Somewhere around the beginning of this month, a post was made on the Top 50 Biblioblogs site about women bloggers, specifically women who blog about biblical studies but I think it is safe to say it was also about women who blog about theology, the church, the faithful life, Christianity, whatever else we can lump in that category. Although there are some naysayers here and there, the idea appears to be encouraging both of women bloggers to feel welcome and participate in a particular community and to encourage men who blog to consider women bloggers in their regular rounds. If you are interested in all the ins and outs of the debate of what would or would not be accomplished or any ulterior motives that may or may not have been present, I suggest you check out the comments on the article and its appearance on other sites.
I am familiar with this site because another blog with which I am loosely affiliated but of which I am a regular reader is on the top 50 list. The list is, as they say, not something of grand significance by any means, but a way to encourage the reading of blogs on these topics and it certainly creates community. From this spawned a multitude of conversations on this topic on other blogs, one of which was here where someone I do not know kindly recommended my blog along with four other very different women bloggers as reading material for the month. How nice! I was quite surprised! All of these, the one I link here, the person who recommended the five and all five, are certainly worth a read.
Ok, enough back story.
So I, too, have been doing a bit of reading by women bloggers and there were a few things that I found interesting. One was the number of women who have, by one means or another, downplayed, hidden or outright lied about their gender when writing publicly. Another was the diversity of writing styles and foci which is not surprising since it would surely be as diverse as men bloggers. And another was the number of non-church-professionals blogging amongst the women. I have not actually counted anything nor have I kept any particular records of who what why and where, so feel free to dispute me if you wish. I have no grounds to stand on other than what’s in my head.
First. Women in sheep’s clothing. So, I have to say that I do get the whole lack of respect, lack of professional treatment, etc. etc. I am a female pastor in a small semi-rural community in the Appalachians and I’ve had [insert various stories of being ostracized, ignored, shunned, verbally attacked, and even laughed at] since I’ve been here. I can only imagine that there are similar experiences for women in the academic field of biblical and theological studies as well. Just as there was in the photo industry when I worked in that field several years ago (oh if I had a nickel for every time I heard ‘women know nothing about photography!’) and I’m sure women in the engineering, medical, legal, etc etc etc field could sympathize. In other words, I do not think the experience is unique to the God Squad. However, I cannot say that I have ever, EVER even considered pretending to be a male or choosing to write my name in such a way as to appear ambiguous and therefore assumed to be male by default or anything of the like. It just never crossed my mind.
However, after some further thought, I feel compelled to say I believe this to be a detrimental practice. There may be reasons for veiling one’s identity for safety or security reasons while on the internet (obviously, The Shepherdess is not my baptismal name. It’s Rosemary, if you’d like to know) but pretending to be something you are not in order to be accepted by those who would be your peers or who might otherwise dismiss your perspective or authority is disingenuous at best and detrimental to others. Not only does it prevent the opportunity for others to see women as legitimate members of whatever kind of dialog or community, it also negates any assistance that might be made to others who come after. So, if one intentionally, premeditatedly denies their gender in order to gain access to a particular group or obtain a certain standing, both of which they might rightly deserve, they dishonor anything they actually acquire or accomplish and fail their community and those who will come after them. Yeah, I’m harsh here, but that’s where I stand on it. Entering into a community under intentionally false pretenses is dishonorable.
Next. Diversity of writing styles and foci. Diversity of focus is not unsurprising at all. If you look at men who blog in this general category they, too, have a diverse palate in their choices. Take Mitchell B Powell, Craig at Simul and James at Aliens and Strangers to name a few. Biblical stuff mixed with some ecclesiology and politics and travel and family life for spice. It seems a good number of women bloggers do the same kind of thing. Women bibloblogers (really lose term and I don’t like it) write about all kinds of stuff, including what they are making for dinner and craft projects with their kids as well as the movement of the Holy Spirit and whether or not God can be called mother. I’m a little more OCD and divide my stuff amongst four blogs but there are occasions when you might see the same thing on all four. Some write more casually, some more passionately, some more sporadically and some like clockwork.
There are also some women bloggers who are very direct and focused in their writing with careful use of precise academic language. Just as there are men bloggers who do the same.
Conclusion: women and men both blog diversely. Surprise! <sarcasm>
And lastly. Civilians blogging. This was the one area in which I really felt like I saw a difference. Once again, let me say that I have no actual numbers to back this up so feel free to tell me I’m wrong. I’m going on an anecdotal experience and my tendency to calculate odds in my head. Most often if you find a man blogging about this type of stuff he is either now or was in the past or will be in the future engaged in some kind of professional ministry or church related institution. By that I mean pastor, priest, educator, academic, missionary, chaplain or some other vocation in which part of your job is connected to scripture or the church. Not always but it is a safe bet. Not so with women. A woman blogging about these types of things might be in almost any kind of vocation from stay at home mom to artist to public school teacher to IT consultant (yes, they make those in female variety, too). While I’d still say that the majority of women who blog primarily in this category are in professional ministry or church related institutions, the difference is still quite notable.
So, I have to wonder what that means. For one thing, it could account for the fewer women associated with such communities as Biblioblog Top 50 because it may not be something to which they are drawn or seek out because they are not accustomed to such kinds of academic or professional collegial groups. It could be because non-professionals are not taken seriously for such things as well and, debatably, that might be a legitimate point. If Anne Rice, who for a brief time very publicly professed to be a Christian, blogged about her understanding of the bible it would likely be very high on the Alexia chart (the device used by some to rate the popularity of sites) due to her popularity as a fiction author, but would that automatically merit the same type of attention as an academic woman who has spent her entire career studying ancient texts and has significant perspectives to share? Perhaps, perhaps not.
On the other hand, are there significant insights gained from a young woman who writes extensive book reviews for young adults and her intentional journey through scripture? Or even other women out there whom no one has yet discovered? Are there valuable perspectives that can teach us about how the whole body of Christ believes and moves in the world that come from the pinky finger and not just the primary sources?
I also wonder this: is it possible that the average female Christian is more likely to see their faith, their beliefs, their interaction with scripture and the Christian community more deeply woven into their identities, and therefore all that they do, than the average male Christian? In other words, is it possible that for women the impetus or perhaps even the authority to blog about beliefs, faith and even church doctrine is not motivated by a professional vocation but their identity and that men see the impetus or authority to do the same thing as motivated almost exclusively by professional vocation? And is it possible that this, in and of itself, is a valuable thought for the whole of the church and academia, too?
Or is it possible that this is all a big mountain out of a mole hill or perhaps no hill at all? We bloggers are primarily narcissistic creatures anyway so anything we do might be significantly skewed.
The highly unscientific and anecdotal evidence is inconclusive so these are just some thoughts. Not sure I know the answers. I do know there are some mighty fine men and women bloggers out there whose faith and beliefs motivate them in all they do and they see that as the very definition of who they are. They write compellingly and I enjoy their work. I also know there are some bloggers of all kinds who are jerks, too, and couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag. Sorry, but it’s true. The God Squad takes all kinds.