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?