Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Woman is a Nobody

   This post will be a personal conversation with my readers. 
   I attend an awesome church. Women are honored there as pastors and teachers--and not limited to only women's and children's pastors and teachers. In fact, my church was founded by a woman. But I was challenged a couple of times, as I filled out the church contact form. In identifying myself (on the form), aside from the prefix's of Dr. and Pastor, I was given only two other options, both of which identified me by my marital status.
   Now, why should that bother me?
  I'm glad you asked. I am the mother of three sons and three grandsons. To my knowledge, their legal designations from the moment of their births, to the moment they leave this earthly plane...is "Mr." They may graduate to Dr. or Pastor at some point in their lives, but it is certain they will never be asked to be identified by their marital status--in fact, such a legal designation, for men, does not exist.
   Not so for women. 
   What many, today, do not realize, is that the legal designations of Miss or Mrs., are legal qualifiers whose only purpose, at one time, was to identify and discriminate against married women. 
   For instance, at one time (not all that long ago), married women were not permitted to take out bank loans in their own names, or become/remain executors (executrix') of estates. Theses are just two examples from a long list. There were things married women legally could not qualify for, hence the discriminatory marriage identity designations of Miss and Mrs. 
   An interesting side-not to this, is a newspaper article published during the time of the abolitionists--many of whom were women. The article was entitled, "A Woman is a Nobody." The gist of the article was that a woman was only to be identified by whose wife, daughter, mother, or sister she was. At no time in her life did she possess a personal identity independent from that of her guardians.
   This sad state of affairs, was remedied in the 1970's, by the establishment of a third legal designation for women. This had the potential of leveling the legal playing field for men and women, eliminating marriage identity discrimination, by the use of the now-legal prefix, of "Ms."  
   I have chosen the legal designation of "Ms." for myself. 
  Just as the legal prefix of "Mr." protects the privacy of men,  the legal prefix of "Ms." protects the privacy of women.
   Back to my experience of completing the information form for my church. I do not like being forced to be identified by my marital status. I prefer to be identified as myself, but this form gave me no alternative--the legal designation of "Ms." was not listed as one of the options. 
   Fortunately, for me, there was another option, that of "Pastor." 
   I rarely use the title, though I am qualified to do so. But this morning, the designation of "Pastor," was the only viable choice for me. And that got me to thinking about why I resist using a title I have both earned and am legally qualified to use. Many people have called me, Pastor, over the years, yet I have always hesitated to apply the title to myself. My son had no such reluctance. I remember when he asked me to officiate at his wedding. At first I said, "No!" But then, I was challenged with the question, "Why not? How many daughters are married by their fathers?"
   I realized, then, that I had been discriminating against myself. 
  Why? Because, in my mind, almost every pastor I had ever known had been male. And I had been raised in a denomination that viewed women pastors as freaks. 
   I repented from discriminating against myself, and officiated at my son's wedding. It was a beautiful experience.
   So, a good thing came out of what I considered a bad thing while completing the visitor's form at my church. I will never again shrink from identifying myself as the pastor God has called and equipped me to be. 
   And I hope my church, and all churches that wish to become more "woman friendly" and egalitarian, will consider changing the identifying designations on their offering envelopes and visitor forms to include the legal designation of "Ms." It is a form of discrimination, in and of itself (unintentional I hope), for "Ms." to be missing from these forms.
   I was taken aback by one more thing as I filled out the form (though I will not throw the baby out with the wash water. I still believe my church is awesome!). There was one more choice on the long form, that of choosing between "Head of Household" or simply "Spouse." 
   I will save commentary on that one for another personal conversation with my readers 😊.   

Jocelyn Andersen is author of the book, Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence.  She is also editor of the Hungry Hearts Online Bible Commentary  For more information about her work, visit her website at www.JocelynAndersen.com
 


Woman this is WAR! Gender Slavery and the Evangelical Caste System, Examines Bible translation and commentary practices which have historically been androcentric (male centered) and even misogynistic (anti-woman). These have adversely effected understanding of the scriptures, relations between women and men, the happiness of men and women, and hindered the work of the gospel. The reader is educated about historic parallels between the twin causes of abolition and women’s rights, while the history of women’s rights is traced back [much further than usual] to the very first feminists…who were Christians—godly women who brought the issue of women's rights to the forefront as they struggled to alleviate the suffering of others, and found they were hindered in doing so for no other reason than the fact of their sex. This book, provides valuable historical insight into Christian initiatives in the movements for women’s rights, that are rarely included in Christian literature.

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