Melissa McEwan at Shakesville is the latest atheist woman (in a very long line indeed) to give her personal answer to “Where are the women?” She starts by explaining why she isn’t part of the church. It isn’t just because she isn’t a believer.
The religious community in which I’d been raised did not allow female ministers, did not allow female presidents of the congregation, did not allow female elders, and did not, for most of my childhood, even allow female lectors to read the selected Bible readings during the service each week. Women were for teaching children—and for cleaning: Communionware, the kitchen, maybe a vestment.
I started asking questions about this disparity at age 7, possibly earlier. I got the usual bullshit answers that are used to justify these things. I was good enough to be an acolyte (especially since there were precious few teenage boys willing to do it) and scrub the toilets—both of which I did countless times—but not good enough to be ordained. I was less than.
Further, my objections to being told, on the one hand, that we are all equal in the eyes of god, and, on the other, that my gender nonetheless rendered me incapable of serving god in every capacity available to men, were greeted with contempt—and sometimes outright hostility. One minister told my mother that I needed to stop asking questions. Another told me I was “divisive,” at an age that required my looking up “divisive” in the dictionary when I got home from church to understand his meaning. Another told me that my rebellious attitude would find me pregnant or dead by the time I was 16.
Even then I found the conflation of the two…interesting.
This was a community of which I did not want to be a part—and I left it, even before I knew, with clarity and certainty, that I am an atheist.
Then she talks about what she found in movement atheism. Many of you can probably guess by now. You should still go read it.
Thanks to Sarah, who made sure I didn’t miss this post.