Porn is NOT a thing

I’m not a pro-blogger at all.  I just write things as they occur, but it seems this piece has already become part of a series.  I’ll post Part 2 soon (I know, I know, the suspense may be too much for some…).  So consider this the introduction…

 

It seems in Christian circles that the word PORNOGRAPHY is an agreed upon term that is universally understood.  It is rarely explained in the articles or resources talking about it.  Porn; a single entity that according to Martin Saunders’ recent survey 42% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women “struggle” with on a regular basis.

 

Pornography is not one entity.  Pornography is not a THING.  It is a spectrum of THINGS.

 

For many pornography is the sort of thing this cartoon by @easilytempted jokes about:

Porn Plumbers

At one point in time, pornography was an entity that involved bad acting, scenarios and actual scripts.  That time was about 20 years ago.

 

The problem with those talking about pornography in the church is that they have rarely seen any (which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself) or if they have seen any it’s usually because they have personally struggled with the desire to watch and use it.  This means that those who have seen it talk about it from a perspective of an ex-user (well hopefully EX-user), and those who haven’t often don’t actually know much about it.

 

The other problem with the word “porn” is that it hides the reality.  Language is very important.  We must stop reducing this huge thing that is the pornography industry to a four letter word.  It makes it easier to ignore, explain away and assume we understand.  At the very least we need to refer to this issue as a “spectrum of pornographies”.

 

Pornography can be written descriptions (often called erotica), photographs, video footage or animation.  It is either soft-core (“pornographic material that does not show penetration, genitalia, or actual sexual activity”) or hard-core  (“contains graphic sexual activity and visible penetration”).  Since the ‘90s hardcore pornographic material has become the norm.

 

According to Wikipedia (the MOST reliable of sources clearly…) pornography can be separated into different types:

Genre by physical characteristics

  • Age (This includes everything from “mature” women (MILFs) to “barely legal” images of adult women and pseudo child abuse images of adult women made to look like children.)
  • Body Features
  • Race
  • Subculture

 

Fetish

  • Bondage/BDSM (Everything on a spectrum between performers being tied up, blindfolded, enduring pain, to simulated rape.)
  • Bodily Functions (Varying from men ejaculating on women to scenes involving women lactating, urine, vomit and faeces.)
  • Other fetish (Scenes focussed on fetishes around particular acts, clothes or parts of the body.)

 

Sexual Orientation:

  • Men with women, women with men
  • Men with men
  • Women with women
  • Multiple men and women
  • Transexual or transgender people

 

Reality:

This includes amateur footage, “Gonzo” or “POV” footage is where a performer films while “performing” and also hidden camera footage.

 

Specific sex acts:

  • Anal
  • Other sex acts (This includes (usually) women being penetrated by multiple men at one time)

 

Other categories 

  • Computer generated, interactive and animated
  • Miscellaneous (including content created for and by women)
  • Extreme/illegal (this includes bestiality and some would include child sexual abuse images)

 

To view the most popular pornographic internet search terms across these categories in 2014 click here.  The most popular is “teen”.

 

From this brief overview it is clear that the idea of “porn” including plumbers or pizza delivery guys are a thing from a bygone era, almost quaint really.  The vast majority of pornographic content include or end with a man ejaculating on a woman’s face.  Almost all mainstream pornographic videos and images only feature female performers who have no pubic hair.  This has led to a generation of young people and young adults who think girls and women should be hairless (essentially pre-pubescent) and that the pinnacle of sex is not mutual pleasure or intimacy, but rather a man ejaculating on a woman’s face.

 

If we as the church want to engage with the issues we need to start by understanding what they are.  We can’t have conversations about the spectrum of pornographies without acknowledging what we’re dealing with.  And that means no longer being blind to the issues, but instead becoming informed.  Because currently it seems like the blind are leading the blind on this issue.

 

If you want to get a more informed a good (but deeply depressing) place to start would be by reading Gail Dines’ book “Pornland”.

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Women’s Stories

Earlier in the month, there were various conversations happening about gender disparity on the platform.  I invited women to share their stories, to ensure the conversation was being shaped by the lived experience of actual women, not the theories of (usually) men. Here’s what was shared with me, in women’s own words:

Hannah (@hannahe27)

In a bible study w/ two men & one other woman, said I felt God had called me to lead. The first guy said, “I can never take seriously women speakers. Even in university lectures, I don’t respect the female ones, in church it would be even worse.”  Also, any passion for Jesus or justice is always attributed to my womb lining probably detaching itself and don’t get me started on all the times guys interrupt me with ‘sister, be a bit more gentle.

Hannah Mudge @boudledige

When I’m at an event, someone ALWAYS asks me who’s looking after S [Hannah’s young son] in my absence.  They know full well he has a father!

Kate @kate_elizabeth

When I asked, in a church I attended as a student, why women couldn’t lead the answer was “read the Bible” when I then asked for references and explanation I was told to stop being difficult.

Anonymous

Vicar (male), to me: “Your problem is that some of your male colleagues find you intimidating because you’re so competent and passionate about your ministry.”

This exemplifies several problematic attitudes:

1. It’s MY problem.
2. Strong women are intimidating.
3. It’s reasonable for my male colleagues to feel like this and say it.
4. Competence and passion (good things) are not good if they make men feel uncomfortable.
5. Recognition of a gendered dynamic doesn’t necessarily come with recognition that this is a problem and many, many more!

This is just one example of underlying attitudes, in a church which would describe itself as liberal, inclusive, pro-women-in-leadership etc.

I’ve also had “Why are you getting at me? I’m not as sexist as X.”  And, in response to my complaint about colleague’s use of sexist language: “but we use inclusive language in worship, isn’t that enough?”

Susie Flashman Jarvis (@susiefj)

My auto biography tells my story of page 3 girl and heroin addict to saved by God and now daughter of the king. In the main I have felt respected by men but I suppose sometimes men look at me in a certain way, because of what I did.  I find that there are some places that I am not invited to speak, possibly because by definition my past life means people think I am pretty brainless!  Also I may make men feel uncomfortable: addiction to pornography is rife in the church after all.

Jude Munday (@judemunday)

I’m given opportunities less due to assumptions. I was asked if I thought my husband might be interested in preaching, my honest reply was “no, but I am”.

There’s also the very common- if I do things, people check who’s looking after the kids. My husband has never been asked about this.

Then there is the well meaning being called a ‘hero’ for ‘managing’ to preach when I have 3 children. It’s meant kindly but makes me feel like I’m doing something very out of the ordinary and that I can’t really have been a proper mum because I managed to prepare a sermon.

A woman in a church meeting declared “women make horrible leader’s”. I challenged her on it later and she back-peddled but no one in public said that is wass unacceptable. How would that have left a younger woman, who perhaps felt gifted to lead?

There’s also the lack of role models.  In the end, this is what got me preaching (I had to almost beg to have a go). I did feel called but could also see younger women around me and thought ‘if they want to preach, they have no example, so I owe it to them to blaze a trail, even if I’m not very good’ . Actually, I think I am good, and I love preaching  but feel like if I say that out loud at church, I’m somehow not appreciating being a mum! Guilt again!

For me, there is nothing women can’t do in the church, but it takes so much more drive, so many more battles that perhaps women run out of drive because they face questioning and suspicion and guilt where men have encouragement and momentum. I’m tired of having to justify myself and prove that I love my children because I’m not satisfied just by raising them and want to do other things alongside.  I feel very blessed to have a dad who raised up more women leaders than male ones, and a husband who cheers me on. Without them, I’d have given up the fight by now!

Liz (@losthaystacks)

At a friend’s for Sunday lunch after she’d led the service. I asked her mum if she’d enjoyed it and her mum’s immediate reaction ‘would’ve been better if one of the men had led it,

If you have any stories or experiences within the Church or in wider society as a woman in leadership, do email me (befreeuk@gmail.com), tweet me (@God_loves_women) or leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?!

I am enraged.  THIS article written by Carl Beech and published by Childrenswork magazine has left me ENRAGED.  According to Carl Beech being stressed should lead me to “become vocal and chatty”.  I am not feeling vocal or chatty, I am angry and I want to smash things.

 

I have known Carl for quite a few years.  I had the privilege of working at the men’s event he runs for a couple of years.  I’ve seen him call an event with hundreds to their knees in repentance of violence against women.  In many conversations I had with women who were uncomfortable with some of his ideas and views I defended him, explaining that he loves Jesus and is a good guy.  At the all-male events I attended he was very careful to ensure there were no derogatory comments about women, much more careful than I’ve seen organisers of women’s events be towards men.  Yet over the last few years our paths have crossed less and less and our views have polarised more and more.

 

So here’s my thoughts on what he’s written.

 

The article is framed as “Christian Vision for Men’s Carl Beech thinks it’s time to man up and face the reality of a feminised Church.”

Man up is a term that has often been used towards male victims of sexual abuse to describe how they should respond to the choice of someone to violate them.  It has been used to sneer at little boys when they are hurt and it has been used to bully and devalue men who don’t conform to gender norms.

What does it mean that the church has been “feminised”?  When it’s used to suggest the church is failing, it suggests women are the problem.  It assumes that feminisation is an agreed upon thing.  That we all know that women are touchy feely emotional creatures who love quiche and liturgically dance their way around the building, snogging paintings of Jesus as they cry at the slightest upset, demanding that men join in, insisting they hold hands and skip.

 

Carl explains: Premier Childrenswork dropped me a line and asked me to pen a feature on…take a deep breath: What kind of men do we need in the 21st Century? What does an effective children’s work look like? What needs to change?’

Who decided Carl was the expert on writing about working with children in church?  Unless I’m very much mistaken he hasn’t done a whole lot of it.  He has been very open about his views on masculinity and what he thinks works, with many people at many times suggesting that there are alternative views to his.  Why didn’t they think to invite a few people to comment?  Perhaps Ali Campbell who is an actual expert in working with children?  Why only one perspective and a very narrow one at that?

 

Carl says: “I fully believe that men and women think differently”

That’s fine, believing men and women think differently is fine.  We can all believe things whether they are true or not.  I mean, there’s a flat earth society.  I’m totally up with respecting Carl’s belief in the difference between men and women’s thinking.  Unfortunately he doesn’t stop there…

 

“Our brains are different. Some parts of our brains are bigger or smaller depending on our gender. For example, areas that deal with spatial awareness are bigger in men, while problem-solving areas are bigger in women.”

Yes men an women’s brains are different, but what neuroscience has discovered is that this difference is far too complicated to ascertain what it means.  And what is clear is that neuroplasticity means that there’s no such things as hardwired difference between women and men.  So so many neuroscientists have written rebuffing the so-called science Carl quotes here.  At no point does he reference evidence for his views, but rather infers it is well accepted science, which it is not.

 

Research has shown that stressful situations seem to activate an almond-sized part of the brain called the amygdala, which processes fear, aggression and action. While in men it triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response, the female reaction has been dubbed ‘tend and befriend’. Men, as a whole, get angry when they are stressed. Women become vocal and chatty.

Responses to trauma are much more complex than Carl is allowing for here.  We cannot underestimate the impact of socialisation on how people respond to trauma, girls are socialised to be “good” and not to fuss, we are told “boys will be boys”.

 

Hormones also play a role. It seems as though it has almost become a criminal offence these days for men to have testosterone. Athletes who inject additional testosterone get angrier and have a much higher sex drive. Men live with a higher level of testosterone 24/7. Women have fluctuating hormone levels according to their monthly cycles.

I don’t know anyone who has suggested men should be banned from having testosterone.  I have however seen many suggest that testosterone is not a justification for rape, violence or other actions that perpetrated by almost exclusively men.  God made men with testosterone.  He also made men with free will.  So whether it is men and testosterone, or women with monthly cycles, our hormones do not in any detract from the choices we make as humans gifted with free will.

 

It’s widely known that more men kill themselves than women. However, it is also known that more women seek counselling for depression than men. Men don’t report suicidal feelings or depression, they just go ahead and kill themselves; usually in far more violent ways than women, who are more likely to poison themselves. Men chuck themselves off buildings, jump in front of vehicles or shoot themselves. That’s what testosterone can do.

The deep irony of an article which starts with telling us to “man up” then suggesting that men being less likely to talk about their feelings because…MEN ARE WIRED DIFFERENTLY will hopefully escape no one.  No wonder men don’t talk about their feelings!  Weakness and vulnerability are squashed out of boys at an early age.  The masculinity Carl discusses throughout the article perpetuates the very issues which underpin WHY men don’t talk about their feelings.  In fact, a recent campaign trying to prevent male suicide is working on men not being defined by the very stereotypes Carl perpetuates throughout the article.

God made men with testosterone.  It is not testosterone that causes suicide.  Circumstances, mental health issues, lack of support, stereotyping are all contributory factors in men being at risk of suicide.  And let us not forget that 90% of those who self-harm are female, which is inherently a violent act.

 

“We do open up and chat, but often in male spaces. I recently heard about a barber shop that created additional male spaces for guys to hang out. The owner related how men would openly share their feelings at quite a deep level and share very intimately. But when a woman came in and sat with them they stopped sharing and moderated their behaviour in an unhelpful way.”

Ohhh!  So it’s women’s faults men don’t talk?  Not the fact that having to “MAN UP” is a thing men have invented?  Carl’s following comments talk about men not being into lovey-dovey Jesus is my boyfriend stuff, but just here insists men can’t do feelings because…WOMEN.  How about men insisting other men don’t like lovey-dovey stuff perhaps impacting men’s ability to be honest about their feelings?  No…?  Let’s just blame women then eh?

 

So what’s all this got to do with children’s work? Well, a heck of a lot actually. Unless we start to ‘get’ men rather than trying to change them, we’ll never crack it. Yes, there is a broad spectrum of masculinity, just as there is with femininity. I understand that, but let’s get real. Let’s stop using a female standard to measure emotional and spiritual health.

Oh, so there’s a broad spectrum of masculinity?  I thought all men couldn’t talk about their feelings, had good spacial awareness and get angry when stressed?  Because of their brains?  But now we hear (very briefly) that some men aren’t like that, then a SWIFT MOVE ONWARDS.

Who is using a female standard to measure emotional and spiritual health?!  Who is doing that?!  Last time I checked (and I actually have checked) the national Christian platform is 62% men, so it’s not there…  How about in Christian publishing?  Christian media?  In local churches?  Oh no, on every level of the church, men are the majority of preachers, writers and holders of the message.  So unless women are controlling the message via some sort of mind meld, I’m unclear as to how the measure is in any way FEMALE.

 

“One example of this trend is the constant emphasis on ‘falling in love with Jesus’.”

I’m not sure where Carl has been in the last decade, but the falling in love with Jesus thing was a sort of 90’s cultural thing.  It didn’t last long and it certainly wasn’t (and isn’t) a CONSTANT EMPHASIS.  I’ve never heard a sermon on falling in love with Jesus.  The only church leader I know who was into it was male (who incidentally also insisted we all hold hands in a service and sing “Bind Us Together Lord”).

 

“I’ve heard pastors tell me that I need to fall passionately in love with Jesus.”

Now, I could be wrong here, but I’m guessing those pastors were MALE.  I know most of the songs Carl is talking about are written by men.  So where exactly is this message coming from?  Because it’s certainly not women who have the majority voice in the church.  Anywhere.

 

“The love I have for Jesus isn’t sexualised.”

I’m sorry to have to break this to Carl, and everyone.  THE LOVE I HAVE FOR JESUS ISN’T SEXUALISED EITHER.  What does that even mean?  How would the love people have for Jesus be sexualised?  That sort of thing is usually relegated to cults who have all sorts of alternative sexual practices.  It’s certainly not something I’m into, or any of the women I know (unless they’re secretly part of a Jesus sex cult I don’t know about…).  In fact I’d suggest it’s deeply heretical and offensive to suggest that any of us have a sexualised love for Jesus.

 

“It’s a love that I hope means I would take a bullet for him, not light a candle and gaze into his eyes dreamily. Men don’t get this eros love for Jesus stuff. They don’t fashion a strong faith in the melting pot of Mills and Boon, but in the context of sacrifice, honour, humility, grit and picking up their cross on a daily basis. Testosterone can be harnessed to this end, or we just end up switching the men off, throwing them into the cauldron of redundancy until, confused, they start to display less helpful male traits.”

I love Jesus.  With all my heart I love Him.  I hope that if I am ever given the opportunity to sacrifice my life for Him, that I would do it.  I’m not all into the dreamy eye gazing either.  Where exactly is this MELTING POT OF MILLS AND BOON?!  Seriously, it’s not something I’ve come across and I’ve been in church my WHOLE life.  Women are up for this call of sacrifice, honour, humility, grit and picking up our cross daily.  Across the world women are utterly familiar with this, what with doing it for their kids while in many countries we see men don’t do this for their kids.  As the saying goes, “a pound for the man is a pound for the man, a pound for the woman is a pound for the family”.  I know that being a mother and the sacrifice that involves isn’t the sexy taking a bullet kind of love, but it is something that women do more often than men, across the entire GLOBE.

And what are these “less helpful male traits” Carl speaks of?  I guess working in the field of ending violence against women, I would suggest they are raping women, mutilating women, killing women, killing their children, killing and mutilating other men?  Perhaps sexually abusing children?  You know, the “less helpful male traits”…?  As someone working full time in ending violence against women, I can assure you feminisation is in no way contributing to the choice some men make to abuse, rape and violate.  The very thing Carl wants to perpetuate, testosterone fuelled, feeling-less MANLINESS is what underpins the violence done to women and children by men.  It is by learning empathy and compassion that men choose to stop.  It is through taking responsibility (not blaming women and feminisation) that men change.  It is through re-humanising women and seeing them as equals that men re-humanise themselves.

 

“In other words, we’re getting it wrong. We tell boys off for wrestling and scrapping because it feels unseemly and somewhat un-Christlike. It isn’t! They’re just blowing off steam the way boys know how to.”

I’m confused.  Jesus was and is the greatest advocate of non-violence that ever existed.  He didn’t defeat evil with a sword, but by being stripped and beaten.  By giving up all power as God and becoming a human baby, birthed from a woman, and raised as a weak, feeble human.

 

“We don’t let boys play with toy guns because we think they will grow up to be aggressive. Rubbish. They’ll just go out and make swords and rifles from sticks. Harness, don’t extinguish. Go with it, don’t deny it. Shape ’em, don’t destroy ’em.”

My son’s favourite game was cooking right up until he went to school.  Within weeks his favourite game became killing.  That’s what socialisation does to boys, it tells them to kill not cook.  To destroy not build up.  And that is not the Gospel of Christ.  We are called to pick up our cross, not beat people with it.

 

“We need to train our children from an early age to engage with the world around them without losing their faith and integrity. We need them to learn how to win and lose with grace. We need to show them how to be competitive without being brutal and vicious. We need to harness the testosterone of our boys rather than hoping it goes away or trying to re-programme them. We were given it for a reason.”

I feel like quoting The Princess Bride in response to Carl’s constant assertions around testosterone “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”.

Why do we need to teach boys to be competitive?  Last time I checked the teaching of Jesus was that the first should be last, that the greatest will be the least.  And it that’s too hard for Carl’s MANLINESS, then that’s unfortunate, because that’s the Gospel.

 

“We need men who are trained and raised up not just to lead in Church, but in every sphere of society.”

I hate to break it to Carl, but men are already leading the church and society.  Women on the other hand, are a minority voice in all decision making processes the world over.

 

“We need strong men of God who can take a hit for their faith in the media and the arts; on building sites and farms; in factories and accountancy firms. The same goes for women, of course, but they shouldn’t have to do it by pretending to be masculine to compete. They have uniquely redeemable skills and qualities of their own.”

I don’t ‘take a hit for my faith’ by pretending to be masculine.  What does that even MEAN?!  Should I don a fake beard before entering any space where I may need to stand up for my faith?  Boys have plenty of role models for what it means to stand up for their faith.  The Bible stories we tell across Sunday School, the great people of faith they hear about are almost exclusively male.  It’s not boys who need role models for standing up for faith, it’s girls.  I don’t need to pretend to be masculine because I continue to be authentically who God made me to be, with the gifts and talents He gave me, to do the work He has called me to.  The same as all the women I know who are standing up for their faith are doing.

 

“What kind of man do we need in the 21st Century? A beatitudes man. A man who will live and die with Jesus Christ as his master and commander. A man who has submitted his strength and testosterone to Jesus. He is secure in his identity and doesn’t care whether he is good at sport or not. He is who God made him to be. He doesn’t feel demonised because he has big muscles, nor weak if he doesn’t have them; he is not looked down on if he is competitive and aggressive. He’s a kingdom man.”

How is the 21st century kind of man different to the 21st century woman?  As human beings choosing to give our lives to God we should all b seeking to live and die with Jesus as our Master and commander, as our Saviour.  We should all be submitting our strength to Jesus and be secure in our identity.  Surely we should be KINGDOM PEOPLE?  Really?

 

“Do you have men in crèche and in Sunday school? If not, get some.”

Oh yes, because it’s that easy!  Most women I know have been asked to be on the Sunday School rota.  How many of the men are asked?  And surely this could have been mentioned sooner?  We all know that Sunday School is run by women.  So we’ve been told for a whole article that we are the problem with the church, but now it’s our job to fix things.

 

“Do you tell the boys off when they rough and tumble? Why? Let them blow off steam and find other ways to bring the discipline into play. Bring back wide games, I say!”

The problem is we rarely tell boys off when the rough and tumble.  The “boys will be boys’ mantra sits beneath offensive banter, rape and sexual violence, sexualised bullying in schools, domestic violence and other forms of woman and child abuse.

 

“Learn to celebrate male strength as much as you celebrate more feminine qualities.”

WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?!?!?!?!

What We Talk About When We Talk About Gender Disparity on the Platform

Patriarchy is all pervasive.  It seeps across all areas of life.  There isn’t one solution, one issue or one aspect to approach patriarchy from.  Perhaps one of the issues with blogging is that it invites us to only consider a couple of issues, it is not designed to approach the fullness of something like patriarchy.

 

When we look at the reasons for gender disparity on the platform, things like childcare or complementarian theology are often as far as we get with defining the issues.  Yet these are superficial issues and in no way explore the vast complexity of why we have less women on the platform.  Yes, there is a need to question whether equal representation is the right way to go, but if we do that without exploring why there is disparity between men and women, we glaze over the actual issues.

 

After collating the statistics for platforms in 2013 I was regularly being asked whether quotas were the way to go.  As a result I wrote this document in consultation with as many women in leadership as I could.  It is 34 pages long and articulates the reasons women are less likely or able to gain speaking opportunities.

 

So I thought I’d list the issues raised in the document here, so instead of picking one or two, we can hopefully stop listing one or two of these and thinking that is enough.  Instead we need to look at the whole picture and engage holistically with it.

Society Community Ontogenetic Individual/Internal
Intersectionality of oppression Formal reinforcement of societal beliefs Children not given critical thinking skills Imposter syndrome
Neurosexism Informal reinforcement of societal beliefs Christian products perpetuate stereotypes Lack of gender awareness
Patriarchy Women’s appearance scrutinied Sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood Women who put selves forwards seen as “pushy”
Institutional sexism “Queen Bee” syndrome Role models fit gender stereotypes Motherhood:

Stepping of the “career ladder” and unable to get back on

Lack of provision for mothers at events

Guilt

Hegemonic Masculinity “Home wives” and “work wives” Children’s clothing Singleness
Male privilege Women expected to fulfil “female roles” Toy and technology industries Lack of self-confidence
Lack of transparency/consistency Lack of support from friends or family Gender socialisation Lack of resources:

No “wife”

Financial/time

Lack of accountability/consequences “You can’t be what you can’t see” Different expectations of girls/boys Silencing tactics:

Policing tone

The “grace card”

Gender stereotypes Lack of gender awareness in ministry training Adolescent development Shame
Gender justice seen as a “women’s issue” Focus on justice as “out there” Traditional gender roles seen as a measure of Christian commitment The patriarchal bargain
Selfish capitalism Single sex events can perpetuate stereotypes Events for children and young people rarely focus on gender Assumptions made based on gender
Tokenism Local church”

Not championing women

Not providing leadership opportunities

Not enacting egalitarian theology

Sex and relationship education Individual complicity:

Not willing to give up power

Fear of the consequences

Lack of knowledge

Blind to the issues

Lack of courage

Women’s contributions written out of history Lack of regional opportunities Parenting Pressure on female leaders to represent their entire gender
Media Representation of women:

-Invisible

-Pressure to conform to beauty industry standards

-Sexualised

Lack of informal ministry training No gender awareness training for youth and children’s workers
Violence against women Lack of support with formal ministry training Parenting advice perpetuates gender stereotypes
Women have less decision making power Fear of inappropriate relationships Lack of discipleship
Women are poorer
Unhealthy expectations of:

Women without children

Single women

Men

Wives

Mothers

Women only invited to speak on “women’s issues”
Workplace not designed for women
No teaching on what a right use of power looks like
Gender exclusive language
Don’t know any female speakers
Negative attitudes towards feminism
Only using existing pool of speakers
Lack of intentionality in inviting women female speakers
Gatekeeping
Main leadership model is charismatic
Theology:

Modesty

Emphasis on “maleness” of God

Unity prioritised

Gender justice a “secondary issue”

Creation ordinance for gender

Only asking speaker’s wives
Non-ministry experience undervalued
Accusations of “feminisation”
Invisibility of women
Muthos

In response to some of the things Ian Paul and others have written about the issues of having children, I have a few things to say.

 

For the last few years, Mr GLW and I have run a consultancy together.  He manages the finances and I do mostly everything else.  This means he has been the primary carer of the children and the house for that time.  He is brilliant at it.  We clearly felt God’s call to live out our life and faith in this way, with both our skill sets contributing to us generally managing family, work and life quite well.  The main issue for us has not been some biological reality of my womb making me yearn for more time with my children, but rather the social judgments made (especially by Christians) about our roles.  On numerous occasions Mr GLW has been asked “So when are you getting a proper job?”  And people are incredulous that I can achieve so much while having a family.

 

I don’t think the way we work is right for everyone.  But suggesting women are biologically predetermined to be the primary carers of children and the home is reducing the opportunity for both women and men to live out God’s call and fully use their gifts.  So in finish I would say:

  1. Men’s contribution to childcare and the home is a deeply feminist issue.
  2. The Church should be encouraging all men to be more involved with their children and homes.  As a feminist and a christian I regularly object to the sort of hegemonic masculinity perpetuated by the majority of Christian men’s work in the UK.
  3. I am not interested in the statistics because I value the people speaking on platforms more highly than others.  I believe there is a need for us Christians collectively to stop waiting for the next big event to hear from God.  Jesus died and rose again so we no longer needed an earthly priest or mediator between us and the Creator of the universe and Christian events are often used by individuals as a replacement for spending time in reflection with God.  However, the statistics we can gain from events gives us a snapshot into Christian culture and the way certain types of power are allocated.  That snapshot is invaluable in motivating change, articulating the issues and beginning the conversations and actions required to change things.
  4. Nobody ALLOWS their wife or husband to be a GP, have a job or be a primary carer of children.  We support, encourage and enable our wife or husband to do such things

Tell Your Story (reshaping the conversation)

There have been various conversations and discussions taking place over the last week and a half since Project 3:28 released the statistics about women and men on the national Christian platform.  Although I wrote the report about the statistics I have been largely quiet within the conversations, mainly because my mum passed away a few days ago and so the emotional and practical challenges that has raised means I haven’t had the time or space to contribute much.

One of my observations from the sidelines of the dialogue is that there seems to be a lot of men commenting on the statistics.  Ian Paul has been very vocal and has quoted various men within the pieces he has written.  I am married to a man, have a son, a father and many male friends and family members, so be assured I see men’s views as both relevant and important.  Yet, it is interesting that women’s voices have been less prominent within the discussion.  Hannah Mudge and Vicky Walker have written excellent pieces.  Yet to a large degree it has been Ian Paul’s views and those he has chosen to feature within his blogs shaping the conversation about these issues.  Isn’t that a curious thing?  Men being the main shapers of a conversation on women’s lack of representation?

I want to write a piece giving my thoughts on the statistics as soon as I can, but for now, I invite women to begin shaping this conversation.  I briefly tweeted an experience I had in a job interview of being asked “How will you manage this role alongside having two young children?”  I know any men who were interviewed for the role would not have been asked such a question.  My tweet led to a few other women sharing their experiences of being asked about who was caring for their children or feeding their husbands while they were speaking at an event.

I’ll never forget an event I attended within the last couple of years where a well known Christian speaker, a man over 65, jokingly asked the (only) female event contributor (a woman in her late 20s) if he was a good kisser, to great laughter amongst the audience.

This got me thinking, the conversation needs to be shaped by women’s stories, not men’s theories.  It is our lived experience as women which evidences the need for change.

Do you have a story, conversation or experience that evidences the issues women face, either in leadership, on the platform, in church or in wider society?  I’m hoping to collate the stories and share them in a blog.  You can request for your story to be anonymous if you would prefer.  If you would be willing to share, please email me at befreeuk@gmail.com or tweet me (@God_loves_women) or leave your thoughts in the comments section below and I’ll put something together.