When a community or an activity is overwhelmingly dominated by male voices, I simply assume that this is a sign of extreme ill health.
I might make arguments about why the community is in such a state, and about which external or internal factors are to blame, and how to bring the patient to a healthy state. But, nothing could convince me to spend time debating about whether the community is in ill health, any more than I would be drawn into a discussion about whether a 98%-white community were in ill health. Exclusion simply is a condition of ill health, an indicator of pathologies.
I bring this up because the Bible-blogging community has again asked itself, “Where all de wimmin at?” (see comments there, and if possible see this older post also).
To which I say, “Good”; frankly, I am not sure there are any more urgent questions to be asked. [A belated clarification: I mean by this to say, This is an urgent question; sorry that my phrasing was not as clear as possible.] Anybody who wants to can compare the level of participation of women in SBL or AAR to that in the Bible-blogging community and see the disparity.
That said, depending on how the conversation takes shape, it may or may not be a conversation I want to be involved in (not meant as a threat; I know that the world turns with or without my help; just processing things aloud in my head).
Insofar as the conversation is about whether there is a problem or not (especially in the mode of, “Won’t you complaining wimmin just kindly explain one more time why you think that there’s a problem here?”), I’ll just wander off to the punch bowl and see if any other like-minded folks are also there, rolling their eyes and trying to look like they just came in to get out of the rain.
Insofar as the conversation is about the role of wimmin in the (a, some-or-other) church, you’ll find me elsewhere, waiting for notice that the talk about biblical studies is scheduled to begin.
Insofar as the conversation is about why the women bloggers just can't enjoy a healthy (persistent, endless) debate about how uncomfortable they make traditional, complementarian-minded men feel, and why they can’t just be more sensitively tolerant of world views that prefer to see women’s voices marginalized, I’ll…well, no, thanks.
But, insofar as the conversation acknowledges at the outset a problem in exclusion—no matter what the possible internal or external root causes of that exclusion—and seeks to discover and address root causes; insofar as that search for root causes is well-meaning and sincere, however naive and fumbling; insofar as the conversation partners are eager to be self-critical; in short, insofar as the conversation situates itself in 21st century academia, then I am cautiously excited for its possibilities and earnestly committed to participate.
(Postscript: I can imagine a related post dealing with the fact that Bible-blogging is less independent of sectarian confessional writing than is the peer-reviewed work associated with SBL or AAR.)
(Second postscript, later: J.K. is also welcoming conversation.)
BACK TO POST Though some other questions might be closely related, such as that of the relation of privately-held sectarian claims (about gender, for instance) to the publicly-shared evidence and lines of reasoning that characterize academic biblical studies.
[Again with the Women… was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2010/04/05. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]