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Monday, April 09, 2007

This is one of those points of contention surrounding Emerging Women. I'm not talking about men in general, but how we here at Emerging Women interact with them.

Let me explain.

I have received a few emails (and had a few conversations) with people who say that Emerging Women is really hurting the cause of women because we separate ourselves out from the main conversation. By gathering/blogging as just women we are saying that we are different than men and are content to have our own side conversation. We won't ever fit in the larger Emerging/Christian conversation or bring equality to it if we separate ourselves out like this. And to show the dangers of that, I've heard from one hurt woman whose pastor used the existence of EW as an excuse to only offer theological/pastoral training to the men at his church.

Then there are the women who have never ever been given the opportunity to interact theologically in a mixed gender setting. They are afraid and uneasy bringing up their questions with men. So until they found this group, those questions were just left unasked and unexplored. They found freedom within a group of women to express those doubts, push those boundaries, and be themselves.

I've had women tell me that they won't attend an EW gathering because it segregates the men from the women. They want to have all voices represented equally. We would be offended if the men held theological events that only men could attend, so its wrong to just allow women to attend. I've told them that any man who is interested in attending and learning from women is welcomed.

Then there are those who attended events and saw the one or two men present and were offended. They didn't like the presence of men there, it ruined the dynamic, they didn't feel safe. Or they were offended by the one or two male workshop leaders at the East Coast and Midwest Gatherings (our "token" male speakers as we jokingly referred to them). They argued that women have been undervalued for so long, its a slap in the face to have to bring in a male presenter at a women's event.

As you can tell, it's a touchy subject. I have my thoughts on the issue, but I would love to hear from others. What is your preference? What do you think is necessary and/or helpful? (and it would be great to hear from the men as well)

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posted by Julie at 5:22 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 4/09/2007 06:42:00 PM, Blogger Michele L


    Someone will always be unhappy!

    It's hard, but the truth is we can try in vain to BE everything to ALL and it won't ever happen.

    The best we can do, is approach others with open ears and hearts. Just as in your discriptions it is apparent, as it should be, that there are always a vast degree of opinions and experiences.

    For me personally, I don't think Emerging Women is to "Disclude" Men. In fact, I think the men that have commented here have always been welcome. I agree that some of us feel more comfortable discussing in this format, but many of us have many other dialogs going on elsewhere, where we do dialog with men.

    To some degree, women's voices are still not welcome or respected in many faith circles. If they were we wouldn't come here. Sometimes (not always) women need to have "women" time and men need "men" time. However, there are other factors that play into this. It is not just a man vs. woman "thing". Women until recent times were not encouraged as leaders, voices etc. in many faith arenas. Some women, myself included, need to be able to have a dialog with many factors and not feel I am out of my league.

    As you have said, if men want to comment or attend events more power to them. So you are not discluding. As for the women upset about the men commenting and attending...I would say, step back and take a closer look. My experience on this blog is that the men commenting and attending are deeply sensitive to the position of women, and have been nothing but a support and encouragement. We need more men like this in the faith world...if we did the "community conversation" could happen!

    The bottom line is sometimes we all view things in the extremes. I would recommend we all step back and try to see the benefits and pluses, not just focus on the negatives.

  • At 4/09/2007 07:20:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    What is your preference?

    I don't feel strongly in any direction on this issue.

    What do you think is necessary and/or helpful?

    This might sound really weird (and possibly wildly inappropriate), but one of the first things to pop into my head as I read the OP was my experience as someone who was sexually assaulted several years ago.

    It was a really rough time in my life - for a while there I couldn't admit what had actually happened. I even blamed myself for "allowing" it to happen, for not being strong or smart or quick enough to prevent it. To top it off, it was my first sexual experience.

    Having consensual intercourse with my now-husband was kind of scary at first. Intellectually I knew that he would never hurt me...it just took a little while for my emotions to really know it as well.

    In a small way, I think this debate is similar to my experience.

    Many people have been wounded by sexism, by institutional forms of church. Some of us are further along in our healing, others seem like they are still pretty raw emotionally.

    I understand both.

  • At 4/09/2007 07:41:00 PM, Anonymous Brother Maynard

    Well Julie, perhaps I'll step in here as the "Token Male"...

    Almost 2 years ago we went looking here and there for emerging/missional women bloggers. These 2 posts still get the odd comment adding to the list - and while we found a good number of emerging women bloggers, there weren't as many as I had hoped.

    The voices were missing from the conversation, and it wasn't good. We did toss around some ideas about why, which was interesting.

    In the final analysis, I suspect that when men try to encourage women to speak up, it can sometimes sound like patronizing tokenism, and we're afraid you'll get all offended if we accidentally refer to you as "chicks" or something ;^)

    My take is that emerging women should have a place to encourage one another and dialogue together, and you need to keep it up. That said, I still hope it's not the only place where your voices are heard: we don't get balance that way.

  • At 4/09/2007 09:21:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    As one of the few "token males" at the most recent Emerging Women gathering, and the one who lead one of the workshops, I have to say that I'm sorry some women felt offended by my presence. I was there simply to help my wife out with her retreat and keep an eye on our 2-year-old so she could focus on leading.

    Actually, I think it was a really good experience for me. So many times I've been at ministry conferences where all the pastor guys get to sit in the seminars and sessions while the wife has to stand out in the hallway keeping the toddlers occupied or the infants from crying. It was good to have those roles reversed. While I was there I was able to just hang back and observe and know what it is like to be present but not fully invited, as I'm sure many of these pastor's wives have felt at those other conferences.

    And honestly, I hung back as much as I could, knowing that my presence there as a man would change the dynamic. I didn't want to disrupt things, so I tried to stay in my role as "Mr. Mom" as much as possible for the half-day that I was there. I'm sorry that some felt my presence there was intrusive nonetheless.

    But besides, I just wanted an excuse to hang out in a castle overnight! Our 2-year old loved it too. She hasn't stopped talking about it since. Everyday when she wakes up the first thing she says is "Castle?" :)

  • At 4/09/2007 10:16:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    I can see both sides.

    I agree that if we are exclusive in contributing at a site specific to women, that women's voices are missing elsewhere. What a sad situation that a woman would miss out on theological teaching within her church due to a site that is for the purpose of encouraging the voices of women.

    On the other hand, I know that as a stay-at-home mom, I often feel a little behind on some other emerging sites I visit. Not unwelcome, but certainly a bit uneducated (I do have my bachelor's in biblical studies, but hey...only so much of that sticks around amidst diaper changes).

    I actually wouldn't mind men at the gatherings, primarily because I imagine that most men that would come would be very supportive of women. I can attest that Mike was great at the Chicago gathering as I spent 2 hours with him, Emma & another of the ladies driving out the the castle! Having been to two, I really enjoy it with mostly women as well.

    I seem to go back to some thoughts expressed in a book I read last year, "Living on the Boundaries." In the book, the authors state that it can be difficult for women to fit into traditional places of ministry or involvement because their career track isn't linear as it usually is for men. In the midst of pursuing ministry (or life, for that matter), women tend to juggle more responsibility with children, aging parents and other family related responsibilities that make that makes that track more of a jagged zig-zag.

    That seems to ring so true for me. Maybe that's part of what we're trying to deal with here. If so, how can we bring that level of awareness here as well as on other sites in order to be more inclusive of women's voices?

  • At 4/09/2007 10:41:00 PM, Blogger Janice

    I agree with Michele that you (we) can't be all things to all people. I almost blogged about 'offenses' recently after I commented about being surprised about an offense taken, when in reality I didn't mean I was 'surprised' surprised because in reality I think most of us understand that there will ALWAYS be someone offended by how we do something or why we do it.

    That said, I personally don't think its wrong for women to have a place to gather with other women, whether that's an 'emerging' place or not, its fellowship. Its been my experience and observation that at different points in one's life, people are apt to gravitate and fellowship with 'like' people based on any variable - age, marital status, gender, race, etc. I don't believe there is anything wrong with that. Further, I believe that we are called to different ministries at different points in life - seasons if you will - and Julie, if this is your 'call' I don't think there is anything wrong with following that.

    I personally have never felt many of the gender issues others here have expressed and THAT is precisely my reason for being here. I have been on very equal terms with men most of my life, had mostly male friendships, and found myself working in male environments and being a single parent sole support since before my kids were born...at this point in my life I've had a desire to delve into things from a more female perspective - this blog, and others like it - serve that purpose in a unique way. I'm grateful for that.

    I attended the East Coast gathering and was not at all 'offended' by male table leaders but might have found it curious had there been men in the crowd as participants.....though I wouldn't have been 'offended'.

    Though I no longer host an online faith discussion forum, I still participate in a few and most of them have a folder specifically for women and one specifically for men and then the rest are 'co-ed'.

    I believe we ARE different than maen..but more than that, we have a very different 'experience' than men. Just the way it is. Its like being black in America is a different experience than being white in America. It just is.

    FWIW, I am sure the comments etc which prompted this topic have caused many different emotions for you, I'm sorry if its been unpleasant. I know you work hard and have a real heart to serve and 'do the right thing' by all of us.


  • At 4/09/2007 11:16:00 PM, Anonymous lisa

    I think it's perfectly fair to allow women to take all the time they want to grow in familiarity with and confidence in their voice. After thousands of years of being held back, I think women should be given all the space they want to decide when and how they want to engage the wider body. If EW allows women this space, if it calls women to their gifts and their true selves, if it raises the expectation and the hope, then that is an accomplishment worth celebrating. It's kind of silly for anyone to accuse EW of being exclusive. It would be like men saying, "We played unfairly for thousands of years toward you all, but you must now play fair immediately." Pendulums tend to swing a little over the mark before they rest at the proper balance.

  • At 4/09/2007 11:29:00 PM, Anonymous Becky Garrison

    I added my two cents over at Jonny Baker's blog when the topic came up recently - http://jonnybaker.blogs.com/jonnybaker/2007/04/can_the_emergin.html

    As a journalist I get flooded with information about religious seminars, conferences and the like - my hunch is many of you get much of this ame information. It's amazing how often the conference name changes but the speakers stay the same. Often I don't go to these events because I've already interviewed person X and am looking for fresh ideas.

    I don't know how to change this dynamic but as long as people are excluded from the table, they're going to need a place to talk.

  • At 4/10/2007 12:03:00 AM, Anonymous becky garrison

    I meant same information not ame information - I didn't spell check this sucker. My bad.

  • At 4/10/2007 10:05:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Brother Maynard - there are a lot more women who are blogging on the emerging church these days. And a lot who who have finally begun to feel that its okay for them to make blogging/using their voice a priority. But one of the biggest frustrations I hear from other women bloggers is the time issue and the "how do the men find the time to blog that much". But its getting a little better. Even still, the blogs by women don't get the links and the exposure that a lot of the men's blogs do. I hope group blogs like this can help gather and support those women.

    Janice (and others) - the comments haven't effected me emotionally so much as just wanting to clarify things for people. To define who we are and make that known so to at least help lessen misconceptions.

  • At 4/11/2007 06:31:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    First off, I completely agree that the men who have commented here have been wonderful and a breath of fresh air. I would love to see more of them. Perhaps we could even consider calling ourselves "Emerging Women & Friends" or something to imply that we welcome men who love women and who happen to resonate with a more "feminine" style of communication.

    I'm not sure I agree with viewing emerging women merely as a temporary remedy to the problem of female exlusion or feelings of intimidation.

    For me, I have never felt particularly intimidated by men and in general find it easier to relate to men than to women, yet I have longed for a genuine circle of female spiritual friendship and style of discourse that it includes but is not limited to intellectual exploration. This is what I have found at EW that I have not found elsewhere.

    That being said, I wholeheartedly admit that since discovering EW I have become lazy about exploring and participating in other sites. I wonder if there is someway to integrate EW blogging with broader dialoging. Perhaps some cross publishing? Not sure.

  • At 4/15/2007 07:45:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    I feel this is a good opportunity for me to reiterate that I feel very much enriched by the discussion here and I am very thankful to be able to read and have contributions welcomed.


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