Continued from Pt. 1.
Being a woman at seminary was harder than I anticipated. It felt awkward for about 2/3 of my peers to be men, making it harder to connect socially when I first came to Fuller. It also felt awkward to get to know the many male professors better—I sometimes felt male students were able to get buddy-buddy with their favorite scholars in a way I never would have been comfortable doing. I often felt unequipped to enter the culturally male world of scholarship, as well as overly paranoid about boundaries in relationships with male professors. I know for a fact that not all women at seminary feel this way; however, I have talked to others who do. And then when you talk about pursuing an academic career as a woman, it gets worse. Even something simple like dressing right feels so hard. Why are dressy and professional the same for men but so different for women? Why do I have to dress like a man to be respected by a man? It’s all so confusing, full of cognitive dissonance and ambivalence.
Whether you are a man or a woman, it means so much when you notice gifted female students, even if they are not the ones who always feel most comfortable speaking up in class. Also remember that some of our male peers were advantaged by relationships with pastors, undergrad professors, and other (usually male) mentors with theological backgrounds who have been encouraging them for years—sometimes it feels they are far ahead of us, which seems so unfair since nobody ever encouraged us to read these sorts of books or pursue this sort of calling. Try as much as possible to structure class discussions so we get a voice, too. (I find that having groups of 4-6 discuss a well-written question and then inviting a report to the class is much more inclusive and thought-provoking than a less structured opportunity to comment.) Advocate for women in any way you can: support them in ministry, assign women’s books/articles, tell women who should get a PhD to get a PhD (in case nobody else has told them!), push for generous and clearly stated policies on pregnancy and parenting for both male and female students and professors at your school, etc. And just be friendly. Some of us feel we constantly have to prove ourselves to male scholars, and just the fact that we’re outnumbered at a conference or a meeting or a class can be terribly uncomfortable. The friendlier you are, the more we will try to learn to trust that we are actually welcome here.
Continued in Pt. 3.