It’s been nearly impossible to get through a church service these days without the number of male writers, theologians, and gods outweighing those of the female kind. I would say tally for yourself next Sunday but I know that the road to madness is paved with chalk marks. Chalk marks sully the best dressed intentions.
Still a dose of sermonic affirmative action is in order if we are to believe that “the female perspective” is worth hearing. I tread lightly here since I am not entirely sure that something akin to “the female perspective” actually exits. It was something mystery writer Dorothy Sayers argued bitingly against. When asked by the media to provide “the woman’s point of view on things,” Sayers responded, “Go away and don’t be silly. You might as well ask what is the female angle on an equilateral triangle.” Women are individuals, first, and human ones at that.
Reading Sayers this week, I admit it was tempting for me to say, “Yes, thank you, please, madam, let me take a rest from the plight of the woman.” After all, Sayers points out, men don’t often concern themselves with such things as “The History of the Male” or “Males of the Bible.” While there is such a thing as Men’s Studies departments in some universities (and I applaud these), it is still largely thought that men are the norm and women the theme. A life reading supplementary tomes about oneself is a tiresome one.
What does exist is “the female experience” which comes out of our treatment as second-class citizens in this and many other societies. A man once asked me if my blog was about “women’s issues” and I said I supposed it was in as much as I am a woman and I take issue with a good deal of what happens to me. When I signed with my publisher to write a book for their new line showcasing women authors, I made sure to verify with my editor that there was no “boob quotient” to fulfill, although Rush pointed out I do take to writing about them more often than most.
It would be a disservice to my sex to not acknowledge our shared heritage and continuing plight as something that happens to a whole class of people rather than just individuals in isolation. Here is where my new friend Dorothy and I must disagree. It’s too dangerous a road to chalk up the differences in the male and female perspectives as a result of individual preferences alone. It smacks of the “personal relationship with God” kind of piety that divorces private choices from public structures. If the endorsement from Christianity Today for the 1971 publication of her essays doesn’t convince you that women are fighting against a whole category of stereotypes, I don’t know what will. You get the feeling the reviewer is surprised to find it “a sane, delightful, common-sensical pre-answer to today’s militant feminists.” You get the feeling they expect women as a class to be hysterical, unpleasant, irrational, angry shrews.
What’s on your bookshelf right now? How many authors are women? How many authors are black? What about non-Western writers? I have a far cry to go by all accounts. But what we read – and reference in sermons – matters, as it instructs us and our congregations in whom they should give their attention in the world. If it is the poor we are to serve, then it is the poor we must listen to. If it is the widow we are to care for, then it is the widow we must seek out. Not to glean their perspective like some farmer collecting profit but to sit at the feet of experiences foreign to our own.
Perhaps the road to sanity is paved not with chalk marks but book marks. Book marks make the best read plans.