CFN at UK Feminista Summer School

Natalie Collins blogs about facilitating a workshop entitled ‘Religion, Faith and Feminist Activism’ at UK Feminista’s Summer School last weekend.

As a Christian it is often a struggle to feel fully part of the feminist movement. With many feminists stating that religion is a patriarchal construct, and having personally having been told by a feminist organisation I worked for that it would never be appropriate for me to mention my faith during my work, it is difficult to feel part of the sisterhood. Similarly in the church, I often feel like an anomaly as I bring a feminist perspective to sermons, songs and home groups, to the point where I often avoid small groups as I know I’m unlikely to fit in.

So it was great to be able to be involved in running a workshop at UK Feminista’s Summer School in Birmingham. The weekend-long event had a rich and varied programme, a wonderfully inclusive atmosphere and lots and lots of wonderful feminists. I was originally asked to participate in a panel with feminists from different faith and religious communities, as a representative of the Christian Feminist Network, however I ended up facilitating the session, with two Muslim women, Maria and Ujoor, sharing their experiences alongside me sharing mine.

The session was wonderful. We had over fifty people attend, with individuals self-identifying as Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, spiritual, exploring faith and atheist. Some people felt committed to their faith, whereas others felt that their faith was something they had inherited and in that way was a part of their identity.

The dialogue was open and respectful. The Summer School organisers had shared with me that some issues of Islamophobia had been raised in other sessions, and so we ensured the session was introduced as a space for respectful dialogue. People shared their views and experiences of being people of faith, and how for some, feminism was an extension and complemented their faith identity. Some people couldn’t understand why feminism seems to be seen as an atheist movement, which allowed those who self-identify as atheist to share their views.

One woman commented on how women who wear very little clothing are seen by society as “sluts”, whereas women who wear the hijab are seen as being oppressed. She said she felt it would be wonderful if, in the same way as feminists had started “slutwalks” to declare that women should be able to wear little or no clothing and not be victimised, feminists could also stop seeing women who choose to cover their heads or bodies as oppressed.

It was wonderful to hear Maria and Ujoor’s stories of being Muslim activists, and Maria discussed how we shouldn’t blame Islam for oppressing women, focusing instead on the fact that it is those who choose to use Islam as an excuse to oppress and abuse women. Maria and Ujoor shared how they felt frustrated when people think that Muslim women are a homogenous group, when each woman and their individual communities have very different experiences and values.

We discussed our various experiences of being feminists of faith, and those within the group who were atheists listened and heard our views. The session finished with me sharing some of my story, of how I grew up in a Christian home and how Christian teaching had disabled me from making good choices, leading to me experiencing abuse, but also how it was through my faith in God that I was able to make it through the most difficult period in my life. I shared of working within the feminist world and the challenges I had faced and also the Christian leader who had told me she had to have the “spirit of feminism” cast out of her.

I concluded by talking about the similarities of faith communities and the feminist community. Each is full of flawed people, with a shared set of values and principles, which are perceived differently by every individual, a community of people trying to be on the same page, though with different priorities, perceptions and life experiences. My observation is that the feminist dialogue about trans* people looks very similar to the Christian dialogue regarding the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people.

After I finished, we separated into groups of people with the same faith and had some time sharing and discussing. Some of us swapped details and hope to stay in contact. Many shared with me how useful the workshop had been and how much they appreciated the space, both people of faith and those without.

A big thank you must be given to UK Feminista for being intentional in creating a space for people of faith and as we continue to have respectful and open dialogue I hope and pray, as do all those at the Christian Feminist Network, that we might get to a place where people of faith truly know we fit within feminism and are more equipped to challenge misconceptions within our faith communities.

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Weekly round-up #6

Faith in Feminism is a new website/project set up by Vicky Beeching to host conversations on religion and gender equality. It launched this week and one of the first posts published on the site is:

Isn’t religion largely homophobic? – an interview with Rachel Mann

We do no honour to the Bible if we treat it like the spiritual equivalent of one of those old Hayne’s Car Manuals, simply offering a step by step way to holy living. Feminist scholars like myself have been keen to outline how some parts of the Bible are ‘texts of terror’ against women; black and womanist theologians have done the same with biblical texts which are used against ethnic minorities. We need to acknowledge that the so-called ‘Seven Knock-Down Passages’ against gay folk are texts of terror too – that is, they have been used to legitimate hate, prejudice and violence. 

Kicking the trolls off the bridge – Bekah Legg

And my eleven-year-old is a hero because she has gone back to camp. She’s not going to sleep there but she has decided that one silly little boy is not going to spoil her fun. She is not going to withdraw from a space that she loves, a space where she connects with other people and with God because of a bully who thinks it’s funny to threaten people.

A chat with Mikki Kendall and Flavia Dzodan about #solidarityisforwhitewomen – The Hairpin

The more I typed the more things sprang to mind because I’d been looking at a lot of major issues that just go unreported in magazines that were theoretically by women, for women. Somehow the survival, safety and security of WOC (cis and trans), of poor women, of disabled women, of undocumented women, of anyone that wasn’t a white middle class/upper middle class woman felt unimportant relative to creature comforts and makeup choices.

#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen: women of color’s issue with digital feminism – Mikki Kendall at CiF

As the hashtag spread across Twitter, people from all walks of life started joining in – to vent their own personal frustrations, as well as to address larger political issues. Feminism as a global movement meant to unite all women has global responsibilities, and – as illustrated by hundreds of tweets – has failed at one of the most basic: it has not been welcoming to all women, or even their communities.

Of course all men don’t hate women. But all men must know they benefit from sexism – Laurie Penny

Somehow, it is still hard to talk to men about sexism without meeting a wall of defensiveness that shades into outright hostility, even violence. Anger is an entirely appropriate response to learning that you’re implicated in a system that oppresses women – but the solution isn’t to direct that anger back at women. The solution isn’t to shut down debate by accusing us of “reverse sexism”, as if that will somehow balance out the problem and stop you feeling so uncomfortable.

An open letter to parish councils and church leadership – Sharon Harding

We heard many stories about wonderful congregations who do a fantastic job of welcoming young children and their families into their midst. Congregations who make a point of encouraging and affirming parents, who value the contribution that children make to their worship. It was wonderful! We also heard stories about people in congregations who were not so welcoming. This message was communicated in a variety of ways and included hurtful comments, eye rolling, sighs of impatience and a general attitude of impatience and annoyance directed towards the lively chatter of young children. The stories broke my heart.

Catholic church turns against feminist writers – Daily Pioneer

The Catholic Church in Kerala has been witnessing more and more calls for freedom and expression of dissatisfaction from among its nuns in recent times. Sr Jesme, a nun who had served the Church for 30 years had in 2009 shocked it with her autobiography, “Amen”, which described the sexual repressions, intimidation, harassment and more in the church and convents.

Restored, in association with Christianity magazine, is running a survey on domestic abuse and the church. Please complete if you can and/or share with people you know.

Southwark Cathedral Feminist Theology Group is hosting an event entitled “A Woman’s Place is in the Re-Imagining of the Church”. The event will take place at the cathedral on 26 September at 6:30pm. Click for more details.

If you’re heading to Greenbelt next week, Sunday afternoon will see a talk entitled “What Women (In the Church) Want” – a discussion featuring Vicky Beeching, Rachel Mann, Lucy Winkett, Marika Rose, and Chine Mbubaegbu. It’s at the Big Top at 4pm.

Weekly round-up #5

The fight for feminism – Vicky Beeching

The Twittersphere is often a nasty place. I fell in love with social media back when I lived in California and the social media revolution was first born on the West Coast. I quickly fell out of love with social media when the police had to move me out of my apartment overnight due to rape and death threats. These were sparked by me simply being a woman who put her head above the parapet on issues of gender equality.

Twitter is not the problem. Porn is – Tanya Marlow

Porn is normal, and by normal, I mean that it has become ubiquitous, not that is is healthy. I was once party to a conversation where soldiers’ wives were choosing the best porn magazines to send to their men away at war. One soldier’s mother had helpfully sent a few magazines to her daughter-in-law. They were chatting about it like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Caroline Criado-Perez: ‘Twitter has enabled people to behave in a way they wouldn’t face to face’ – Guardian

I ask Criado-Perez why she thinks social media has unleashed this plague of misogyny. “It’s been going on for millennia. Women have always been put in their place and kept there through the threat of sexual violence. What social media has done is enable people to behave in way they wouldn’t face to face. There’s a feeling that they are anonymous and people can’t find them, and there’s also research into how people need to see a face in order to feel empathy, and if you don’t have that then you feel you can fire off this sort of stuff.”

When we are more interested in evangelical in-fighting than serious issues of justice – Rachel Marie Stone

Even as I’m writing posts like the one on chaining laboring inmates, I know that they’ll get only a little attention.

And that’s fine. I don’t write what I think will be popular, I write what I think is true and important.

But it does annoy me that when I write posts about ‘biblical’ gender roles or bikinis or modesty or whatever the issue of outrage du jour happens to be, the sparks of interest fly.

A theology of women? What did Pope Francis mean? – Washington Post

“A church without women would be like the apostolic college without Mary. The Madonna is more important than the apostles, and the church herself is feminine, the spouse of Christ and a mother.” 

“The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework …we don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas, but we don’t have a deep theology of women in the church.”

How the government’s legal aid cuts will affect victims of trafficking and domestic violence – New Statesman

For charities working with victims of trafficking, the ongoing failings in the government’s approach are deeply worrying. Dr Russell Hargrave of Asylum Aid explains:

“Most victims of trafficking are terrified of the consequences if they ask for help. It’s difficult to exaggerate the hold that traffickers can have over them, so victims need to know there is support there when they need it. “But the current system falls way, way short. And instead of trying to improve the way people are treated, the government is restricting access to legal aid for anyone who needs to challenge the system’s myriad failings. I can’t see trafficking decisions improving, only more victims being abandoned to their fate”.

‘Lads’ mags’ given cover-up deadline by Co-operative – BBC News

The 4,000-outlet retailer said it was responding to concerns by its members, customers and colleagues about images of scantily-clad women on covers.

Titles such as Front, Loaded, Nuts and Zoo have been given a deadline of 9 September by the Co-op.

Find out more about the recently-announced cross-denominational Kyria Conference, taking place in London on October 12th.

Finally, are you a woman under the age of 40 who was ordained before the age of 35? If so, the Young Clergy Women Project Europe may be for you. A Facebook group to offer support, share ideas, and chat to colleagues.

Weekly round-up 4

How to raise up women leaders – Jenny Baker for IDEA magazine

Ask women in your church what they need to grow in leadership and what their aspirations are. What’s stopping them being leaders at the moment? Identify women who you feel have an aptitude for leadership. Team them up with more experienced women who can mentor them, even if you have to look outside your congregation. Create opportunities for them to take on small projects with support and feedback, and build on that.

Porn: the shocking truth – TES magazine

The effect that mass exposure to pornography is having on teens’ emotional well-being and self-esteem will take time to gauge properly as it is an unprecedented phenomenon happening in real time. However, the impact it is having on the way they view their bodies and the bodies of the opposite sex is already very evident.

The Jane Austen banknote victory shows young women are packing a punch – Zoe Williams

Two things are unarguable about this century; the first is that it is more sexist than the end of the last, raunch and postmodernism having converged to normalise the presentation of women as meat; the second is that the internet has had profound consequences for privacy and, inevitably, personal freedom. But pause to consider the vivacity of the feminist fourth wave, its energy and victories, the way it has honed and deployed the power of social media rather than surrendered to the misogynist tropes it throws up. It is fearless and pugnacious and alive with a sense of possibility.

Danielle at From Two to One is running a Q&A on Christian feminism as a series of blog posts. She can also be found at SheLoves magazine writing on The difference between sex and gender roles in marriage.

Although I’m sure she’s heard it all, I skirted around the specifics with my pastor-friend, blushing while explaining that, “Um, well. In some parts of our marriage, it is quite clear who is female and who is male.” I was not only stating the obvious, but also was referring to something more mysterious, more sacred.

FAQs: Feminism, sexism and intersectionality – The Quail Pipe

So, what is intersectional feminism? Well, quite simply, it’s feminism taking other causes of oppression into account and including all women, whether they are trans*, non-Caucasian, disabled, working class, middle class, upper class. Essentially it’s the recognition that other people’s experiences are different to our own, but equally and sometimes more valid. We can have feminism without intersectionality, but as I said, this is not good feminism. If the only oppression you face is due to gender inequality, then you are extremely privileged and need to understand that this is not the same for other women.

Restored’s In Churches Too campaign, about domestic abuse in Christian relationships, is now up and running – watch the video below.

 

 

Weekly round-up #3

It’s Boudicca v Bank of England in the battle of the banknotes – Guardian

On Friday Ailsa Burkimsher Sadler, dressed as a Franklin, said: “This is part of a wider pattern of cultural femicide, where women are simply missing, across the arts, painting, music, in business, across every platform. But also,” she added, a bit later, “we’ve got to ask whether they follow the Equality Act. What was the process by which this decision was reached? Where are the minutes? Who was in the meeting?”

As a Catholic priest in Britain I have to drag couples down the aisle – Catholic Herald (published in May, but an interesting read).

One thing I do mention is that the custom of “giving away the bride” and the bride entering on her father’s, or some other male relative’s, arm, is not part of the wedding ceremony per se, and can easily be substituted by something else. The couple can enter together, for example. There is silence in the liturgical books about this. But whenever I say this, brides look at me with barely disguised horror, and not a single one has ever taken up my proposal. They all have to enter on their father’s arm, it seems, and he has to give them away. Whatever happened to feminism?

 Ellen Page: ‘Why are people so reluctant to say they’re feminists?’ – Guardian

“I think if you’re not from America you read this stuff and you’re like, ‘What?’ But I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?” she asks in her quiet voice that belies the firm opinions it is often expressing. “Feminism always gets associated with being a radical movement – good. It should be. A lot of what the radical feminists [in the 1970s] were saying, I don’t disagree with it.”

Bounty Mutiny – A Mumnset Campaign – Salt and Caramel

Mumsnet launched a campaign #bountymutiny to protest against the legions of women who go around labour wards, giving gifts to new mothers. Sounds innocuous, when put like that, doesn’t it? The reality is that the Bounty Ladies hand out the gift bag, then persuade women to hand over their personal details, which the company then sells on to third parties. Some women have reported that they felt pressured into giving their details, that they were approached when they were tired, vulnerable or just plain confused at the actual status of the enquirer.

In Churches Too – Restored

In Churches Too is a new campaign from Restored highlighting the issue of domestic abuse and that this happens in churches too. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness on the issue of domestic abuse, dispel some of the myths surrounding abuse, and how we can take positive action to bring abuse to an end. 

Are Christian Feminists hurting their cause? – Mike Duran

I realize this is completely anecdotal. Subjective. Deciding what is Scriptural can’t be left to responses on one blog post or one’s experience with the representatives of any given position. Just because a Christian feminist is rude — or a Calvinist, Universalist,  Atheist, whoever! — does not mean their position is wrong. Bad manners and blog misconduct don’t invalidate someone’s position. Nor does grace and diplomacy validate one’s position.

Why we changed our names – Lulastic and the Hippyshake

I am surprised at how little the name-changing tradition is challenged in my generation. I literally know ONE person who has kept their name and NONE who went for a shared new name with their husband. It’s interesting as the majority of my friends and family are ALL strong women and feministy men.

Loads of people think the married name thing is trivial. Sure, equal pay, rape and the rights of women in developing countries probably should take precedence but I’m not one to think that issues need prioritising all the time.  It’s not like we can to tick them off before we move onto the next one – it’s all tangled up.

Weekly round-up #2

If God invented sex, how come it’s so complicated? – El Edwards at Threads

“We were taught how difficult it can be if you’re having sex when you’re not married. At Friday night youth meetings in church it would be drilled into us how messy and complicated and heartbreaking sex before marriage is.

What no one ever told us is how complicated sex can be when you are married.”

Reform appoints Susie Leafe as its first Director – Reform

“Susie Leafe is a member of the General Synod and played a prominent role in the debate on women bishops. Organising a campaign under the banner ‘Proper Provision’, Mrs Leafe gave voice to over 2000 female lay members of the Church of England who believed that the now failed legislative proposals on women bishops did not make adequate provision for those who had theological objections to this development.”

Feminists still have to do stunts to be heard – Barbara Ellen

“I’m not telling anyone to sit down, shut up, or put their tops back on. There is a place in this world for the audacious guerilla-feminist. I’m just wondering if sometimes this approach plays into enemy hands, in a way that is counterproductive. Is there room for a debate about the tipping point where intention is trumped by perception. After all, feminism isn’t supposed to be some ideological pop-up shop, on an endless recurring cycle of suddenly appearing and (just as suddenly) disappearing.”

Wendy Davis channels anger of millions as new Texas makes itself heard – Guardian

“The day’s dramatic events that captivated people across the country – the 11-hour filibuster, the dramatic fight over arcane Senate rules, and the decisive 15 minutes of ear-splitting whooping and hollering from the gallery – were the result of political tensions building in Texas for years.

There’s a saying: ‘Texas is paradise for men and dogs, but hell for women and horses.’ That’s a little outdated and not completely accurate: in fact, horses are treated pretty well here. Women in Texas have had a difficult time.”

What armchair commentators say about your feminism doesn’t matter – Karen Pickering

“Your feminism needn’t be immune to new ideas that will challenge and strengthen it. But crucially, it’s yours. It’s yours to work on and work through and it takes energy and thought every day. It may thrive if you harness your energies alongside other likeminded people and organise collectively, but it will still be valuable if you perform it by having mind-changing conversations at your kitchen table, back fence, church or union meeting.”

Modern feminism – Woman’s Hour

“Jenni Murray meets the young activists getting involved in feminist campaigns. What the issues which are uniting feminists? What subjects divide them? Is feminism too white, too exclusive, too middle class or are new voices being attracted to the cause? Why are feminist groups making the headlines now and what can they learn from the earlier waves of activists?”

Sun’s Page 3 photos of topless women will stay, says new editor – Guardian

“Speaking on the radio station LBC 97.3 on Wednesday morning, Dinsmore said that Page 3 would remain in the paper despite growing criticism from campaigners.

 He compared Page 3 to a new exhibition of erotic Japanese paintings at the British Museum in London and said: ‘This stuff at the British Museum is far more explicit and raunchy.’ “

The Patriarchy: is the concept still relevant to feminism? – The Quail Pipe

“So, viewing The Patriarchy as the enemy is no longer crucial to the feminist agenda. A trans women isn’t going to have equal protection from the authorities until there’s no transphobia. A black woman isn’t going to have equal job opportunities until there’s no racism. If feminism is all about women being equal to men, then intersectionality is essential. By focussing too heavily on the patriarchy there is a risk of ignoring intersectionality and fighting for middle-class straight white women’s rights while larger issues go unaddressed and many women benefit much less from the achievements of feminism.”

A review of Nefarious: another misguided approach to sex trafficking – From Two To One

“We all need to come to terms with the why of human trafficking. For the makers and proponents of the message behind Nefarious, the why may be the battle between good and evil in the world. From a Christian perspective, sin and the subsequent brokenness of our world is absolutely the root of this evil. But saying that human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, exists because our sinful nature — it being a spiritual and moral issue primarily — is not the most precise answer, nor is it the most actionable.”

Weekly round-up #1

Welcome to the CFN blog’s new weekly round-up, a post of links to current news stories and blog posts you may find useful, interesting, and thought-provoking.

Reclaiming Feminist – Sarah Bessey at She Loves magazine

“I would love to see the Church reclaim our historic place in the feminist movement, to become fierce champions for the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women again. 

The daughters of the earth are crying out for God’s justice and peace. People in the first world and third world and caught somewhere in between, both men and women are buried in the world’s power structures, tensions, histories, the old empire fallout of authority and patriarchy, war and economic injustice, hierarchy and systemic evils generation after generation.”

Why Cambridge Needs Feminism: Student project gets around-the-world support – Huffington Post

“A project to encourage students from Cambridge University to express why they need feminism has gone viral and reached as far as Malawi and Australia.

Cambridge University Students’ Union’s women’s campaign asked students, lecturers and passers-by to write on a white board and complete the sentence ‘I need feminism because’.”

[nb you can see all the photos from the campaign at the CUSU Women’s Campaign Facebook page]

Who is Nigella’s neighbour? – Natalie Collins at Threads

“Language such as ‘big bust-up’ ‘row’ and, as Charles Saatchi has now described it himself, ‘a playful tiff’. All such language detracts from the severity of the situation and reinforces the widely-held belief that domestic abuse is a relationship issue, when in fact it is the issue of an abusive person.”

Be true to yourself. Is this really the best the Guides can do for girls? – Zoe Williams

“This schmaltzy formulation of “truth to oneself” crops up regularly in the basket of helpful things to bestow on adolescents. It’s a strange instruction to a person of any age, relying on the idea that you have this irreducible core, this righteous quiddity, and if you make sure it isn’t compromised you’ll leave the Earth having done more good than harm.”

Women priests: the next generation – Miranda Threlfall-Holmes

“As the prospect of women bishops comes closer, all women clergy are freed to be considered for the whole range of posts on their own merits. It is no longer seen as a wasting a career development opportunity to give a senior or specialist post to a woman, though other barriers of course remain.”

What happened when I started a feminist society at school – Jinan Younis

“It is appalling that an institution responsible for preparing young women for adult life has actively opposed our feminist work. I feel like the school is not supporting its girls in a crucial part of their evolution into being strong, assertive, confident women. If that’s the case for a well-established girls’ school, what hope does this generation of women have in challenging the misogyny that still pervades our society?”

6 things that happen when you write about feminism – Sarah Ditum

“The people who accuse feminism of hating men have a very fragile, narrow idea of being a man – they’re something like a fluorescent tube. They are worried that any change will shatter them. Feel sorry for them, but not too sorry: like the rest of us, they will probably be OK.”

Announcing the Christian Feminism Q&A Series – From Two To One

“A couple weeks ago, I asked if you all would be interested if I had a regular Q&A series of Christian feminists. Each person profiled would share a piece of his/her story about becoming a Christian feminist, or what Sarah Bessey calls a “Jesus Feminist.” The series would serve as an arsenal of real individuals’ stories on how their faith and feminism intersect rather than diverge.”

Giving Girls and Young Women a Voice competitionSophia Network blog

“The influential National Council of Women is holding a prestigious national competition – asking girls and young women under 30 to write about their concerns.

The overall winner will be invited to New York in March 2014 to attend the United Nations’ annual Commission on the Status of Women Conference.”

Two become one? The great surname conundrum – Hannah Mudge at Threads

“The world of relationships is surely one of the key areas where a host of dubious ideas purporting to be Biblical truth have been pushed on us. It’s probably not the time to turn surnames – and what decisions we should make about them – into one of these.”

CFN @ Million Women Rise

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With International Women’s Day fast approaching, we wanted to let you know what we’re planning on doing to celebrate the day. Since 2008, women have been taking to the streets of London in their thousands to protest global violence against women and express their hope for a safer world at the Million Women Rise march. This year, CFN will be attending the march, on Saturday March 9th, as a group and will be holding a prayer breakfast and banner-making session beforehand.

We’ll be meeting at the Cathedral Offices at Southwark Cathedral from 9:30am. Bring along any banner-making supplies you have such as marker pens, fabric, and decorative bits and pieces. There will also be the opportunity to make a voluntary donation towards breakfast (a vegetarian option will be available).

The march sets off from Oxford Street at 1pm, assembling from midday, so we will aim to leave the cathedral by this point. It will move along Oxford Street, which will be closed to traffic, ending in a rally at Trafalgar Square from 3pm.

Although all are welcome at our pre-march event, only women and children are allowed on the march itself. Men can offer their support from the sidelines, however! If at all possible please let us know if you are hoping to attend by emailing cfnet@ymail.com. We have created a Facebook event here and an invitation in PDF format for you to circulate or print off.

Find out more about Million Women Rise.

Image via tamara.craiu on Flickr

What gender equality looks like in practice: a call for responses

by Jenny Baker

If you ask people whether they believe in the equality of women and men, most of them are likely to say ‘yes’. If you look at the way those people live – and I include myself in this – I wonder if you would see that equality put into practice. It’s so easy to fall into patterns of living and behaving that follow the entrenched gender stereotypes of society rather than modelling the equality and partnership between men and women that God intended. 

So how can we be intentional about putting equality into practice at home, in the church and at work? How do we resist stereotypes and play to our strengths rather than following prescribed roles? Who are the people who have wrestled with some of this and can show us the way? Where are our companions on the journey who can challenge us, support us and talk things through? 

I’m writing a book on the equality of men and women and what that looks like in practice. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences and want to include some ‘real life’ stories in the book. I’ve set up a survey with the following questions to capture responses, and you’ll be able to specify how you want me to use your contribution. You don’t have to answer all the questions – just those where you have something you’d like to say. Click here to see the survey and let me know what you think.

• How have you tried to put equality into practice at home, church or work? How have you been intentional about sharing responsibilities or making sure people have the same opportunities? 

• Where have you experienced inequality at home, church or work – for example people having different expectations or standards for women or men, or treating them differently?

• Where do you see inequalities between men and women that you think Christians should be addressing?

• Are there areas where we should accept inequality between men and women – that’s how God designed us?

• Do you have any tips on practicing equality for specific groups of people – single people, married people, men, women, parents…? 

Thank you very much in advance. If you want to contact me directly, please email jenbaker@btopenworld.com. 

Jenny Baker has been championing the equality of women and men in the church for many years. She has a masters in gender studies and is co-founder for the Sophia Network for women in leadership. She works for Church Urban Fund and lives in London.

Lenten Challenges For Women

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by Jenny Parnham

Below is a collection of ideas for things to do for Lent. Some of them are about taking up habits and practices, others are about giving things up. When we give things up (like chocolate) we are not saying those things are themselves bad, but that we are putting them aside for a time to learn more about ourselves and more about God. When we take up practices, we are not saying they are essential to life but that we are making them a discipline for a time – again to grow spiritually. So with that introduction here are a few ideas for Lent challenges this year. Please do add your comments and thoughts!

1.       Refer to God as She not He

2.       Remove all mirrors from your house

3.       Give up make-up

4.       Remove no hair from your body

5.       Dance naked every day

6.       Do not apologise (especially for existing)

7.       Do not volunteer to do the washing up, cleaning or any other domestic chore at church, work or home if someone else is available to do it.

8.       Don’t go shopping for non-essential items

9.       Challenge every person who tries to gossip with you – especially if it’s about other women

10.   Point out when men interrupt you or speak over you

11.   Record every time you experience sexism and email it to all your male friends at the end of lent.

12.   Challenge every instance of sexism

13.   Give up beauty magazines

14.   Stand in front of the mirror every day and tell yourself how great you are

15.   Get excited about wrinkles and grey hairs – celebrate them with someone

16.   Learn the names for the parts of your genitalia, what they look like and where they are

17.   Call a female friend/family member you value every day and thank them

18.   Prioritise your needs above the needs of others

19.   Spend an hour a day doing something purely for yourself

20.   Give up dieting 

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