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!!