A little womansplaining:
So about that whole “gender is a social construct” thing. Maybe that sounds scary, but let’s explode the sentence a little bit.
But first a definition. So “sex” refers to your chromosomes or what’s happening in your body. And except for a fuzzy .1% of people who are born with intersex condition, that means you are either male or female (see link below). But “gender” refers to expressions of sex. The *attributes* we associate with having a penis or with having a uterus — that’s gender.
So now that we’ve got that settled, let’s turn the sentence around: societies construct ideas about gender.
This is just something that happens. Different countries / cultures / subcultures have different ideas of what they associate with men and women or boys and girls. And those ideas change over time. For instance, even though now in our American culture, blue is for boy babies and pink is for girl babies, in the 1920s, the reverse was true (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/). This article from Christianity Today shows how the Reformation changed what women did and what was associated with them: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2009/september/parsonage-and-prophecy.html.
The thing about gender and gender expression is that the difference between the most and least expressions of a single gender is greater than the difference between two genders.
Which is to say, the difference between a super feminine woman and a not super feminine woman is greater than the difference between an average woman and an average man. Me personally? I’m really great at being *maternal* — I’ve used the body God gave me to grow and feed and snuggle four kids. Fitting into culturally American ideas of feminine is a lot harder. I don’t care about make up or jewelry at all or clothes very much, and I’d *much* rather be in the room that’s talking about sports or theology than the room talking about decorating with placemats. My favorite color is green, not pink, and I think princesses are dumb. I’m a terrible housekeeper, and I’m bad at small talk. Now, the stuff that I don’t like or care about? I’m not saying they aren’t fine pursuits for ladies. I just don’t care about them. But if gendered ideas are turned into laws, then I’ll get left out.
I can live in a denomination that says they can’t find biblical evidence for women’s ordination. I can’t live in a denomination that says there’s only one or two ways to be a woman, and those of us who don’t match the expectations are left out, kicked out, or abandoned.
And this doesn’t even begin to cover the problem of what happens when gender and race intersect but I promise that’s worth a look. If our idea of peak femininity comes from a white 1950s housewife, we’re leaving out a lot of women from whom we can learn the most.
We worship a God who wasn’t afraid to use women to do his work in cultures that didn’t think much of women at all, who even embodied as a man wasn’t afraid to use feminine gendered language. We would do well to examine whether we are succumbing to culturally created gendered norms that aren’t found in scripture.
I’m not asking for women’s ordination. I don’t want to be ordained. The thought of speaking in front of people makes me throw up. (Literally. I threw up the last time I did it.) If I did want to be ordained, I would just slide on over to the Anglicans, where I would be welcomed without gut-wrenching conflict or having to assert my worth over and over.
I just want you men who are the leaders in our denomination, you ones who can vote at general assembly and on church sessions, to look really closely at your plans, expectations, and provisions for women in your church, and to ask and listen to *all* women about how those ideas and plans impact them. And if the women in your church or organization only have one reaction? Ponder real hard if you’re making space for women — women like me who even could be stay at home mothers of four — who don’t fit into the projection of femininity your church or organization is elevating.
I love you — the end.