10 March 2006

Grid Blog for Internation Women's Day - Revisited

So ... this whole subject has raised a lot of discussion both here in our small circle (see my BrickFriend) and out in the larger blogosphere (visit the Urban Abbess - there are a lot of stories right on her blog or go here for the list of blogs that posted themselves ... you'll find little ol' me there too!) City Girl posted her own thoughts and has a unique hammer of her own.

But .... some of the comments at the Brickwall got me thinking. And I may be guilty of taking them out of context (so whack me upside the head if I am). But a lot of them sounded a lot like this, "Well, I personally haven't experienced discrimination (and/or I don't know anyone who has) and there's a lot to quibble about with the studies, so really ... it must be overblown and not quite real."

Before I go on, I want to make a couple of disclaimers. The first is this. Our church is so NOT like most churches (I know that sounds cliche). But it's really true. Our leadership really does practice equity in all the ways that count. They practice humility and grace and it's wonderful to behold. We are led by a woman AND a man and a second man. But that third position could just as easily be a woman and I don't think anyone would argue with it. It just happens to be a man right now. But our paid staff is a woman and a man and they are both equal.

Okay, I can't remember my other disclaimer. Hopefully I will before I finish this piece .... otherwise you only get one disclaimer.

But the problem is that discrimination in the workplace, in schools, in marriages, in church, in the playground, in every facet of life is real. Four out of every 10 murders of women are the result of a sex crime. Sex crimes are not about sex, they are about male dominance over women. If discrimination were not still a problem, we would not need shelters for abused wives and children. The second largest segment of the homeless population after the mentally ill are divorced mothers and children who are unable to care for themselves because the fathers refuse to pay their woefully inadequate child support.

Then there's this: up until the first quarter of the 20th century women took their husband's last name not because of some quaint social custom, but because she was his property. Do you understand the full meaning of that? He OWNED his wife. There are still places in this very country where those laws are on the books. They are (for the most part) ignored, but they are there. Children took their father's name, because he also owned them. They were his property. Why do you think it has been such a fight to get spousal and child abuse laws both on the books and then enforced?

Here's the problem, all of this is part and parcel of the patriarchal system that has been handed to us by The Church. Those of you who are white men are fortunate to have never had a conversation with someone who refused to look you in the eye because of your skin color or your gender, or perhaps both. But I will tell you ... it's humiliating. I have had that experience. I have had the experience of not even being interviewed for a job for which I was THE MOST QUALIFIED candidate because I was not a man who could coach football.

Then there is the quaint tribal practice in Africa of genital mutilation of girls, in which the all or part of the clitoris is removed and the lips of the labia are sewn together leaving just a small opening for menstrual flow until marriage. This is done no matter the religion ... Christian, Muslim, tribal ... women are evil and will commit adultery and cause men to commit adultery unless sex is made painful for them.

Worldwide women are seen as disposable, second class, second rate citizens. And tho The Church would like to deny it, Jesus came to turn that idea on it's head. He died for all the sins in the world; not all the sins, except Eve's. Just like he turned so many other ideas around. In a day and society when women were unable to stand in court and be witnesses, he unfailingly used them as witnesses (Samaria, the tomb, etc.). They were his primary means of support. While Peter may have been the rock, women were the architects of His church. Read Latina Liz for more on this ...

This patriarchal system of the church needs to be revamped and revisited. I don't like the idea of smashing it or replacing it with a matriarchy because that will bring it's own set of problems. But I do like a vision that looks kinda like what we've got going on at our church. Men and women working together, shoulder to shoulder, in equity. Able to look each other in the eye as friends, brothers and sisters.

However, my brothers and sisters, patriarchy still does exist, it is firmly in place and it is exacting a horrible price on women everywhere. AND it is also doing damage to the men who are perpetuating it.


Blogger Mike Croghan said...

In general,the leadership at Holy Comforter is pretty evenly gender divided (or has been for the three years I've been there), but we've got a serious lack of estrogen in the clergy department right now, since Mo. Blair and Mo. DeDe both left within a year. I love Fr. Rick and Fr. Lou, and I honestly can't decide whether I wish they'd practice gender discrimination in their search for the open priest position (i.e., favor women) or just look for the most qualified and ignore gender. I'm sure if they picked a guy priest (that's g-U-y - yeesh!) he'd be great, but....I can't help feeling like we need at least one Mother. :-)

This has been a very interesting conversation to follow. For the record, I'm a staunch feminist. (It was me, not Tina, who insisted that Tina keep her name, not that that's a particularly significant example. What we really wanted to do was pick something new and both change our names - how hippie is that? - but in the end we decided on the lazy no-paperwork route.) But anyway, I believe in total gender equality and I don't for a moment fool myself that we're anywhere near that ideal. But what do you expect from a post-liberal? :-)

3/10/2006 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Preach it sister!!!

It's truely sad how much gender discrimination still exists.

3/10/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger kate said...

I'm sorry. I'm just not in favor of hiring because of someone's color or gender. Of judging whether a certain collection of people was qualified to lead or work in that position based on their gender.
I've benefited from it, and I still think it's stupid.
I see the point in having equal representation, and why that's important. I really do. But I've seen so much reverse discrimination -- particularly when the woman or minority (or both, in some examples) up and leave shortly after being hired because he/she was in great demand because of said policies, or do a crap-ass job because, well, he/she could get away with it because he/she was a special category... Perhaps I haven't worked long enough, or in the right fields (more probable), to have been stung by the straight-up discrimination phenomenon. I've had a lot of white male friends who were three times as qualified as those in the position, who were making a hash of it, and that, too, is very, very frustrating to watch. I had a good Asian male friend at one point who lost out on a selection -- and I think he was told this -- because the black male being considered also was a more "desirable minority." Even though, and there's no mistake about this, he was less qualified.
I wish there were an answer that did not involve judging people's qualifications by including their gender or color, that's all.

3/10/2006 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Ross said...

I agree Kate.. true justice is blind to externals. It's what's on the inside that God sees, and so should we.

3/10/2006 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Liz said...


I agree with you. I wish there was no discrimination. No matter wich way the axe falls, I think it's wrong. But unfortuantly, discrimination is a big problem.


3/10/2006 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

You know, I agree with the fact the Affirmative Action has lead to some dismal failures. On the other hand, it has also given a hand up out of poverty to some people who otherwise would have had no chance whatsoever. Yes, there are those who have been harmed by it. Yes, it's an imperfect system in an imperfect world. And ... I would venture to say that it's time has come and gone; it needs to be overhauled.

My real point is this. The overall systems of gender and racial discrimination are legacies that have largely been left on our doorstep by the church. During every turn in history it was the church's job to root out evil and uphold justice and it did not. In fact, since the days of Constantine it has upheld the status quo of the rich, powerful white men.

To me, we will not see a real end to racial and gender discrimination until The Church "owns" its sin in these matters. There is no Affirmative Action plan that the goverment can come up with that will be effective. The only way to root out these evils is through the redemption of relationships through Jesus Christ and his Church (his Body).

Until we God's people bring about God's rivers of Justice and mountains of mercy.


3/11/2006 07:11:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Croghan said...

Hmm, I'm not quite as ready to boot affirmative action as y'all. I agree with Sonja that many now-long-entrenched specific policies undoubtedly need an overhaul, but I'm not at all sure that one can go from a culture of deep discrimination in one direction directly to complete color- or gender-blindness and expect to see real change. One may argue that we've come far enough in some respects and that it's time to practice zero discrimination (in either direction), but in some areas, including women in church leadership and women in business leadership, I'm just not sure that's true.

And I totally agree with Sonja that redemptive conversion is the real answer, but if we continue with business as usual, continue to practice our old, practically-if-not-intentionally-man-favoring habits until the church (much less the secular world) gets to this kind of conversion, we may be helping to perpetuate horror stories like the ones I've been reading on y'all's blogs lately. Maybe we still need some affirmative action. If some male priest or pastor or executive gets passed over for a slightly-less-qualified chick who can have a positive transformative effect on the church or corporate culture, tough noogies for him. It's been happening to women for millennia.

(Note that, Schuyler-fashion, I am intentionally exaggerating my position for the purpose of generating discussion. However, I do think that an insistence on absolute non-discrimination is a rather markedly modern and individualistic point of view. It considers the rights of the most-qualified individual to be paramount. But what about the needs of the organization/community as a whole? What if it would be better for the whole organization's culture to have a slightly-less-qualified women instead of a slightly-more-qualified man in a position? On the other hand, these same arguments could be used to justify the regular kind of discrimination....)


3/11/2006 10:56:00 AM  

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