So, I’m going to pull myself out of my aunt’s funeral preparations for a moment to weigh-in on this Held-Evans/Hatmaker/Warren control-versy, because y’all are honestly hurting my soul.
In case you are unaware, there has been a woman-on-woman twitterary battle going on over a rather ill-advised opinion piece of a conservative Anglican priest, Rev. Tish Harrison Warren, that Christianity Today published. In the piece, Warren threw shade at a Christian blogger, Jen Hatmaker, invoking the wrath of the ricochet-wounded, fellow Christian blogger, Rachel Held-Evans, who rose to the defense of Jen Hatmaker. The ensuing battle amplified the original piece that otherwise may have gotten minimal attention in the midst of Twitter’s obsession with Ja Rule and his “Fyre Festival Gate.”
Watching all of this unfold, all I could think was: I don’t think you are fighting about what you think you are fighting about.
This is a struggle about power and control, not spiritual integrity. Each side has their power system, whether it is status derived from hierarchy or from social media followers. The construction of both levels of status originally took place through participation in male-centered paradigms and systems.
Yet, the casualties on both sides are women. The ones erased from the conversation are women: especially those with the least amount of participation in reward-rationing, male-centered systems of elevation that make space for about as many women as the history of seated Supreme Court justices, and then expect us to fight it out for those spots. And fight it out we do.
Then John Pavlovitz makes a post in Progressive Methodists, explaining all of this and listing women he suggests people listen to, and someone tags me on it, saying he should have listed my name. And I find myself thinking, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I don’t want to hope that a man says I am worth listening to.
And I wonder if all the clergywomen who feel resentment towards women who built blogging empires give thought to the constant struggle of laywomen who are treated in diminishing ways due to lack of ordination, by systems that at the same time treat clergywomen in diminishing ways despite their ordination.
And I wonder if all the women who have built brands and blogs and empires give thought to the fact that having ordination does not mean men treat us like we have authority anyway, and sometimes it can be an advantage to be the “safe woman” who can bring in crowds without threatening male egos through having ordination.
And I wonder if either side realizes they participate in misogynist systems and, thereby, aid in the oppression of the other.
We need laywomen and their wisdom to be respected.
We need clergywomen and their authority to be respected.
The only ones that benefit from pitting those two against each other is the Patriarchy.
Yet, wasn’t it the Patriarchy that we were supposed to be smashing?
I’m interested in having a different conversation. One in which we work together to lift each other up. True, we are not going to be successful in that task if someone is actually seeking to uphold repressive, patriarchal church hierarchies. Yet, that isn’t the case for the vast majority of clergywomen. Most of us are resisting, and we are exhausted, so don’t erase us. We are trying to balance the streets, the church, the blogosphere, the hierarchy, relevancy, male conservatives, male moderates, male liberals, dismantling white supremacy, sexual harassment ALL AT ONCE.
You think we could help each other out? It is, in truth, the one and only way we will smash the patriarchy.
[All of the above could be summarized in the simple statement: this is why the world needs Womanism, and why Feminism is completely inadequate.]
Hannah Adair Bonner is the curator of The Shout: a spoken-word poetry focused artivism movement seeking to nurture a community of multi-ethnic, multi-generation, justice-seeking, solidarity-building people. She is ordained in the United Methodist Church. She graduated from Duke Divinity School and Furman University, but truly received her education from friends like you.
Donate to the Work of R3
Like the work we do at Rhetoric Race and Religion? Please consider helping us continue to do this work. All donations are tax-deductible through Gifts of Life Ministries/G’Life Outreach, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, and our fiscal sponsor. Any donation helps. Just click here to support our work.