Women Pastors and Male Privilege

Chase baptism prayerUntil recently I was able to say that I had never had a single person mention the way that I was dressed in 14 years of church leadership. Recently, one of the older men has teased me a couple times that I should wear a tie more often. My streak is broken.

When I was in seminary I learned that many of my female colleagues hear comments about their clothing, hair, and make-up every week.

It’s easy to dismiss this as an odd reality of culture. Some of these remarks are compliments and aren’t meant to make a woman’s job harder. But consider how the constant discussion of physical appearance changes the way women pastors spend time preparing for Sunday morning:

Maybe a skirt? A skirt for preaching shouldn’t be too short or figure-hugging. So a long skirt. But it would still need to look current or it could communicate a kind of Puritanism, a disengagement from the culture which may cause members to disregard me as irrelevant. So a long but current skirt it is. But a skirt doesn’t have a pocket for the wireless mic pack. Oh, and there is a large window behind the pulpit. Sun behind a skirt is not good. How can a congregation focus on my words if they are treated to a view of my upper thighs?

Oh, thighs. Help me set aside the thought of thighs. My value is not found in how I compare to women in magazines. My value is not found in how I compare to women in magazines.

While there could be lots of reasons for doing so, this really excellent article in Christianity Today where this quote is found was submitted anonymously. She names the crazy dilemma that so many women pastors endure with a remarkable humor and subtlety, yet she doesn’t even take credit for doing so.

Few male pastors would select a wardrobe so carefully. Few would be concerned with reactions to this article such that they would write it anonymously.

When I prepare to preach I spend no more than 45 seconds thinking about what I will wear, and I never second guess that decision. I’m guessing that a majority of male preachers have a similar pattern. While my female colleagues are wrestling with the flats and the heels, I spend additional time rehearsing my sermon again, praying for the congregation, or simply resting in God’s presence. If you think I’m overstating my case at all, then read about this male news anchor that wore the same suit every day for a year without anyone noticing. Seriously.

While I’m praying over my sermon, she must try on her third pair of shoes.

But male privilege isn’t only about the freedom to prepare to actually do your job instead of spending that mental and emotional energy on physical appearance. My female colleagues report that every time they walk into a meeting of clergy, they spend significant time trying to figure out which pastors in the room actually think they should be there. Sadly they are often disappointed by some that overtly reject them as colleagues. Still others implicitly do so by inadvertently not including them in conversation. Male pastors may have other reasons to struggle in clergy gatherings: they’re too young, their church is too small, or they have a worship or missions program that others deem to not be of the “right” kind. Women colleagues deal with these same prejudices. But they will perennially battle with gender discrimination as well. Many of my female colleagues simply report not having trusted male colleagues at all. Who knew that it was a privilege to share collegiality?

While I’m networking with colleagues, she must figure out who believes she should be in the room.

Male pastors never wonder if they were passed over for a job because of their gender.

Male pastors are significantly more likely to be selected to pastor large churches.

Male pastors just need to admit that they get to “just do their job” while female pastors only get to do their job after they’ve proven that they should be given an opportunity to do so.

I can anticipate the responses before they are given. “Male pastors have it hard, too. Men have to…” Before you type those words: Does a woman face that challenge as well? If so, the challenges faced by pastors generally doesn’t negate the specific challenges faced by female pastors. That’s male privilege: to only face problems common to all clergy.

It’s not my fault that women have it hard. Am I supposed to feel bad for being privileged?” I don’t think so. Privilege isn’t sin or immoral. But God does call persons to steward the “talents” and resources that God has given. Privilege doesn’t need to be forsaken. It needs to be used to create opportunities for those without privilege.

Male pastors: Don’t feel guilty about your privilege. Just use it to empower women so that they may have the same opportunities. Acknowledge the headaches that plague your female colleagues. Invite them into the conversation and praise the good work they are doing. Actually hire a woman when it comes time to fill a position.

I am ordained in a system that has long supported women’s leadership (the Assemblies of God). I work in another system that has long supported women’s leadership (the United Methodist Church). I can say with confidence that male privilege is still alive and well in both of those systems and it’s hurting my female colleagues.

Women clergy: What are some other instances of male privilege that make your work difficult?

Click here to see all that I’ve written on women in ministry.

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for posting this. I find it is very difficult to share God’s love, his word etc when I feel that I am held to a higher standard, and my words are critiqued differently than a man’s word while in church.

    I am finally in a church where the sr. pastor is a woman and it is an amazing paradigm shift: I do not have to justify every word out of my mouth: I am assumed smart from the beginning and treated as an equal. I am finally starting to heal.

  2. says

    Well done, Jeremiah. I am currently writing an article on mentoring for CBE and I love some of the points you have made here. In fact, I am constantly encouraged by the fervour with which you push this agenda. Women leaders have a friend in you, and we appreciate your dedication to this cause of Christ.

  3. Kristen says

    I am always amazed and a little jealous when my male collegues comment on how infrequently they wear a robe. I wear a robe every week (inspire of the temperature). A big reason for this is that it saves me from only hearing comments about how “nice I look this morning”. It also gives me a place to hang the mic pack.

  4. AnonRev says

    Some decent points, but mostly this one falls under the “you’re overthinking yourselves as usual, church and clergy” category for me. How about, every minister, make your fashion choices with you context in mind and, most importantly, be confident in them. If somebody gives you unwelcome feedback on your dress, as with anything else, weigh whether or not it’s valid and then react accordingly, either by sticking by your guns and using it as an instructional moment or by adjusting your behavior thanks to their insight. It’s really not a big damn deal. While I understand that sexism and privilege overall ARE a huge deal, this specifically isn’t. We do real conversation about sexism/privilege an injustice by whining about every little experience of ours as clergy, men or women, especially stuff like this that is so specific to the microcosm of being clergy.

    Additionally, a part of the conversation is that many female clergy that I know, close family as well as co-pastors and friends, invite this sort of commentary by their own volition — by emphasizing their view of their femininity and calling attention to their own fashion, shoe-selection, etc. That has gone over perfectly well in every setting that I’ve seen it. Do some people say asinine things about it? Probably. Guess what? Again, church folk say asinine things about everything. We have to be able to handle it. I’m sorry, I’m sure the post encourages those who have deep struggles with some of this, and that’s great, but we all also need to continue to be reminded, every day, as people in one of the most self-infatuated occupations on earth, that we also need to not sweat some small stuff, to set good boundaries and hold them with people, and to be ourselves regardless of what others will say, think or do.

      • AnonRev says

        Shyeah. And? Come on, the complaint here is like, “All of THOSE people in the pews and in the church structure keep calling attention to my dress/appearance because I’m a woman, so now I can’t help being super self-aware of my dress/appearance.” Big freakin deal, call a wahhhmbulance. Idiots are idiots, and anyone who makes those kinds of comments about your dress/appearance is. an. idiot. And there’s no reason to give any extra ear to idiots when it comes to how you see your own dress/appearance. I understand some of your superiors and other influential people are said idiots, but guess what, we all have influential idiots in our lives and leadership structures. That, at least, is a unisex problem, eh?

        • Daniel Gardiner says

          @Anon Rev – I couldn’t disagree with your comments more – Guys simply don’t have to face the constant battle in ministry that women have to and although you may not see the questions of dress and appearance as being ‘a huge deal’ they add to the barrage of negativity that still surrounds women in ministry. As a Pastor I am constantly amazed at the comments I hear about female pastors especially at ecumenical events. I am shocked how, when a female pastor is with her non-pastor husband other leaders will still address the man as if he were the leader. How women pastors in ecumenical settings are still expected to take on the secretarial position or kitchen duties (pouring tea) etc. Then after all this, they stand up on a Sunday having poured their life into a message equally as good or if not better than any man only be to critiqued on what they were wearing. I’m sorry if you don’t get how offensive or how important this is and think it’s only trivial but – you are simply wrong!

        • AnonRev says

          Charlene, there’s more context to my comment than just “big freakin deal.” It seems like we’re all talking about several issues here, actually — sure, first and foremost, we’re discussing the different treatment/concerns of female vs. male clergy, but also, secondarily, people are hitting on:

          – questions of dress/appearance for clergy in general (commenters have broadened the conversation to include concerns about weight/size, physical attractiveness, formal vs. casual dress, and the different “messages” our dress/appearance sends)
          – questions about how to handle criticism, especially criticism that is very off-base but pervasive or influential
          – and (from me in particular) questions about when all of these posts and conversations, about the micro-issues/intricacies of clergy life, transition from helpful/reflective/supportive toward self-absorbed, over-thought, and narcissistic.

          Daniel, I’m just saying that every person in ministry is surrounded by some kind of barrage of negativity and junk. I guess some battles are unique to each sex, and I’ll agree that women probably have a larger share overall, and certainly a seemingly larger share in the dress/appearance department. But we’re all fallen people trying to minister to other fallen people in a fallen world, so every single issue doesn’t necessarily deserve a lot of air-time. And, by giving some things any (or just too much) air-time, we can start going down a road that is so introspective that it’s actually just self-centered.

          I’m saying, it just seems like this whole debate is getting into nonessential territory. Again, I’m so very much all about conversations and action and advocacy that centers around equally honoring men and women clergy. But when you start to really blow up “how hard it is to pick out a preaching outfit” or the fact that “your preferred blouse doesn’t have a pocket for your mic pack,” I think you’re leaving behind valid dialogue and you’re just delving into #firstworldproblems. More like the least relevant 25% of first world problems. My tone here isn’t “trying to keep the lady down,” it’s the same tone I use with anybody, of any sex/gender, who I think needs a word of loving accountability, in the vein of, “Come on…really? Really?”

    • says

      @Anon Rev – Nope definitely not only a clergy issue. It’s symptomatic of a filter by which women are viewed across all of society. Our Australian media for example were far more fixated on what our former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard was wearing than the policies she was introducing. And that is definitely worth calling out! Thanks Jeremiah

      • AnonRev says

        Tania, I understand that it’s not just a clergy issue. That’s kind of my point. I think these are serious issues when you look at them in the whole of our cultures; I just don’t think that the clergywoman’s Sunday morning outfit problems are on the absolutely silliest end of the spectrum.

        To push back to your point, though, it isn’t fair to think that people apply the dress/appearance standard to women any more than they do to men. Our physical appearance/attractiveness are being evaluated and used as a criteria for our value in basically every single human circle that any of us lives in, and especially in situations of power/authority/influence like your former PM or, yes, clergy. I’ll agree that idiotic men, like your media commentators with Julia Gillard, are more prone to actually say what they’re thinking OUT LOUD when it comes to a woman’s dress/appearance. And it’s a symptom of sexism that they feel like those comments are appropriate to share (let alone have). But please don’t make out like every man is always judged by the content of his character, or his policies.

        I’m saying, this crap goes on for all of us all the time. WE all do it TO EACH OTHER, all the time. Every one of you make judgments based on dress/appearance. So, yes, male clergy have a comparable experience, even if it doesn’t play out the same way. I have no trouble finding an outfit to wear under my robe that has pockets, but my dress/appearance comes into play in a thousand other equally influential ways. That’s a part of why I think this whole dialogue is self-centered and one-sided.

        • says

          Hi AnonRev, my point was that the Australian media commented on Julia Gillard’s appearance far more than they ever did on Kevin Rudd’s. The article I mentioned was not a one-off. Commentary on Julia’s dress persisted for her entire term. By contrast there may have been one or two articles in mainstream newspapers mentioning Kevin’s clothing style. This kind of commentary is just one indicator of a system that values women more for their appearance then their achievements. Of course the style of our clothing (whether we’re clergy or government officials) is a trivial matter – that’s precisely the point. It’s the attitude it reveals that is not.

    • Rev. Michael says

      That you think this is “small stuff” communicates the problem of privilege very well. It is “small stuff”–to YOU. The fact that complaints about your dress and grooming do not detract from your authority to do your job is a privilege you have. That you can afford to dismiss that this a real problem for your female colleagues demonstrates the very privilege you have to do so. That you play the “Whiny, overly sensitive women card,” (and in so many words), communicates that you are sexist and uncaring about issues that are very real issues for your female colleagues. It makes you one those men that tell them they have no business being in the room with you.

      • AnonRev says

        I can disagree without playing any “cards” or being someone engulfed in privilege. It’s possible that, just, rationally and with careful thinking, I think this topic is a little off-kilter. It’s #firstworldproblems, and a little ridiculous. And I’m not dismissing my female colleagues and their very real issues, just pointing out when it gets a little self-centered and whiny. I ask my peers to do that for me, all the time, and they do — we try to let each other know when we’re being self-absorbed. I ask my peers to dismiss things that I perceive as real problems if, in fact from their vantage point, I’m inflating problems that may not be real, or at least not as real as I think. It’s called healthy disagreement/conflict, which is the only way that any of us is challenged and can change.

    • says

      Wow! Talk about missing the point. This is not about being self-centered about what we wear. It’s about having to think about this more than a male pastor would for many reasons, and about the impact is has on the confidence and perception of effectiveness of the speaker.

      Sure, one consideration is what people will think, because women preachers face an uphill battle in that regard. But more than that when I’m going to be on the platform I’ve learned that I have to think about what earrings I am wearing, pulling my hair away from my face, and not wearing too heavy of a necklace because at one time or another all of those things have caused problems with the microphone. I don’t think tech staff are trained to consider these things when helping speakers get set up. Yes, I suppose to some degree having the mic give off a swishing sound or clink every time you turn your head or move are first world problems, but they are issues that have a huge impact on the perception of effectiveness of women speakers. And they are issues that men don’t have to deal with.

      It is discouraging to have a male pastor dismiss this as self-centered and petty. Rather than make light of issue, why not consider how this impacts a congregation’s perception of a woman speaker’s effectiveness and then commit to mitigating it?

      • Andreas says

        I would agree that women do have to think about issues that many men don’t have to think about. Clothing and jewelry and shoes are such things. However, I think this article misses a few things that I believe are true.
        First, women could easily solve this problem by wearing one outfit every time they preach, an outfit that fits the occasion properly, just like the guys. Men and women dress differently all the time and in ministry this has certain effects. Obviously, I am not saying that women have to dress a certain way to be accepted. I am just saying the convention and reality states that women and men dress differently and that this has practical implications in the work place, such as in ministry. For example, men don’t wear skirts so we don’t have to worry about the sun shining through and outlining our thighs. Thing is, men never worry about that. Ever. It is not about what is “proper attire for women”, it is simple the way things are. And that is ok.

        Second, I would argue, it is per God’s design that women are icons of beauty and men are icons of strength. Can men be beautiful? Sure. Can women be strong? Sure. But as I look out over the world I see women enjoying beauty and being beautiful. I think it is a design thing, although I am sure to catch flak over this. The problem is not with women feeling the pressure of “how do I look today?”. It is a problem of people, men and women, treating women and beauty as some sort of cat-walk of life, or a pageant. I say enjoy and appreciate the innate beauty of all women as an icon of beauty and treat women as people who are beautiful no matter what they wear…as long as it is within reason. Example, if you praise a female pastor with “You look nice today” you are being nice but missing the point. If you praise a male pastor with “You sounded like a leader today”, you are missing the point. The point of every pastor is to show Christ.

        Lastly, as soon as we get stuck on “gender” or “race” we have lost. Those are dividers that simply reflect reality. They are not good or bad. They are. Other neighbors are not first and foremost a gender or a race or whatever. They are “made in the image of God” and fellow pilgrims.

  5. says

    I think female clergy who are mothers are judged more harshly on their ability to parent children than their male colleagues. So my children’s behavior is actually a reflection (and at times a topic of discussion at personnel meetings) of how well I can do my job as the pastor where as my male colleagues get to blame their wives when their children are children. It does not impact the respect the congregation has for them. And I simply do not think that my male colleagues would ever have a conversation with a church member about whether or not their children are dressed appropriately for church (in this very real example the child’s tights did not match her dress and her hair was done in a very interesting style, she was four and not wearing a mini skirt and showing her cleavage).

    • PastorMom says

      I grew up a pk, and I’m pretty sure my dad did field questions about our dress (we definitely had certain dress expectations). But as a mommy and a pastor, I can say that I do feel an undercurrent of judgement on my ability to be a good mom and pastor. Working mom’s often struggle with mommy guilt anyway. We don’t deserve it. Our kids are usually fine…and there can be some positives to encouraging marital partnerships and extra time with dad. But we still do it to ourselves. Second guessing ourselves and wondering if every decision we make is going to scar our children for life. Women put way too much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect everything, including being a perfect mom. But I have working moms (among others) who I feel still judge me more harshly for being a pastor working mom…the constant comments of “I don’t know how you do it all with children at home?” and the additional concern over my time spent at the church. They often come from a well-meaning place, and yet they still convey the ways people struggle to understand how pastors can be mom’s too. I had a needy parishioner recently who wanted to schedule a non-emergency meeting immediately, and I had another meeting scheduled. He assumed what I had going on was related to my own children. I have heard that he was going around telling people that I can’t be a good pastor because my kids demand too much of my time (that meeting was church related, btw). If I set boundaries to be there for my kids, I’m a good mom but a bad pastor. If I’m there for my congregation, then people are concerned my family is being neglected. I know PLENTY of working dad pastors who are work-a-holics to the detriment of their families and they are celebrated for it. Sometimes it feels like I can’t win. The clothing issues don’t bother me so much. I do wear a robe for different reasons than my male colleagues, and that is annoying. I can hold my own with colleagues and other denominations that judge me. Also annoying to not be able to assume support from other pastors. I have had pastors in my area outright work against me, and bad mouth me, before I even moved to town, because I was a woman. But bringing my ability to mother into the equation feels incredibly personal.

  6. Linda Carter says

    Hi, Jeremiah,

    AnonRev May think wardrobe issues are small potatoes but for many women clothes are a big issue. Good women’s clothes are more expensive than the Dockers and sport shirt wardrobe some pastors wear. Many times purchased clothes require alteration, another expense. Shoes are an issue, as well as having a variety of things to wear so you don’t wear the same thing twice in a row.

    I tried to simplify the wardrobe issue by wearing a robe. But this didn’t keep parishioners to mention my hair, even offering tips! So did you mention hair? Hair is a real time hog.

    And weight is more of an issue than for men, I think.

    I actually heard a DS say she was happy Rev. Young &. Handsome was being assigned to a county seat church for his second appointment. Meanwhile I spent my career in Minimum Salary Land. Anecdotal yes. But while women are about equal in the cabinet and conference office, the “big” churches are mostly going to men.

    And let’s not forget pastors who have children. Whether single or married most still do most of the housework and childcare.

    • AnonRev says

      See my other comments, but clothes are a big issue for everybody. Weight/health is an equally big issue for male clergy. The cost of clothing is something we all wrestle with differently, by weighing our means and our morality when considering what we can/should buy and how to go about that. Dudes get alterations and many wear suits that can be very non-cheap. And your anecdote lacks much info in the way of other explanations for why you might have spent time in Minimum Salary Land while homeboy went to the county seat. I understand the “big church” dynamics get a little whack, but there’s complicated things to weigh on figuring that one out (and on determining how to change it). Either way, you draw on about a dozen issues that go way past the fairly silly question of Sunday morning’s outfit, which IS actually the highlight of the blog post.

      • Linda Carter says

        I was responding to Jeremiah’s invitation “Women clergy: What are some other instances of male privilege that make your work difficult?” It’s not just about clothing, although that certainly is a fairly constant hassle that I faced throughout my ministry. I admitted that comparing myself to a man who got a good appointment is only anecdotal, yet I have surveyed appointments in my conference and women do seem to be on the lower edge of salaries. I know there’ve been several studies on this, and salaries are found to be a significant factor in women leaving the ministry. But I’d also say that minimum salaries are way too low where I live, and I doubt a pastor of either gender could raise a family decently on one. Overall, I’d say that I had more support and less gender “noise” from the churches I served which had had a female pastor before. Those for whom I was the first female had lots of trouble with the idea, in ways obvious and subtle, trivial and profound. Ministry is a challenging calling for all of us, so it is hard to say that one group has a harder time than another. And, you are right, you run into rude people everywhere, even among clergy.

  7. Katie Volk says

    Great article Jeremiah! You are “lucky” to have a “greater” understanding of the struggles women in ministry face because of your lovely wife. With this deeper understanding you can work towards helping end male privilege in ministry. I grew up in a house where my mother was a pastor and my father was a teacher. Both jobs that were “typically” filled by the other gender. I saw the look on strangers faces when they came to the door asking for the pastor and my father told them she was not home right now. “Oh your not the pastor?” said a stranger. “No my wife is the pastor.” said my father. These words were said way too often in my house. As a kid my parents did a great job of teaching me and my brother that anyone can do any job no matter what. They showed me that despite what others might think, say or do you can break the gender barriers and be whatever you want. My mother and father did a great job at living by example and pushed through the barriers. They didn’t sugar coat things either. They showed us it wasn’t easy but it could be done. My mom even mentored a the very lovely female pastor who ended up marrying me and my husband. 😉 Keep up the great work!

  8. Pastor Angela says

    You failed to delve into the dangerous waters of ecumenical interactions. It is difficult to work with clergy from some denominations (i.e., Southern Baptist, MO Synod Lutheran, Orthodox Presbyterian) who believe there is no biblical imperative that God could possibly call women into the ministry. I have been excluded from community ecumenical services, had scripture quoted at me in public meetings, and been asked to pretend I wasn’t the Pastor at the church I was serving so they would feel comfortable participating in the service.

  9. says

    Thank you for this great article! I’ll never forget the woman who didn’t want her son and future daughter-in-law married by a woman pastor “because of the pictures.”

  10. says

    Great reflections here. As a female clergy member, I’ve faced all the the above-mentioned challenges, and more.

    My most unexpected challenge came when I was ~9 months pregnant; let’s just say that most pulpits aren’t built to accommodate the pregnant female form.

  11. Chris says

    My experience is mixed. As an associate pastor (with a very tall northern European male senior) I got comments on my appearance (haircut, shoes, socks, earrings) almost every week. I also got the lion’s share of the hugs and baby holding. (Upsides.) When I became a senior/solo the only votes against me were based on gender. One woman actively worked to over turn the vote for that reason. But once here I receive amazing support and I get almost no comments on my appearance other than the beautiful stoles we have to wear here. (Two of which are brand new and belong to the church.) However, the worst comment was made by a male colleague who told me I would not be fully in the “club” until I learned to golf. Sigh. It’s two steps forward one step back

  12. Carol Zaagsma says

    Thoughtful observations, Jeremiah…thank you for sharing them. Another difference I’ve seen is around administration and organizational skills. From my perspective, female clergy are much more strongly criticized than male counterparts when administration or organization isn’t one of their gifts. For example, when a male clergy person is disorganized, there seem to be all sorts of people around who like to pick up the pieces for him or otherwise explain it away as “Well, he’s just too busy to deal with that” or “It isn’t within his personality” or even “He’s just absent-minded.” These explanations and excuses are often said with a measure of sympathy, understanding and affection. On the other hand, female clergy who are disorganized or not strong administratively just “aren’t cut out for the job.” This is just another insight from having followed both male and female colleagues…it’s like the bar gets set at two very different places, even within the same congregation.

  13. Laurence says

    I used to be an elder of a church until I found out that the senior elder would not go to any kind of churches together meeting or any other leaders meeting if there were women Leaders present. He felt that it was a disgrace for a man to be taught by a woman and that any meeting of female leaders in the church was a meeting of the “high priestesses” almost as though he thought it was witchcraft! which he could not be a part of because women in ministry and leadership is not scripturally correct. Never mind the clothes they wore! These kinds of attitudes are still alive and well in some churches and it sickens and saddens me to the very core!

  14. says

    I’m glad there is a “like” button for this article. I wish there was a “like” button for some of these excellent comments above.

    Some comments I’ve had when I’ve ministered from the platform is (from a woman): “You should wear a dress more often; you’ve got nice legs.”

    Has a male minister ever been told sincerely that he has nice legs, or nice “____” [insert other body part], immediately after ministering?

    On the other hand after, one time after I led communion wearing a very plain pair of grey slacks, a male colleague told me mockingly that I looked “nun-ish”.

    Has a male minister ever been criticized or mocked to his face because he somehow looked like a monk?

    I aim to wear clothes that draw as little attention to my appearance as possible, so it is very annoying when people do comment on my appearance.

    What’s with that? Why do people think it’s fine to comment on or criticize what a woman minister wears?

    • Rev. Michael says

      Yes, I was critiqued by one church for wearing “monk’s robes” because I wore an alb and not a pulpit robe. Ha, ha.
      But you are right. The culture of many churches suffers from “Queen Bee Syndrome.” I find it is women in the congregation that perpetrate this more often. Is your experience different?

    • Kt says

      It might not be as common, but I do have a male friend who was told he had “nice thighs” after squatting to do the children’s sermon.

    • KJ says

      It was the first time I can remember it happening, but President Obama recently got all sorts of attention for wearing a beige suit. Apparently even the most privileged male on the planet can’t escape the issue.

  15. says

    Just finishing reading Julia Gillard’s autobiography “My Story” (our former Australian Prime Minister). She tells of an incident when she visited Japan as a gesture of support after the devastating tsunami of 2011. A photo was shown in one of our major newspapers of the occasion with Julia standing soberly against a backdrop of devastation and destruction. It was accompanied by an editorial (written by a woman) on how poor her fashion sense was…
    This is not just a church issue. My prayer is that in time, we will all learn to focus on the things that really matter, not on things that have formed as a result of our history where women were powerless apart from their appearance!

  16. Carole Vincent says

    As I prepared for ordination in the United Methodist Church, my mother said, “Who would talk to you? You’re a woman,” and my own sister said that if my husband took the proper role of leader in the family, I wouldn’t be the pastor. As a United Methodist pastor, I was told by a male clergy person of another denomination in the small town where we served that “the saints would roll over in their graves” to see a woman pastor. And even though I always wore a robe, I had comments from a male parishioner that I had “nice ankles.” And both men and women parishioners often commented on my beautiful dimples. If I asserted an opinion as a male clergy might, I was called “bossy.” Thank you, Jeremiah.

    • says

      I had some funny responses from family when I first went into professional ministry within my church and then ordained ministry. They have definitely come around and are my biggest supporters now.

  17. says

    Thank you for so succinctly talking about this issue and calling those with the privilege to account. I will add that the issue is exacerbated when the woman clergy is also LGBT. Even in traditions, like mine, that have openly proclaimed equality on that point for over 40 years.

  18. says

    Thanks for an insightful look into the world of women pastors. I love this – “Male pastors: Don’t feel guilty about your privilege. Just use it to empower women so that they may have the same opportunities.”

    I would add one other category for discussion. I have been surprised at the number of people who question my role in counseling male congregants. In the almost 20 years my husband has served as a pastor, I cannot recall anyone questioning whether he should offer pastoral counsel to the women in our congregations. There have, of course, been seminars and workshops on setting appropriate boundaries, windows on office doors, and such (and I agree completely). But never a mention that he should pass along the women who came to him for prayer or advice to a female counselor. Since we started co-pastoring together in 2009, I’ve had numerous people advise me to refer male members to my husband, even though they have come to me and not him. Interestingly, even though we are now tag-team pastors, no one has yet to say he should pass the women who come to him along to me.

    Adding to my surprise at this attitude is the fact that it has not occurred in any other setting. When I served as principal at a Christian school, or on the faculty at a Bible college where I was responsible for the spiritual formation program for our students, my ability to meet with and counsel fathers and male students was never questioned. In fact, I was the one who had to insist that windows were built into my office doors in both settings.

    No one ever questions whether a female therapist should take on male clients. Why the church has such a hang-up on this has taken me aback.

  19. says

    To me it was no accident.that the first person Jesus revealed his divinity to was a woman..an unclean woman at that and within a culture steeped in patriarchal dominance He once again turned the tables, so to speak and afforded her a most remarkable honor. How we flesh that out is up to us now .As for me , I believe Christ to be the first liberator and champion of equality for all . We are after all those created in the image of God

    • L.W. Dicker says

      Jesus never took one minute of his life to champion the rights of women.

      The Gospels sometimes depict Jesus as treating women respectfully, but he never endorses equality for women.

      He never suggests that women should have access to education. He did not appoint a single female as an apostle. Nor did he give them any role whatsoever in his actual ministry.

      • Amy says

        “Leave her alone”~Jesus (John 12:7) (Equality)
        “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:42) (Education)
        “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) (Equality)
        The first chapter of Matthew lists 5 women who were essential in Jesus’ “actual” ministry. (Essential to ministry)
        Every time you turn around in the Bible, Jesus was demonstrating equality for all in his healing practices, in his words, in his miracles, in his teachings and in his attitude. If only we would follow His example.

        • L.W. Dicker says

          Good grief! You are really setting the bar low for the ‘Savior of Humankind’.

          Again, please feel free to quote the single verse in the entire New Testament in which Jesus takes one minute of his life to actually command that women are deemed by the Son of God himself to be regarded as equals with men.

          And surely you’re aware that the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman is a later addition to the Gospel stories and probably has no reason to even be included in the New Testament.

        • Linda Carter says

          OK, M(r,rs,s), Dicker, what are you thinking on this subject? What is your opinion of over half the human race?

          (BTW, Jesus did not say anything about: homosexuality, sub-prime loans, texting while driving, reading books other than the Old Testament, the nuclear family, and lots of other things we have to deal with every day.)

  20. says

    Yeah, I can never wear a dress unless I’m only going to use the pulpit mic that day. I do spend too much time deciding what to wear on Sundays. I’ve gone to trying to figure it out before that morning. Can’t think right this moment of any male privileges that made my life more difficult since I’m the senior pastor appointed to a church with an all-female paid staff. I’d love just to throw on jeans and a t-shirt or hoodie with the church logo. I could really care less about clothes. As long as all my private parts are covered and those of the people who attend my church, I’m happy. 🙂 (Was that TMI?)

  21. Kurt Bresler says

    Women continue to fail miserably in upholding their ministry to teach the younger women to abstain from fornication, to uphold marriage, to not divorce, and to not remarry after a divorce all these things are Christian doctrine which the women including those who call themselves pastors or teachers conveniently overlook. Prove me wrong. Show me one church with 5 virgins over 18?

    • says

      Are you serious? You don’t know me but yet you judge me. Wow!

      Show me one church with 5 virgins? None of your business, for one, but how many male virgins do you think there are? Are you including men as well.

      I’m a success, thanks to the faithfulness of God. He or she without sin should really cast the first stone. Bring it on, Kurt! 🙂

  22. L.W. Dicker says

    Hey Linda Carter, do you really not see any difference between Jesus not speaking out on the equality of women and Jesus not speaking out on subprime loans!!??

    Please consider pulling your head out of your deluded buttocks.

    Your Jesus founded no schools for women, no shelters for battered women, and never took a second of his life to advocate for women in any significant way!!

    Gloria Steinem did more for women’s equality than your blessed Savior ever did!!!

    • Linda Carter says

      Well now I’m confused. Are any of the following statements true?

      1) Jesus didn’t mention women’s rights and women’s equality so the church shouldn’t be concerned with women?

      2)Jesus didn’t mention women’s rights, but those rights have been achieved by secular leaders?

      3) You don’t mind treating women badly so much that you can’t use decent language to talk to them.

      If these aren’t true, just what are you trying to say?

    • says

      Jesus didn’t mention homosexuality either, but I think he’d be appalled by some of his followers beliefs today who claim to follow him. I am a female God-lover and Jesus-follower, a pastor, preacher, and evangelist, who believes we are ALL children of God, deeply loved by HER/HIM. Straight, gay, trans, queer: we are precious in God’s sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

  23. Aaron says

    I know two verses that can settle this whole problem, 1 Corinth 14:34-35 34 let your woman keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 and if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

  24. Julie says

    I recently read an article about women in business settings getting “talked over” and ignored on a regular basis. I hadn’t really given it much thought until I was a District Clergy meeting. I was having a conversation with a male pastor, when another male pastor walked up and began talking over me while I was in mid-sentence. The first pastor turned to the second, and they began their own conversation as if I had never existed. I looked at both of them, completely amazed, and then walked away. Since then, I have paid greater attention at pastors’ gatherings. It happens a lot.

    Jeremiah, you said “Male pastors: Don’t feel guilty about your privilege. Just use it to empower women so that they may have the same opportunities.” I don’t know… I think some male pastor should feel guilty – and now, since they are aware, be intentional in their fair treatment of women. Had the first pastor turned to the second and told him we were having a conversation, that would have given value to whatever I was saying; but to turn away from me to engage in “good ‘ol boy banter” (because that’s what it was) sent a message to me that whatever I had to say was of no value.

    Unfortunately, the comments here have focus mostly on issues with clothing. That is merely one little example of a much deeper issue.

    • Linda says

      Julie, in my years of active ministry this happened to me often. Example: All the clergy in my district were gathered for lunch and to hear the Bishop speak.We were seated at long tables and I was surrounded by men, seated next to the senior pastor I worked with. I was speaking to male friend when another man with a deep booming voice started talking to the senior next to me. Further conversation with my friend was impossible. Pastor Loud Voice never acknowledged my presence.

      I shared this encounter with another colleague later on, and he told me I was too sensitive. Why is sensitivity a flaw but insensitivity is not?

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