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Youth and Family

I saw a movie this week that made me think about motherhood and the transition it requires when done well. The Meddler[1] depicts the struggle to establish appropriate boundaries between a mother, played by Susan Sarandon, and her young adult daughter, played by Rose Byrne.  As a young woman who is building a career while establishing adult relationships, Lori wants her mother, Marnie, to give her space. Marnie, however, has just relocated across the country to be near Lori and wants to be involved in her daughter's life. The continuous phone calls, text messages, and surprise drop-ins eventually push Lori to demand her space and force Marnie to build a life for herself beyond that of being Lori's mom. I felt compassion for the characters and enjoyed the storyline.... Read more
Jeannette Cook
[Editor's note: This is a post in a series on egalitarianism and autism. The first post, written by Jeannette's daughter, Katia, can be found here.] I grew up longing for fatherly acceptance and love. My dad was very creative in putting my sister Shari* and I down. Shari’s nickname was Big Pig, and mine was Little Pig. We soon learned that he didn’t think we were very smart. He often sang the following to the tune of a famous classical piece by Schubert: Nette is a gob of goo, And Shari is a gob of goo, too. If we made a childish mistake, he would say we were dumber than four hogs, among other things. We learned to stay out of his way because when he was home and spanked us, it was painful. Thankfully, his spankings were rare, but the verbal abuse was nonst... Read more
2013 proved to be a challenging year for me. Many opportunities opened up—speaking engagements, workshops, and meetings on the subject of gender equality. When I teach on gender equality, it takes significant time to prepare. One way that I do that is by going over my notes a few times to ensure that they will promote genuine conversations about gender justice issues. Moving from the older pastoral set to youth groups, from wealthier areas to poorer communities, and from the educated to almost illiterate adults, I have often walked away from these events with deep sadness.  That heartache is a result of my awareness that the church has not done a very good job of proclaiming Jesus' good news to his whole church. Gender division shows its darkest side among the older gener... Read more
Katia Cook
[Editor's note: As we near the end of our content series on youth and egaliatarianism, we'll be presenting the stories of two women at the intersection of two seemingly unrelated topics: egalitarianism and autism. Katia, who lives with autism, and her mother, Jeanette, will share interesting insights into these two topics through their own stories and their analysis of how egalitarians can work towards equality in realms that include people with high-functioning autism. We hope you enjoy the seres.] It was at a homeschool group pizza party when I was almost 12 that I faced the cold reality: I was different. The other girls in our group fit together. I was the misfit. So was my family. Unlike the other homeschool families in our area, Dad was not as involved as the other fathers,... Read more
We’re rounding the corner to summer, the perfect time to look for a new Sunday school curriculum for your kids’ ministry. As you research and compare resources, it’s important to consider how gender is communicated in the materials so that children in our midst don’t need to “unlearn” patriarchy when they grow up. Here are five tips for choosing a Sunday school curriculum rooted in gender equality. 1. Check the scope and sequence The scope and sequence is the list of lessons and Bible stories included in the curriculum, and the order in which they are presented. This is usually available on the publisher’s website—if it’s not, ask a sales representative to send you a copy. Look to see what stories are chosen. Are there Bible stori... Read more
It is hard to understate the influence of childhood experience. In a very real sense, the past makes us who we are. Some of the most vivid recollections human beings have are from childhood. Psychologists, counselors, and other social researchers tell us that the first phases of a person’s life—whether from birth to toddler or birth to puberty—are the most formative. Few would disagree. While the brain remains somewhat elastic throughout life, the basic biological structures, neural and otherwise, are carved, shaped, and erected until a tipping point of around 18-25 years of age, where the brain begins to stop developing and the body physically begins processes of long-term decay, finally terminating at the last phase of life. Interestingly enough, I have not met a... Read more
This October, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of seventeen. Since the age of twelve, Malala has spoken out about the importance of education for girls around the world. She is an activist and an inspiration, despite coming from a country and a religion not known for their celebration of women. At seventeen, she has already accomplished more than many of us ever will. The world awaits the change she will bring for girls around the world who seek education. Just as the world awaits all our girls who have visions of change. I have worked with teenage girls for several years, both within the church and in secular settings, in youth groups and leadership programs. I've seen girls with passion and direction solve problems in their comm... Read more
Single parents constitute a fair portion of the global population at this point, an overwhelming majority of whom are women. In the US there is a steady increase in the percentage of mothers who raise their children alone and the odds are certainly not stacked in their favor. I have scoured the statistical websites that document in detail the social circumstances and societal assistance, or general lack thereof, which surround the lives of single mothers. While I do not wish to reproduce these findings here I do encourage anyone to take a good look at the observations, they certainly are revealing. I suppose my question is, how much support do we in our Christian communities actually offer to single mothers in need? How many churches have a ‘single mothers ministry’? Are we doi... Read more
For much of history, women have been defined by their relationships with men. Linguistic trends reflect the dominant cultural rules governing female identity and worth. A woman is a Miss or a Mrs. depending upon whether she is married or single; her formal title depends on her relationship—to a man. Further, think about the list of derogatory terms often used to malign a woman's character in secular culture. Derogatory insults are gender-weighted toward women; they usually indicate an adherence to or divergence from male expectations, all dictated by cultural rules that define women by their relationship with men. Female worth is generally judged by how well a woman conforms to patriarchal expectations for her life. By contrast, a man is a Mr. regardless of his marital stat... Read more
While growing up in the 1960s, I heard women in our neighborhood complain about being called housewives. “I am not married to a house!” they would say. Of course the term typically meant that they were wives who spent their time caring for a house and those in it. But still, it offended these women who, by the way, didn’t even consider themselves feminists or egalitarians. Being called housewives simply assigned them a label they thought was inaccurate and, frankly, a bit demeaning. As I made my way through high school and college in the 1970s and early 80s, I saw women who spent their time caring for their houses and those in it (notice, I didn’t say housewives) bristle when someone asked if they worked. “Of course I work” they’d cry “wha... Read more

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