Stop! Collaborate and LISTEN! On Gendered Absences in the Theological Blogosphere
November 28, 2012 6 Comments
After the most recent meeting of the American Academy of Religion Anthony Baker posted this on The Theology Studio: Gender and the Studio. In it he basically asked about the lack of participation from women who are theologians in the work of the informal group he helped begin and in the theological academy more generally (and provides a problematic possible solution). In response, Brandy Daniels posted this blog post. After which much conversation, some constructive and some reinforcing the problems raised by Ms. Daniels, happened on The Theology Studio Facebook page. Since then, Dr. Baker posted this and Ms. Daniels has posted this (with a promise of at least one more post to come).
THEN, today Tony Jones asked this question: Where are the women? Which is confusing considering a recent row he had over how he and his commenters were talking about women. See here. Here. Here. Here. And here.
In other words, there’s been some angst/worry across the theological blogosphere over the last couple of days over the lack of participation by women in domains that are sponsored by, and have come to be dominated by, white men. And the material reality of the lack of women in these discourses IS a strong critique of some (much?) of the theological work being done in these spaces. So, what do these men do? They write about it. Which is natural since these people are writers. However, this seems to me to be misguided. (Importantly, despite the tone of some commenters, it appears that both Baker and Jones are sincerely interested in understanding and changing this phenomenon).
The solution to this problem is clearly complex, and I won’t provide a thoroughgoing analysis. Clearly, some things raised in posts and comments – i.e. male-dominated nature of blogosphere in general, tone of arguments, public/private issues, types of questions asked, etc. – each play a part. However, one thing that seems to be missing from the analyses I see is the lack of listening by said male bloggers to the women they want listening to and engaging with them.
So, here’s my suggestion to my fellow male bloggers:
1. Be quiet. Seriously, stop talking long enough to listen. And then …
2. Listen to women. And listen in a way in which you can learn from them. Seriously. Read Women in Theology and Profligate Grace and Per Caritatem and Feminism and Religion and former AAR president Kwok Pui Lan. And don’t argue with them right away (as many did with Ms. Daniel’s post and Jones and commenters did with his critics). Listen deeply. Meditate upon those things that don’t resonate with your experience and give them a charitable interpretation. Think about the questions that women ask which you never think to ask. Take those questions seriously and recognize your need to learn from women to answer them.
3. Collaborate. Seriously. First, learn from women by studying under them. Then teach WITH women. Write WITH women (when you do they won’t let you get away with some of the ridiculousness that sometimes gets published by us). Think WITH women.
And then more women may begin to think, write, and agree with you. Or at least you might be able to have fruitful rather than dismissive online conversations with women when you do, and will, disagree.
(And then – MAYBE – we can address the lack of engagement with non-white persons in these online conversations!)