Making Space for the Feminine Voice

 

Women are natural communicators. No one doubts this, really, and a quick, unscientific glance at the blogosphere confirms the female desire to enter into the conversation about important issues impacting our world. But why are so many of these bubbling female voices still running underground, or being siphoned off into their own little “women’s quarters” of Christian society?

For instance, I watched “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers” on Saturday. It was a funny, compassionate movie that all Christians would do well to watch. But the next morning, it struck me: while several women were interviewed for the film, none of the Christian leaders, the ones who spoke more or less on behalf of the establishment (for better or for worse), were female. Even among people who are working hard for a more just society, who are talking about things like compassion and reconciliation and listening to others, the female voice was strikingly absent, or at least lopsided in the way it was presented.

I’m sure this was a simple oversight, but it’s an oversight that plays out time and time again. Too often, the established power structures don’t even think to ask for a female perspective, to seek out a healthy counter-balance in areas that have traditionally been the domain of men. And that’s too bad. Because when the feminine voice is muted, intentionally or unintentionally, we miss out on a lot of what God is trying to communicate to the world through his female image-bearers.

This is one of those areas that the Christian community is going to have to be very, very intentional about changing. (Sharon Hodde Miller, who is currently pursuing her PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, had some great thoughts about this on her blog.) Most women, especially Christian women, were raised to avoid being “pushy.” (The double-standard between “pushy” women and men who “take initiative” is a post for another day.) And men–well, men are just used to being the only people in the board room. That’s the way it’s always been, and they don’t know what they’re missing out on. What we’re all missing out on.

“It is not good for man to be alone,” and I believe that holds true for every aspect of human existence, not just our personal relationships. Women have an incredible wealth of wisdom, insight, and parallel perspectives to offer the world. There are treasures to be mined in Scripture that female eyes can spot much more readily than male’s, deep, untapped veins of gold still waiting to be unearthed. There are solutions apparent to third-world mothers that male heads of state would never think of. A healthy shot in the arm of female influence would inoculate our world against a whole host of devastating social diseases.

Did you know, for instance, that maternal and child death in the United States dropped sharply as soon as women got the vote? During World War I, more American women died in childbirth than American men died on the battlefield. Still, the male legislators didn’t see it as an important issue, until the suffragists made it one. In 1921, the suffragists pushed through the Sheppard-Towner act, and almost overnight, infant and maternal death rates dropped 16% and 12% respectively. By the time those babies were having babies of their own, maternal fatalities were down over 70%, primarily because of women’s ability to influence public policy.

Men and women need each other, and not just to create babies. We need each other to create the world God had in mind when he put us here, male and female, and told us to take dominion. To multiply disciples who will bear God’s image to the world. Imagine Barak without Deborah. Josiah without Huldah. David without Abigail. Apollos without Priscilla. Each man was willing to quiet his strong, powerful voice so he could listen closely to the softer voice of his female counterpart. Each was immeasurably better for it, as was society.

What do you think? How have you seen this play out? And how can men and women work together to create a better world, one more aligned with God’s kingdom purposes?

 

15 Responses to Making Space for the Feminine Voice

  1. Angie Mabry-Nauta June 7, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    Hi!

    Thanks for your post. As a minister who is currently not serving a church, I resonate deeply with the paragraphs about the silent female voice in the church. I got burnt out and God led me away from pastoral ministry (6 years as a solo pastor). One of the struggles as I was feeling the pull to exit was taking yet another female voice (mine) out of the pulpit when they are so badly needed. It is still dreadfully difficult to be a female leader in the church because the sexism is insidious. Women have to keep supporting and not fighting one another. We are on the same team, not competing for the same piece of pie. (There is no pie, by the way. God, in God’s generous abundance, has made sure of that. Possibilities are endless.)

    Peace,
    Angie

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 7, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      Ooh, I bet that was a hard decision to make! I love what you said about non-competition, too–I am of the mindset that ALL Christ’s followers need to be playing full-on, and cheering for one another and spurring each other on! There’s too much work to be done to compete or hold one another back. Go, go, GO!

  2. Tim June 7, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    “they don’t know what they’re missing out on” And that’s why I spend time telling them, Jen.

    You asked us to imagine Barak without Deborah. I can’t. But the funny thing is that I can easily envision Deborah without Barak.

    Tim

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 7, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      And I so appreciate that you DO tell them, Tim! :-)

    • Harriet Congdon June 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

      Tim,
      I appreciate your comment in the spirit it is offered, an incredibly gifted and strong woman who led Israel well. But I did some recent reflection on her and Barak and realized their story illustrates my passion for gender reconciliation and collaboration. I desire to honor the men I know that also honor the women they know, as I sense you do. This post is singing my song.

  3. erin a. June 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    Wow! What a demonstration of the importance of hearing the female voice. I did not know about the correlation between women voting & the maternal/infant date rate. Powerful picture!
    I love your last paragraph. Yes, yes, yes! How much the church suffers, when we gender segregate everything. It grieves me.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

      Thanks Erin! I read your post earlier today, and really appreciated it–very much in line with my experience. :-) Great to have a husband who believes in you, and encourages your strength.

  4. Holli McCormick June 8, 2012 at 1:08 am #

    Jenny!

    We were supposed to talk sometime this year I believe. I saw you started to follow my twitter and it dawned on me. So glad to have “found” you again…and thank you thank you thank you for this post. It is such a “shot” of inspiration as I venture back out into the business world taking with me all that I have learned about mutuality and equality for women these past 10 months. I realize that I need to continue to have these “shots” to remind myself who I am in Christ…that I am not alone as I try to change the way the world views the genders…and to help get us back on track to be about the Kingdom work (instead of the battle of the sexes). I republished my “ah ha” moment posts to #mutuality2012 – not sure if that is how you found me again…but here are my own experiences with this subject:
    http://www.practicejoy.info/2011/10/earthquake-what-if-i-have-gotten-it-all.html
    http://www.practicejoy.info/2011/10/earthquakes-bubbles-cont.html
    http://www.practicejoy.info/2011/10/headship-vs-synergiship-earthquakes.html

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 8, 2012 at 9:04 am #

      Holli! I didn’t even realize that was you!!! I was basically going through and adding people who had contributed to #mutuality2012 so I could get through their posts and follow what they were doing as I had time–what a cool God thing!

      I will read your post after I get my kiddos some breakfast (second day of summer vacay)–so glad to connect again!

  5. Carolyn Custis James June 8, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Jenny, Thanks for linking this discussion to Genesis 2:18 where God reinforces the male/female image bearer team as a kingdom strategy impacting every sphere of life on earth. Great post!
    CJ

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