Women Bibliobloggers (or lack thereof)

This issue of why there are so few women bibliobloggers has raised its head again in the biblioblogosphere at a time when I am rapidly sinking under a load of the work that I get paid to do so that I can afford to study. Please therefore excuse me for failing to link to all the people who are discussing this and for not acknowledging who said what. Kudos, though, to Pat McCullough for highlighting the issue. I don’t all that often hear men asking this kind of question an we women get sick of asking it for ourselves.

Before I say what I have to say, let me give you some background.  I was ordained by the Uniting Church in Australia in December 1987. My church, which formed in 1977, has always ordained women. Two of its parent churches, the Methodist and Presbyterian churches had been ordaining women since the mid sixties. The Congregational Union in Australia ordained its first woman in the 1930s – internationally, it was the late 1800s. On the surface, my denomination has a pretty good track record with respect to women in leadership.

While I was training, some of the male candidates felt it was OK/their duty to explain to the female candidates why it was against God’s will for women to be ordained. The congregation where I currently worship has had two previous women ministers, one for 9 years. It currently has a woman minister. I have been attending worship there for some eight and a half years while I have been working as the denomination’s chaplain at the university. Significant numbers of members of the congregation still refer to any generic minister as “he”. I recently had a conversation with the chair of a “search committee” (we call them joint nominating committees) from another congregation who told me that a number of members of their committee did not want a woman because the person who has just left to join another denomination was a woman. I have never heard anyone suggest that they should not get another male minister because the previous man had done something they didn’t like – even serious misconduct.  They just say that the last guy was a dud!

The general consensus amongst Christian churches in Australia is that my denomination is so liberal as to be hardly Christian and yet there is still significant misogyny observable and even more if you scratch below the surface. Although we have a significant proportion of female clergy and quite a few of our lay leaders are also female, most of our gatherings are very “blokey”. Men have very loud voices and they pray and sing loudly. Which is why you can have a nicely balanced choir with 7 sopranos, 5 altos, 1 tenor and 2 bases. (Many men also take more than their fair share of seats in aeroplanes, but that’s probably got nothing to do with biblioblogging). 🙂 My church often feels like a men’s club.

Some time back, someone did a list of bibliblogs that described them according to their theological positions as well as their frequency of posting. I appear not to have bookmarked it, but  it confirmed my impression that by far the majority of well-known bibliobloggers are theologically more conservative, which means that they are also less likely to be female. One of the other chaplaincies on my campus is Evangelical and although they ordain some women, these women are not allowed to teach men, so they are girls’ school chaplains or women’s and children’s ministers. One of the women leaders used to run a bible study group in the meeting room next to my office.  I didn’t always agree with her theology, but she was a great group leader and an excellent teacher. The men’s group thought it was just perfectly OK to disrupt her group by playing pranks, like locking her out. At team meetings (which I overhear), there is almost always a “pick on the female leader” segment aimed at making whoever is currently in the position feel small and stupid.  I actually don’t think this is deliberate. The guys are for the most part genuinely nice people, but their culture simply values women’s input on serious faith issues less than it values men’s. If, every time you open your mouth you’re ridiculed, it would take an incredible amount of self esteem and courage to put your thoughts about Bible out there on the web.

As I suggested on April DeConick’s blog, I think that another problem is that in many families where both partners work full time, there is an uneven allocation of housework and childcare at home.  This is well documented in the literature, and it means that women tend to have less time and less headspace than men to blog. If you are going to blog serious theology, you need headspace (this was pointed out by another woman blogger who rarely blogs theology despite having academic qualifications therein).

I am different. I grew up in an egalitarian family. My mother taught me to cook and my father taught me to fix cars. I went to an all girls’ school where we were told that we could do anything we wanted if we worked hard enough. I was in my early twenties before anyone whose opinion I respected told me that there were things I couldn’t do because I am female. My husband has been the primary care giver for our children ever since they were born. He recognised my call to ministry and was prepared to support it.  This has limited his choices in life.  April is also different. I don’t know about her family and educational background, but she didn’t have a child until she had already established her academic career and from what I have observed, she does have a husband who is willing to share the household chores and child care fairly evenly. This is not the case for many of my female colleagues.

If real life doesn’t overtake me again, tomorrow I will make some comments on the place of the Bible, which I think is really important.

I will close by saying that I really wish I had known about the Emerging Women blog when I was doing my Biblical Studies Carnival.  I really struggled to find women to link to, but here some of them were!!

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16 thoughts on “Women Bibliobloggers (or lack thereof)

  1. Thank you for taking so much time to tell us much of your own story! Too often the issue (for men mostly it seems) is an abstraction, a principle of the positions ordained in scripture (nothing personal at all of course – so why all the whining?)

  2. Thanks Judy for sharing your story. I tried to respond to the issue of women’s voices not being well-represented in the conservative biblioblogosphere by starting a meme asking bloggers to name the 5 most influential female scholars that have influenced us the most. I don’t know how you feel about memes, but I tagged you and would love to hear your thoughts on it.

  3. Thanks for telling your story, Judy. I will have to tell the story of some of the churches I have experienced. I think the best preacher I have ever personally had the pleasure of knowing is a woman.

    BTW, that list of blogs you mention was posted by N.T. Wrong and has since been taken down. I remember because I was listed at first as “very conservative” until I protested and he “upgraded” me to “fairly conservative.” I was not happy with his method at the time. He was imprecise and only scanned my blog for some keywords on inspiration to categorize me. Even if most bloggers are “conservative” (by NT Wrong’s definition) when it comes to inspiration (i.e., believe the Bible is in some sense the “Word of God.”), that doesn’t necessarily correlate with their views on social issues (though I know it often does).

    As an Anabaptist, I suppose you could say I lean right (by NT Wrong’s standards) theologically, but many may say that I lean left socially (in a Hebrew prophet and Jesus sort of way, I hope). And yet, I don’t see myself as bound to either side of the spectrum. Anyway, that’s besides the point.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post 🙂

    • Pat,

      I agree that you can’t assume that a conservative view on inspiration will translate into predictable stances on social issues. I certainly wouldn’t use inspiration as my sole yardstick for judging conservatism. It is interesting to me, though, that some of the traditional peace churches which tend to have a fairly radical stance on social issues will nevertheless take a quite conservative stance on the place of women in leadership within their communities. Others don’t. For example, most Mennonites don’t have an egalitarian approach to women in leadership whilst Quakers do. At least in my personal experience. 🙂

      • I am a member of two different peach church denominations: Brethren in Christ and Mennonite Church USA. Both have a very, very open and supportive policy towards women in ministry. For a few years the Menno church that I belong to had a female lead pastor and a female assistant pastor (no male pastors!).

        But as you discuss the subtleties of sexism within your “liberal” denomination, the “stance” can be progressive, while on the ground realities do not always match the policies. In other parts of the country, sexism might play a bigger role with ministry hiring decisions. That has not been my experience of MCUSA (Menno Canada also has a progressive stance towards women in ministry).

  4. Pingback: Can the Subaltern Blog?: The problem of institutional sexism and the biblioblogs « Political Jesus: Journeys In Nonresistant Love

    • For some reason, WordPress is not allowing me to reply to your actual post. 😦 I am interested in your comment on the Mennonites, because the (admittedly few) Mennonites that I know in Australia express extreme frustration about the lack of openness towards women in ministry. I freely acknowledge not being on top of Mennonite structure, so perhaps we are talking about two different branches of the Mennonites?

      • It’s entirely possible that they are two different branches. They are different no matter what because they are in different countries, but I don’t know whether MCUSA has a relationship with a Menno denomination in Australia. I can only see a very tiny Menno denomination in Australia, Australian Conference of Evangelical Mennonites (only 57 members of one congregation in 2006). But there is also the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand. Not sure what the Mennonite scene is like in Australia, but I’m now curious!

        [BTW, I think the reason you couldn’t reply is because your comments are set to only accept replies up to a certain point.]

        • Thanks Pat. I’ve now set the comments so that they will accept up to 10 replies, which is the max possible. No idea why the default is 3!!!

          The Mennonites I know in Australia are attending Uniting Churches because there is no Mennonite congregation available near them. I am actually rather surprised that there is even one. Their comments are about the Mennonite church they attended in the US. The Anabaptist Assoc is somewhat more widespread and does some justice-related activities in association with the Uniting Church.

  5. Pingback: Hevel.org: A Chasing after Wind » Blog Archive » Oh yeah, that clears things up

  6. Pingback: Can the Subaltern Blog?: The problem of institutional sexism and the biblioblogs | Political Jesus

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