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Social Sciences

Until I was thirty-three and conceived my child, my body was slender and straight—no curves (a relative once jokingly called me “figure eleven,” which was her way of saying that I had no curves). For twenty-six of those thirty-three years, I lived in Nigeria, where thin meant “sickly” or “emaciated.” My mother was always frustrated with my figure, because she feared that people might think she didn't take care of me! For years, one of my naturally thin sisters tried to “fatten” herself. She would often pad her clothing so that she looked like she had a fat stomach, hips, and butt! My people would joke that a Nigerian man could date a slender/thin girl, but he would marry a plump or “fat” one. They were more comfort... Read more
In a fantastic Her.meneutics article, the ever astute Rachel Marie Stone explores the question of why her sons, despite being brought up by an egalitarian mom, display certain stereotypically (for lack of a better word) boyish proclivities. She writes: “As an egalitarian mom, I have to admit I beamed with pride during the short times when my sons loved baby dolls or favored the color pink. Then, when they were big enough to play together, I found my boys tying dolls to stakes, or trapping and jailing them as if they were enemy combatants. I never saw them use a doll as a weapon. But their hobbyhorses and plenty of other objects were turned into rifles and swords for play fighting. There goes my attempt to raise pacifist, nurturing sons, I thought as they grew to embody man... Read more
Proponents of the “battle of the sexes” often argue that that what ultimately divides and defines men and women is their physical bodies. These vessels that “house” our souls, our divine connection to God, have somehow distorted our visual acuity to see each other as “flesh of my flesh,” or having a common origin, the way that that Adam saw Eve in Gen. 2:23. As a former anatomy major plowing her way toward becoming a medical doctor, I revel in the design and workings of the human body. However, in my four years of studying the structure and workings of the human body, I never identified any universal differences between men and women other than the reproductive organs and their corresponding hormones. It would seem that our bodies are much the same ex... Read more
It is undeniable that women are negatively impacted by patriarchy. I can go round after round on how patriarchy teaches women that they are peripheral and secondary in the grand story of God’s relationship with humanity. I can argue for days that gender roles and sexism limit and oppress women. I can write about femicide and gender-based violence, rape culture, female identity, female giftedness, mutuality in relationships, and the consequences of purity/modesty culture on women. When I write about these topics, I can speak from my own experiences and the experiences of those who share my womanhood in other contexts. As a woman, I have carried a part of this burden. I’ve felt some of these wounds. I know this story. And because of that, I have often argued disproportionately... Read more
As a psychologist, I have to be perceptive. Having worked with abused women for five years, I look for the unspoken words and hidden gestures that speak to the truth behind their narratives. Recently, I’ve found myself doing the same thing with movie characters. While characters in movies are supposed to be fictional, they often point us toward real human experiences. These characters can teach us, inspire us, infuriate us, and they can also mirror us, and the lessons God is trying to solidify in our hearts. I watched the new non-animated Cinderella movie with bated breath. I was quite familiar with the story, but I confess, I hardly expected to be impressed, either by the plot or the characters, or to see any nuance or complexity in the film's interpretation. I have since wat... Read more
"So did you—uh—develop early or what?" my male friend asked me as he grabbed his books from his locker. I was crouching down to pull my Spanish book out of my own locker, which was, unfortunately, on the bottom row. I bet he's getting a perfect view of my breasts right now, I thought, quickly standing up and crossing my arms across my chest.  I didn't look my friend in the eyes. "I—um, yeah, I guess so," I answered, turning my back on him and heading down the hallway toward my class, willing myself not to cry. I was sixteen, and I hated my body.  Though my body had supposedly been beautifully and wonderfully made, it seemed to cause me a lot of trouble.  As a teenager, there were times when I had sexual feelings,... Read more
My friend’s father is a godly man. She credits him, along with her mother, with the development of her Christian faith. Yet, this amazing example of faith is often not validated or welcomed by the body of Christ. Even worse, he cannot be “at home” with himself and his gifts in the church. Here’s why: Her father is a man with creative and artistic gifts. He has expressed these through many vocations—in creative advertising, as a talented painter, and even as a wedding planner. His paint creations and wedding designs are exquisite and help tell a beautiful story. They provoke emotion and delight. I remember when I graduated from seminary, my friend gave me one of her father’s works. In the painting, a man and woman walk along a beautiful pathway through... Read more
I’ve known for a while that I just don’t fit. I don’t fit the prescription for biblical womanhood. I’ve squirmed and I’ve stretched, impatiently, hoping to slide easily into the mold. And even then, after years of barely squeezing myself into the category, I’ve still found the box too constraining. My womanhood is messy. I think many men and women can relate to that realization. Most of the time, our personalities and gifts don’t fit into the neat little categories of masculine and feminine. People are messy. And, it’s a beautiful, messy world. So, when I see men and women struggle to squeeze into the compressed vacuum-storage box stereotypes of masculinity and femininity, only to find that they just can’t make themselves fit, I feel... Read more
Not long after I began studying egalitarian theology in a serious way, I was confronted by one of the more perplexing questions associated with it: what are the true "differences" between men and women? The complementarian theology I was fast rejecting hinged on a tidy framework for defining gender. Maleness meant characteristics and actions that encompass leadership roles, while femaleness meant characteristics and actions that encompass supportive, submissive roles. I knew that answer felt stilted and restrictive, but deconstructing it only left me with more questions. If everyone is equal and roles interchangeable, I thought, then what is "male" and what is "female?" Not everyone in the egalitarian camp answers this question the same wa... Read more
It seems harmless, really. We see someone we don’t know very well and we want to connect, start a conversation, or just fill the silence. We don’t know them well enough to comment on national politics or our struggle with the latest social issue. Or maybe we know them well enough that mentioning politics or social issues seems ill-advised. Either way, we blurt out the easiest and seemingly most harmless comment we can come up with at the moment: “You look nice today.” “I love your hair!” “Great outfit!” I have done this more times than I can count and, until recently, thought nothing of it. But lately, social media has brought this issue to my attention. Making comments like these consistently can send the implicit message that ou... Read more

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