All of the hubbub over Her Royal Highness Charlotte’s arrival last week reminded me of the run-up to her brother George’s arrival more than 2 years ago, and Great Britain’s messed up history with the (mercifully) now defunct rule of primogeniture.
I don’t understand the American obsession with British royalty. I mean, Princess Kate gets pregnant and we go gaga on this side of the pond. Sending American news anchors to report live from Buckingham Palace on the status of the princess’ morning sickness? Really?
After all, once upon a time didn’t we fight a war to rid ourselves of the British monarchy?!?
But I digress…
It’s not often that we read about male privilege being codified, but that’s been the reality over the centuries in Great Britain and in other countries as well. Denmark? Yep. Japan? Yep. Spain. Sure.
It’s called primogeniture, the right of inheritance according to birth order. Historically, the law of primogeniture has demanded that female heirs are excluded (or bypassed) from inheritance in favor or their younger brothers. Primogeniture has been the law of the Commonwealth in Britain for generations, and women, like Elizabeth, would ascend to the crown only in the absence of a male heir.
Now, finally, it appears that English primogeniture has run its course. As that tiny baby (Or is it twins? News at eleven!) begins to grow, British Parliament is working to officially change the law so that whether it’s a boy or a girl this future heir will one day become king OR queen.
It’s about time.
And yet here’s the thing: lots of people think that boy babies are more important than girl babies.
This is certainly true globally. This heartbreaking article, “It’s a Girl: The Three Deadliest Words in the World,” chronicles the global “gendercide” underway in many countries in the world. Here’s an excerpt:
“The statistics are sickening. The UN reports approximately 200 million girls in the world today are ‘missing’. India and China are said to eliminate more female infants than the number of girls born in the US each year. Lianyungang in China has the worst infant gender ratio on record with 163 boys born for every 100 girls. Taiwan, South Korea and Pakistan are also countries in which unwanted female babies are aborted, killed or abandoned.”
It’s a tragedy, but it’s one thing to see this brand of male privilege in far-flung places. What about closer to home?
Here it’s subtler of course, expressed more in how soon-to-be parents talk about their preference for a boy, or maybe in the slight sigh of relief when the doctor announces their new son. In fact, according to this Gallup poll, if they can only have one child, 40% of Americans say they would want a boy while only 28% would want a girl.
Why do you think this is?
Could it be that because in general our social convention preserves the family/last name though the husband the birth of a male child is seen as a guarantee that a name will perpetuate into the next generation?
Could it be because there’s a word on the street that tells young parents that boys are easier to parent than girls?
Could it be that because of the reality that we live in a society that favors men, we know that our boy children will have it just a bit easier than our girls?
And/or could it just be that as a culture we fundamentally have this internal bias that says that boys intrinsically have more value?
In the Dixon house, our son Josh is our firstborn, and over the years we’ve given him three little sisters. Our girls are perhaps a bit too empowered and I can’t remember the last time Josh got his way.
Come to think of it, maybe Josh should move to England?
Here at Fuller for two weeks, I’ve been looking at this picture every day, multiple times a day.
What do you see?!?
I walk by this piece all the time, and it seems like every time I see something different. It’s clear to me that it’s a man and a woman, but other than that, I see all kinds of things.
Sometimes, I see the woman breaking free of the man, as if it’s an image of triumphal escape from the bondage of male privilege.
Other times, I see him pulling her back, as if she has tasted freedom but is being returned to the systematic oppression embedded in our Tertullianized cultural system.
Still other times, I see the man pushing the woman forward, like he’s an advocate, sort of a modern-day Boniface to her Lioba.
And, other times, I see them moving forward together, as if they are somehow struggling to move forward as partners.
I’ll walk by it again today, and I’ll probably see something different. But maybe that’s the point. Good art speaks to you in different ways, at different times.
And it seems appropriate.
For on this journey toward gender equality, sometimes we’re victorious, sometimes we’re enslaved, sometimes we’re advocates, and sometimes we’re partners.
A couple years back I reflected on the social dimension of Easter, and how the cross impacts the relationship between men and women. Enjoy!
Yesterday churches around the world celebrated the most pivotal event in human history, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It’s the resurrection that brings life, hope and the promise of eternity. It’s miraculous and glorious, unprecedented and unparalleled.
As our pastor put it, “after Easter, death is dead.”
And I’m sure millions of lives were changed yesterday. According to a 2010 Barna Group survey, some 40 million Americans pledge to invite a non-believing friend to church for Easter Sunday. If even a tithe of that number follow through, that’s quite an attendance surge. And no doubt, many of those new attendees leave closer to Jesus.
For this I rejoice.
And yet I’m also bothered by how we do Easter. Because if I’m honest, I think we only get Easter partially right. And here’s the part we miss:
There’s a social dimension to Easter.
What I mean is that while the resurrection does create a way for an individual to come back to God, it also creates a way for individuals to come back, well, to one another. Indeed, resurrection power reconciles us to God, and it also reconciles us to others.
Here’s how the apostle Paul puts it in Galatians 3:23-29:
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,heirs according to the promise.
Over the years, some commentators have only seen a vertical reality to this passage. The thinking goes that Paul is saying that when it comes to salvation, God sees no difference.
The problem with this reading of the text is that it’s incomplete, that it fails to properly acknowledge that in the passage Paul chooses to use the three primary social divisions of his day: race, class and gender. It’s a rhetorical choice that brings with it horizontal implications to go along with the vertical.
Walter Hansen is a New Testament scholar at Fuller Seminary, and here’s how he interprets this text:
“the new vertical relationship with God results in a new horizontal relationship with one another. All racial, economic and gender barriers and all other inequalities are removed in Christ. The equality and unity of all in Christ are not an addition, a tangent or an optional application of the gospel. They are part of the essence of the gospel.”
At church this weekend, the kids learned the bridge diagram. I’ve used the bridge diagram for years. Indeed (and Hallelujah!), Easter helps humanity cross back to God.
But let’s not miss the fact that Easter also helps humanity cross back to one another. Spiritually speaking, the resurrection removes sin’s social consequences and replaces them with wholeness and reconciliation. And when it comes to the genders, there’s no room for male privilege when men and women are “one in Christ Jesus.” Join me in saying “hallelujah” for this as well!
Perhaps it’s time for a new diagram?
Yesterday was the International Women’s Day, or #IWD2015 for the cool kids. In honor of the day, I thought I would re-post a list of women that I am thankful for. First published in November of 2012, this list offers a glimpse of some of the women that God has used in my life. I was then, and am now, deeply grateful for each one of them!
In my 40 years on this planet, I’ve been blessed to be shaped by many amazing men and women, but on this Thanksgiving morning, I want to specifically acknowledge a few of the women that have formed who I am.
Nina Dixon and Betty Hughes, my grandmothers. There they are, flanking that handsome junior high devil there in the picture, with Betty on the left. When in 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul reminds Timothy of his faith tradition that begins with his grandmother, I really resonate. Betty, my maternal grandmother, came to faith later in life and showed us how to press into Jesus through some really difficult life circumstances. Nina, my paternal grandmother, taught her family the value of being steadfast in prayer.
Ann Dixon, my mom. Really it’s tough to narrow down what I’ve learned from my mom. For sure the list includes generosity, service and perseverance in suffering. Also, I first learned the importance of Kingdom hospitality watching my mom bless the foster kids and international students that we hosted in our home as I was growing up.
Una Lucey, my staff mentor. I’m the campus minister I am because Una signed up for a mentoring role in my life way back in my junior year of college. My 16+ years of fruitful ministry are Una’s as well.
Pat Sexton, my mother-in law. Steadfast, resilient, generous and hopeful. That’s Pat. Plus, she always has my favorite cereal on hand when we come visit!
Dr. Carolyn Stefanco, my college professor and adviser. Dr. Stefanconurtured in me both a love for writing and a concern for gender issues. In particular, she guided me through my senior project, a study on this amazing woman.
Ruth Haley Barton, author. If you are in ministry and you haven’t read Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, do so now. Kingdom leadership does not have to lead to burnout!
The Bleeding Woman, from Mark 5:24-34. This unnamed woman has been a companion on my spiritual journey, especially as I have sought Jesus for healing in my life. I love her risk-filled faith, first expressed as she pressed through the crowd to touch Jesus’ cloak but then taken to another level when she came forward publicly in response to Jesus’ question.
Enisa Dedic, General Secretary of the Bosnian IFES movement. What do you do if God calls you to lead a ministry that doesn’t yet exist? You say “yes,” you pray a lot, and then you start it from scratch! Enisa is a woman of courage and perseverance. I love planting new things, and Enisa’s example has inspired that passion in me.
Tina Loveridge, co-worker. I work with an amazing group of women, and Tina is one of them. In particular, Tina has become a partner as I’ve started to think about gender issues in the church. From Tina I’ve learned how to advocate, and she’s opened my eyes to the global injustices that women endure.
And last but in no way least…
Amy Dixon, the amazing soul who married me. 15+ years ago Amy took on this crazy and I’ve been learning ever since. If I’m more patient, less moody, more loving, less angry and more/less a million other things, it’s because God has used Amy to shape me, in word and by example.
What about you? Which women are you thankful for this morning?
Just a quick post today to say that as you’re purchasing Christmas gifts for your friends and family, consider investing your money in gifts that can help reverse the plight of women around the world.
For starters, check out this post on the Junia Project. They link to 6 different sites where you not only find some cool gifts, you can empower women around the world at the same time.
Another option could be to shop on the Haitian Bead Project site here. The HBP is a dynamic ministry that empowers women in rural Haiti to create beautiful jewelry (and more) as a way to, among other things, provide income, nurture creativity and affirm the basic human dignity of these amazing women.
Here’s how the HBP works:
Our products feature handmade beads created from “upcycled” materials like cardboard and coconut shells. Each piece of jewelry is unique. No two necklaces or bracelets or even beads will ever be the same because of the creative process for making this jewelry.
Our artisans take various types of recycled thin cardboard like cereal boxes and cut these into triangular strips using a paper cutter. The artisan then rolls the strips of cardboard on bamboo skewers to form the shape of the bead. The bead is coated with glue to help secure the layers of cardboard. Next the artisan will varnish the bead to seal and protect the bead, making it waterproof and giving it a shine. The skewers of beads are then set in the sun to dry. After the beads are dried, the artisan goes to work making jewelry pieces. She may mix seed beads, glass beads or other unique beads with her own handcrafted beads to create unique bracelets, necklaces and earrings. The goal is to create quality, beautiful pieces that customers can wear or use to make a fashion statement. Every purchase has a purpose, honoring the artisan and the individual who wears it.
Personally, I’ll add that the HBP Christmas ornaments are absolutely stunning. In fact, give it a week and you can ask my leadership team what they think…
This Christmas, enjoy some justice-minded, Tertullian-free shopping!
Note: This post first appeared on November 11, 2013. I’m re-posting today, for two reasons. One, I am continuing to spend my writing time working on my DMiss project, due December 12th. And, two, because I want to commemorate a truly great soccer game yesterday. Though our girls lost in sudden death penalties in yesterday’s tournament final, this is one seriously proud coach!
When I started, it was mostly about need.
As in, my daughters’ team of under 8 girls needed a coach, and I needed some venue to express my love of all things soccer. Somewhere along the way, need morphed into, well, a calling of sorts. Like, I feel called to coach soccer. Even more to the point…
I feel called to coach girls soccer.
There are more than this, but here are two key reasons why:
First, I see coaching these girls as a way to make a tiny dent in the largely anti-female culture of American (and global) sports. I’ve blogged about sports culture before (here, here and here), but in case you need a reminder, we live in a world where boneheaded talk radio jocks say things like this:
“I enjoy many of the women’s contributions to sports — well that’s a lie. I can’t even pretend that’s true. There are very few — a small handful — of women who are any good at this at all. That’s the truth. The amount of women talking in sports to the amount of women who have something to say is one of the most disproportionate ratios I’ve ever seen in my freakin’ life. But here’s a message for all of them … All of this, all of this world of sports, especially the sport of football, has a setting. It’s set to men… It’s a man’s world.”
I wish this sentiment was an aberration, but I’m afraid it’s not. And while we rarely experience sports as this overtly and verbally sexist, Tertullian is still there, lurking in the shadows. Recently I read this article, about a group of elite women cyclists and their supporters, who are seeking to create a Tour de France for women. The litany of legal, financial and attitudinal barriers they are facing is staggering and depressing.
So, by choosing to coach girls, perhaps I can punch a small hole in a long-established male-favored sports culture.
Second, coaching the girls gives me an opportunity to try to be a healthy male role model. To be sure, I don’t know the full stories of each of the girls on my team, but I know enough to know that some of them could use a positive and encouraging male role model in their lives. And, sure, I’m only with them 3 hours a week, but I am acutely aware that I when I am, I have an opportunity to bless and encourage them, in a way that they might not get consistently at home.
That’s right, what I’m saying is that soccer coaching can be ministry.
Both of these reasons–culture shaping and role modeling–are ways that I’m trying to leverage my male privilege to bless others. In the overall scheme of things, there are small, almost token acts.
And yet, at the end of the day, I don’t live in the overall scheme.
I live in my neighborhood, with these girls and their families, coaching and playing soccer.
For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be re-posting older content as I work to finish up my literature review, due December 12th. This post was originally published on November 19, 2012. Enjoy!
The Holidays are upon us! In fact, this week we celebrate two cherished American holidays, Thanksgiving and Black Friday. You know Black Friday of course; it’s the yearly post-Thanksgiving consumer orgy that last year generated some 11.4 billion dollars. That’s “billion” with a “B.”
Because of this, slowly but surely Black Friday is morphing into Black Thursday. I noticed the other day that Walmart will open at 8pm on Thanksgiving for their “family specials” and 10pm for “gadget die-hards.” Then, doors open at 5am on Friday for, evidently, the non gadget-loving single people.
Why am I talking about Black Friday and American consumerism in a blog dedicated to the topic of male privilege?
Because with the arrival of Black Friday, the season for introducing and reinforcing the reality of male privilege for the next generation is upon us.
One way to answer the question of where male privilege comes from in our culture is to point to the way we enculture our children through the toys we buy them. Think about this with me:
For the most part, toys that cater to boys present a traditionally and stereotypically masculine image marked by power, strength and control. Toys for little boys include things like superhero action figures, building sets and water guns. By contrast, toys marketed to girls communicate an image of femininity marked by softness, humility and passivity. Toys for little girls include things like tea party sets, princess dolls and jewelry.
Can you see in this the seeds of male privilege?
Make no mistake about it, the toys we buy communicate a lot. Specifically, we communicate a view of the world where men possess power and women do not. For girls and young women, the results can be devastating.
In her excellent (and disturbing) book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, journalist Peggy Orenstein details some of the fallout:
“According to the American Psychological Association, the girlie-girl culture’s emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness can increase girls’ vulnerability to the pitfalls that most concern parents: depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, risky sexual behavior. In one study of eighth-grade girls, for instance, self-objectification—judging your body by how you think it looks to others—accounted for half the differential in girls’ reports of depression and more than two-thirds of the variance in their self-esteem.”
So what’s the bottom line here?
In American culture, boys are taught at an early age that they intrinsically have more power and privilege while girls need to figure out other, often more destructive, ways to make their voices heard.
So what’s the solution here? How do we push back against this biased system? Here are some of things we’re talking about in my house:
Don’t buy toys at all. Maybe a puzzle or board game instead?
Buy toys according to how our girls are wired. Our oldest daughter is clearly an artist, so for her it’s art supplies over princess castles. Our middle daughter loves sports. That new soccer ball looks better than the costume jewelry.
Or, if we do buy some of the more traditional toys, we will aim to supplement or offset that with lots of intentional conversation about how our girls can grow up to be whoever God has called them to be.
Lastly, here’s another thought: when it comes to buying toys, forget going to Walmart this week and instead buy your little girls something like this. It’s the story of Goldieblox, and it’s a great story.
What about you? How do you identify the roots of male privilege in our culture?
As I’m in my DMiss cave this week, I’ve been having my heart stirred by a number of insightful writers. One such writer, Rosalie de Rosset, put her finger on the importance of repentance in the journey toward gender equality.
So I invite you to join me in sitting with the following quote. It’s from de Rosset’s chapter in a 2002 book entitled Building Unity in the Church of the New Millennium, edited by Dwight Perry:
In the foreword to a recent book, Women as Risk-Takers for God, well-known author and speaker Evelyn Christenson goes so far as to say, “The greatest need on Planet Earth, especially among Christians, may not be racial—but gender—reconciliation.”
It is possible to suggest that such reconciliation has to begin with repentance in the body of Christ for the way in which the church has trivialized women. This has happened by seeing women’s interests and needs as unimportant or secondary, by confining them to narrowly appointed tasks, and by falling to educate them about their responsibility to develop their individual gifts as a part of their obedience to Christ. Women are also trivialized when they are kept voiceless and afraid through neglect and condescension, unbiblical attitudes supported by a misuse of the biblical text.
Change will involve a deliberate and concerted plan by the church and the Christian community to view women first as human beings, instead of simply in terms of their gender. Such vision will inevitably involve taking women seriously as valuable assets in the whole ministry of the Church.
Until this happens, women in leadership will continue to pay a high price; they will be, in Brent Staples’s words, “suspect” when not invisible.
In my now two years posting at Challenging Tertullian, I have had the joy of connecting with lots of folks around the internet. Many are like minded, others not so much, all have been fun to interact with. As we engage with these issues, it’s like we’re all on a roller coaster, and of course roller coasters are better together.
Case in point. Monday’s post was re-blogged by the two women behind The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors, a blog aiming “to empower Christian women and girls to find our callings as co-warriors with our brothers in God’s Kingdom.”
Sounds awesome to me!
I’m grateful to TBKW for the repost, and I encourage you to check TBKW out on their site. In particular, I noticed two significant resource pages. If you’re interested in the things covered on Challenging Tertullian, TBKW and elsewhere, I highly recommend them!
There is a video resource page, with links to clips on topics ranging from theology to marriage to the media’s objectification of women here.
And then there is an extensive link page, with articles ranging from Biblical interpretation, God and gender and women in the Bible here.
Becky and Ruth, and all the readers over at The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors, I’m glad to be on the roller coaster alongside you!
I mean it. And what’s not to love? For one thing, you get the satisfaction of serving the family. For another, it’s a job where you can see tangible, real-time results. And then there’s the intoxicating feeling of triumph when you’re folding the last load and you know that each and every laundry basket in the house is totally and completely empty. It’s awesome.
OK, I just broke down how doing laundry gives me joy. Hmmm.
Perhaps I need to rethink my definition of joy?!?
Or maybe not. Because there is evidence that when married couples share the household chore load, good things can happen.
For instance, this article refers to a recent Psychological Science piece that demonstrates a link between dads doing an equal share of the chore load and their little girls gaining a vision for vocations that are not traditionally feminine. You can find the full report here, but here’s the article’s abstract:
Gender inequality at home continues to constrain gender equality at work. How do the gender disparities in domestic labor that children observe between their parents predict those children’s visions for their future roles? The present research examined how parents’ behaviors and implicit associations concerning domestic roles, over and above their explicit beliefs, predict their children’s future aspirations. Data from 326 children aged 7 to 13 years revealed that mothers’ explicit beliefs about domestic gender roles predicted the beliefs held by their children. In addition, when fathers enacted or espoused a more egalitarian distribution of household labor, their daughters in particular expressed a greater interest in working outside the home and having a less stereotypical occupation. Fathers’ implicit gender-role associations also uniquely predicted daughters’ (but not sons’) occupational preferences. These findings suggest that a more balanced division of household labor between parents might promote greater workforce equality in future generations.
So, you’re telling me that by helping more around the house, I can expand the range of felt vocational options for my girls? You’re telling me that by sweeping the floor, my daughter might consider being an astronaut?!?
There’s good modeling for the kids, and then there’s this headline, from this recent Huffington Post article:
“Splitting Household Chores May Lead to Better, Hotter Married Sex.”
Let’s have the researchers speak for themselves on this one:
“Couples who shared domestic labor had sex at least as often, and were at least as satisfied with the frequency and quality of their sex, as couples where the woman did the bulk of the housework,” Sassler writes. “In fact, these egalitarian partners were ranked slightly higher in all these categories, reporting more frequent sex and greater satisfaction with the frequency and quality of that sex than conventional couples.”
On this blog, and in my doctoral program, I talk a lot about inter-gender partnership in mission. That is, my focus is on the ministry context, and my conviction is that the mission of God will move ahead in greater measure when men and women can truly share the ministry load.
Good to know that the same thing seems true in marriages.
So I say pass me the dish towel. And the feather duster. Heck, where’s that toilet brush?!?