women leaders we apparently need to avoid

women leaders we apparently need to avoid April 11, 2013

gender inequality cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
(click on the image to see David’s art)

I want to comment on an article on Charisma Magazine’s website. It is called Six Women Leaders To Avoid written by Lee Grady. Grady has his own website, The Mordecai Project, a site for his Christian ministry devoted to healing, protecting and empowering women around the world. He calls himself an advocate for women and desires to see them set free into Christian leadership. His mission is clearly summed up in this sentence:

“… I am not giving up in my resolve to see an army of gifted, trained women who will serve as pastors, missionaries, evangelists, CEOs, government leaders and social reformers.”

I appreciate Grady’s efforts and I do hope he is contributing to the necessary change in gender roles in Christianity. I do hope that he is effective in his mission to see more women involved in leadership and teaching roles in the world and in the church. Charisma has a circulation of over 275,000, and its website probably has much more than that. So Grady’s article probably has no small influence. A lot of women will have read that article and perhaps may feel empowered by it.

But perhaps many women read the article and felt something else. I know I did. I’m not a woman, but I felt frustrated. In the article Grady lists the six women leaders to avoid. They are 1. the diva; 2. the control freak; 3. the flirt; 4. the flake; 5. the feminist; 6. the victim. Grady feels that if we are going to have women leaders, these are some of the kinds of women to avoid. These are the kinds of women that you do not want in leadership. Don’t have anything to do with these kind of women leaders. I have a few problems with the way Grady said what I think he means.

First of all, he can’t help it, but he is a male speaking from a privileged position. Men need to be careful giving advice on what kind of woman to look out for. He is a man telling Christians what kind of woman leader to avoid. It’s okay to have woman leaders, but men seem to get to decide which women will be acceptable. It’s that old fallacy that men allow women to do what men do but under certain restrictions and expectations. Our club has been dominated by men for centuries but we’re going to now allow women to join. Now these are the rules.

Secondly, even though he grants that a lot of these characteristics can be attributed to men, he uses words that are typically used to describe women, like “diva”, “flake” and “flirt”. I wonder if he wanted to use the word “bitch” but settled for “control freak” because of the magazine he was writing for. We all know that what is commonly criticized in women is often praised in men. My cartoon tries to communicate this double-standard. For example, an expensive suit on a man is first considered professional but a suit is highly sexualized in what it communicates about male attraction. A woman dressed in expensive women’s clothing is first of all considered sexually attractive and then judged on whether or not it is professional. Our sexual mores and dress codes are rich with layers of unconscious sexual fantasies and impulses. If you didn’t know that it is because it is unconscious.

Finally, the different descriptions of women are stereotypical. There are as many different types of women as there are women. They come in all shapes and sizes and personality types and demeanors and styles. Strong, assertive men would say to rejection, “If you don’t like me, I’ll go elsewhere!” Strong and assertive women also say to rejection, “If you don’t like me, I’ll go elsewhere!” I think we will see an increasing number of women excel in leadership. But the burden isn’t on women to measure up to the specific expectations of a male dominated institution but upon the institution itself to recognize that the playing field is now even and to respond accordingly and change policies.

If I were a woman, but since I am a male feminist, I wish Grady would have communicated what I hope he means. I think he means that these are the types of leaders to look out for, whether they are men or women:

By “divas” he means that the ministry is all about them. They are the star. They know how to work a crowd. And they live well with nice cars, hotels and personal assistants. Full of self-importance, when they minister they just do their part, making a grand entrance and exiting as soon as possible under the protection of their entourage.

By “control freaks” he means people who rule with an iron fist and leave wounded people in their wake. They dominate people rather than serve them. They are not team players but one-person shows. They rule with anger and are unapproachable because they are surrounded by yes-people. Their ministries experience a high turn-over rate of employees due to the harsh work conditions, unreasonable demands and long hours.

By “flirts” he means people who disregard sexual boundaries. They dress to kill, wearing immodest and expensive clothes that betray their unresolved sexual issues. Sometimes there’s vulgar undertones in their messages that are sexually charged. They also put themselves in compromising situations with members of the opposite sex and are often unaccountable. Some even get into serious sexual trouble.

By “flakes” he means people who take the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy, to an abusive extreme. Although they might have genuine experiences with God, they elevate themselves to a place of singular status where no one can legitimately challenge the genuineness of their revelations. They abandon scripture for the sake of revelation and end up in heresy. We can sometimes suspect these people have unresolved emotional issues, prone to depression, and therefore employ the highly charged supernatural life rather than the life of a normal human being.

By “feminists” he means sexists. These are people who have a bitter, vengeful attitude that pit men against women and even elevates their sex to a higher position rather than on equal ground. They may be gifted communicators but because of not forgiving the people of the opposite sex who hurt them in the past, they intend to punish any member of that sex who gets in their way. They might speak gender equality but they have consistently unhealthy relationships with the opposite sex.

By “victims” he means leaders who make you feel sorry for them. They are hurting and they want you to feel their pain. They are suspicious of everybody and trust no one. Their lives are full of drama and surrounded by turmoil. In fact, their negative outlook on life actually causes a lot of their suffering, but they are unwilling and even unable to see that or admit it. They suck their followers into their emotional dysfunction and create unhealthy codependencies to feed their own egos.

I’m sure this is what Grady means. But what Grady has done is targeted women in a way men are rarely targeted. All male leaders carry traces of at least one of these attributes but they are tolerated for the sake of their obvious anointing for ministry. Now that Grady has applied these same attributes to women and said they are to be avoided, what kind of woman leader is going to make the cut? What if every male leader who was controlling was banned? It would be a ministerial genocide! Grady’s article might have that very adverse effect that he didn’t intend upon women leaders. Men working for gender equality need to work extra hard to ensure their language is in keeping with their agenda. As a man it is absolutely critical to remember that we speak and write from an entitled position and are often blinded by our male privilege that we have enjoyed forever. Our perspective is hopelessly prone to being sexist because of our unconscious male drives, fantasies and paradigms that are all deeply enmeshed in our DNA. If I were Grady I would have run his article past a female feminist friend first. It might have helped his article avoid the pit we men typically fall into.

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