Thursday, 7 March 2013

International Women's Day

Since starting training for ministry in the Church of England I think a lot about being a woman. Partly because it seems to be a fact that is immensely interesting and remarkable to many people in the church even though, shock horror, we make up 50% of the human race and have been being ordained for twenty years now. The comments of others certainly drive me crazy, the constant obsession with dress (For the record: I don't want to look like a man or like I just stepped out of the 1980s, I want to look like me) and the constant application of 'lady' to any title (lady-vicar anyone?!) but quite often the many thoughts come from me.

The incredible frustration of seeing a room full of white haired Etonian Bishops and wanting to stand on my chair and scream 'What is going on here? It's 2013?!!' The incredible vacuum when it comes to female role models. I'm sick of being talked to about gender by men. 90% of every reading list I get given is by male writers. We are so used to it I don't even think we see it any more. I don't want to see women there for the sake of it. I just want there to be more excellent female scholars and leaders. I want to learn from and be inspired by some strong, confident and successful women but again and again these top jobs are occupied by men.

In some ways this all adds up to an enormous level of pressure. As a young women in a universally male dominated institution the fate of womankind can feel like it is weighing on your shoulders. Those wonderfully positive people remark how women aren't getting the theological education needed to be senior leaders or building the confidence to apply for the top roles (if they could even apply for them at all, which as we know they currently can't). The beedy eye of expectation is turning towards our generation and I can't help but wonder if we are up for the task.

Of course we want to take it on. Goodness me, do we for all the reasons I have given above. But before that I think we have some work to do. I think we need a positive discourse. I'm searching for it myself. Not just what women are not in comparison to what men are but what we are in our own right. What does it mean to be a woman in Britain in 2013? What does it mean to be a Christian women? This is my journey right now and I'm afraid I don't have any answers.

I know what I don't want. I don't want to spend my life thinking about my thigh and embarking on bizarre diets. I don't want to spend my life chasing a man (good job as I'm married!). I don't want to live in the shadow of my husband or for him to live in mine. I don't want to be someone's assistant because I'm too afraid to be their boss. I don't want to miss chances because of lack of confidence and be another stat for why women aren't getting into the roles they should be. I don't want my gender identity to be dictated to me by advertising slogans or the theories made up in male dominated universities. I want to have a voice and I want you to have one too.

But as for that positive discourse, well reader I am still looking. And of course, you can be assured, I'll take you along with me on the way.

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