When I was a younger woman, I felt confident that at some point during my lifetime, the United States would elect a president who happened to be a woman—or perhaps because she was a woman (women generally possessing many excellent qualities lacking in the average man). Now that I’m well into my fifties, I’m starting to seriously doubt that confidence that I felt so long ago. In fact, I’m feeling quite the opposite—that I won’t see a woman president in the course of my lifetime.
After the 2016 election, I became sure of a deep and abiding sexism that simply is part of the fabric of American life, so ingrained and integrated that we don’t really even notice or acknowledge it. I know lots of people felt that Hillary Clinton had “issues” (she wasn’t exactly my first choice for president either), but were those issues really so much worse than Donald Trump’s????
And, now four years later, it’s clear that no woman will be elected as president in November. As I perused some of my favorite online news spots this morning, I clicked on the “What We Learned from Elizabeth Warren’s Third Place Finish in Massachusetts” on Boston.com. I really didn’t need to read the piece. I knew what it would say—that Elizabeth Warren did well only among the most educated white women, especially those in the nicer suburbs of Cambridge, despite being one of the senators from Massachusetts.
Sure, Elizabeth Warren has her “issues,” and her wonkiness turned off a lot of people, but are her “issues” worse than those attached to Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders? Really??
This is really so overwhelmingly depressing for me. But, why am I writing about it here, in this blog on faith?
I have felt for a long time that Christianity has a lot to do with the ingrained and integrated nature of sexism in this country, and other countries as well. Even with the decline of Christianity, its influence is still very much present. The two largest Christian denominations in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center, are Roman Catholicism and the Southern Baptist Convention and they have held onto that status for quite some time, despite their declining numbers.
Roman Catholicism and the Southern Baptist Convention are denominations that do not allow the ordination of women. Most Christians, then, who attend worship regularly attend churches where women are kept from leadership. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2015, only 11% of congregations in the U.S. had women as leaders.
This is an outrage.
And it’s not Biblical.
Jesus spent a great deal of time in the company of women, offering a place of significance to several of those women with whom he was especially close. In fact, without the witness of the women on that first Easter morning, we might not have Christianity at all. Mary of Magdala was the first to announce the good news of the resurrection.
That Christianity continues its sexist ways is a huge problem—and not just for the Church. For everyone’s benefit, the sexism that is a part of the fabric of our community life must be acknowledged and addressed. Wouldn’t it be great if the Church took the lead on this?
It’s a sad day, to be sure. Yet I will cling to whatever small thread of hope I can find, that the Church will finally come to a reckoning of its sexist attitudes in its theology and practice. And, women will be treated with the same sort of dignity and respect that Jesus showed for them. It’s way past time.