I’m sorry. My responses are limited. You must ask the right questions – Dr. Alfred Lanning, I Robot
Different but equal. That’s the phrase that gets used often during discussions regarding gender equality. It sounds catchy, but doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what it means to be a woman, to be a man, to be a person.
There is a lot of discussion going on at the moment regarding the role of women in the church, but these discussions are not just limited to just the church. In November 2012, #1reasonwhy was launched to discuss the lack of women in the video games industry; a problem that affects virtually all industries. As the video gaming website Gamespot showed in the comments they received, there is a massive problem with attitudes towards women but as they also showed, there are those that will stand up to those attitudes and condemn them . Problem is, with the current situation, the people most in a position to do something about it are men, and it’s the attitudes of those men that are causing the problem. It’s a vicious circle.
The focus is now on how we move forwards and break that circle, which is where we then run into other problems; not the least of which the question that is trying to be answered. The way the question is phrased, what is the role of women in church/society?, is immediately defining their role in separate terms to the role of men; so the question is causing the very hurdle it’s trying to get over. So what question should we be asking? Based on the above paragraph I would start with “how do we change attitudes?” Given the whole discussion is embedded on the premise of assigned roles based on gender, I’d say we need to start breaking down that premise which come in 2 parts; roles for each gender and those roles being assigned. We are very adverse (and rightly so) to society roles being forced on us. To quote Neo from The Matrix; the problem is choice. More accurately though, it’s lack of choice. To assign roles based purely on gender is to say a particular gender is not capable of performing in such a role and cutting down choices. It effectively reduces people to biological components which does zero justice to what makes people, well, people. It actually demeaning. The notion of assigning also suggests control. We are all under the control of someone in some measure at some time. I am under the control of my boss because she’s my boss and assigns me work and I have to answer to her if it doesn’t get done; but my job isn’t off limits to anyone because of their gender, no one has said “you can’t do this because you’re a man”. That only applies to biology; and getting social constructs out of biology has rarely ended well (I don’t need to cite the obvious example).
In order to fix a problem though, you first need to acknowledge there is one. This is not an easy step; experiences and attitudes become engrained and are very hard to shift. I don’t believe you can expect everyone to just suddenly change their minds. I’m not defending such views but I do think we need to be realistic, change is not easy. If people refuse to accept there’s a problem and change, well that’s their problem, but we shouldn’t make things worse by uninformed and half thought out solutions. I am very well aware that some may put this piece in these categories. Experts are consulted on problems because of their knowledge experience, it’s that experience that makes them experts. In this case the experts are women; they’re the ones on the receiving end of this injustice, they’re the ones in the middle of it. Whilst they need allies in men, us men need to stop and listen for a bit and start asking the right questions. We don’t appear to have helped the situation in the past and have indeed caused it. I know that’s a mass generalization but I think it’s very true. I need to take my own advice though.
So this is my question; what can I do? What can my role be?