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.
The conversation went downhill very quickly. “I don’t know if I would be comfortable with you working for a female pastor.” Trying to avoid (yet another) debate about women pastors, I retorted: “Well the incoming pastor is male.” “It’s the principle,” my significant other threw back. Thankfully, the awkward exchange ended, and we shifted to another topic.
“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.
I so wish I could have told those bright young women about the challenges they will face as they enter their careers and endeavor to find satisfaction in their work and lives. I did not want to be that person, warning optimistic young women about future obstacles—and that the odds of success are ever stacked against them. I fear, though, that if we don’t have open conversations about workplace and cultural challenges, if we don’t call out hurdles by name, we set women up for failure when they enter the workplace.
I became invested in creating an empowering space for female students upon noticing that many of my teachers and then colleagues—even well-meaning or brilliant professors—had never considered the unconscious and internalized biases that women experience in the classroom.
Consent: a word so bland I once found it almost ugly. Why would I base my framework for romantic relationships on a word as flippant and perfunctory as a waiver to have my photo taken? Bodies and relationships are deeply important to me as a Christian. Naturally, sex is also deeply important to me. Even after I left purity culture behind, I still searched for a rich, God-honoring sexual ethic. Consent seemed like a pretty bare standard for behavior.
Recently, I was invited to participate in a panel on singleness at a Christian conference. I shared my experience as a single woman pastor and how single clergy can feel isolated in a church culture where marriage is the default. It was the first time since university that I had an honest, direct, public conversation about singleness in the church.
David Hart recounts his personal experiences with women facing gender inequality, explores his male privilege, and calls men to stand with women and fight for equality, humanity, and inclusion in the business and leadership of the church.
Training for a marathon, becoming in tune to the world around him and his body, made Tim "[think] often of Paul’s metaphor of the church as a body. We, too, are interconnected in ways we rarely see or understand. Weak theology or a bad habit by one body part can cause crippling pain for another—so much that the entire body is hobbled. Our treatment of women (often reinforced by the church) is one example."