Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Exceptions to the Role

Exceptions to the Role
by Maria Smith

We recently organized a discussion-slash-debate-slash-conversation at our church the other night. It was about the F-word.

That’s right: we talked about feminism.

There were no shrinking violets on this three-woman panel, but on the other hand, no bras were burned during the course of discussion either. There was talk of headship, and of roles, and of calling; and of course, there was talk on Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 2. All were women who held their own, all were women who knew the Scriptures, and all were women held in high respect. What got me thinking the most, though, was a statement made later, over dinner that night.

Between bites of chicken curry and naan, my friend,who happened to be male and also a pastor, said something I would probably never have thought about otherwise. “During the debate,” my friend said, “I thought to myself… I’m glad I’m a man.” Now, before you start cursing my friend, he went on to unpack that statement. He freely acknowledged that based solely on his gender, no one was questioning his calling. No one was questioning his abilities. No one was restricting his duties. No limits regarding gender had ever or would ever be placed upon him and his Y-chromosome. To be sure, this ideology and luck-of-the-draw seemed to trouble him as much as it troubled me.

Suddenly, I was taken back to middle school English, recalling George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm:


We can talk of being equal but different all we want, but honestly, isn’t Orwell onto something here? This governmental structure can just as easily be applied to our biblical purposes. If “equal but different” implies a lack of hierarchy, should there not be a comparable amount of exceptions with regard to “acceptable” roles for each gender? Where then are all the examples of roles that should not be filled by men? The limitations, it seems, are all marching down the same one way street.

Women are equal, but...

Women are valued, but...

Women are capable, but...

What disturbs me the most is that during the course of discussion, I was accepting as fact that this fight was perfectly normal and acceptable. As a woman, I am so used to the need to justify our collective position, that I forget just how easy the men have it, and how utterly unfair it all is (by no fault of their own, mind you).

The subtle assumption of feeling second class is second nature, it seems.

A blogger friend of mine was in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. She came upon the following quote, carved in stone:

"Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women… this was a people’s war, and everyone was in it."

- Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby

I was going to write an appropriately snarky comment on being appalled by this quote. The audacity of this colonel to imply that being a woman is a step below the status of citizen! I decided, though, that I should at least find out who, exactly, Oveta Culp Hobby was before starting in on character defamation. As it turns out, she was a colonel in World War II. (The audacity of me to assume that this colonel was a man!) This puts the quote in a different light, to be sure. But I am still appalled by this quote, albeit in a completely different way. I know, I know: Rosie the Riveter was a new concept in America's history. Second-wave feminism was a few decades off. I shouldn’t be surprised.

But I am. I am surprised that for so long women have believed we are somehow inferior. Women have believed we are less than citizens. Women have believed we need to cite examples and reasons and qualifications before doing whatever particular activities our male counterparts have participated in for centuries.

We have believed the lies, and we have limited ourselves. We have interpreted scriptures to point us further from what Jesus himself came to bring. We have missed the point of the good news of the gospel.

We must fight the good fight. We must equip ourselves and each other for every good work. We must hope that one day, future generations will not regard equality with men something to be grasped, but something already established. We must believe that daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, are all of equal worth in God’s sight. And we must believe that none are more equal than others.

Maria Smith is a twentysomething accountant from Ohio. She does not in the least expect this piece to be published, and is currently taking suggestions on how to become independently wealthy. Her presence on the internet tubes can be found at Unleashed.

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