Gender Relations


As a girl seriously considering ordained ministry…  As a teenager…  As someone with a twin brother…  As a big sister…  As someone who has a different type of relationship with every male friend in her life…  As a human…  It’s a topic I’m rather interested in.

A good friend of mine posted recently about gender relations and the fact that they’re rather complicated, and he attached this link: http://www.reddit.com/r/offmychest/comments/15kix9/im_tired_of_young_women/c7nd1m8

In response to the comment this links to: I don’t have this particular problem of feeling like majority of male humans look at me in a light that is gross, icky, uncalled for, etc.  This is possibly due to the fact that I haven’t been raised in the average environment, and the places I do encounter unwanted attention are on my walks to the library, work or church, and honestly, at renaissance faire.  In one set of circumstances, I’m always in broad daylight, it hardly ever happens, and it’s typically in comments yelled from someone’s porch across from the sidewalk.  I don’t do silly things like walk down alleys or go to the really bad part of town unless I’m in a large group.  In the other, I’m in a public place, and not only that, but on cast we have safe-words for situations we’re leery of, and I have an immense amount of trust in my family there.  I have essentially been trained to remove myself from threatening situations gracefully and safely.  That’s not just a matter of trusting my fellow cast members and the security, but trusting myself to know how to react to unwanted attention. 

In response to the original post the comment is on: I’m incredibly sorry this guy has had this response from my fellow young ladies.  Just like the commenter, I understand why it happens, but that doesn’t excuse it.  I am delighted whenever a young man asks me to dance at contra, for example, and I do my best to make him feel comfortable about dancing with me.  I don’t have any desire to be stand off-ish, and I recognize that generally someone asking me to dance, while it does take immense courage at our age to do that, is just asking me to dance, nothing more than that, it can be inherently flirty, but it is also social and safe.  I am also thrilled when someone at a restaurant or store or work or faire decides they can make small talk with me, or smile at me, or, honestly, “flirt” with me in a playful non-threatening way (NOT the type of overtly suggestive flirting which is never appropriate), etc., because they are including me in their day, to whatever small extent.  I also feel somewhat accomplished myself sometimes, not because I’m full of myself and think they have some sort of romantic interest in me, but because I have enabled myself to allow this person to be included in my life,  and that feels nice.

A note on society: I’d hasten to say that this problem in gender relations, particularly speaking in relation  to young ladies, is because we are thrust into this society where we have been told that dressing or acting a certain way is asking for unwanted attention.  We’ve been brought up with the idea that ‘boys will be boys’, they have one thing on their mind, and we should constantly be on our guard.  It’s plastered all over our society that not only can we not trust the young men in our lives, but we cannot trust our own judgment when choosing how to act or dress or speak, because then we might become this victim who has damnation heaped upon our head.  This creates an entire community of women who feel like any attention from a man has the potential for abuse.  This creates a society where young men are bombarded with the message that they can’t be trusted, where they are decried as perverse when they do something kind for a young lady because they ‘obviously just want to get in her pants’.  THIS IS A PROBLEM.  This is grossly unfair to the women who will never be able to trust a man, and is equally unfair to the men who will struggle to be trusted and accepted as human beings with a million things on their minds instead of one.  And it needs to be fixed.  We need to communicate with EACH OTHER not just those who share the same set of chromosomes.  All of this without even touching on the mess that is our views on teenage pregnancy… 

A few paragraphs on my own walls: I still have my own brand of walls built up around men.  But they aren’t the kind that inherently relate to my physical self, and I’ve encountered very few articles or discussions dealing with my kind of wall.  I don’t have any sort of baggage regarding feeling unattractive, and conversely, I don’t feel like the nice things a guy says to me are just some of his lines he uses on every woman he sees to get in her pants.  Nah, my walls are on a strictly emotional level.  Granted they have an affect on how at ease I am around someone physically, but that isn’t the direct issue. 

*Getting into very personal territory which I feel needs to be put out there so I can work towards improving myself* 

My problem manifests itself most prominently in just talking with men my age.  Not to mention INITIATING the conversation…  I get very worried that I say the wrong thing, or that I just talk too much in general.  It doesn’t matter who the guy is or how much I care about him, and it unfortunately doesn’t matter how much he cares about me.  I am scared out of my mind when I realize I’ve rambled or when they don’t respond or if I’m saying something which is deeply personal/controversial.  I worry that I’ll say something and it will change what he thinks of me and he won’t want to be my friend anymore.  I worry that if he’s talking to me or spending time with me that it’s out of pity or because he feels like he has to for some reason.  I worry about a whole boatload of obnoxiousness, and it’s unfair to both myself and these young men who I know, even with all of my doubts, care about me. 

There are two people and one broader issue which I connect to my heart subconsciously putting up these walls.  The broader issue is that of the ordination of women.  The two people are my Dad, and the this guy I had the HUGEST crush on when I was younger. 

Starting with the broad, and therefore easiest one- I will be embarking on the beginning of my almost 10 year journey in becoming an ordained minister here in a few months (though that plan could change, it’s where I feel most strongly led right now).  A large number of people I know and care about, and entire church communities and denominations, don’t think I should do this.  And they don’t think I should do this because I am a woman, because women should not speak openly around men, especially not in church.  Somehow lacking an appendage means I can’t stand behind a pulpit.  Does that makes any sense to me whatsoever?  Nope.  As a side note, however, I recognize the right of people to hold that opinion, even though it hurts me.  Overcoming this obstacle to what is a major life choice is difficult and produces doubts which have affected not only how I view myself in relation to men, but also my faith.  For the most part, though, I have been able to rest in the support of friends and family and I have learned rather than gained scars.  Also, this challenge has arisen more recently, so I have been more aware of it’s affect than that of the two people.

Now for the hard part…

The second guy I ever liked, he really messed with my brain, and though I have tried my hardest to say that he hasn’t because it feels ridiculous that he’s had this much of a negative effect on my relationship with his gender, he planted some messed up seeds at a time when I was just starting to consider ministry and was having a particularly rough time with my dad.  I was I think 12 when I liked him, and he was my brother’s best friend.  The problems started when my best friend started dating him without telling me.  She dumped him 6 months later, and I kick myself now because part of the reason she stopped talking to me was because I stood up for him without thinking of supporting her.  While I’ve apologized and didn’t intentionally hurt her, we haven’t been really close since then.  We see each other at church and will exchange words, but she stopped returning my e-mails when I apologized to her and things just never healed back into place.  Looking back, I should have taken my best friend’s side even though she has hurt me.  I should have seen what this boy was.  I thought he was magnificent.  He never said a bad thing to me, never looked at me funny, actually he told my friend that the reason she shouldn’t tell me about them dating was because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings.  Fast forward about a year after the whole disaster, I’ve moved on to liking another (sincerely nice) guy, and am pretty good friends with his sister and have another best friend (who was also this boy’s best friend for quite some time).  I’m having a sleep over with his sister and my best friend and we get on the topic of boys…  And they tell me that he told both of them I was a lazy waste of skin.  This royally screws with a young girls’ head.  They were so scared that I would react badly, so I didn’t, and I pushed the comment to the back of my head, revisiting only when I was alone in the quiet loneliness of night.  I refused to acknowledge it’s influence to the point that I don’t know to what it extent it’s responsible for the walls I’ve built up.  I’ve only very recently come to the point where I can acknowledge that he said that, forgive him, yet not want to be overly close to him, and see how it affected me.  I see in my male friends now the reassurance that not all men see me that way, and I see in my perception of what it means to be human in general that NOBODY is a lazy waste of skin, and to say they are is wrong, no ifs ands or buts.  Yet the doubt still hits me way too often…  What if this guy is just like that boy and is just acting the way he is when he’s around me and says things about me behind my back?  What if he thinks I’m a lazy waste of skin, too?  Worst of all, what if I AM  lazy waste of skin?  Because, the thing is, I wasn’t a particularly exciting human when all of this happened, so it wasn’t too far fetched of an idea in my head, and sadly still isn’t sometimes.  As a result, I’m terribly sensitive to any sort of criticism of my personality from men.  If I take it gracefully, it means I have tremendous trust in them.  I could go on a tangent now about one particular young man friend of mine who has oddly been my greatest source of reassurance in this, but I digress. 

Now, my Dad.  My Dad was never a constant part of my life.  When he was in my life he expected us to do what he wanted and spend time with him because we didn’t see him very much.  My Mom was constantly putting herself between my brother and I and our Dad’s words and guilt trips.  I spent my childhood skipping friend’s holiday parties waiting for my Dad to come home.  When I had recitals or ball games, by the time I was 8, I didn’t expect him to come, but told him about them anyway.  By the time I was 15 I decided to stop telling him.  I resigned myself to the fact that his work was worth more to him than his family.  And I subconsciously blamed myself for it, because he was always saying he had to go to work to feed, clothe, and house us.  Well, what if I didn’t want so much stuff?  What if I could take up less room?  You see the trend there.  If I changed myself, if I was somehow better, if I could make my Dad like me more, would he come home?  The Christmas after my baby sister turned a year old, he got a job an hour away from where we lived, and for the next 4 1/2 years, I could count on my hands how many times I had seen him, and still have fingers to spare. 

My parents got a divorce a little over a year and a half ago.  I’ve gone from having a Dad I hardly see to having a Dad who insists he knows how to raise teenagers, even though he wasn’t there to raise the pre teens, or the children.  A Dad who wants to exercise a (thankfully typically small) amount of authority over me.  Changing from the topic for a moment, I’m a fairly independent person and I do not like it if someone takes an authoritative role in my life if I haven’t given them permission in my mind to do so.  I stopped giving my Dad that permission when I was 15.  We have reached somewhat of an accord, but we still butt heads every once in a while.  And probably always will.  I love him.  And he says he loves me.  Sadly, I have a very hard time believing he will ever love me like I’m his daughter.  Partly because he missed out on so much.  Example:  When I was little, my best friend (the one who dated the jerk) offered to let me tag along with her and her Dad to the Girl Scout Daddy Daughter Dance if my Dad couldn’t come, and I think I will always be sad that I turned him down.  I knew my Dad wouldn’t come, I never asked him, and I worried that he’d feel like I was replacing him if I went with my friend.  Since then, the man who has been so very much like a Dad to me has danced with me several times, his own Dad even danced with me once (he taught me East Coast Swing, it was pretty spiffy…)  But the only dance I will probably ever have with my Dad is at my wedding, provided he takes care of himself and stays around with us.  Regardless, though, I have a hard time believing he won’t always think of me as an aggravation to some degree.  If he says his Mom and little sister and her family, and the 2 1/2 hour drive to see them, is an aggravation, I don’t see how his three children, two of which he’s never really known, are that much different.  He’s trying, and that’s good.  But there will always be doubt. 

A note to the fantastic men in my life: I will probably always struggle with seeing myself as a lazy waste of skin, as an aggravation, in the eyes of men I care about.  And, while I trust and forgive a lot more easily than a lot of my peers, I will always be struggling against that wall.  And, I am truly sorry for that.  Thank you for honestly loving me anyway.  Thank you for telling me that I could never be those things (even though I *know* I honestly have been at some point).  When I tell you I swear I think I’m crazy, thank you for telling me that’s not a bad thing.  Thank you for seeing this wall and deciding I’m worth friendship anyway.  Thank you for telling me it’s not a problem when I ramble.  Thank you for telling me I’m not giving you too much information and that you’re happy to hear from me.  Thank you.  Know that the walls I have built up are not because of you.  Know that I make a very conscious and concerted effort to find the strength to scale my walls.  Know that every moment you open your life to me and let me be a part of it, those walls are chipped away a little bit, and I am a better person for it.  Know that you occupy a part of my heart and that will never go away.  I hope that you accept the invitation to be a part of my life, too, and that I hope I can give you a smile when your sad, a hug when you need it, and a hand when you want it. 

A note on gender studies in general:  I have read SOOOO many articles recently pertaining to our society’s relationship with gender roles, several dealing with theological concepts to an extent, and am going to include some links here (yes, I believe Patheos is WONDERFUL). 

A good satirical look at the argument against the ordination of women:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/05/13/top-ten-reasons-why-men-should-not-be-ordained-clergy/

A nice piece on THE Christian woman- Mary, Theotokos, Mother of God, One-Of-My-Favorite-Role-Models-Evah, Unmarried Teenage Mother:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2011/12/jesus-mom-was-a-punk/

On Masculinity, God, and Ministry:

 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/02/12/john-piper-on-men-in-ministry-and-the-masculinity-of-christianity/

Modesty:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/blackwhiteandgray/2012/10/modesty-its-not-a-bad-word/

A website devoted to United Methodist women in ministry:

http://www.gbhem.org/site/c.lsKSL3POLvF/b.3474337/k.8FA4/Clergywomen.htm

A VERY spiffy article, which I’d hasten a guess is NSFW because of the language…  It isn’t coarse language, but it deals with consent and Upsetting Rape Culture:

http://www.baltimorefishbowl.com/stories/baltimore-feminists-prank-victorias-secret-and-spark-an-internet-revolution/

29 Things to Avoid in a Boyfriend.  I have some opinions on a few of them which o more in depth than the authors of the list did, but I shall refrain.  (The language in this one is rather crass):

http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/29-things-to-avoid-in-a-boyfriend/

A Conservative Christian Woman’s View on Modesty (which I greatly admire and agree with):

http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/164005-emily-maynard-modesty-rules-is-a-woman-responsible-lust.html?p=1

An article on rape culture and modesty (which has links to the one above and the one below):

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/12/how-the-modesty-doctrine-fuels-rape-culture.html

Complementarianism’s Problem:

http://sarahoverthemoon.com/2012/09/25/complementarianisms-ugly-relationship-with-rape/

Complementarianism Wiki:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complementarianism

A note to anyone reading this: Thanks for hanging out in my brain.  How do YOU view walls, gender relations, etc.? 

Rea :)

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