I admit I’m borrowing the idea and the list from this article (be warned, there is a bit of language though it’s not the author as much as the examples of the micro aggressions and while I’m at it, I used some gif’s with language too. Some things are just best expressed with certain words. Sometimes they’re the only words.). The article is pretty comprehensive, but it doesn’t offer examples that really speak to the way these issues are present in the life of the average Christian woman who isn’t out “in the world.” This makes it easy for those in the Church to dismiss these ideas because they just aren’t the reality they live with.
Except they are.
So I’ve decided to offer examples of how they are and here you go.
1. Sexist Language
Women who are starting to question how they have been taught God views us often land on the question, “Is there a sound, inclusive language, Bible translation?” This is because it is very hard to realize that the Bible is written to you when everything said to any group of people is translated with masculine pronouns. I’m well aware that the rules for most languages say we use feminine pronouns for groups of only women and masculine pronouns for groups of only men OR groups that include even ONE man. The rule itself is part of the problem, but the bigger problems is that insisting on sticking to the rule is giving the message to young women every day that the Bible is largely not written to them.
2. Sexual Harassment Did you know that it’s sexual harassment to stand up and walk out of the room just because the person who got up to speak is a woman? It’s not sexual harassment if you have to go to the bathroom and you will be going right back in, but maybe you could hold it for just a bit because most of the time when I get up to speak and someone leaves the room they aren’t coming back. Sometimes they loudly proclaim that they aren’t going to sit there while a woman tries to preach. The very idea that God doesn’t want women teachers is sexual harassment — and it flies in the face of so many examples from Scripture.
3. Slut Shaming You’re probably more familiar with this as “Spirit of Jezebel” shaming. For those not familiar with it, every woman in a Christian context who has ever said something a man didn’t like has been accused of having a spirit of Jezebel. Jezebel — the woman who introduced child sacrifice to Molech into common practice in Israel — the woman who killed a man because he wouldn’t sell her husband his vineyard. But, okay, I guess that’s the same as holding a different doctrinal position as we all try to encourage people to worship God. I’m not even going to dive into the ocean that is slut shaming from men like Mark Driscoll and those like him.
4. Victim Blaming This one isn’t that different from how it’s encountered outside of the church — women who dress like they want to be raped deserve it. Because you know we all shop at that store that sells things for the woman who wants to be raped. And even when it’s winter and the person was covered head to toe you know you’re going to get the question, “What was she wearing?” In the Church it goes to a different level, though. In communities that view everything that happens to you as evidence of God’s judgment of you, the victim was judged by God to be deserving of it. Even if they are a child. One man I know loudly insists that his daughter won’t dress like a whore because if she does and her brother rapes her then it will be all her fault. No, I’m not making this up. Driscoll went so far as to blame years of issues in his marriage on his wife having been “promiscuous” when she was raped.
5. Tone Policing This one brings to mind the book I read that had explicit instructions for how women are supposed to go to their husbands to try and share opinions before the man makes his final and unquestioned decision about something. Of course the woman should divert her eyes and not move in any way that could be perceived as aggressive. She needs to ask her husband, first, if he is open to hearing her ideas. If not, she is to take that as his decision and respect it. It doesn’t matter what the issue is. If he is open, then she needs to make sure to present everything in a non-threatening way and with a tone that doesn’t sound challenging. She must at all times remember that he is the one with the authority and she is being granted this opportunity. At all times a woman must speak with a tone that makes it clear she knows her place and if she doesn’t then she deserves whatever she gets.
6. Language Policing When women don’t know their place and they begin to talk about things like equality, or even suggesting that God has called them to anything other than a pre-determined “woman’s role” she is called out. I have been told many times, “You say that God has called you but . . . ” I don’t think I’ve ever heard that said of a man. The very use of any language deemed “feminist” is justification for dismissing you entirely. Maybe I should back up and say that the very idea that women are not allowed by God to “teach” the Word of God is the essence of language policing. We are told we are quite literally not allowed to speak the Word of God if a man might hear us and learn something. (We can, however, write it if the man can later read it and imagine that he is learning from a man.)
If you think you’ve encountered mansplaining out in the world, you haven’t even tapped the keg of the store of mansplaining out there to be had. First year licensed pastors with no formal training whatsoever have been known to mansplain doctrine when I’m trying to make a point. I guess my Master’s degree from a world renowned seminary doesn’t mean I understand simple things because I have had people correct my word choice, argue for a different explanation of what I’ve said, or even try to apologize to others on my behalf because I clearly don’t realize that it says . . . .
My favorite is when I get told, as if this puts a nice point on the issue, that I should read my Bible and then I’d understand.
There are examples of skinny women and girls being singled out by the church, like this girl who wrote about breaking Christian school dress codes and talks about how her yearbook picture was left out because her “A-cups were demanding too much attention.” These stories tend to fall under sexual harassment more than sizeism, though.
Sizeism is different (my autocorrect keeps wanting to change it to sizes. Like it’s not even a thing!)
Charisma Magazine came right out and asked “Why is the church so fat?” Telling us
Have your noticed that we don’t fit in the pews anymore? God’s people are packing on the pounds, but His Word is clear about how we can reclaim our health.
This article drew a correlation between church going and being fat . . .
In an interesting Purdue University study, sociology professor Ken Ferraro found that affiliation with the Baptist and Protestant church increased the risk of obesity, going as far as to call religion a “feeding ground” for obesity. Ferraro also cited an earlier study at the Pawtucket Heart Health Program that found regular churchgoers were more likely to be more than 20 percent overweight. While Ferraro found a direct link between obesity and the Baptist Church, particularly among women, he found Judaism to be at the bottom end of the church-chunk spectrum. Conversely, he found that obesity did not drive people to the church.
Which has got to be GREAT encouragement for the Baptists when Landover Baptist Church’s Brother Percy felt the need to post in detail how God hates fat people! (Landover Baptist is kind of like the Onion, but if you read the other two articles and this post you see that they don’t have to go far to lampoon).
And over at ChurchLeaders.com the question “Should fat people lead worship?” is tackled. At least the answer was
So back to the question, “Should fat people lead worship?” If they are gifted, they have no choice.
The question isn’t weight, height, gender or race; the question is gifting. Without the gift, it’s just a show; with the gift, it’s holy ground.
I can’t be the only person who finds the question inherently aggressive.
9. Mom Shaming
Believe it or not, the very idea that God ONLY created women to be wives and mothers is a form of mom shaming. Especially when you encounter “Quiverfull” teachings that suggest even child-led weaning is disobedience to God because you are allowing natural amenhoerrhea to make you infertile.
I love Dulce De Leche — truly, she is an amazing woman. And I love this article she wrote outlining the differences between Fundamentalist Quiverfull teachings and traditional Catholicism — because people often lump “All Christians” together when they want to bash something.
What she brings to light — while not becoming guilty of it herself — is the tendency to bash the parenting practices of some other group (especially one we don’t really understand) and how mom shaming across denominational lines is just as unhelpful as mom shaming across parenting practices.
And, at the same time, there are some practices that absolutely should be called out as NOT Biblically supportable. Quiverful is among them. So are the programs and books written by the Ezzo’s and the Pearls. Then there’s jacked up teachings of church fathers who have had a lot of doctrinal influence on things taught to this day
“I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.” — Augustine
Motherhood is a blessing because it is an amazing opportunity to become worthy of the children entrusted to us by God. Motherhood is not a competition. Motherhood is not the pinnacle of woman’s purpose. There is nothing that says every woman has to be a mother.
Stop shaming moms.
Stop shaming how moms mom.
Stop shaming the women who aren’t moms for not being moms.
10. Period Shaming
As I’ve focused study on the actual Hebraic ideas behind different things found in the New Testament I’ve learned something really interesting . . . the Patriarchy of the modern Fundamentalist Church is NOT, as they like to argue, rooted in Judaism or the actual teachings of the Old Testament. There is a lot made of the fact that the book of Leviticus speaks of women being “unclean” during their period. But the context is absolutely lacking in any of the teachings I’ve encountered from the Church.
Like, for example, the fact that the book of Leviticus is speaking of what makes someone RITUALLY unclean as in unable to serve in the role of offering sacrifices in the Tabernacle or Temple, which is why the man coming into contact with her blood is even discussed. Other things that made you ritually unclean included wet dreams, being spit on by someone with an open wound, or encountering roadkill. By now you might be seeing a connection between being literally unclean – as in you need to bathe – and the level of ritual cleanliness that was needed for serving in the role of the Levitical Priests who offered the sacrifices on behalf of the people who brought them. What it took to be ritually clean generally involved waiting until sundown (the start of the new day) and bathing. And yet the implication of the idea of pure and impure, clean and unclean, is not related to physical cleanliness when, for example, Hassidic authors address the issue. They see this as speaking to the value of “life” and the call to mourn “death.” What wet dreams and menstruation have in common is that they both are the results of life not being created. It isn’t sinful to not create life each month, and yet there is a call to stop and consider the value of life.
There is much made of the Red Tent, but in ancient Israel the Red Tent came about as a practical solution to a practical problem. It’s not commanded in Scripture. God didn’t establish the Red Tent. He did, however, establish the New Moon as a day of rest for women. Only one of the very pro-women things that God has established in Scripture. Personally, I would welcome a Red Tent where I could go and no one would want me to take care of them on days when I want to just rest and care for myself and be taken care of. It has been a long journey for me to not hate and resent menstruation. Now when I hear the hate come out in teachings about women and the “monthly curse” I call it out immediately.
I’m also quick to point out that I don’t have any responsibility as a pastor to prepare or offer animal sacrifices in the Temple. Neither do ANY pastors or priests within the Church.
“No, this is not representative of women in Christian ministry”
I’ve had people assume I’m the secretary.
I’m not insulted by what people might think I am. I’m bothered when they just can’t imagine that I’m the pastor.
I’m bothered when I know that if they walked in and saw a man standing there they would assume he was the pastor and the secretary was out of the office for some reason.
I’ve been writing a series for CBE International on why we need to stop calling every woman in the Bible a whore because we are destroying the role models that women have been given in Scripture.
One reason I’ve been told that women aren’t supposed to be preachers is that someone’s husband might find them attractive. I’ve never heard that as a reason for a man not to be a preacher.
Women who breastfeed in church are often told they are responsible for all of the porn addicts getting turned on. That’s sick!
Women who wear something someone finds sexy are guilty for making him lust . . . even if the outfit isn’t something anyone in their right mind would get in a hissy about!
13. The Wage Gap
The reality is that women are going to have a harder time getting a job in churches, especially if they want to be a pastor. Then, when they do, they make even less compared to men than women in jobs outside of the church.
This is really important because
The BLS reports weekly earnings, which generally show less of a gender gap than annual earnings. According to the BLS, in 2014 male clergy earned $1,007 per week; female clergy earned only $763. This is a $12,000 difference in annual earnings.
The gap among clergy is noteworthy because, as an occupation, the clergy has credentialing (ordination) and educational requirements that should encourage similar pay for similar work. Religious organizations often have educational requirements and institutional controls for clergy
In my personal experience, I had my Master’s from a top seminary and then I had to take classes offered by my chosen denomination because I needed to prove that I understood the doctrine of the denomination I had chosen to align myself with and had been teaching as a part of for several years at that point. Men fresh out of high school were getting ordained faster than I could prove my knowledge and loyalty.
In my first staff position I started making $200 a MONTH. When I launched out on my own I learned that church plants were not being funded because 3 men had started churches and they failed so there wasn’t money for that.
“NO! Women preaching does not lead to atheism. Ironically, not letting them preach sometimes does.”
14. Implicit Bias
It’s not only that women are treated differently in most church settings. We are treated as less than — and often that is justified by saying God made us to be less than.
Additionally, Lane points out, women have been gaining ground in every arena of society: economically, in their careers, at school. They have a new sense of vocational agency—something the church hasn’t always encouraged in women. “With more education, women have had more opportunities afforded to them to contribute to the public good,” she says. “What was different (or better) about using my gifts in a church than, say, in my work as a retreat facilitator for clergy or in the feminist writer community of which I was a part? As a young woman, I often felt a greater sense of personal voice and agency in my work outside the church than I did within its walls.
I talked with a team of men who was traveling to train people in a program. They were so very pro women, and they did not travel with any women because they wanted their wives to know how valued they were and that there was no threat to the marriage. This means there were no women in this position because that would mean people would question the sexual fidelity of the men.
Why wasn’t I talking to a team of women who were doing this job and traveling without men?
Why had these very pro-women men not realized what this policy was doing to women?
15. Gas lighting
And then when you get to the end of the list and you call it all out and you show how aggressive the Church has been to women on a micro (and a macro level) you get to hear this:
Are there complementarians who oppress women? Yes.
Are there complementarians who are sexist? Yes.
Is the complementarian view oppressive or sexist to women?
Complementarianism is the teaching that women are created to be subordinate to men and men are granted authority and the position of leader, boss, and final say by the very nature of their creation.
Are there people who believe that women were created to be subordinate to men who oppress women? Yes.
Are there people who believe that women were created to be subordinate to men who are sexist? Yes.
Is the teaching that women were created to be subordinate to men oppressive or sexist to women?
YES! Yes, it is inherently sexist!
If you’re not familiar with what Gaslighting is, it’s one of the signs of a cult and here is some great info about it. It’s evidence of Spiritual Abuse and that page is about types of spiritual abuse found in a particular cult. So when you say you are dealing with sexism and you know you are, and you are told you aren’t, you’re encountering gaslighting.
And just as an FYI, ironic sexism is still sexism. Trying to dismiss it by calling it “ironic” is a form of gaslighting.
Just remember, when God calls you, you don’t have to defend yourself to people who want to stand against you. There’s a wise Pharisee in the Bible who talks about the early church leaders and says if they are not called by God then their efforts will be revealed as false and the situation will take care of itself. If, however, they are doing God’s Work and called by Him to do it then maybe the Pharisees shouldn’t position themselves against them because doing so is positioning against God.*
That’s not a position you want to take when you claim to be the Church!
*Before anyone feels the need to mansplain I’m talking about Gamaliel in Acts chapter 5