms include their avoidance of femininity, restricted emotional expression, sex disconnected from intimacy, the pursuit of achievement and status, strength and aggression and homophobia.
To be a man is not as simple as it used to be…

jody

Hi Jonny and Jenny

this is so refreshing - I went back and read Jenny's comments on the issue of men and women and found what she said about men and women being allowed to be friends just heartwarming (at last, somebody gets it, I thought!) - in fact I just said something similar today on the comments of my blog and I'm not sure whether I'm now disheartened that this is something that Jenny was saying 4 years ago and I still find that this is a difficulty now.

Our language and conversation is so based around stereotypes of gender that it is going to be so difficult to break through this, so please keep going! there is a wonderful diversity between male and female but the stuff that we so often latch on to is so much more about socialisation (imho) than we allow, that I think we miss our true diversity and how we really fit together (and that includes work and play).

Tom Smail talks about the perichoresis of the Trinity being imaged in the perichoretic relationship of male and female - so what is distinctively true of one is derivatively true of the other. So I would say that when men and women are segregated from each other we become malnourished, I know this is true for me.

what it means is that when we are working well together in partnership, there is less 'difference' in terms of our gender and we rejoice in the difference that is person x and person y, without getting so caught up in gender that we start to think that because person x is a woman and is loyal*, ergo all women are loyal.(*substitute bakes cakes, makes tea etc etc)

ooh sorry, long comment, I'll stop now.

blessings, Jody

Julie Clawson

I really liked this statement
All of us need to be honest about where we hide behind roles in a bid for security or hold onto them as a means of power and control. Neither does us credit
So often women seeking to follow a call are accused of just seeking power and told to stop being greedy. I like looking at the flip side and examining how much comfort and fear prevent us from actually serving.

Becky - I too notice the dynamic of strong/dynamic male speakers and weak female speakers at conferences. I have to wonder though if this can be partially blamed on the practicality of money. Many of the guys are there have their participation subsidized by their publishers, they generally have full time church positions, and speak on the side for a little extra money. Good female speakers generally do that as their full time job and cost a ton to book for a conference (and rarely are subsidized by publishers). Asking a friend to speak who is just getting started (as in she hasn't had a pulpit for years), appreciates the opportunity and will do it for free is an easier way of giving women a voice (and how else will they develop as speakers if they are not given opportunities). Anyway, there just might be alternates to the "bitchy jealous organizer" reason...

becky

Julie - I don't think the dynamic I am referencing is black/white here by any means. I'm noting that it goes beyond just the men not including women because as noted, women can be exclusionary as well once they get into a position of power. My strong hunch in talking with publicists is that many publishers would love to subsidize a female author (and there are female pastors/professors who would love to make a bit of extra money giving talks/workshops) but these women just don't get the same opportunities that the men do to speak.

What I was doing as a religious satirist is pointing out the the elephant in the room that I see present here in the US especially in emerging/evangelical circles. (In mainline circles, one is more inclined to find a conference that might be more gender inclusive but its' often overrun with clergy types as though only those who have been ordained have something to say but that's another post entirely).

A quick trek through the exhibition halls of say AAR/SBL 2007 and Book Expo 2007 (two major events in the US where religious books are highlighted) showed a strong outpouring of female authors - yes, some of them were the traditional "women's issues" (Paula White types) but I saw plenty of books penned by women and people of color that covered the entire religious spectrum. Throughout the year, I get bombarded with books the echo this trend. (This is why I wonder in 2008 that so far hardly any books with a female name on the cover have come out under the EV publishing lines because that doesn't reflect the industry trend I've been noticing.)

For example, the conference I am referencing takes place at an Ivy League college in the Northeast - a quick scan from say Washington, DC to Boston, MA would reveal a host of accomplished females who have the books and the background to equal the male voices that were invited. Here everyone is being paid a flat fee so money wasn't the reason the conference lineup ended up with a very unbalanced gender make-up. Simply put, in checking out the organizer's resume, I can see no reason other than ego for why this woman would have put herself and her friends up as keynote speakers though I could see a few of them serving as workshop leaders or panelists.

I've decided not to support events that I don't feel have a true inclusive spirit about them (even when I have a friend or two who may be speaking) and then busting my tail to talk up events that show that another way is possible. In fact, a good chunk of my promoting "Rising from the Ashes: Rethinking Church" has been to help give voice to some of the people in that book that haven't had a good hearing. Jonny is brilliant throughout his blog of highlighting what people are doing here - for example, I never would have know about the amazing work Cheryl Lawrie does (I am honored she agreed to be in my book) had Jonny not tipped me off here. Andrew Jones also does an incredible job talking about others.

Cynthia La Grou

Great dialog - have been very inspired on this topic lately. I appreciate James' comments and multiple insights. The historic culturally entrenched belief systems and socialization are probably embedded in our DNA. Also, coming up with new archetypes and archetypical stories would be of immense value for future generations. It would be great if the church could lead in the area of women’s equality globally – it would address an enormous spectrum of new and accumulated issues humanity currently finds itself facing. My sense is that, as usual, church will lag behind any cultural shift – however the space for thought leaders is open during a time of massive overall shift when people are intentionally thinking as far out of the box as possible to address some of the seemingly insurmountable problems. Speaking of gender differences, I think that women also embrace a different type of leadership style than men. If you look closely, you find that their leadership style is closely aligned with the Biblical models and standards of the servant leader. Jesus didn’t model the type of leadership that hierarchical, authoritarian religious leaders expected him to – so he was not highly regarded and He was also considered a threat on more levels than one cares to imagine. Culturally, we simply do not reward servant leaders – we reward celebrity leaders. It’s reverse kingdom. Sometimes I just think women should just keep serving as they do and they will receive their greater reward in God’s kingdom. However, Gods kingdom is now and I see it being prevented from its full expression due to inequality, lack of innovation and true justice.

jen

Interesting comments about female speakers. Obviously that's only one area of life and I don't want to get it out of proportion but I do get frustrated at the vicious circle of women not being given opportunities because they are not experienced. One of the things I want to do in the Sophia Network is to build up a directory of women speakers, but the women who have signed up at the moment are reluctant to give details of their experience because it feels to them like boasting! We need to get over that somehow and not be afraid to be more visible. There was a great article in the Guardian recently about Norway, where it has just become law for companies to appoint women as 40% of their non-executive directors. Marit Hoel is the founder of the Oslo-based Centre for Corporate Diversity, which helps companies find experienced non-executive female directors. In response to the growing criticism that there weren’t enough talented and experienced women around, she called a press conference where she said nothing. She just showed photos of 100 senior, capable, talented women with summaries of their CVs. She said, ‘The pictures said it all. Experienced women are out there in quantity. The problem, as elsewhere, is that they are literally not seen. Men have their own network.’

becky

Jen - yes public speaking is only one part of the puzzle but it is how one gains street cred in the religious world - when only part of the kingdom is at the table, then I feel we all miss out. Kuddos to the Sophia Network - I pray it really takes wings and flies.

Julie - forgot to add that I agree with you with you that we need to find ways to help encourage women leaders. I just don't think putting yourself and your buddies as keynote speakers in lieu of inviting more qualified women is the way to go about it. (For example, this group holds a number of much smaller events that could present an excellent opportunity for women to gain some experience public speaking but instead, the organizer insists on delivering the bulk of these talks herself.)

Also, if women agree to work for far less than what a male speaker with a similar background gets, that presents another unhealthy dynamic that strikes me as unemerging - we shouldn't have to sell ourselves short just to get a seat at the table. (Shane Claiborne's model of how he structures his speaking schedule replete with fees represents for me a very positive way to move forward here in general that perhaps emerging circles could adopt across the board.)

Cynthia La Grou

More thoughts, Becky and Jen, regarding inclusiveness, last year I attended a cutting edge Christian conference. Counting the roster for attendees, turned out the gender ratio was 5 to 70. Better ratio, three of the 30 or so speakers were women. John recently attended TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) and was completely blown away by the level of intellect, vision and energy - he said gender was equally distributed - as are most of the professional conferences I attend. I looked at some blogs of women that attended TED. The first question their readers asked were regarding the representation of women at that particular conference. Seems like it has to do with trust. Women are inadvertently saying - we will receive from a source or an authority if we are included or valued. If they are not inquiring about that - they should be. Where does that leave the church? And still the groups you are talking about are "womens groups" the segregated model is useful but limited. Too many predefined, preexisting boxes - we are living in a time of history to reinvent and reimagine...am putting in 50-70 hrs week doing so - see where you can reinvent and have a blast. Closest thing to flying.

becky

Cynthia - the group I am referencing is a co-ed group. Like you, I have been to cutting edge conferences that were truly inclusive. Greenbelt, Soularize as well as Brian and Shane's tours come to mind here. My strategy is to promote only those events that have a truly inclusive vibe because as you noted, these gatherings do exist that more accurately reflect the kingdom of God?

Jenny is addressing a critical need - on a practical level, how do we empower those who have been excluded from the table for far too long?

Cynthia

I've become sensitive to the types of situations where the ratio is skewed - it's glaringly evident something is amiss. I sense that it isn't limited to various groups, but that it may be somewhat pervasive.

On a practical level, the empowerment might not come from places you expect. And what will the empowerment look like? It may look like something we do not expect as well. I would hope that that would be the case. The question you ask, as you know, is one that weighs heavily on my heart, am passionate about, and hope to pursue in approaching ventures. The obvious answer is to give new opportunities and examples, to look at what is working, bearing fruit, and what is not. We can do that in a way that honors God and one another, and that brings fresh perspective and inspiration.

What the skewed ratio tells me is that so many haven't been engaged or included for so long - they've tuned the whole option out- as though it doesn’t exist - why bother just sit on the side lines, or look elsewhere to fulfill purpose and calling - which basically isn't that bad of an option at all, and in fact is sorely needed. From my overall experience, I've found that more creative opportunities are "elsewhere" than in the church domain, although, that may not be everyone's experience. But as the church experiences new shifts - completely new, creative opportunities to serve appear on the horizon.

julie

i share your experience cynthia of finding that ministry outside of the church domain has provided many more creative and fulfilling opportunities - that's where i choose to serve right now, much to the chagrin of many of my fellow ministers who continue to be deformed by a community that should be forming them in healthy, life enhancing ways

you comment that 'as the church experiences new shifts, completely new, creative opportunities to serve appear on the horizon' - i am not sure that i fully agree with you on this - right now in the uk i see a shift in evangelical circles towards even greater sexism, domination and abuse of women in ministry - in some instances there is even talk of reversing positive denominational decisions about the ordination of women - so within traditional church, we might see a bit of a backlash appearing

i don't find much different in new and emerging church circles either in terms of inclusivity - it seems to me that things will only be different there if some of our male leading lights actually make a very firm inclusive stance on these issues in terms of their praxis - not for our sakes either, but for theirs in terms of Kingdom living and following in the way of Christ in our world now - it will not be enough to simply pay lip service to this issue (great that some very good examples of guys doing this are mentioned in these comments already, but we need lots more to do the same)

cheryl

Becky said 'Jenny is addressing a critical need - on a practical level, how do we empower those who have been excluded from the table for far too long?'

maybe our problem has been assuming that's the only table to belong to... which gives the table an awful lot of power. the world could do with a lot more tables... let's create a few new ones.

it's interesting for me this conversation so often ends up talking about events and speaking and books. it's really about way more than public inclusion. [i recognise that's easy for me to say: i don't like public speaking, i rarely go to conferences, i wrestle continuously - boringly - with having a public identity,to an extent that is probably as unhealthy as those who seek it out. i do my best thinking and writing when i imagine no-one will read it. if being at the table is about profile, books and speaking gigs, i'll be sitting this one out.]

but Jenny's comments did remind me how much i long to sit at a table that isn't competitive, that values 'knowing' in a different kind of way... a table that isn't just about me bringing what i have, but that is safe enough to go to a place beyond our collective expertise and discover the unknown. Few tables i sit at are generous enough to do that. we're all [me included] either protecting our place there, or intimidated by our company, or trying to get our knowledge 'on the table'.

thanks jenny ... wise as always.

becky

Cheryl - Excellent points. I was using table in the large generic sense as a metaphor for opening up the kingdom - I've given up trying to sit at tables that clearly aren't inclusive but the Q now is where to sit?

jody

I really agree that this is not about a 'public' face, but does the public face represent a little of what is going on in the less public church world - either it does and so we're still faced with the problem of women being excluded (even if it's not deliberate) or it doesn't in which case the public face is totally disconnected from local church life - I have to say that I agree with Julie re the state of things in the UK, although I doubt very much that women's ordination will be repealed, and so I suspect that the public face fairly accurately represents the state of play, at least in the UK evangelical world (I know that there are more 'worlds' out there :-)

I still have hope that someday the kingdom will come with regards to this, but it is something that is really beyond our imagining isn't it? both for men and women, because we haven't ever really seen it in action. I think I imagine what it will be like and every now and then I get a glimpse, but there's still a whole lot of junk in the way.

so my question is not just 'where do I sit', but what does the table look like and who am I sitting with?

LauraHD

wide words jenny, thanks. and any chance of a "what men want" article to redress the balance sometime jonny? ;-)

one parting observation - 16 comments (inc this one), 1 by a man, 15 by women.

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