One of my greatest joys during college, and now, is to help women (and all people) come to a freer, more egalitarian view of women in the bible, women in church leadership, the gender of God- all that good stuff. I've been asked enough times for my best book and resource recommendations on this subject that I figured I should publish it here!
There are a TON of subcategories within this scope and I am happy to answer questions (to my best ability) on any of them - Genesis and Adam/Eve, language translations, Paul's teachings, Jesus and women, God's gender and the trinity, women in the old testament, etc. But for a general overview, here are my best resources.
Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry by Aida Besançon Spencer - this book is it. Spencer is an incredible scholar who blows my mind with every chapter - her translation of ezer knegdwo is so helpful. This one's a bit more academic, but really rich and thorough.
Powerful and Free: Confronting the Glass Ceiling for Women in the Church by Danny Silk - a good primer for people looking into this topic for the first time. It's short and sweet but really centers the troubles women in church leadership face and the reasons they are just
Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Custis James - Half the Church is modeled after Kristof and WuDunn's Half the Sky and I love the way James takes issues facing women and girls around the world like female infanticide or domestic violence and relates them to scripture and gives
There's a ton more I could recommend, I've read some great books on Paul and women, I'm currently reading on Mary Magdalene. But those are GREAT starters, wonderful and thoughtful and brilliant overviews on many topics.
Beyond books, I've loved several online resources. Christians for Biblical Equality is an incredible organization and their website, is my first stop for any questions. They and the Junia Project have a TON of blog posts and scholarly articles on biblical egalitarianism. If I'm wondering about "submit to your husbands" or "Bathsheba", "God's gender" "headship" or "authentein", I'll type that into the search bar on those two sites and always find excellent scholarship on those subjects! Mimi Haddad, the president of CBE, and Aida Besançon Spencer both have incredible work on those sites.
I also have some favorite video resources! J.R. Daniel Kirk is another one of my favorite scholars on the topic, find his blog here, has a video on patriarchy and culture on CBE's Youtube channel here that I love! It's super academic and low-budget, but he is just so brilliant and insightful. Here's another one from Egalitarians for Jesus Christ on the Sin of Patriarchy. Just great stuff to orient your thinking toward the worth you know within yourself and the ways that the bible and God are more affirming of that than the modern church would make you believe.
A little more dry, but here are a few essays on women's ministry, here from NT Wright, and here by Catherine Booth.
And when someone tries to tell you that women can’t be pastors-share this just for laughs :)
I'm sure I'll continue to add to this list as my study continues and questions arise. I'm grateful for my mom for her patient explanations and translations which helped shape my interest in these topics and feminist hermeneutic, and for the work of all these scholars and more which have made a huge difference in my life and the Church at large.
A few weeks ago, Avery and I were out walking to date night and I got thinking about patriarchy.
I've thought before about how the rules and standards we have for equality and "success" for women in the male-dominated public world are invented by men. Our measuring sticks for success come from questions like - How many women are Fortune 500 CEOs? Women's labor force participation in general? How many women in legislative bodies or women heads of state? What do women make for a man's dollar? How do media portray women and represent them? What level of formal education and literacy do women have, and how to they compete in sports?
These are perfectly good categories in which to seek equity, and I certainly hope we can have more women Fortune 500 CEOs than ones named John one of these years. However, these are just ways of measuring whether women can survive in a system of success built and defined by men. In other words, how well can a woman play by a man's rules?
Just try a quick google image search for “successful woman” - no surprise, you’ll find a young, beautiful white woman in a suit, succeeding in her office (perhaps my critique of society’s definitions of success go deeper than just gender- I griped about how “most likely to change the world” wasn’t a category when I was chosen as most likely to succeed in high school and we had to pose throwing cash in the air).
I thought about this frequently during the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton illustrated for me the woman who played the impossible game of trying to succeed in a political world defined by masculinity: wear a pantsuit, look pretty, don't show too much emotion, support a strong military. And still she could not succeed. Could any she succeed in a game so unfairly stacked against her?
So the question I found myself pondering and the world I was imagining on that walk a few weeks ago was: What if we started from scratch and formed human society without patriarchy? How would our families, political systems, workplaces, art, and rules for success look? The privileging not only of men over women but of masculinity over femininity has touched everything know.
Masculinity is about rejecting emotion and softness. Holding power for one's self instead of sharing, giving it away. Strict maintenance of hierarchy and control. Unequal Power structures. Capitalism, markets, advertising, profit, accumulation. Violence and conquest and war. Disembodiment. A lack of work-life balance stemming from a belief that productivity is everything and the whole of one's identity and worth.
These ideas are intertwined with power and whiteness, patriarchy and capitalism. They are the result of a world shaped and designed largely by men and valuing what men value.
The opposite is hard to imagine. Here are some of my thoughts: Embodiment and one's physical and emotional feelings being valued just as one's intellect and mind. Peace and collaboration. Experience as a valid form of knowledge. Family above work. Value defined relationally, not by productivity. Relationships above accumulation of power and wealth. Workplaces built on equal status and power sharing. Communities built around connection and shared experience. Maybe even SENSIBLE SHOES? Fashion and design of outward appearance not centered on the male gaze. Fair compensation for caregiving and equal sharing of emotional labor. What do you think this world would look like, for better or for worse? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
One of my projects for self-improvement at the moment is something I heard Michael Gungor call "divesting from my personal whiteness". To be honest, I'm still learning what that even means, but as I understand it, there is whiteness- a socially constructed, powerful reality which gives people like me tremendous undeserved privilege . I do not choose whether or not to have this. But divesting from personal whiteness is a choice to give up power when I can, uplift and the perspectives of people of color, and examine my orientation towards my whiteness. This is part of what inspired this thinking about what I might call "divesting from personal patriarchy"- something that my husband does very well. I think it's worth thinking about, imagining, and examining - a world that refuses to achieve gender parity by patriarchy's rules, but one that truly rids itself of patriarchy. And that always starts within ourselves.
Defining success and equality for people of all genders without the constraints of patriarchy and toxic masculinity is difficult. I’ve been trying to free myself from this lately, and constructing my own definition of success based on wholeness, faith, freedom, love, and experience of beauty. I encourage you, regardless of your gender, to try and do the same.
Christian, feminist, idealist, wife, poet, abolitionist, dreamer, adventurer.