why does gender matter

I don’t normally use this blog as a writing outlet. I created it solely for the purpose of posting musings about my art and photos of projects and assignments. However, writing this down in my journal has somehow translated into posting on my blog. 
In recent weeks at Gordon there has been a hot discussion on Campus Event Council’s most successful event: Golden Goose. Three men are nominated by the student body for each grade and compete in a talent-like show that includes stage performances, videos, and dance routines. It is reminiscent of my time at Westmont College and their student body-wide Spring Sing (similar to the skit competitions put on by sorority and frat houses, minus Greek life and plus 1200+ Christian college students). Here is the big difference: women historically have not been included as Goose participants. Over the years there have been student questions about this male-only event, but to my knowledge never to the degree that has happened this spring. Last night there was a panel discussion that featured male and female students as well as two professors. There was an article in the school newspaper, and it was discussed on Scot Radio shows as well. The discussion of this event, and in particular, the negative reactions to the “conversation” held by both men and women at this campus have been disheartening. Let me explain why. 
Gender matters because we have historically made gender an issue, and it is one that is not yet resolved. Women can now hold positions of leader ship in (most) churches and ministries, obtain higher education and professional degrees and pursue professional and academic careers. But even as a 21 year old life-long Christian, I can point to events in my adult life where gender- my femininity- has been made an issue by Christian men, both young and old. While serving in a position of leadership for a long-standing Christian ministry, I was limited in my duties simply by being female. I have worked under the direction of a man who addressed older female adult leaders as “girl” in conversation. There was a “man” list of “manly” tasks that, while humorous, divided our leadership team. While the men took care of physical maintenance, I was often left to do laundry, organize, or prepare food. I was belittled in what responsibilities I was given, and had to prove myself worthy of more “manly” tasks by asserting knowledge and skills that would generally be accepted if I were not a woman. This hindered my ability as a leader and point person to the visiting groups and students I worked with, and ultimately hurt the ministry. Even after almost 3 years since working with this team I have not yet held another leadership position in ministry. And in the midst of it, I did not realize how much this had to do with historical views of gender. I thought it was personal, and that I as a person was inadequate for ministry, despite the heart I have for serving others. It is something that I am still healing from.
I feel that in the Christian community, much of this female stereotyping stems from Ephesians Chapter 5. Verse 22 is often used as justification for keeping women out of leadership positions, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord”. I hope that someday when I am married, I love my husband with the same respect and willingness to yield that I do the Lord. But here is the thing: I love the Lord with strength as well. I submit to God and His will for my life, but it isn’t easy and I am not passive. Doesn’t David show us in so many of the Psalms that he submits to the Lord, but he also voices the depths of his heart- and often times he pleads with God, mourns, complains, and challenges the Lord. And doesn’t verse 25 go on to say in Ephesians chapter 5, “ Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”? That is the ultimate sacrifice; to be willing to lay down your life not for your own heroic sake, but for her sake without selfish intentions. A man willing to lay down his life for his wife must respect her, love her, and support her wholly.
Let us not forget the Proverbs 31 woman, who cares for her household, is responsible for her finances, works diligently (and with her hands and out in the fields), provides for her family…
“She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
Stepping back to the specific issue going on at Gordon, I hope that men and women are willing to see that we are letting gender biases dictate actions that are not forwarding God’s plan for us. I hope that in Christian communities we can affirm each other as strong people of faith.
Many Christian men, young and old, don’t realize the deep roots of injustice that breed seemingly harmless stereotypes. But it is hurtful, it is degrading, and it is disrespectful. Galatians 3:28 tells us that, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (NIV). Perpetuating the stereotype of the female as frail and inferior does not align with God’s call to equality in Christ- not that we all must be alike, but that we all must love, honor and respect one another because we are united in Him. I don’t think that this is an issue of man vs. woman, but man vs. man and woman vs. woman. I believe that the Lord made us according to His will and in His likeness and for His purpose, regardless of our race, gender, social status, etc. I am disturbed by many young Christians willingness to resign themselves to what society, and even Christian culture, has dictated as the socially appropriate characteristics and strengths. If we seek the Lord and search for wisdom in his Holy Words, I believe that we will not find a call for man or woman to supersede power from the other. We are called to be strong in the knowledge that he created us, individually, for a specific purpose (our vocation and calling) and to carry out His redemptive will for His creation. And honestly, I think that starts with breaking down the barriers that we have created for ourselves through stereotypes and inequalities (in this situation, gender). God works beyond the realm of our constructed social thoughts, and if we let His grace and love abound in that I think we will be surprised by what we can do in His name. 
 
This is something I am praying through, open to discussion with, and seeking the Lord’s wisdom in. 

2 thoughts on “why does gender matter

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