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Monday, October 22, 2007
Why Can't We Say "Yes"
So this question has been bouncing around my head since the Emergent Gathering. At the EW lunch the issue of why there were no women doing any of the upfront stuff at the Gathering arose. This was a serious issues for some of the people who had come to check out this whole emerging thing. When I talked to one of the main event coordinators about that, he told me that it seemed like that whenever he asked a woman to do upfront stuff she declined. I don't know if he was generalizing from one or two experiences, but his conclusion was that women don't want to (or at least have a problem with) leading upfront. And to one extent I agree with him. I don't think that women don't want to have a voice and so therefore shouldn't be asked, but I think there often are issues that stand in the way of women feeling comfortable leading/speaking in front of others. I understand the differences between wanting and not wanted to lead, but often there is something preventing women who want to lead from doing so even when presented with the opportunity.

So what do you think? Is it hard sometimes for women to step to to lead others? Is it fear? Is it lingering baggage from oppressive past experiences? It is lack of experience? Is it a lifetime of being told your voice had no value? What stands in our way and what can we do to help each other overcome that?

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posted by Julie at 10:04 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 10/22/2007 06:29:00 PM, Anonymous kathy

    i will chime in on this one. i think it's a combination of fear & lack of confidence (sort of the same thing but a little different) & sometimes lack of opportunity to really be developed. i think what pushed me over the edge and forced me to get out there and do what i sort of knew i could do but was to afraid to was someone who didn't take no for an answer, who encouraged me and said "we need your voice...stop being so afraid and let's do this..." it is still hard for me sometimes. because we co-pastor & do a lot of facilitating instead of teaching i have a little voice inside of me that says "they really want to hear him, not me..." but it would probably be like that for me if i was copastoring with another woman, too. i do think we need to be women who take every opportunity we can to use our voice. i wasn't able to go to NM gathering but it is disappointing to think that there was a chance for some to share & they said 'no' and missed it. the only way to get to a new place is to practice, force ourselves out of fear, and be willing to give it a try. i am not nearly afraid anymore but it used to feel like torture because i had this unworthiness thing that haunted me. now i see how ridiculous it is because there is a desperate need in the "church" for a diversity of voices--not just women, but for all sizes & ages & colors & experiences--and there's no right or wrong way to do it. i am so tired of homogeneous communication & it is our responsibility to use the voice God gave us, risk, move & trust that we have something to say.
    okay there's my rah-rah for the day!

  • At 10/22/2007 06:30:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 10/22/2007 06:32:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

    I for one would have jumped at the chance to do anything like that at the Gathering but wasn't asked (and I'm not bitter by the way, lest anyone think so). I think there needs to be care taken in this. Are they asking people who have been identified as public speakers? Have they asked gifted teachers and/or leaders? or are they just asking the one or two female friends that happen to randomly come to mind? That's not rhetorical, I'm genuinely asking. Because if it's the latter, they're not going to have much "success" with women just like they wouldn't with men.

    As for why women might say no more often than men? I have a hard time believing that's true - if they asked 10 men and 10 women, it would be surprising to me to hear that more women than men said no..AS LONG AS they were asking the right men and the right women.

    Now, if it IS true, if they did ask an equal number of men and women with the right "filter" applied and more women said no, then I would say it's probably because conferences tend to be challenging for women moreso than men - and college students moreso than career adults, and almost impossible for single moms and mothers of young babies...in other words, we seem to have more obstacles

  • At 10/22/2007 10:40:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    I've touted this book before, but "Living on the Boundaries: Evangelical Women, Feminism and the Theological Academy" addressed just this question. Many of the answers rang true for me.

    They talked about family issues impacting women more than men; impacting both career development and the balance between caring for career and caring for family. They also discuss the fact that women can have a difficult time imagining themselves in that "upfront" role as they have not had examples.

    They also address how important it is for leaders to be aware of how these types of things influence women and purposely make strides to make a path available. Not out of pity, but out of the need to hear and validate other voices.

    For me, I wouldn't agree at the moment as my "career" path is on the family detour! Working on getting back on track...

  • At 10/23/2007 04:19:00 PM, Blogger Robin M.

    This was a question for me after the last emergent-related event I went to. The women were cooking and passing out nametags, and the men were leading the workshop. When nudged by the alpha male leader, one of the women said the prayer before lunch. She did a great job, but she almost didn't say yes.

    At a previous gathering, this same group asked for suggestions of discussion topics and only men's suggestions were taken up.

    I am all for people using their varied gifts but it is a warning sign for me that NONE of the women involved in a group seem to be demonstrating gifts for leadership or teaching. I wonder, do they realize what's going on or is it just a habit?

    Did the man who asked women hear the first thing, "Well, I don't know, I'm not sure..." and take that as a "no"? Is he looking for alpha male posturing, for an answer that sounds like "of course I'm the right person to do that"?

    Just wondering. And interested to hear that this is a wider spread phenomenon than I knew.

  • At 10/24/2007 08:23:00 AM, Blogger Heather Kirk-Davidoff

    I'm with Makeesha on this one. I think there are plenty of women who are comfortable with up-front leadership, and once they start leading up front, the culture of the group starts to change, and more women say yes. I also think it's really important for men to be asked to hand out name tags, make coffee, etc. We shouldn't assume that those are desirable and important roles. The problem is no one likes to be asked to do something *because* she's a woman or he's a man. And yet, that's what we have to do until the culture of the organization changes.

  • At 10/24/2007 09:44:00 AM, Blogger Lydia

    I agree with everything that has been said so far.

    I also think that our lack of role models has some sort of an effect. It's more difficult to jump into the fray when you don't know any women who are older than you who have done so.

    Even if she had a completely different outlook or approach to her role than (the general) you had, there is something to be said for seeing how other people handle certain situations or events.

  • At 10/24/2007 05:15:00 PM, Blogger Rachel

    Another bit of evidence: Bob Hyatt, who edits the emerging e-zine Next-Wave, is always asking for women to send in submissions. He says that he really wants to include more women's voices but that he gets very few submissions from women, even when he specifically asks for them.

    Also, I agree with Heather that men should be asked to do hand out name tags, make coffee, etc. I know that my husband would be pleased to do one of those types of jobs. When we attended a Conservative Baptist church, I often felt marginalized for being an outspoken woman. But my husband also felt disapproval for not fitting the mold. The emphasis was always on men being leaders and my husband is someone who rarely speaks up in group settings and hates being up front. He is a hard-working faithful helper type - the one who always shows up early and stays late to set up and take down the tables and chairs, who always volunteers when a little old lady in the church needs someone to come do house repairs, who donates every time the bloodmobile comes to the church. But he has often gotten the message that he is less as a Christian male because he is not a "leader."

    I think there are many men like my husband who would be very willing to do a behind the scenes job, especially if those in leadership actually showed genuine respect and appreciation for their contribution. Of course that brings up a whole separate issue - the problem of quiet, "worker bee" type people being treated as invisible or as though they are less intelligent or less spiritual because they don't speak out or take a leadership role.

  • At 10/24/2007 09:02:00 PM, Blogger Deb

    Rachel said it well...

    After years of being marginalized and looked down on for being outgoing and outspoken, I am working to erase those old "tapes" and insert the Spirit of the Living God in their places. It is particularly all that more poignant to me BECAUSE I never saw a woman preach growing up... never... and I want to be certain my girls are able to have at least ONE role model!

  • At 10/29/2007 12:55:00 PM, Anonymous Christine Sine

    I think that there are other dynamics at play here too. Part of it is that women tend to lead in a different way from men. I don't want to generalize here because I have spent too much of my life living down the stereotypes of what a woman is meant to be like but I think that women much prefer to work in a team rather than as one "out in front" charismatic (and unfortunately often arrogant) leader. To put it bluntly we have not been trained in the aggressive and often self centred skills it takes to be up front.
    Maybe part of the problem is that our whole model of "up front leadership" is warped because it really does encourage a leadership style that is certainly not founded on the servanthood that Christ modelled.

  • At 10/29/2007 07:19:00 PM, Blogger Rachel

    Excellent point, Christine! Are you the same Christine Sine who writes for Prism magazine?


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