Sunday linkpost/final thoughts - Christianity/gender edition

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A lot of discussion has come out of the issues surrounding gender equality and Christianity raised by various posts published in the past week - from different perspectives (which is good) and bringing up different points. I have collated the ones I have read here  for future reference and for anyone who hasn't seen them yet.

Vicky Beeching - Christian feminism is not an oxymoron

Krish Kandiah - Women, men, church and Twitter

Goannatree - The F word; or, I don't have to be a feminist to object to sexism

Elizabeth Esther - A necessary anger

Lay Anglicana - Aristophanes was the original complementarian

James Prescott - The masculine/feminine balance

Girltaristhan - Can I be a Christian and be a feminist?

Jo Royal - The one where I 'come out' - Part One and Part Two

and from me - Gracious debate, tone arguments and silencing, followed by Gracious debate part two - the silencing around gender issues

If you have a post to add to the debate, please comment and tell me!

The posts and discussion I have read and been a part of this week have raised two issues that warrant further exploration:

1) Masculinity and femininity in relation to the Bible. Can we interpret scripture to understand that a "Godly" man or woman should have particular traits, interests and personalities as well as "roles". To what extent is 21st century teaching on this informed by cultural gender stereotypes and expectations? And should we be looking to the men and women of the Bible for pointers on the right sort of "masculine" and "feminine" behaviour?

A lot of what I read online and in books about "Biblical" masculinity and femininity is heavily based on cultural expectations and stereotypes. I don't believe this is correct or helpful and actually think that we shouldn't be defining desirable and "Godly" personality traits, interests and lifestyles according to gender when they don't really have anything to do with whether one is male or female. Many other people take a different view. But what is very apparent to me is that a lot of people want to know what "Biblical/Godly" masculinity and femininity actually look like - and apply this to their lives. Personally, I'm not that fussed any more. Godly behaviour and personality? Yes - this is something we should all be striving for. Godly gender stereotypes? Not something I'm looking to implement in my life. But for some, it may be helpful to their situation or issues they are dealing with. So do we need a new conversation, a new approach to this? One that is less narrow-minded and more accepting of differences? One that doesn't attempt to tell us that Genesis 2 gives us a picture of man's "inherent strength" and woman's "inherent softness" (because let's be honest here, it really, really doesn't)? It's something I would hope to explore and discuss more in the future.

2) Working together despite difference to address issues of injustice. Something I've seen agreement on this week, from both sides of the debate, is that global gender inequality IS a justice issue and IS important. In my own contribution to the debate I wrote about wishing that comment threads on gender equality would stop boiling down to the holding open of doors and portrayals of men in television adverts for cleaning products as if that's all this issue is about. I don't think you have to believe that women can be pastors, or want an end to "traditional" roles within the family, to have a heart for global women's issues. Thankfully, the discussion has been steered away from trivial things. Some of the things I have seen people discussing in that respect are sex trafficking, rape and access to education. It would be great to see more of a "cross-party initiative" on these issues taking place, in the interests of both combating injustice and also working together to understand each other more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Hannah - I was busy all last week so missed out on the conversation, and it's been really helpful to be able to catch up. I've just blogged on the idea of the 'middle ground' and what that might look like:

On the masculinity/femininity issue, I think it's helpful to talk about masculinities and feminities in the plural, rather than seeing gender as something that is fixed and constant for all time. There are lots of different ways of being a man, for example, and I'm sure that was true even in biblical times.


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