“There are too many good women writers out there that I haven’t read, I don’t have time to read male writers anymore.” This statement, by the Rev. Dr. Shelley Finson, one of the professors at the Atlantic School of Theology and my academic advisor shocked me. Despite being a feminist since the 1970s, I was dumbfounded at the idea of dismissing an entire demographic of people, just because of who they were. And of course, being a student, I didn’t have the luxury of not reading books and articles by men, specifically white, middle aged men, especially when they were assigned by other white, middle-aged men.
Twenty years later, I fear that the influence that professor, and others from that era, had on the seminary has been severely diluted, if not entirely lost. Exclusive language for God seems to have become the norm at the worship services I have attended there and while perhaps not actively encouraged, it is no longer challenged. Nor do most of the present faculty seem to be engaging and lifting up authors beyond their own gender, racial and sexual orientation, which is primarily male, white and straight.
Twenty years later, I am supervising a student from that same theological school. She is bright, discerning and astute far beyond her first-year studies. She took all the books she had been assigned and sorted them into two different piles: ones assigned by male professors and ones assigned by female professors. She then tagged them with blue or pink post it notes. The picture says it all. None of her male professors assigned a book whose sole author was a woman, two were co-authored by women or had women contributors. Out of the nineteen books assigned by female professors, seven of them were written by women, three were co-authored with men and the remainder were written by men.
When will our theological schools, especially ones that pride themselves on being progressive, stop privileging white men’s writing and experience? When will they teach that material through a critical lens, one that demonstrates the awareness that the white, male perspective is only one of many? One which has done much damage over the centuries. I suggest that the same mindset that prioritizes men’s authorship prioritizes men period. Perhaps unconsciously, but it is present nonetheless.
Twenty years later, I have gotten much more selective. Not only in my reading, but in what else I consume. I haven’t gone as far as my former professor to entirely dismiss white men’s experience and writing, but I am far more likely to purchase a book written by a woman or someone whose experience and background are from the margins of the dominant society.
Twenty years later, I still read material written by men, although it has to be HIGHLY recommended. I still attend events where men are leaders, although I won’t attend events where there is only male leadership and I will write and tell the event leaders why I’m not attending.
Twenty years later, I wonder why this is still the norm.
The Rev. Catherine MacDonald is an Intentional Interim Minister within the United Church of Canada in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She is looking forward to an upcoming sabbatical and beginning studies for a Masters Certificate in Social Enterprise. She blogs at http://www.mywindowongodsworld.com
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