Church and Gender Roles

By the way, gender roles are dead even in the most conservative communities. In my church, for instance, we always have a large meal after service. We divide into teams, and every team is responsible for a month of cooking. There’s a large, professional-grade kitchen, so people cook right there. In a year I’ve been with this church, I have observed no gender imbalance in who cooks and who cleans up. And there’s no age imbalance either. 70-year-old men cook alongside their 40-year-old sons, and they do a really good job.

The men also do as much child-minding as women. Again, this includes older men who bring little grandkids and then run around with bottles and diaper bags. I spend a lot of time in the kid room, and there are mostly men there with me, minding the kids while the wives are either listening to the service or sometimes at work.

The Board of Trustees is evenly split by gender, and the leader is a woman.

And this is the most conservative Christian denomination. Even in academia I often see humiliating scenes when everybody shares a meal, and then the women get up to clean while men keep chatting like they are used to having servants. I was afraid that church would be intolerable to my feminist sensibilities but it’s simply not the case.

6 thoughts on “Church and Gender Roles”

  1. Although in some other conservative churches, and parishes, it’s not that way, so it’s hard to generalize. But I also note things in the past 30 years like: not throwing your pregnant unwed daughter out of the house, nor forcing her to accept what YOU think she should do about the situation; being sanguine about cohabitation / premarital sex (although not necessarily non-marital sex). And conservative women have always stepped up and gotten careers when possible about as much as non-conservative women have, at least in my observation.

    The other thing is that the sharing of household-style labor isn’t new, either. My father did housework and childcare and so did his father, who had been born in 1889, and so did various other men, not necessarily liberal or whatever, in our neighborhood in the 50s and the 60s (and remember, the revolutionary ideas of the 60s didn’t get implemented as popular culture until the 70s, really, so daily life in the 60s was pretty 50s-ish).

    Nonetheless if you read marriage manuals and things like this from that period, advice is so retrograde you can hardly believe it, and I still say there’s a lot of gender inequality, despite the fairly widespread division of housework . . . I also notice how in academic workplaces women are very much expected to do the housework (there are exceptions, some men will, but I’m saying overall . . .)

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    1. This is definitely an American thing more than anything else. Both N and I grew up in families where women worked (because all women worked in the USSR) but both our fathers wouldn’t be able to wash a plate or cook anything to save their lives. We grew up in a reality where a man sits down to dinner and if there’s no fork in front of him, he’ll stay waiting for somebody to bring him the fork because it’s not their role to lay the table and they don’t know where the forks are anyway. It’s sad, really, because you make yourself completely dependent for the most basic stuff.

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  2. Or European/South American – – although others’ experiences, even in US, may differ from mine. I’m just saying that it is not in division of labor in house that I’ve observed the most gender inequity, in the countries I’ve lived in which are 3 in Western Europe and 2 in Lat. Am., plus here. (The game changer in Lat. Am. being servants, of course, which many have at least to some level, as in a once a week cleaner at least.)

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  3. …also: a lot of guys who will pitch in at a church, or on a camping trip, etc., don’t do it at home as much; this is also a thing.

    And: I’ve met men from Lat. Am. and Spain, my father’s age but sometimes also mine, who due to the servant thing and living in a house with a lot of women in it, had never even been to the kitchens of their houses, even to get a glass of water.

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    1. OT: I’m reading your chapter and crying tears of joy because finally somebody is going in the direction that I go in my intro. Critical theory should be critical. We need to try to take things further, ask questions, look at different sides of the issue, not just pluck out a single famous quote and repeat it untill it’s emptied of all meaning.

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      1. As a person from down on the border I would like to say that one summer I worked in a factory of Sierra West, making camping equipment. They had a room where the documented people worked, and a secret room for the undocumented people. One morning the phone rang and I picked it up. It was one of the workers, Manuel. He said: I am calling from Yuma, Arizona. I went home to Mexico as usual for the weekend but found I could not get back in the normal way, so I took a bus east and was able to cross there. Now I am boarding Greyhound here in Yuma and I will be at work by noon but can you or someone cover for me in the meantime? I can take an evening shift later in the week to pay you back. I said sure, we’ll work it out, see you at noon. Point: Manuel and I, and we, were working together but we did not have the same situation.

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