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
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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.

Are Christian Conference Sexist?

After the hoo-hah that began when “The Nines” Leadership Conference chose to have only 4 female speakers while having 110 male speakers, was brought to public attention yesterday by Rachel Held Evans yesterday, @jonathonmerritt, a US blogger collated the male and female speakers at various high profile US Christian conferences. Helen Austin (@helen_a13- the blogger formally known as Fragmentz) mentioned that it would be useful to have a UK version, so the two of us set about doing this, with some help from various people giving us suggestions of conferences to include.

 

Where possible we’ve sourced the information about speakers from the online recordings after the events. Where that hasn’t been possible, we’ve looked at the contributors listed for future events. We have included the number of women and men who contributed, and the overall amount of presentations done by men and women (some speakers contribute multiple times). We’ve included married couples who spoke together as “couples” and have mentioned other interesting things like whether the women who are contributors are married to men who are also contributors.

 

We have done our best to gather the correct information, please do email me on befreeuk@gmail.com if there are ay alternations or additions.  So here goes…

 

Spring Harvest 2013 (Minehead 1)

27 men (69%) | Women 12 (31%)

Presentations by: Men 59 (71%) | Women 23 (29%) | [Couples 3]

 

 

New Wine 2013 (London South East)

Mainstage: 14 men (82%) | 3 women (18%) (67% of the women were married to male conference speakers)

Overall: 65 men (68%) | Women 30 (32%) (48% of women were speaking about relationships, children, abuse etc.)

Presentations by: Men 96 (73%) | Women 35 (27%) | [Couples 25]

 

 

Greenbelt 2013 (confirmed by conference organisers)

71 men (61%) | 45 women (39%)

Presentations by: Men 132 (65%) Women 72 (35%)| [Couples 1]

 

 

Keswick 2013

21 men (100%) 0 women (0%)

 

HTB Leadership Conference 2013

Mainstage: 5 men (83%) | 1 woman (17%)

Overall: 36 men 36 (84%) | 7 women (16%)

Presentations by: Men 48 (87%) Women 7 (13%) (57% of women were on a panel with at least 4 men each) (1 woman married to a male speaker at the conference)

 

Detling 2013 (information from website speaker profiles)

13 men (72%) | 5 women (18%) | [5 couples]

 

Hillsong Conference 2014 (information from website)

4 men (80%) | 1 woman (20%) (she is married to a male speaker at the conference) | [1 couple]

 

Westpoint 2013 (updated by Dave Bish, who spoke at the event)

14 men (88%) | 2 women (12%) (1 co-led a seminar, another married to a male speaker at the conference)

Presentations by: Men 22 (92%) | Women 2 (9%)

 

CNMAC 2013 (from website speaker profiles)

Mainstage: 7 men (70%) | 3 women (30%)

Overall: 25 men (71%) | 10 women (29%)

 

Creation Fest 2013

27 men (87%) | 4 women (13%)

Presentations by: Men 53 (90%) Women 6 (10%) [Couples 5]

 

Faithcamp

Mainstage: 5 men (83%) | 1 woman (17%) (she is married to a male conference speaker)

Mainstage presentations by: Men 11 (91%) | Women1 (9%)

General: 14 men (70%) | 6 women (30%)

General presentations by: Men 34 (76%) Women 11 (24%) (18% were on “women’s issues” )

 

Youthwork Summit 2013 (figures updated by Martin Saunders, conference organiser, who has said it was deliberate to ensure this gender balance)

15 men (48%) | 16 women (52%) [1 couple]

 

Youthwork Conference 2014 (Taken from website contributors list)

20 men (65%) | 11 women (35%)

 

Momentum 2013

24 men 24 (77%) | 7 women 7 (23%)

Presentations by: Men 63 (75%) Women 21 (25%) (57% of female speakers were married to male conference speakers)

 

Soul Survivor 2013

21 men 21 (70%) | 9 women (30%) (33% of female speakers were married to male conference speakers)

Presentations by: Men 58 (73%) Women 22 (27%)

 

Newday 2013

16 men (70%) | 7 women (30%) (1 female speaker was married to a male speaker – 14%)

Presentations by: Men 19 (67%) Women 9 (33%)

 

One Event 2013 (formally Grapevine)

Mainstage: 8 men (89%) | 1 woman (11%)

Seminars: 6 couples running 6 seminar streams

 

Baptist assembly 2014 (from website contributors)

3 men (75%) | 1 woman (25%)

 

Word Alive 2014 (from website contributors)

4 men (80%) | 1 woman (20%)

 

National Day Of Prayer 2013 (from website round up of the day)

14 men (88%) | 2 women (12%)

 

Street Angels CNI Conference 2013 (from Paul Blakey, conference organiser)

6 men (50%) | 6 women (50%) | 1 couple

 

Global Connections 2014 (information from Eddie Arthur, involved in conference organising)

1 man (50%) | 1 woman (50%) (conference will include more discussion, less front led content)

 

New Horizon

37 men (86%) | Women 6 (14%)

Presentations by: Men 64 (86%) | Women 10 (14%) | [Couple 1]

 

 

Big Church Day Out 2013 (confirmed by Wendy Beech-Ward)

6 men (75%) | 2 women (25%) | 4 all male bands | 4 collectives (mainly men with some women)

(These were musicians rather than speakers)

 

Church and Media Conference 2013 (confirmed by Andrew Graystone, conference organiser)

4 men (44%) | 5 women (56%)

 

Children and Families Conference 2013 (late addition to the list)

Presentations by: 19 men (61%) | 12 women (39%)

 

We were unable to gather any data on the Christian Resources Exhibition.

 

Some great responses to these stats are:

On the Youth Work Summit and female speakers” by Martin Saunders

Where are the women?” by Jenny Baker

Hate Something, Change Something” by Steve Holmes

Thoughts on Quotas” by Jenny Baker

On Sexism and Events: An Organisers Perspective” by Kevin Bennett

 

Thanks to Hannah Mudge (@boudledidge) for helping with these charts!!

Percentages