If you havent been following social media in the last few days, theres been an eyewatering thread going around, one not linked to the General election, you can follow it using the hashtag #thingsonlychristianwomenhear: a selection of the top ones are below.
It is worth taking time to reflect on what was said, whats implied about relationships, about women, about power and faith through what are 12 sentences.
1. I answer the vicarage door, wearing a dog collar, caller says ‘Hi, I’m looking for the actual vicar’
2. I am both a Christian and a feminist. I am tired of being told that I can’t be both. I am.
3. No, the church don’t do women’s curry night or go karting. You have healthy breakfasts & cross stitching.
4. ‘It’s such a shame there are no men going forward for ordination any more’
5. Regarding Deborah- She wasn’t a real leader. It’s not God’s ideal 2 have woman in charge but men were failing
6. Your dress is way too short, your gonna distract the men. Dress considerably
7. Youth camp, in gender groups: Guys: let’s talk about your sexuality. Girls: let’s talk about guys’ sexuality.
8. “If you stay with your abuser, you might bring him to the Lord.”
9. Are you sure you want to make such a big life decision before you know your husband’s calling?
10.Men will look at you and be tempted and sin.” We say this to 12 year old girls. I was ashamed until my 20s.
11.”You are an amazing leader! You’d make an excellent pastor’s wife someday!”
12. OK, you can teach this, but there has to be a male leader in the room when you do. We’ll send someone.
This is just a sample, I have deliberately not included the names of the many women who wrote these, as there is enough trolling going on on twitter about this, and i havent asked their personal permission. What has been said is enough to reflect on and be anonymous.
It reminds me of a time a few years ago when I attended two days of indepth training on domestic abuse. It was a painful exercise to be confronted with the stories and examples of affliction, abuse and dehumanising of mostly women in these kinds of situations (I am aware some men are in domestic abuse situations)
It would be difficult not to feel some kind of patronising gender guilt, but its not a personal guilt to feel, or a kind of guilt by some kind of association. Horror maybe, but also the realisation that this has almost been an inevitability in church cultures.
I was going to add a piece here on the kind of things that young people hear, and in a way give a voice to the oppression that young people face in society, beyond the structural oppression that i wrote about in my previous blog. But actually what ill only do is publish this as it is, in order that the voices of women who have suffered, been belittled and dehumanised in the church have their own space. Its not for a bright spark blogger to use their experience for click bait for something else. These are words, voices, feelings and experiences that are symptomatic of power structures, of inequality , of history and a view of theology that has maintained oppression.
If these are things Christian women are hearing, it causes me to reflect on whether this is the same for young women in churches, teenage girls or even young girls in sunday schools. What messages are they hearing about their future, their expectations. Where youth work has values of anti discriminatory practice, these look to be in a head lock with some of the patriarchal views in the culture of the church, but they could be a start to challenging this. And, what are the avenues that female young people have to do this, if they are doubly oppressed by also being a young person in the context of a church. Some of those barriers ive written about here: http://wp.me/p2Az40-Q2 How much is it about learning to cope or accepting exercise in the existing structures and cultures and this plainly isnt good enough.
That the hashtag has attracted abuse, and its originator rape threats says all you need to know about what happens when the oppressed in society start to challenge its inequality.