In the church especially we are used to there being certain expectations and limitations for women. Even when the church or group is egalitarian, those assumptions regarding what is suitable still exist. Often if a woman writes a book it is assumed to be a book for women, even if the spiritual themes are broader than that. I've come to expect that if there is women present in a line up of conference speakers I can almost guarantee that she will be speaking on social work in urban settings, AIDS in Africa, or overcoming sexual abuse, eating disorders, or being a lesbian and not anything strictly theological or from the Bible. Not that most of those things are bad topics, just that they are "acceptable" topics for women to address.
Yet to move beyond those expectations comes at a cost. Woolf presents an interesting perspective -
Moreover, in a hundred years, I thought, reaching my own doorstep, women will have ceased to be the protected sex. Logically they will take part in all the activities and exertions that were once denied them. The nursemaid will heave coal. The shopwoman will drive an engine. All assumptions founded on the facts observed when women were the protected sex will have disappeared—as, for example (here a squad of soldiers marched down the street), that women and clergymen and gardeners live longer than other people. Remove that protection, expose them to the same exertions and activities, make them soldiers and sailors and engine–drivers and dock labourers, and will not women die off so much younger, so much quicker, than men that one will say, ‘I saw a woman to–day’, as one used to say, ‘I saw an aeroplane’. Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation, I thought, opening the door.
Much has been said of the costs of women finding equality. Lifestyles and family structures have changed and often women are made to bear the full guilt of the vicissitudes of those changes. Women and men have had to make sacrifices and surrender their pride. Women have been maligned and ridiculed. We have been accused of seeking power when all we want is to be ourselves. We still in the church are subject to harsh criticisms, asked to be quiet (in the name of unity of course), and told our passions are unimportant. Pushing expectations comes at a cost.
So I ask. What expectations do you see in play? How can they be challenged? What costs have you had to pay? Are the costs worth it?