I am sad that in 2016 we are still having a discussion on how women are perceived in society. It seems to me that we should be over this discussion by now. Yet I do not believe we have even fully started this discussion.
Language matters and our own church lives reflect some of the trouble we have using inclusive language. Parishes that depend on and refer to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer are not using inclusive language. I have been ordained five years now and I have not yet served a parish that uses inclusive language consistently. I attended seminary from 2003-2009. All papers there had to balance out pronouns for God. In some aspects, culture runs ahead of us: in yoga classes, it is not unusual to hear the about a feminine divine; in TEC in Ft Worth, TX it can still raise eyebrows to refer to a feminine divine. In other ways, the Episcopal Church runs ahead: those of us who are priests and female in Ft Worth, TX have fun stories of people’s reactions to our collars as we live and minister here. I believe honestly confessing where we fall short on Sunday morning matters in this conversation.
As a priest who happens to be female and was born, raised, and educated in this part of the world, I am not terribly optimistic that the way women are perceived in society will change in my lifetime. I dearly love my spouse and our sons; I have made sure that these three men understand my feelings on sexism, expectations of gender roles, and the importance of equality in relationships. I am not afraid to enter into this conversation in the church either. I believe that our churches are one of the few remaining places we can still have respectful, hard conversations (and get to sing together, but that is another topic).
I realize I am a cynical, generation x woman who is approaching 50 years old. The only way I can see forward movement in this discussion is for those of us who are female to keep speaking and living our particular call, no matter what or where that is. All I feel like I can do is to use my gifts to the best of my ability in my social location with God’s help, calling out sexism when I see it, and holding out a hand to the women around me in support and solidarity. It is not revolutionary or a quick fix or even original thinking, but it is movement.