WWJD? - Not Exclude Women in the Church - or Anyone Else


Fleshing Out …

Part 3

Sanctification of Erroneous Beliefs

One of the most formidable means for perpetuating any “big lie” is to grant it sacred status. After all, who can question that which is “holy”? This argument is designed to halt any questioning or probing. Such means of applying this strategy include the following examples:

Asserting that the writers of books of the Bible were “inspired by God” as justification for androcentric or misogynous interpretations of various “proof texts” [The fallacies of this tactic are that “none is perfect, no not one” (Rom. 3:10), “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) Even the most righteous and spiritually sincere person is never without possibility of error. The Bible book writers may have been such and indeed inspired by God, yet, like all of us, they themselves were not above human error. The test is clear: Any assertion of truth must be placed along the divine measuring stick—the direct teachings of Christ. If any assertion cannot be found or supported in the direct words or actions of Christ as recorded in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, then truth is lacking or questionable at best. The fallacy here is that being inspired by God, Who is perfect, does not confer unaffected perfection on the imperfect human being.

It is according to God’s plan. Again, the test: Is it found in or supported by the direct teachings of Christ?

One of the Church Fathers said it, so it must be true. Yet again, the test: Is it found in or supported by the direct teachings of Christ? The quotes of the Church Fathers cited above say enough.

The greatest harm of all this pervasive egostistical anti-woman theology that Christ never taught, by neither His words nor His life, is that it has not been relegated to the past-that it and its detrimental effects persist even today. The blind continue to follow the blind. The damage continues in various degrees in various places.

Androcentric Language

Similar definitions of androcentrism and androcentric include the following representative and illustrative examples:

androcentric: “dominated by or emphasizing masculine interests or a masculine point of view.” The Merriam–Webster Dictionary

The language venue itself is not self-confined. The gender bias of language is so formidable, because it is a major vehicle that chronically carries forward the destructive and tenacious belief system expressed by the Christian Church Fathers cited above and that has severely harmed half of the human population for millennia. Words spoken by so many every day, year in and year out, bolster and prolong the life of those beliefs even beyond general acceptance of many of them. At that point their acceptance is promoted subtly by the ways they are incorporated into speech, when a direct statement of them might be awkward at best and rejection immediately elicited at the other end of the spectrum.

Androcentric Language

More concretely, nouns, pronouns and sometimes adjectives are used consistently in a way that implies, sometimes overtly, sometimes almost imperceptibly, the false ancient belief that maleness is inherently, necessarily and even desirably (by everyone) the superior standard – the “sun” around which all of the planets of the solar system revolve. This egocentric assumption has as well been touted (by male supremacists) as good and even by divine plan. Christ, however, taught to:

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Matt. 7:15, 16)

If we apply the test that Christ gave us, we will find the following fruits of androcentrism socially and linguistically. Even a sweeping look at human history reveals an unending pounding of hubris (excessive pride and arrogance), hatred, abuse from the verbal to extreme physical and emotional tortures, violence and even brutal murder. The witch burnings of the Middle Ages are one among many examples brought to mind. With the teachings of Christ as the measuring stick, such fruits of androcentrism and misogyny speak for themselves. The difficult task is to break through them with the humility, compassion and unselfishness to open the eyes, ears, minds and hearts of people so that they can comprehend and move to correct the source of these rotten fruits. The supreme test from Christ's teachings is, "Does it pass the Golden rule test?"

Most prominently we encounter the use of nouns and pronouns that perpetuate a skewed view of gender by omission (failure to acknowledge), minimizing (present as less worthy of note or consideration) or outright denigration of females or overly emphasizing the supposed superiority or inherent importance of males or maleness. A few illustrative examples will suffice:

Nouns and Pronouns

The use of “men” supposedly to refer to all human beings

In languages such as Greek, using terms with masculine endings to refer to everyone (e.g. the words for “deacon”, ecclesiastical “reader", “apostle,”), all titles of which historically have been held by women, or in English, “firemen,” “policemen,” or “man-to-man” play or defenses in women’s athletic games

Assumption of maleness: The use of “he” or “him” to refer to people or animals whose gender is unknown or when it is irrelevant

The lack in the English language of a pronoun to refer to a person or animal whose gender is unknown or irrelevant

Note:
Studies have solidly disproved the assertion by misogynists that such nouns and pronouns are “generic” and includes both males and females. Studies have shown conclusively that it is not so. Consider the following two examples:

1. “Androcentric Coding of Man and His in Memory by Language Users,” a study by Sik Hung Ng at the University of Otago in New Zealand

Abstract:

"Existent research, mostly carried out among North American college students has shown that male words (man, he, his) intended to refer grammatically to both sexes (i.e., generically) are in fact androcentric in various ways. Using a 'proactive inhibition' procedure, we tested for androcentrism in the memory code of man and his by language users who were sampled randomly from a New Zealand school population between 11 and 17 years of age (n = 408). It was found that the words man and his were coded in memory primarily as members of the masculine linguistic category, and that they were quite alien to the feminine linguistic category. The results provide a linguistic - cognitive link for understanding androcentrism in these words.”
Source: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/002210319090069X

2. “Generic Pronouns and Sexist Language: The Oxymoronic Character of Masculine Generics” A study by John Gastil, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Sex Roles, Vol. 23, Nos. 11/12, 1990.

Excerpt:

“The following study reexamines the question raised by Cole et al. Specifically, I provide evidence for the hypothesis that the generic he elicits more images of males than he~she and they. Before presenting this evidence, however, I locate the issue this study addresses in the larger debate surrounding the use of the generic he. A substantial body of research supports the hypothesis that the generic he possesses a male bias. Regarding the origin of the term, Bodine (1975) found that the generic use of he derived from the androcentric worldview prevailing among 18th-century grammarians: 'human beings were to be considered male unless proven otherwise' (p. 133). One would expect such a view in a patriarchal society that, until recently, has afforded women only a minor role in shaping the English language (Kramarae, 1981).” (p. 630) Source: click here

Adjectives also add their own fuel to the fire:

The use of “masculine” to mean or imply positive traits, such as courage, strength, logic, leadership ability, level-headedness, intelligence, etc., while using “feminine” to refer to their negative counterparts—in essence, stereotyping, perpetuates a misogynous language and belief system. Such terms as the following do so by also lingistically demeaning women:

“Women’s work"
“Working mother”
“Family man”
“Career woman”
“unmanned rocket”.

Verbs

Man up
Man the booth

The issue of parallel language: Using equal gender counterparts:

An important means of avoiding language that treats one gender less accurately and respectfully (i.e. equally) is awareness of parallel terms. Understanding gender counterpart terms is essential. Some examples include the following examples:

Male Female
king queen
horseman horsewoman
spokesman spokeswoman
In these above examples the terms are equal in respect and authority; however, it is very important to be aware of some gender counterpart terms that are not. Consider the following:
Male Female
master mistress
Panthers (school athletic team name) Lady Panthers
bachelor bachelorette

Although the above pairs are gender counterparts, their connotations are not equal. In the first pair, the term “mistress” can mean a woman in charge of something; however, it can have a very unflattering sexual connotation. In the second pair the practice of referring to girls’ or women’s school athletic teams as “Lady” __(mascot)___ implies less competitiveness and athletic prowess of school female teams. It can be said that it takes a lot of the “fight” and therefore respect out of them in the eyes of school athletic fans. Further, the use of “lady” with occupational descriptions (such as “lady doctor” or “women engineer”) diminishes and singles out the person unnecessarily; it is a profession, not a gender. The problem with the third example pair is that the suffix -ette means “diminutive” or small”—in other words, “less than.” Whenever it is added onto a male term to indicate a female of that category, it defines the female as “less.”

Whenever gender counterpart terms are used, it is essential that their meanings and connotations be equal. A very effective and accurate way to avoid problems with many gender counterpart terms is, when possible, to use a truly generic term, such as driver, police officer, pilot, senator or representative (rather than “congressman” or “congresswoman”). The two important questions that determine whether or not it is necessary to single out a person by gender are:

1. In that particular instance, does denoting gender matter?

2. Is the person’s gender unknown?

(If the answer is “no” to these questions, you should not employ an assumption of maleness and defer to a male term. If a pronoun is needed, then it is best to use “he or she,” “she or he,” or the plural form “they,” which is acceptable in this case in the absence of a non-gendered pronoun for a human being in the English language.)

Gendered expressions without a gender counterpart: Note such everyday expressions as “Oh, boy!” or “Oh, man!” or “Man!” or “Oh, brother!” They do not have feminine counterparts, such as “Oh, girl!” “Oh, woman!” or “Woman!” or “Oh, sister!” This pattern with an absence of counterparts is the strength of androcentrism. A very viable alternative is a non-gendered expression like “Oh, wow!” It is all about not lending support to a heavily biased linguistic convention.

Awareness and knowledge of androcentric language, its origin and “fruits,” give the freedom and empowerment to oppose them by confronting and contradicting it whenever it is encountered, enlightening others by other means as well, especially by being a living example. Study alternatives to androcentric linguistic conventions and make a point to avoid androcentric usage in both speech and writing. The APA (American Psychological Association) and other style manuals now put forth acceptable usage that rejects linguistic androcentrism.

For an excellent to-the-point article on androcentric language, its nature and impact, see “A Line on Life: Our Androcentric Language” by David A. Gershaw, PhD: http://virgil.azwestern.edu/~dag/lol/Androcentric.htm. One of Dr. Gershaw’s most perceptive points is that “Much of sexism is so ingrained in our language, that we don’t even recognize it.” Awareness is the key.

Women as Perpetrators:

It is here that the “it will be believed” part of “The Big Lie” (See above.) involves its victims. As with other oppressed groups, women have been inundated so heavily for so long with the false beliefs about gender expressed by the immensely influential Christian Church Fathers as voices of their pagan and Old Testament Judaic predecessors that many have internalized (accepted as true) them. That internalization then has caused them to “collude in their own demise.” – that is, against their own personal potential, self-concept, and quality of life. The result is to “live down” to inordinately low expectations. The more women who do this, the more their behaviors impede the efforts of men and women who understand and seek to eliminate its detriment.

This phenomenon is on the order of The Stockholm Syndrome identified in more recent times. “Stockholm syndrome: An extraordinary phenomenon in which a hostage begins to identify with and grow sympathetic to their captor." http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=24038. It is essentially a psychological mechanism in which someone who is oppressed in some way comes to form emotional bonds, identify with and accept the ideas of their captor/oppressor as right and true in order to survive psychologically and often physically. People caught in such a situation are usually unaware of what is really going on and cannot see the oppressiveness of the reality in which they are living. Some forms of this in gender oppression include such as the following:

  1. Accepting blindly language and practices that are demeaning, segregating or limiting that should not be based categorically on the basis of gender or when it should not matter and/or it is based on simply the false gender beliefs expressed above by the Church Fathers. Consider these:


  2. Using Androcentric Language

  3. Laughing at or telling jokes that demean and/or stereotype women (or men)

  4. Accepting all-male mascots of school athletic teams (implying that male athletes are more important and that females are not competitive), ignoring that tigers, eagles, lions, etc., like athletes and the schools they represent, come in two genders.

  5. Jackie Mitchell with Babe Ruth
  6. Enthusiastically supporting male bastions that carry a formidable culture of male supremacy and female exclusion that relegates females categorically to the sidelines and sternly opposes opportunities for female participation, whether it is a sport, a male-only exclusive club or a “man cave.” (Such bastions include especially football, baseball, etc.) There are women’s professional football leagues (A Google image search for “Women’s Professional Football League” will yield surprises and awareness.), and women were playing baseball at Ivy League colleges from the 1860’s. Women have also played on Major League baseball teams. When it became illegal in 1972 to exclude girls from baseball teams, the Little League created a softball division and ever since has shunted girls into the softball division. It takes a strong, determined girl to insist on playing baseball, if that is her preference. Too many girls simply accept the situation, instead of working to open up choices for girls, even a girls’ baseball division. An excellent example of women colluding in their own (and all) demise is the women who participate in such events as the “Lingerie League” "football” games, which greatly sexualize and demean women, taking away respect for the many women who are dedicated and talented athletes. One force working so against women with respect to male bastions is the psychological effect of stigmas based on stereotyping and are socially attached to girls who otherwise would like to participate in activities associated with male bastions. Not all barriers are physical. Wrong assumptions about gender are every bit as limiting as physical walls, perhaps even more so. Research and learn about women’s athletic teams in your area and enthusiastically support them, encouraging others to do so, especially those that fall into the category of “boys’ bastions.” Be part of the solution by modeling acceptance, not part of the problem itself by enabling structures that treat female athletes unfairly.

    For information on women’s football leagues see some sites below:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_Professional_Football_League

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_Professional_Football_League

    http://wfafootball.net/

    http://www.iwflsports.com/

    If you did not know that professional women’s football exists, at this point you should have no difficulty realizing why. What if all professional football leagues were given the same support? The quality of women’s play would, over time, be raised—as well as pay. Why not open the field to all players and enlarge the world of sports?

    And as for women’s baseball, see the following sites:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_baseball

    http://womensbaseball.com/

    http://girlsplaybaseball.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/twitter-spat-raises-question-where-are-the-women-from-nbc-news-for-iphone/

Finally

The origins of the misconceptions and resultant mistreatment of women have been clearly shown in this work. Disclosed as well has been the impetuses for their continuation from ancient times to the present. A final word here to women is to become very conscious of the stereotypes that have been and are still damaging to women and make a point yourself not to live them; to live them is to accept and help perpetuate them. Along those lines, become keenly aware of the androcentric character of the language and how to avoid using those terms yourself, as it is a powerful perpetuator of the stereotypes. Finally, take every opportunity you can to educate others and openly oppose anti-female practices. Knowledge is power—the power to embrace and nurture the truth. The extensive annotated bibliography is an excellent place to go from here.