When people share their stories of harmful church teachings about gender roles, we’re accustomed to real horror stories of abuse. We also know that the problem is far more widespread, and it’s not always so overt.
On average, one woman a week in Australia is killed by a man who says he loves her. The prevalence of domestic violence is staggering. The figures are breathtaking and hard to believe. An unimaginable number of women’s lives are blighted by this scourge. In the US, Europe, and Australia, one in four women will experience physical abuse from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Female students at my evangelical university experienced both misogyny and racism. We were asked to conform to impossible standards. And we are not the only ones to struggle against injustice in the classroom. Women and girls all over the world face bias in school. From primary school to undergraduate to seminary, the system is not built for us.
A few weeks ago, I was in Sofia, Bulgaria, for a day. I stopped for about twelve hours between night buses to see the sights, including a beautiful, vibrant mosque near the center of town. I did some online research on dress protocol beforehand: cover your skin, wear something on your head, take your shoes off. Nothing unexpected. I had a scarf and a maxi skirt in my backpack for this purpose. I was happy to be respectful, and excited for a new experience. I arrived at the mosque, circled around to the front, and . . . walked away. I felt nervous, suddenly, and upset.
All parents—and especially egalitarian parents—should talk to their kids about boundaries, consent, bodies, shame, double standards, peer pressure, and sexism in school. Have you had these conversations with your kids yet?
I have my own particular kind of body shame, but most women have experienced similar mortification about their physical beings—a heritage of enmity with the structure of skin and bones and viscera in which we daily move.
How can churches become more effective at hearing what our marginalized sisters are wanting to communicate to us? In this workship, Muted Group Theory (MGT) is presented as a tool for explaining and promoting communication between churches and marginalized women. First, after a brief overview of MGT and its tenets, Linda Lee Smith Barkman looks at how MGT informs gendered communication generally. Then MGT is specifically applied within the micro-differential power dynamics that further complicate communication.
1 Cor 11:2–16 touches on questions of creation and the nature of God and has been influential not only in the role of men and women in worship, but more fundamentally in the relations of man and woman to one another and to God.