!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> Emerging Women .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Mothers ruling the World

So amidst a crowd of children wanting to touch the gavel new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took her new position as the third most powerful person in our country - the first women ever to hold that position. The commentary on this event has been everywhere. A few things I found interesting.

In a editorial in Ode Magazine about women in global politics (apparently it's highly likely that by 2009 there will be at least 3 women on the G8) the author looked at the difference women bring to politics. In the past most women in positions of power got to that point by being like men. Margaret Thatcher was often called "the best man on the cabinet." But new leaders like Pelosi are bringing a revolutionary new way of being female in government - as in they are content in being female and aren't afraid to bring their experiences with traditional female roles into the political arena. As seen in the picture Pelosi doesn't hide that yes she is a mother and a grandmother. She will not abandon that identity just because she now has "more important things to do." Which of course helps us see the absurdity of that hierarchy to begin with. She also has chosen to not act like the alpha males in politics. As the editorial said - "At her first press conference after the Democrat's November win, Pelosi spoke in distinctly soft, controlled, feminine tones. Journalists in attendance were visibly frustrated, and Pelosi finally raised her voice, saying, 'But I could use my mother-of-five voice.'" Another interesting perspective is this recent Salon article.

I like the idea of female politicians not having to compromise one more aspect of who they are in order to play the politics game. But will it work? Will women ever get respect if they are not men or pretending to be men? Does it work the same way in the church, or is it only in women embracing the traditional female roles that they are valued in the church? How can we start to let all aspects of life inform each other? A mother in politics (and one that is fully both) - deciding who to (or more importantly whether or not to) torture or send to die in war would be a good balance imho.

What are your thoughts?

Labels: ,

 
posted by Julie at 10:40 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


18 Comments:


  • At 1/09/2007 03:23:00 PM, Anonymous Rebecca

    This is an interesting topic for me, which I'd love to spend about a weekend conversing about. That said, a few things from my experience.

    I'm ordained clergy, currently serving more in a layperson's role in a non-denominational church.

    I head up our main decisionmaking body, am the senior pastor's right arm, teach adults in small groups and preach regularly.

    I'm gifted at these particular roles, and the only flack I get about them is from visitors and short-time attenders to the church who are just conservatively Christian-culturally opposed to women having church leadership responsibilites. These folks are often confused about our church because we superficially seem like their kind of place, but when they realize the more egalitarian role we offer women, they usually leave. Of course, not without telling me that I am aiding Satan, etc.

    However, I feel I am accepted as a leader by the regular attenders and partners (members) of the church. In fact, I don't feel the "woman" thing even comes up. I'm a good preacher, so unless you're a person who thinks women shouldn't preach, you're OK with me.

    Now, one thing I do not do is try to be consciously feminine as I lead. I am just me up there. Sure, sometimes my female perspective is part of the package, but I don't push on that. I am who I am.

    I grew up in the UMC, during the time when women were new to the pastorate. So many of the early women pastors were hyper-conscious that they were bringing in a new perspective. It is hard to blame them, but I remember hearing tons of sermons ONLY about women in the Bible, or ONLY about "women's issues." Every illustration had to do with being a mother or nurturing, or some such thing. I even recall a Good Friday sermon told from Jesus' mother's perspective about how during the crucifixion she must have been thinking about how proud she was that Jesus was for women's rights. (!)

    So, I think women can go too far overboard the other direction when they finally achieve things like church leadership or politics. It's a natural inclination---you've fought so hard for something, you want to really make sure that once you have this platform you *make* people get it.

    But I think after a while, when sharing leadership becomes more commonplace and not such a novelty, then there is room for people like me to emerge who are just ourselves. When our gender comes out, it will come out naturally, and not in a "we have to keep reminding people we are women" kind of way.

    I hope Nancy Pelosi soon settles into her role as speaker and doesn't feel the need to push on her gender. But since she's the first woman speaker, she may feel obligated to do the "70s women pastor thing." It kind of goes with the pioneer territory.

     
  • At 1/09/2007 05:21:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Well...I like Rebecca have many thoughts on this. My thinking is in the process of a big evolution (one that is being helped along with our current reading). Personally, I am walking this line daily. I have always had an independent spirit, and never liked the "submissiveness" I was taught growing up. Until recently, I didn't realize how much "my raising" has gotten into my head, regardless of my independent nature.
    I went to college, and once upon a time wanted to pusue my education to the doctorate level. While I was working on my BA, I got pregnant with my daughter. That is when things changed. I stayed home with her, and got "sucked" into trying to be the "good housewife and mother role". I had a lot of pressure from my family, and I convinced myself, that I had been silly to think I would make it that far. My husband has a demanding job with long hours, so my pusuit of education and career took a back seat. It was really a mutual decision. We both "felt it best" that I stayed home. I have not regretted being home, I regret the attitude I took on, and haven't been the happiest with that. I would like to get to a place where I can feel it's not an either/or "thing". A place I can be a good mom and wife, a nurturing woman, but also respect my mind, my strengths etc.
    So, now I am trying to find that "strong female" again. I work for our church. I share the job with a friend. We run our children's programs. The structure is different than other churches. I feel like the men on staff are very supportive of women, but just recently mentioned that we really need to "show" that in other ways. It's not their fault, it's just the way it has come together. We have many more men on staff, and the "weekend" speakers are regularly men (we have 5 that rotate).
    I struggle in my head many times with what is just being "me" and what is coming out because I am trying to "empower" myself. Am I "going overboard"? It's tough when your whole world has been about putting men on a "higher" level.
    I don't know if there will ever truly be and equal respect. I would like to dream that there will be...someday. Women have come a long way in recent years.

    **Little side note! I watched an interview with Florence Henderson on the Today show the other day. She was talking about her time on the show (which I was unaware of). She mentioned that when she was pregnant they did not film her where you could see her pregnant belly. "That was NOT allowed". I know that it wasn't that long ago that this was true, but it still amazes me what has changed in a short time. Thanks to all of the strong women who have helped the changes along.

     
  • At 1/09/2007 07:44:00 PM, Blogger John Lynch

    It's powerful to witness a woman who doesn't feel compelled to be "man-like" to offer the benefit her unique talents & abilities to our government & people. I'm excited about this & eager to see how it affects cultural perceptions. I get the impression that a number of male politicians will look foolishly adolescent in Pelosi's governing presence. That's a motivating accountability I've longed for but had difficulty imagining in our nation's political arenas. Very, very cool.

     
  • At 1/09/2007 07:56:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I appreciate the depth of comments being offered on this thread. I think making any one thing an "agenda" to the exclusion of other "agendas" on God's heart is a problem. I agree women should feel free to be their WHOLE selves in whatever roles they find themselves -- whether politics, on the playground, on a girl's night out, in the bedroom, in a sermon or at a church board meeting. While I think it is possible to try to focus too much on being a "woman in ministry" or a "woman in politics," rather than "Rebecca, Michele or Jemila," sometimes I think we unconsciously conform ourselves more to either prescribed female modalities than is authentic in order to please "the cultural father," as Sue Monk Kidd puts it, or alternatively we conform ourselves more to male ways of operating than is authentic in order to survive beyond traditional roles or in some way overcompensate for the subjective disadvantage of being female in a society whose most fundamental operating structures and values are largely male-shaped and dominated. I am happy to say, I think this is beginning to change! Just as Nancy Pelosi feels free to incorporate her strengths gained from motherhood into her political office, women physicians (who now make up over 50% of medical students, I believe,) are insisting on more flexible, family-friendly hours and by doing so, making it acceptable for men to opt out of workaholism too! Signs of hope, everyone.

     
  • At 1/09/2007 08:39:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    P.S. Michele, I too had my first daughter in college. I finished going part-time and have done a little here and there on Master's level stuff, like a unit of CPE and a seminary class, but I am currently wrestling with the best way/time to continue my education, with my third child on the way and my husband about the start rotations for med school. I would love your prayers and offer you mine as you journey in your calling. I just want to encourage you on your journey and to rediscover your heart's dreams, even if they take a new, fresh form than what you originally envisioned. If a doctorate is still a dream of yours, it's certainly not too late! My mother is 53, stayed home with all of us and is just now applying to PhD programs :)

     
  • At 1/09/2007 09:38:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Thanks Jemila,
    I guess I didn't go into much more about my "dreams" coming around again. I have just recently kicked around the idea of beginning a masters program in the next year or so. My son is off to school in a year and a half. I am working a little and still would like to enjoy this last bit of time. However, where I sort of thought the school days we long gone, a new interest is sparking. I would really like to work for the school system as a counselor. Hopefully, it would give me the flexibility to have a similar schedule as my kids, but allow me to do something I wanted to do a long time ago. We'll see. Thanks for the encouragement, and will pray for you also.

     
  • At 1/09/2007 11:07:00 PM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    It's never too late to go back to school. I raised my boys (well, I have one left under 18--he is almost 16) and am just beginning an MBA later this month, at 44. My granny lived to be 93, so I figure I may even have 49 years left--ha! I could be less than half-way there!

     
  • At 1/10/2007 08:17:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    You have inspired me also Syl. (My great-grandma is 96, so I may have a lot of time also!)

     
  • At 1/10/2007 08:42:00 AM, Anonymous Rebecca

    Well, perhaps I can share a bit more about myself. I've been blessed to have a husband of 22 years who has been very egalitarian. For most of the marriage we've had fairly equal-paying jobs. About 10 years ago he began to outstrip me as I traded a job with a career path for one where the pay would be steady but not spectacular but the job stress would be much less. For the most part I have not regretted that.

    One of the things this did was free me up to God's call in my life. I was able to get much more involved in church and to complete an MA in Religion at a seminary. (That took six years, and 25,000 miles of driving to weekend classes three states away, but it was a great experience.) I graduated at age 45 and then was ordained about a year ago.

    Being middle-aged, we are definitely in the "sandwich." We have one son, now 15, and my father-in-law has lived with us for 7 years now, since my mother-in-law died. In the last year, his presence with us has increasingly become a case of us providing him with assisted living. He has no money to speak of and would not do well in the kind of nursing home he'd be in under Medicaid, and so we're starting to face the issue of, as he declines further, what decisions do we have to make?

    All this to say, as a family we face many of the usual dilemmas of people our age. I am fortunate that I don't feel this is all my burden as a woman. At the same time, we also have to look at what will make the most sense down the road, and importantly, what will honor God the most?

    Right now I am able to serve God in the ways I described in my original post. As things change, what will change for me? Can I continue to work full time? Will I need to cut back on my church leadership? Do I become my father-in-law's full-time caregiver, either taking FMLA leave or just quitting? Or do we make the painful decision to do the nursing home anyway?

    I am so glad that at each stage of my life, I've tried to respond to what God was calling me to do. Seminary didn't come until I was 40. I am so grateful I did it. Now the best way to honor God may be to care for my father-in-law for a while. Who knows?

    Different stages of life come upon us, and as families we make decisions as best we can for the good of all. I guess I'd say, if you are in a season of some increased freedom, take advantage of it. If you are in a place of increased responsibility and sacrifice, know that it too is for a season and that it is honoring to God.

    Hey, I'm preaching to myself!

     
  • At 1/10/2007 08:42:00 AM, Anonymous Rebecca

    Well, perhaps I can share a bit more about myself. I've been blessed to have a husband of 22 years who has been very egalitarian. For most of the marriage we've had fairly equal-paying jobs. About 10 years ago he began to outstrip me as I traded a job with a career path for one where the pay would be steady but not spectacular but the job stress would be much less. For the most part I have not regretted that.

    One of the things this did was free me up to God's call in my life. I was able to get much more involved in church and to complete an MA in Religion at a seminary. (That took six years, and 25,000 miles of driving to weekend classes three states away, but it was a great experience.) I graduated at age 45 and then was ordained about a year ago.

    Being middle-aged, we are definitely in the "sandwich." We have one son, now 15, and my father-in-law has lived with us for 7 years now, since my mother-in-law died. In the last year, his presence with us has increasingly become a case of us providing him with assisted living. He has no money to speak of and would not do well in the kind of nursing home he'd be in under Medicaid, and so we're starting to face the issue of, as he declines further, what decisions do we have to make?

    All this to say, as a family we face many of the usual dilemmas of people our age. I am fortunate that I don't feel this is all my burden as a woman. At the same time, we also have to look at what will make the most sense down the road, and importantly, what will honor God the most?

    Right now I am able to serve God in the ways I described in my original post. As things change, what will change for me? Can I continue to work full time? Will I need to cut back on my church leadership? Do I become my father-in-law's full-time caregiver, either taking FMLA leave or just quitting? Or do we make the painful decision to do the nursing home anyway?

    I am so glad that at each stage of my life, I've tried to respond to what God was calling me to do. Seminary didn't come until I was 40. I am so grateful I did it. Now the best way to honor God may be to care for my father-in-law for a while. Who knows?

    Different stages of life come upon us, and as families we make decisions as best we can for the good of all. I guess I'd say, if you are in a season of some increased freedom, take advantage of it. If you are in a place of increased responsibility and sacrifice, know that it too is for a season and that it is honoring to God.

    Hey, I'm preaching to myself!

     
  • At 1/10/2007 08:44:00 AM, Anonymous Rebecca

    Sorry for the double post!

     
  • At 1/10/2007 11:32:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    So I tried to post a comment yesterday - typed a long thing then blogger ate it.

    Do we think that our culture is afraid of women being women in roles that women haven't traditionally participated in? I'm all for people being themselves, but lets face it, if a women is herself her experiences as a women will be part of that. We have no issues when men use sports, fishing or action movie illustrations or talk about the men in the bible, so why is it a big deal when women tell the stories of women or talk about their interests? To hide from that or go overboard on it are both inauthentic. No women should be forced into a stereotype, but she shouldn't be afraid either.

     
  • At 1/10/2007 12:44:00 PM, Anonymous Rebecca

    I think a *part* of our culture is (still) afraid of women in new roles. Conservative, complementarian Christians who have specific views of what the Bible teaches about women are probably the most vocal, the most frightened, and also think they are absolutely right.

    That's exactly how it has been for me as a woman in church leadership. When I run across those folks and they find out what I do, I'm in for a lecture, and I also know there's no way they will ever even listen to me. Because, why should they? A woman cannot teach a man, etc. So I don't waste my breath!

    I think these same folks are also opposed to women in leadership roles outside the church, for fundamentally (pun) the same reasons.

    They do tend to be very vocal, and I think, way out of proportion in influence and scaring other folks to their numbers.

    The rest of society? I think it is coming along, slowly.

     
  • At 1/10/2007 03:24:00 PM, Blogger lydia

    The rest of society? I think it is coming along, slowly.

    Wise words.

    I think this applies to many other potentially divisive things as well.

    My grandfather, for example, worried about the social ramifications of interracial dating or families...but when his son and daughter-in-law adopted two children who weren't white he didn't hesitate to claim them as his "own." That is, he treated them as well as he did all of his grandchildren.

     
  • At 1/10/2007 06:33:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    The comforting thing is that God feels we are worthy of acceptance and love no matter what we choose to do with our lives. We can so easily get caught up the human standards of performance, education, and intelligence, among other things, to feel okay with our selves. We determine our worth sometimes by such transient things. In the end, all that matters is if we were willing vessels for him at the park with the kids, washing dishes at Ruby Tuesdays, or teaching theology to graduate students.

    Has anybody ever read Dr Sarah Sumners book, "Men and Women in the Church"? I just started it, and it’s quite enlightening. She lays things out clearly about gender, and scripture, and the cases for different views on gender, actually making a great case for a “third way”. We’ve been in touch, and she graciously agreed to let me interview her in April for my upcoming podcast show. I'll keep you posted.

     
  • At 1/12/2007 07:42:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Rebecca, thanks for sharing some of your journey and experiences. Sounds like a wise call not to debate with people who are not genuinely interested in an open dialogue. The situation with your dad-in-law sounds challenging. Perhaps God will call your husband to do something where he has some flexibility in his schedule and offer you a job that supports your family. You never know, that crazy Awesome God!

    Also I awoke with the thought this morning that what seem (and sometimes are) awkward attempts at incorporating the feminine into faith practices, politics etc may just be a necessary puberty, or thee clumsy, overintentional beginning of a fresh habit trying to build in spite of deeply ingrained habits to the contrary. I think of when I've tried to incorporate new ways of parenting or working through conflict in my marriage, and at first trying something new seems a little "fake" and stilted, but then after a while, the practice seeps in deeperr into my being and just becomes natural -- second nature. I think unfortunately, what is "natural" for many women is to be consciously or unconsciously habituated to a patriarchal bias, and so the intentional assertion of a new way of being in the world and in ministry takes some awkward, bold beginning steps in order to eventually become integrated and graceful as it pours from our authentic lives. And hopefully someday these conversations will be a quaint topic of history because everyone will take authentic egalitarianism for granted, and in doing so honor both men and women in healthy ways.

     
  • At 1/12/2007 09:29:00 AM, Blogger Amy

    Jemila, I love the way you expressed the idea of adolescence in the conceptualization and practice of incorporating feminine into sprituality.

    That's a very appropriate description for me and is helpful in understanding my process.

    Thanks.

     
  • At 1/12/2007 03:01:00 PM, Anonymous Rebecca

    Jemila, I also think you have hit on something here. The 70s women pastors I knew, for example, were the first to have to try to figure out what a woman UM pastor looked like. Of course they were going to experiment, try on different "feels" and different ways to be an ordained woman, even flounder somewhat.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Nancy Pelosi, as experienced a legislator as she is, also doesn't make a few mistakes as "the speaker of the house who is a woman." It's never been done before, so in a sense she is making it up as she goes along.

    A necessary adolescence. Yes, I like that phrase.

    Rebecca

     

Links to this post:

Create a Link