Gender – it’s messing with my head!

OK, this is getting beyond a joke.  God definitely has a sense of humour, but is also good, because I have some thinking time to get my head around being female.  For those of you who don’t know me, I have actually been female all my life, and don’t have any suppressed transgender issues lurking.    BUT I spent three years at university getting an Engineering degree, two years working on a power station, and the following eighteen at the headquarters of an electricity (later an energy) company.  This was not an environment where being a woman was an advantage.  At best, it made no difference.  At worst it meant I had to be better than the blokes.  And to be fair, I mostly wasn’t.  I could hold my own, and was very good at some things, but being a woman was something to underplay.  And so I used to get all the “honorary bloke” comments – and I remain quite proud of the level of acceptance I achieved.

Having trained to be a priest in the Church of England, there was no escaping the gender issues there either – nothing to do with actual competence, it is all down to having the “right” or “wrong” bits.  Certainly I am well aware that I would not be terribly welcome to preside at Eucharist in my sending parish – some people would stay away.  And I’ve no desire to be the trigger for division there.  

So I am still trying to come to terms with being valued because I am a woman, not in spite of my being a woman.  To those of you who don’t even begin to understand what I am on about (i) congratulations; (ii) this isn’t a trivial issue for me.  I understand with my head that God made us all differently, and made each of us uniquely gifted.  I even mostly understand that with my heart.  But I still can’t quite make the mental leap to the point where being a woman is an advantage in some pastoral situations.  I’m hoping that because the situation is quite new to me, time will solve the problem, and my head and heart will catch up with reality.     

Time, prayer, thought required….


2 responses to “Gender – it’s messing with my head!

  1. OK, having replied on this one before, allow me to pontificate.

    1. Unfortunately, as a male of the species, I am very aware that being able to share my personal weaknesses and failings with another male of the species is very difficult. For more psychological reasons than I will go near, I am useless at talking to straight men about matters of the heart. My previous spiritual director was female, all the pastoral secretaries I have ever had at all my churches have been female, my confidants have mainly been female, and I believe from the male colleagues that I have talked to that I am along way from being on my own on this one. But simply, talking to men is scary because I feel that the will judge me, or tell me to “snap out of it” – my instincts tell me that a woman (ordained or lay) is much less likely to do this.

    2. As much as you can categorise any attributes as male and female, I think that I would want to point to God having a great many female attributes. Mothering Sunday whilst we know has nothing to do with Mothers, is an ideal opportunity to point to how the church shound “mother” those that they care for. Whilst I realise that this is rather a sweeping statement, women tend to be better at Mothering than men. Now whilst I would argue that Christ showed a number of these attributes, and that I can point to “male” attributes in God as well, and that all of this is unhelpful – in God I can see “female” attributes. THEREFORE, if the church is to be the body of Christ revealing God to the world, it will do so more effectively with men AND women at all levels within its structures.

    3. I could make a very similar comment to the ones in number 1 above when talking about how the female members of my congregations seem to value a male minister to talk to and struggle with women sometimes. For very similar reasons.

    If you would like to talk to “a man” (and a Methodist man at that) give me a ring and we can chat this through.

    God Bless,

    Ian (male, bald, and ordained – in that order historically!!)

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