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Personal Stories

Dear Friends, Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), born a slave, remembers how her mother encouraged her life of faith and prayer. In her narrative, Sojourner writes: In the evening, when her mother's work was done, she would sit down under the sparkling vault of heaven, and calling her children to her, would talk to them of the only Being that could effectually aid or protect them. Her teachings were delivered in Low Dutch, her only language, and, translated into English, ran nearly as follows: “‘My children, there is a God, who hears and sees you.’ ‘AGod, Mau-mau! Where does he live?’ asked the children. ‘He lives in the sky,’ she replied; ‘and when you are beaten, or cruelly treated, or fall into any trouble, you must ask help of him,... Read more
When I was growing up, families came and went from our community based on where the husband found employment. I don’t know of anyone who moved because the wife had a new job or promotion. I always assumed it would be the same for me: I’d marry someone, and we would settle in the place where he would find work. I assumed I might work outside the home, but only in an area where his job had already taken us, and only for the time his job kept us there. Even after graduating college, marrying, and working while my husband attended seminary, I assumed his job would dictate where we lived and for what length of time. I was hesitant to mention my desire to enter graduate school as soon as he finished his degree. After all we didn’t know where the Lord would take us. Would the... Read more
Whenever I talk about androgyny in class, many of my students are surprised to learn what the term encompasses. They have often seen it presented in an unattractive light, believing it to say something about a person’s lack of femininity or masculinity, kind of an elimination of anything that defines an individual as male or female. This is a misunderstanding of the term, however, and I’d like to do my part to clarify its meaning. First of all, androgyny is not an eradication of being female or male. It has nothing to do with your sexuality. It does not dictate the way you dress, or whether or not you wear make-up or have a beard. Being androgynous, rather, means that you have characteristics commonly associated with the female gender as well as those commonly associated wit... Read more
I grew up in a traditional home and church where the ideal was that the mother nurtured and raised the children as well as took care of the home, and the father made all the decisions and financially supported the family. I was taught early on that the most godly life purpose for a woman was to get married and raise children, having no outside occupation or aspirations. When my mother did return to work full-time, due to financial challenges, adjustments in other roles were not made. She continued to assume primary responsibility of caring for me, cooking all meals (from scratch) and keeping the house spotless. My father continued to work and take care of smaller outside duties, like mowing the lawn. My husband and I met in college and married one year after graduation. His background a... Read more
Life experiences affect our understanding of the world around us. As it pertains to egalitarian views, they are a part of my growing up experience. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in Shively, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville. Raised in a Christian home, church was a natural part of my life. I knew that Sunday mornings and evenings, as well as Wednesday evenings, were spent at church. This was never a burden for me. I always seemed to enjoy church. However, it was not my family’s church experience that led me to egalitarianism. My father worked and made the decisions, and my mother stayed at home and “raised the boys.” While my parents often discussed decisions, my father was always the final arbiter as head of the household. The same was true of my church... Read more
"Do something outside the norms of your own gender.” Those were the instructions for students beginning a gender studies course at the small liberal arts college where I teach. “Notice the reactions of those around you, ” I added. I was unprepared for the creative ways my students completed this assignment. One female student parked in the lot of a local department store, opened the hood, and began looking for “the problem.” She assured each would-be helper that while she appreciated their offers she had it under control. Most believed her; one argued the point. One male student paid for his purchases at a local store out of the purse he was carrying, handing the cashier the money with perfectly polished fingernails. The cashier refused to make e... Read more
I’ve heard that men won’t ask for directions. I don’t know if this is true or merely a stereotype of the male gender. On the one hand, asking for help in general is often seen as an indicator of weakness so might be avoided in a society that holds men to a higher “toughness” standard than women. Yet, so many statements about supposed gendered behavior have not been supported by research (i.e., contrary to popular opinion, men actually talk more than women). So I asked the men in my Gender Studies course whether they stop to get directions when lost or if they avoid it.  As it turns out some do, some don’t, and I’m still not sure. So to broaden the focus, I asked about help-seeking in general. I posed the following to the young... Read more
I sat in a sociology class listening to the professor talk about the discrimination women in other cultures experience, how they are often deprived of the same privileges as men at home and in the world of work. She spoke of gendered expectations that lead women and men down different paths toward different goals. She spoke of inequality in pay and in time devoted to childcare. Next week, she said, we would discuss the status of gender in the United States. Oh, good, I couldn’t wait! It would be nice to focus on how we Americans have overcome gender barriers, how we have risen above discrimination, how males and females are treated equally and therefore share equally in occupational and household activities. I enthusiastically read the assigned chapter for the following week.... Read more
Finding oneself married to a non-egalitarian spouse, whether male or female, can be a challenging road to navigate. Consider these case studies. Norma and Charlie: It was love at first sight. Norma and Charlie’s eyes, in all actuality, met “across a crowded room” at their conservative denomination’s annual meeting. Life for the Browns began, as for most entering into marriage, with delight and optimism. The Browns’ church held strongly to the view that “women should be silent” (1 Cor. 14:34), and that all leadership in the church should be male. The congregation was taught that God was male, as Jesus called him “Father” (John 10:30). And, for the first years of their marriage, Norma obediently adhered to the teachings of her ch... Read more
Women in leadership will likely encounter confusing and disappointing relationships. As a conservative, former Southern Baptist woman called to ministry, I am no exception. Last year, I remember having a discussion about advocacy for women with three male colleagues whom I trusted as committed egalitarians. "What should I think about those who say they support my equality and calling, but who hold positions at institutions that clearly do not support women's leadership in the church?" I wondered. "How can they stay quiet just for a job?" I didn't get the answers I sought from these colleagues at the time, but the next day the Holy Spirit led me to Hebrews 11:24-26: By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's dau... Read more