“Women Pastors and Male Privilege”

nZdCsq0Even as I continue to labor in the DMiss cave this week, I appreciated this post from Dr. Jeremiah Gibbs. I find it to be a concrete illustration of the reality of Tertullian’s continued influence. Dr. Gibbs is someone I respect on topics like these, and his full portfolio of articles on women in ministry can be found here.

Here are the first few paragraphs of Dr. Gibbs’ piece:

Until recently I was able to say that I had never had a single person mention the way that I was dressed in 14 years of church leadership. Recently, one of the older men has teased me a couple times that I should wear a tie more often. My streak is broken.

When I was in seminary I learned that many of my female colleagues hear comments about their clothing, hair, and make-up every week.

It’s easy to dismiss this as an odd reality of culture. Some of these remarks are compliments and aren’t meant to make a woman’s job harder. But consider how the constant discussion of physical appearance changes the way women pastors spend time preparing for Sunday morning:

Maybe a skirt? A skirt for preaching shouldn’t be too short or figure-hugging. So a long skirt. But it would still need to look current or it could communicate a kind of Puritanism, a disengagement from the culture which may cause members to disregard me as irrelevant. So a long but current skirt it is. But a skirt doesn’t have a pocket for the wireless mic pack. Oh, and there is a large window behind the pulpit. Sun behind a skirt is not good. How can a congregation focus on my words if they are treated to a view of my upper thighs?

Oh, thighs. Help me set aside the thought of thighs. My value is not found in how I compare to women in magazines. My value is not found in how I compare to women in magazines.

While there could be lots of reasons for doing so, this really excellent article in Christianity Today where this quote is found was submitted anonymously. She names the crazy dilemma that so many women pastors endure with a remarkable humor and subtlety, yet she doesn’t even take credit for doing so.

Few male pastors would select a wardrobe so carefully. Few would be concerned with reactions to this article such that they would write it anonymously.

When I prepare to preach I spend no more than 45 seconds thinking about what I will wear, and I never second guess that decision. I’m guessing that a majority of male preachers have a similar pattern. While my female colleagues are wrestling with the flats and the heels, I spend additional time rehearsing my sermon again, praying for the congregation, or simply resting in God’s presence. If you think I’m overstating my case at all, then read about this male news anchor that wore the same suit every day for a year without anyone noticing. Seriously.

While I’m praying over my sermon, she must try on her third pair of shoes.

Don’t stop! Read the rest here.

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