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Misogyny in the church

Misogyny in the church

Misogyny ( the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women) is an ongoing and depressing reality, but it has been occupying an even more prominent spot in the national consciousness of late (see here, here and here).  And though it is the political realm where most of the attention has been focused of late, the church also continues to be a place of entrenched misogyny.  This is seen in the dearth of women in prominent roles and in the continuing pay gap between male and female clergy.  But aside from those institutional biases, actual, individualized hatefulness and bigotry also exists.

Joell Colville-Hanson, an ELCA pastor writes in her blog of a recent incident in a clergy Facebook group, where someone (a fellow clergy-person) called here a c**t.

It all started with a suggestion that maybe white men over 35 could try just listening to younger clergy, people of color and women for a week.  And some men just can’t do that.

One, in particular, had what I thought was a temper tantrum, complete with bad language and references to his penis.  And I couldn’t leave it alone.  I poked him.  He struck back.  I poked him again.

And he responded with this:

“Joelle Colville-Hanson (He tags me so there is no question who this remark for) It gives women a bad name when a few are condescending c**ts and demeaning bitches”

Colville-Hanson writes that her initial reaction was to think “maybe I shouldn’t have poked him” but that she quickly told that little voice to “shut up.”  Being nice and deferential, she opines, isn’t the path to justice.  Many in the community were outraged and they quickly arose to condemn such a clear violation.  Still, she’s glad it happened because it brought out into the light the kind of ongoing misogyny which she, and others, continually and repeatedly face.


I’m sure it was very shocking to see that word used towards a white middle-class clergywoman.  In public.What I don’t think everyone gets is how often it is used to demean and subjugate women of color, women who are in service positions, girlfriends, wives, women in bars, women on the street, women and girls who are trafficked.
I hope that the outrage at me being insulted is outrage at all women being reduced to a body part.   And a commitment to fight any effort t reduce a woman to a vagina or a uterus.

It all started with an idea to do some work in intersectionality.

As a white woman clergy who is churchwide and synod staff, I have an enormous amount of privilege.  But it didn’t stop some guy from publicly calling me a c**t.


Though Colville-Hanson’s experience was in the context of the ELCA, it would be imprudent to believe such attitudes don’t exist in the Episcopal Church as well.  Undoubtedly, strides have been made, but so much yet remains to be done.  Why do so many find it so hard to accord women respect and to not see women in terms of sexual utility?  How do we eradicate this?  Can we?



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Rev. David Justin Lynch

While I agree the man’s language was inappropriate, to make a ‘big deal” out it calls unneeded attention to someone who definitely does not deserve the publicity.

Scott Wesley Borden

I hesitate to comment, but… the behavior described and the word used are just appalling and out of place in any form of discourse. Bullying is one of the great diseases greatly enhanced by the internet.

But the bigger problem is the misogyny that is quite rampant still in our church. And the racism. And the homophobia. And so many other expressions of human sin.

The other side of these sins, I think, in large part is nested in white male privilege. I happen to be white and male… those of us who have grown up more or less immersed in privilege often don’t even recognize it. But threaten those things to which I feel entitled and watch my behavior deteriorate.

I truly believe we have grown massively in inclusion. But clay feet still trod about (sometimes they are my own).

Wayne Rollins

I just left a Maundy Thursday service in an ELCA church, where I, as an Episcopal Priest who serves as their pastor, urged them to accept Jesus’ hospitality as a sign of God’s love and forgiveness, and then offer it to all those whom they meet after they leave church. Jesus said it was the sign that everyone would use to determine who his disciples really are. I’m constantly reminded that the church (the real one–human beings who bear Christ’s name, not the institutional surrogate) need look no further than the nearest mirror to discover why so many remain outside its fellowship.

Dave Amorde

I have known Joelle for about 20 years, but only online; we have never met, but I know her and she knows me about as well as anyone can expect to know anyone outside of an intimate relationship. I am also not in the clergy or even a Lutheran.
But I DO know that Joelle has never been known to either fear or back away from a good fight. Some men are offended by that quality in women, I am clearly not one of those men, and the pig who launched the tirade represents the worst part of male ego and must be denounced at every opportunity. No woman deserves that treatment, least of all a member of the clergy by another member.

Sue Seiffert


I was there. The person was expressing anger, using crude language. Joelle responded with a mildly sarcastic comment. He lashed back with a personal insult. Her reply said something about men getting angry when women don’t take their temper tantrums seriously. That’s when the violent verbal assault took place.

She poked him. He blasted her. And nothing, nothing, nothing ever justifies the use of the particular language that he used.

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