God's Word for today

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Men in Black...

... protecting the earth from the scum of the universe.

Today is Thursday, and starting last week my wife and I joined a "Thursdays in Black" campain run by the Diakonia Council of Churches, which is aimed at raising awareness of (and protesting against) rape and violence.  South Africa's rape statistics are truly horrifying, with the annual number of cases being equivalent to a rape taking place every 15 seconds!

Part of the problem identified as a root cause is patriarchal attitudes of men towards women, and so this campaign is aimed at opening opportunities for dialogu that will hopefully lead to changed attitudes.  Like the ant eating the elephant one bite at a time, the aim is to change attitudes one man at a time.

So until rape stops (or I die - whichever comes first), I'll be donning black on Thursdays...


markpenrith said...

Hi Steve,

I think it's great that you want to be active regarding the travesty of rape in South Africa.

Regarding the statement, “Part of the problem identified as a root cause is patriarchal attitudes of men towards women,” what do you mean by “patriarchal”?

Steven Jones said...

Hi Mark

My understanding of "patriarchal" is one where men are considered to be superior to women, resulting in culturally-defined gender roles that generally place women in a subordinate position. Extreme forms of patriarchy view women as little more than the property of men, usually their fathers (if unmarried) or husbands (if married). Such views lead to abuse, for if something (or someone) is your property, you assume the right to do with such property as you please. The rights of the women in such cases are given little consideration, if in fact they are even acknowledged.

I have recently completed a research project for one of our courses at the seminary, which deals with cultural impact on the experiences of female ministers within the Church. Although the scope was extrelemy limited, some of the stories that came out from those interviewed were harrowing. If the culture of undermining women exists within the Church (even (and sometimes especially) among the clergy, such attitudes transpose to the congregation and then to the community at large. We should perhaps not be surprised, then, at the high levels of abuse against women. In many respects, the responsibility lies at the door of the Church and its clergy.

Hence my reason for joining the campaign - if I can influence my colleagues and my congregation, I can hopefully start influencing the wider society. And if just one rape is prevented as a result, it will be worth the effort.

Anonymous said...

Good on you, Steven, I got my pins yesterday aand am going to try and promote it here as well.

God Bless

markpenrith said...

Thanks for the reply. Yes, yes and yes. You’re right on all the extremely negative examples you cite.

Just as a question (because you’re thick skinned and I’m dim witted), if “culturally-defined gender roles” are bad are there any gender specific roles that are good? (or is this not the point of your post and therefore irrelevant to this discussion in which case I’ll climb of my conservative soapbox and skulk back to my corner? This would be a perfectly acceptable answer from you by the way)

Steven Jones said...

Hi Mark

You've missed the point, now get off your conservative soapbox ... no, just kidding!

How do I approach this? Although it may seem at times that I sound like a male verson of a "bra-burning feminist", if I look at my home situation it is in fact very "conservative" in that my wife is a stay-at-home mum and accordingly does the bulk of the domestic chores. However, this arrangement is by mutual agreement - there's no such thing as "that is woman's work" or "because you are a woman, that is your role". There are occasions where I help with the cooking; I know how to drive a vacuum cleaner; I can programme a washing machine. On the "other side", my wife prefers me to fill up her car for her, check the oil, etc. but if I'm not around she does these things herself.

Where problems with gender roles come in is when they are imposed, whether culturally or otherwise, and we start saying "men don't do X" or "women can't do Y". For instance, I know a fellow minister (now retired) who appeared as conservative as they come, yet while he barely knew where the dipstick was on his car, his wife could strip a motorcycle down to its chassis and reassemble it better than the factory did!

Now if I am approaching a door at the same time as a woman, I'll stand back and allow her to go first - it's the gentlemanly thing to do (some cultures have different practices in this regard, so I'm speaking from my own perspective). I'm uncomfortable with a woman lugging around heavy objects while I stand around with my hands in my pockets. I'm "old school" in that I will still give up my seat for a lady if the room is full. Stuff like that, which I think women generally appreciate.

But as to which roles are defined for which gender? As my wife puts it, "a woman who wants to be equal to a man clearly has no ambition!"

Keep the comments coming - it's good to get these issues "out there".


markpenrith said...

I think I’d approach the subject by saying that men and woman share positional equality regarding their humanity before God but have been created distinct concerning their gender and therefore have divinely ordained differing roles to perform in society, the family and the church.

I would distinguish between the terms Patriarchal and the term Chauvinistic as the one affirms man as the head the house (positive) and the other attacks the positional equality of the genders (negative).

Although we have differing Theological approaches do I at least make sense or am I smoking my socks?

Steven Jones said...

You are making sense, but that then brings us to that whole "complementarian" vs "egalitarian" discussion. For instance, I see my own role as "head of the home" attributed largely to more prominent leadership tendencies on my part as against my wife's, and lesss to do with our respective genders. Also, I see "headship" as cast very much in a servant role.

But let me get my mind around this thread, and I'll probably share some thoughts on this at a later stage. It might not be soon, though, as I'me ankle-deep (head first) in exams at the moment.

markpenrith said...

Me too :). I think my prolific commenting at the moment is a way of procrastinating the reality of rugby and a wedding on Saturday, preaching on Sunday, Exams on Monday and Wednesday and work deliverables all week long.


I need to go into the ministry full time. This tent making stuff is just too busy.