I think one of the most frustrating things about my experience with the aforementioned half-sexist egalitarian the other day was that this hasn’t been an isolated experience. For example:
- When I applied to Fuller’s School of Psychology, I had to clarify that, yes, I actually wanted to do this additional degree—that we were staying in Pasadena for me specifically (which was leading my husband to apply to a ThM here), not because he was applying to a ThM here already (and I had just nothing to do with my time).
- Upon meeting people here, I very (very) often have had to clarify that, “Yes, I’m a student, too,” since at Fuller most married students are male and most female students are single.
- It was recently suggested to me that if a certain job possibility in Durham didn’t work out, I could just work at Barnes and Noble for a year or two. Somehow I’m guessing a 25-year-old married man’s desire to provide for his family (not to mention build a career) would be taken a bit more seriously.
- It’s a little discouraging to see egalitarians willing to sign explicitly complementarian doctrinal statements in order to expand their career options.
- In a class this past quarter, a male Fuller student made jokes about cleaning being women’s work and how a wife’s wearing sexy lingerie—and logically, the sexual acts that followed—was an act of service (in Chapman’s silly “Five Love Languages” paradigm), rather than fitting into the more logical categories of physical touch or quality time. And nothing happened besides some awkward laughter.
I could go on. The point is, among egalitarian and egalitarian-leaning folks, there is still much to be addressed. Here at Fuller, in particular, I find that gender often goes undiscussed because it’s assumed that we’re “all on the same page.” Well, we’re not, for starters, but even if we all were, what does that even mean? Mere assent to gender equality is not enough for women or men. It is not enough for the church. It is only the beginning of a larger project to improve relationships and eliminate injustices, a project I’m afraid Fuller doesn’t actually encourage many students to consider if they aren’t already spear-heading it.
But this post isn’t really about Fuller, so I’ll leave that point there for now. The real issue is that a lot of people think gender equality is more or less achieved in our so-called post-feminist world. That just simply isn’t true—in the church or out of it. Let me tell you, even in my own heart, I still have sexism.
I remember the first time I really realized this. It was my sophomore year of college, and I had mentally assumed the author of an article I was reading was male until I went to get the citation information and was surprised to see a woman’s name. A friend had a similar moment when she and her husband tallied up their chore lists and realized she was doing more work that he was—even though neither of them wanted it that way. I often wish that the academic world would have its own wake-up and realize that merely admitting women to PhD programs isn’t enough—that until both women and men can have more reasonable and flexible schedules, they are, in effect, requiring all students to either be single or to be men in traditional marriages.
Lest this post seem I’m being too hard on anyone, I want to make it clear that I do have complementarian friends and I know that all egalitarians are imperfect. But so often, I think people think being egalitarian or post-feminist or just not an obvious chauvinist is enough. But it’s not. There is more to this problem than our explicit beliefs about women in the church, home, and society. We need to examine ourselves for residual attitudes and assumptions that clash with out egalitarian views, and we need to take action to change the world for our daughters and sons. We need to change how we think, speak, and live in areas like work, family, scholarship, sex, works of compassion, and corporate worship. We need more than just a nod towards equality. We need the sort of intentionality that acknowledges just how bad things are in certain realms—and just how far forward we hope we can move them with God’s help.