Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Day for Women

Today is International Women's Day. I never would have known that were it not for a college professor of mine - Susan Penksa - who taught international politics at Westmont as well as one of my favorite classes, Sex, Gender, and Power. There were about eight of us in the class; five women, three men, something like that. I loved that class so much, and for many reasons, not least of which that some of my research included reading through tens of issues of Vogue.

Because it is a Christian school, Westmont would probably end up a bit to the right of many public colleges and universities. But as a school, the spirit was very much one of inquiry and questioning assumptions and leaving nothing off-limits. The political science department, when I was there, had three professors, and they were all quite liberal. (Which I loved.) So we had classes like Sex, Gender, and Power as offerings, and we were able to have important conversations with our peers and professors about the very real inequality between men and women across the world and in America and in the church.

So, it's a thing I think about a lot. Women in the church, in the developing world, in politics. Why women still earn less than men for the same job. How so many women are pigeonholed professionally, ministerially, physically - in every way - because of our gender.

Sometimes, I wonder if we have all bought into a kind of theology that tells us that women are still essentially fallen, and men are fully redeemed. Not overtly, of course. But there's the danger--when we start to operate from the assumption that our culture defines our theology, we forget the radical message of Jesus that includes everyone as part of God's redemptive plan.

This kind of insidious thinking will cripple the church, and we do not have to buy into it. It is not the truth, but some people will be quick to tell you that it is, that women can only exercise certain gifts within the church, that it is better to leave the decision-making and the leading to the men. When you hear that, you guard your hearts. Hold your gifts tight in your clenched fists when you are with these people, and risk when you must, and open your palms to your safe community. But don't stop there.

So to the women in my life who have shaped me and continue to be some of my richest relationships--to my mom and to Kaitlin, to Courtney and my grandmothers and aunt, to Rachel and Myrna and Betsie and Lauren, to Mallory....there are no words.And to the amazing men who have also helped to show the way: thank you for your courage and your love.

Now go celebrate some women.

1 comment:

*corinne said...

I love your description of Westmont in this post. I struggle to explain the school sometimes to Swedes who can't imagine a "Christian university"... they sometimes can only picture something very cultish and strange and right-wing. That school is so dear to my heart and so crucial for my development, and I still search for ways to make that understood over here, to explain how it taught me so much about the world that I don't think I would have wisely found in many other places.