As I visit various blogs (particularly Christian or political or political Christian) I am painfully aware of the divisions that exists not just in cyberspace but (if our stories can be believed) in the work a day world as well. Gender, ethnicity, and economic status each pit one person or group against another by focusing on our differences rather than what we might have in common or how we might compliment each other. Even within the emerging church many voices that should share at least part of the platform seem to be to a large extent silent. I can not speak for the African-American, Hispanic, Asia, or Native-American communities nor for the extremely poor or wealthy. However, as a woman I find the lack of female voices in these different conversations curious.
What is happening? Are women choosing to stay out of these dialogues on purpose? Are we conversing on female only blogs? Are our interests so different from our male counterparts that we simply do not fit in the same discussions?
Recently I noticed the following comment from a female blogger who is part of a ministry team in an emerging fellowship: “I wish some people would just let me be myself”. What was this woman saying? What message underlies comments like hers? For me, the root issue is a frustration with the sense of defining the whole by only focusing on a part of the whole. If I am related to as a mother only, the teacher or friend part of me suffers and the people in my life suffer as well, especial if the other parts remain underdeveloped. Of course some personality traits ought not be encouraged like selfishness, but that is an entirely different topic.
When I first heard that blogger say she just wanted to be allowed to be herself pangs of recognition pulsed through me. I have made statement myself like hers more times then I can count. And, the attitude inside me which those words reveal is a stronger chain than the restraints they identify. The reality is that throughout most of my adult life I have denied myself the “right” to be me by virtue of my responses to what I perceive to be others’ attitudes toward me. My perceptions may or may not have been accurate (and difficult enough to overcome in and of themselves if they were) but my self censoring responses only made matters worse. I became complicit in my own captivity. Whether in an effort to keep the peace, get things done, respect the “rights” of others or be a “good “ Christian wife/mother/woman I slowly shut down small portions of who I am and what I care about.
In just such a way I believe many women become marginalized and their voices are silenced. I am not saying outside prejudices never come into play and do not take a toll. Still, even if prejudice plays a major role in what keeps someone boxed in or left out putting ourselves in our own boxes is much more debilitating. To the best of our ability we need to keep our eyes off the “some people” AKA: avoid blaming, so that we become aware of the many ways in which we self censor. I have no idea as to whether or not a similar self marginalizing occurs, say within the Hispanic community, but I suspect it does at some level. The point is, to the extent we take ourselves out of the game we can not complain that we are not playing.
As a side note–many men in Christian leadership are not “being themselves” any more than the women. And I fear, some of their chains are even more invisible than ours.