Recently, a friend of mine was asked why she chose to work, and not stay home full-time with her child, even though her husband makes enough money to support their family. The question is unsurprising given the ongoing pressure on Christian women to prioritize home and family over career and calling. It seems that Christian women are still expected to choose between the public and the private.
“Most likely to become a pastor.” I was embarrassed, really. How could I be voted that? Sure, I volunteered a lot, but out of everyone in our conservative, non-denominational high school youth group, why me? I was a girl—a quiet girl with no framework for becoming a pastor.
“At the heart of every woman,” a pastor once commented on Mother’s Day, “is a God-ordained desire for beauty, marriage, homemaking, and motherhood. If you doubt it, check out the covers of women’s magazines at the grocery store.”
I read Sarah Bessey’s recent thread #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear with fascination. As I perused the comments, I was both amused by the absurdity of it all and grieved by the negative impact these sexist statements have on the community of God. This Twitter dialogue garnered so much attention that it was picked up by secular media, including the Huffington Post, which highlighted the ungodly comments and beliefs foisted upon women in many Christian circles.
I grew up in a traditional, warm, and well-meaning suburban Baptist church in Western Canada. No one who looked like me ever brought a word, prayer, sermon, or exhortation from the chestnut pulpit that elevated speakers to near-heavenly status. Certainly not on Sunday mornings or at Sunday evening services. Not on Wednesday nights either, unless they were visiting missionaries from a “far-away land” and even then, they “shared” their experiences. They never preached.
“So, are you a student here too?” asked the young IT worker I called to fix my office computer. I smiled, wondering how the student missed my name on the office door, or the row of diplomas framed on the wall. “No, I’m a professor here.” Sexism against women in college undoubtedly happens, but sexism against female college faculty is perhaps more often overlooked. As a thirtysomething woman professor at a Christian university, I have a unique perspective on sexism in higher education.
Female theology students in a rural context are often online students who don’t regularly see flesh-and-blood role models: women who are leading in church, teaching a mixed congregation and fulfilling other roles.