Mark Goodacre’s comment on my last post combined with Colin Tofflemire’s on the first one made me realise that there is more that I want to say on this.
Mark is right that there are men biblibloggers who consciously and conscientiously link to the work of women. I have also had significant personal encouraging interaction from men bibliobloggers and my feeling is that this is on the basis of what I have to say, rather than on my gender. It is not possible to predict which might do this on the basis of their general theological position. Four that come to mind, with whom I’ve had interaction about my scholarship (as opposed to general friendly interaction -there are heaps more of these) are James McGrath, Tim Bulkeley , Mark himself, of course, and Mike Bird. I think that James is closest to my general theological position and Mike is furthest away. Certainly, if you look at the website of Highland Theological College, where he teaches, you would expect that he might have a bias against women leaders in the church, and he may well do, for all I know, but it doesn’t extend to not respecting the work of female biblical scholars on the basis of their gender.
The other man I meant to mention in the list above is Tyler Williams who actively encouraged me to do a Biblical Studies Carnival. Hard work, it was, but interesting.
So, my experience has not been that nasty, evil, misogynist male bibliobloggers won’t let me into the club. Jim West even let me into the Biblioblogger Big Brother house (although I wasn’t quite certain I wanted to be there). OTOH, April has certainly become a target and heard stories of this kind of activity since she raised this issue and I know that Suzanne McCarthy has been attacked and marginalized. Perhaps I have been relatively immune because I am working on Gospel of Thomas so the more conservative bibliobloggers would not bother to read me and I haven’t addressed controversial-in-conservative-Christianity areas until now. I don’t know. In general, the guys didn’t target me for their misogynist attacks when I was studying theology, either.
I am saying that the general culture in the church, particularly in those parts of it from which the majority of male bibliobloggers seem to come, is such that women don’t try to enter the club. This culture sees women’s leadership and women’s scholarship as inferior to men’s, and even those people who don’t actually believe this at an intellectual level often have unexamined assumptions that mean that their behaviour isn’t congruent with their beliefs (as Colin said). It’s approach to the Bible reinforces those attitudes, as does its liturgical practices and it sees humour at the expense of women as perfectly acceptable.
So, I think that a number of the contributing factors to the serious underrepresentation of women in the biblioblogosphere come from the church rather than the biblioblogosphere. Linking to women bibliobloggers and increasing awareness of the work of those who are doing it will help, but not a huge amount. Naming personal attacks and inappropriate treatment in the comments sections of their blogs when you see them will also help, although it will make men who do it vulnerable to being considered outsiders themselves. However, I think that there also needs to be some changes in churches.
If you are a man who is actively involved in your church and think of yourself as egalitarian, I would encourage you to look at how you and your congregation act toward and interact with women and what messages your worship gives them about how acceptable they are. If you are a lay man and work outside the church, think about whether it’s different to the way you interact with your female colleagues in the workplace. If you are married, ask if the way you treat your wife in your home is different to the way she and other women are treated in the church. And then see if you can work out ways to change things if necessary.
Over the last century or so, the majority of members of congregations have been women, and a higher proportion of men than women have been relatively inactive, yet the majority of leaders have been men. When this was congruent with secular culture, it wasn’t such a problem. However, now that the feminist movement has meant that women are treated significantly more equally in secular society, younger women are not going to be convinced that being involved in the church is such a good thing. If you can be CEO or in charge of the flower roster, which are you going to pick?