Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman? by Carol P. Christ (and Hannah Gadsby)

Women are loving, caring, and clever. Why do men say: “I will not be like that, never?”

In a recent article in Gentlemen’s Quarterly, my favorite comedian, Hannah Gadsby, said:

Hello, the men. My advice on modern masculinity would be to look at all those traits you believe are feminine and interrogate why you are so obsessed with being the opposite. Because this idea that to be a man you have to be the furthest away from being a woman that you possibly can is really weird.

A butch lesbian, Gadsby is not advocating traditional sex role stereotypes. She is questioning them. She continues:

Women are always being encouraged to stir masculine traits into their feminine recipe. We are told to “be bolder!” “Speak up in meetings.” “Exaggerate your skills.” All that Lean In sort of crap. So perhaps it’s time for you, the men, to be more ladylike.

Even as she recognizes that it is becoming OK for women to express so-called “masculine traits,” she understands that so-called masculinity is often based on a lie. It may be fine to “be bolder” (but not when you have nothing to say at the moment) and to “speak up” (but not to the exclusion of others), yet it should not be necessary to “exaggerate your skills” to make yourself look better than other people—and better than you are! No one should not have to be “the best” in order to be accepted or acceptable.

Gadsby feels for the men who are trying to live up to masculine stereotypes:

I can see how it is a tough spot. It is not your fault. You didn’t build this mess. You were born into it, like the rest of us. What I am saying is, I have empathy for you.

And then the comedian’s zinger:

And empathy, by the way, is one of the traits that women are most famous for. You might know it by its other name: “weakness.” But don’t be fooled—empathy is a superpower, and it’s the only one that any human has to offer.


Empathy is a superpower, and it’s the only one that any human has to offer.


All joking aside, this is a profound statement. Many feminists have been saying for a long time that qualities defined as “female” or “feminine” are in fact human qualities that should be embodied and emulated by all.


Gadsby takes this a step further. When she says that empathy is a super power and the only super power available to humans, she is saying that a quality often identified as “female” or “feminine” is in fact the highest value and the most important one for everyone, whether they identify as male, female, or something else, to express. This is a truly radical point of view and perhaps the only one that can save our species and our planet from destruction. Without empathy we and many other forms of life are doomed. And as long as empathy continues to be defined as the opposite of masculine strength, the men who rule the world will continue to turn against the only superpower that can save us.


In recent years I have been inspired by egalitarian matriarchal societies. What is most amazing to me about these cultures is not that women have power (though this is amazing) nor even that there is no rape (this too is amazing). What is most amazing to me is that these societies place values they associate with mothers and mothering at the center.

For the Minangkabau of Sumatra, nurturing the weak and the vulnerable is the highest value. Nurturing the weak and the vulnerable is what (good) mothers do. In Minankabau culture, not only women and girls, but also men and boys, are expected to nurture the weak and the vulnerable above all else. For men and boys, there is no shame in this. They are not considered weak or effeminate (a word that could not exist in their culture) for doing so. Rather they take pride in being able to express and embody the values that ensure the continuation of life.

In The Kingdom of Women, Choo WaiHong writes about an appointment she made to speak with an elder man about the egalitarian matriarchal Mosuo culture. She arrived on time, but before he could speak with her, he fed, bathed, and put a set of small twins to bed. For him, nurturing the weak and vulnerable came first. Speaking about his culture could wait, and so could his guest. In fact, he could not have chosen a better way to explain Mosuo values to the Han Chinese woman who waited while he, a respected elder man, cared for two little babies. In his culture, caring for the weak and the vulnerable is important. It is what people do. And it comes first!


When will we ever learn? Oh when will we ever learn?


Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who will soon be moving permanently to Heraklion, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.

Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.

The Power of Love by Marcia Mount Shoop

Love does not create powerful empires or concentrations of wealth or military might. Love is not what fuels the tanks of commerce or political clout or financial success. Many would say that love slows things down, mires us in complication. Love is not the way the successful and the effective move–it’s not fast enough, it’s not ruthless enough, it’s not excellent enough.

It’s no coincidence that women have often been seen as the carriers of love–the mothers of how we are loved and how we wish to be loved. The domain of women has been traditionally seen as “behind the scenes.” Women are the nurturers, the familiar narrative goes. Women are the ones who provide a soft landing after a hard day, an understanding ear for all the stresses of the world “out there.”

The extended narrative is that women will have to become masculinized to “play the game” of public life. Women will have to learn to be “like men” in order to compete, in order to win, in order to make an impact. Underneath these narratives of nurture and impact are the contours of power in patriarchy. Imprinting women with the responsibility to love in a context where love is secondary or even tertiary to things like aggression and competition, means women will often relegate themselves to the margins of public power. Not because we think we should be powerless, but because that’s where we often feel the most at home. And sometimes ceding public power can feel like the price women pay to truly love–to love ourselves, to love who we love, and to love the world around us. The contours of power in patriarchy can distort not just women’s lives, but everyone’s lives in ways that carry the weight of this distortion of love.

These gendered expectations of how and where love gets to live and move and breathe in this world distorts the power that love brings with it. After almost ten years of life working from the margins of institutions (church and academy) as an independent scholar and “freelance theologian” I have felt the push back about love as a respectable methodology and mode of operation enough to recognize it quickly.

Institutions often answer my invitation to a loving attentiveness to bodies, particularly to traumatized bodies, with legalities and anxieties: the language of “boundaries,” “reporting laws,” and “misconduct” can shut down work or conversation. The patriarchal hyper-sexualizing of love makes it a no-no or at least something to be feared as a slippery slope in institutional life. In ecclesial settings, where love is supposed to define our mode of operation, these conversations rapidly find their way to sin and human failure. Love is “in spite of” who people are, not because of who they are. Love is impossible without lots of grace and patience and overlooking the problematic things that people do. Love is, if we’re honest with ourselves in these contexts, a real chore in this iteration of its nature. And people default into feeling like a burden, not wanting to bother anyone with their problems, and feeling ashamed of who they really are.

Love is about trust: trusting a moment, trusting a space, trusting each other. And love struggles in contexts where spaces, moments, and people are not trustworthy. So many with whom I work in consulting, retreats, spiritual direction, and teaching struggle to trust and to love. They struggle to trust and love anything because they have encountered so many untrustworthy spaces along the way. The competitive intensity of doing good work can translate into a diminishing and demeaning cycle of “never enough” and the need to protect and defend.

It is amazing to witness what happens to people when they realize they can trust a space–even if it is just a temporary space, a pop-up beloved community where you can really be yourself and won’t be judged or scrutinized. The conventional standards of excellence might suggest such settings work from the lowest common denominator and the generated “product” will suffer from a lack of competition or lack of scrutiny. On the contrary, I see over and over again the beautiful things people can be and do and say and feel when they are loved and accepted. Art, poetry, unique insights, oratorical wisdom, powerful music, deep healing, a sense of freedom, clarity, creativity, peace, support, friendship, and good work all emerge in startling and potent ways when people encounter trustworthy love.

The academy and the church define themselves as places where people can learn and grow and find community. These institutions were formed by patriarchy, but are they doomed to reiterate the diminishing returns of patriarchy forever? Their aspiration is to help people find their way in the world in the most constructive ways they can. And in the world today, people need trustworthy love to truly find the music of their soul. The power of love can transform the spaces of enlightenment and ecclesia into truly collaborative, supportive, loving places of work. Far from screeching to a halt, these spaces might finally hit their stride.

Marcia Mount Shoop is an author, theologian, and minister. Her newest book, released MMS Headshot 2015from Cascade Books in October 2015, is A Body Broken, A Body Betrayed: Race, Memory, and Eucharist in White-Dominant Churches, co-authored with Mary McClintock Fulkerson. Marcia is also the author of Let the Bones Dance: Embodiment and the Body of Christ (WJKP, 2010) and Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of Apocalypse: Lifting the Veil on Big-Time Sports (Cascade, 2014).  Find out more at www.marciamountshoop.com

Mark Driscoll and Toxic Christian Masculinity by Kate Davis

Kate DavisMars Hill Church in Seattle has been a large-scale experiment to shape the future of the Evangelical Movement, for good or ill. In recent months the controversy surrounding the Mars Hill founder, Mark Driscoll, gained national attention. Driscoll’s version of radical conservatism wherein he advocates a return to more conservative and traditional faith (with a particular emphasis on gender and gender roles), has long drawn criticism from more mainstream Evangelical factions, but it endeared him to many young Evangelicals.

Recently, Driscoll has been involved in a controversy regarding plagiarism within many of his books, resulting in a flurry of accusations against him (and against the leadership at Mars Hill), spanning everything from attempting to game the New York Times Bestsellers list to misuse of church funds to bullying his fellow pastors at Mars Hill into signing non-compete clauses (which would, ostensibly, prevent them from ministering at any church within 10 miles of Mars Hill in Seattle). Continue reading “Mark Driscoll and Toxic Christian Masculinity by Kate Davis”

The Day I Re-Learned How to Love My Femininity: This Butch’s Experiment in Healing by _Melody F.

I feel like I am a bit of a typical white, middle class, butch. Maybe not, but I feel like I’ve met me: I dress like a dude, take on what I consider masculine roles in relationships, and do ‘guy things’ like play video games or carry heavy objects. And then there’s that really feminine part of me, the soft-butch side that comes out when I can’t take something macho I’m trying to do seriously, or when my voice (already high) hits that pitch that (not ‘screams,’ but) sort of sweetly says ‘hello, I’m girly.’ When my soft butch side comes out, my students coo at me. It’s all very embarrassing.

But under a face which turns blotchy red in such moments, something my ex used to think was cute, I have been privately wishing that feminine part of me would die away. For the last year, I’ve silently hated her. This post is about when I decided to stop.

I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with a fiercely femme friend of mine about misogyny and masculine privilege in LGBTQ communities. About a month ago she sent me an article by Gabrielle Rivera titled Fat-Booty Butch Wears Leggings — Confuses World, Confronts Self. In it, Rivera dons a pair of leggings for the day and writes a post about her experience that addresses invisibility of femmes, butch privilege, and other well-thought-out and honest observations about queer folks and communities from the perspective of a butch/Queer Person of Color. Rivera rocked both the leggings and the post. (I highly recommend giving it a read.) What struck me most was how very much herself Rivera seemed to stay. Even as she engages a complex shift in the way in which her communities received and read her, she protests her invisibility – nothing about switching codes had erased her or her queerness. I wasn’t sure I would feel the same. I was so alienated from my feminine side that the idea of looking even a little bit feminine, just to touch her, seemed as though it might blank out my identity. Continue reading “The Day I Re-Learned How to Love My Femininity: This Butch’s Experiment in Healing by _Melody F.”

God Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Gay Bars and the Growing Divide Between Sexuality and Spirituality by John Erickson

oes God exist within the LGBTQ community anymore or has the community itself abandoned God for all-night raves, dance clubs, alcohol, and hypersexualized and over commoditized fetishized forms of femininity and masculinity? Oftentimes, I find myself answering yes to the above questions. After surviving hate crime after hate crime and endless batches of newly elected conservative politicians hell bent on ignoring medical and social epidemic plaguing the very country they were elected to serve and protect, why would a community, oftentimes linked to sin itself, believe in a holy entity?

John Erickson, sports, coming out.My good friend and fellow Feminism and Religion Contributor Marie Cartier’s forthcoming book, Baby You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall argues that American butch-femme bar culture of the mid-20th Century should be interpreted as a sacred space.  Specifically, gay bars served as both communal and spiritual gathering spaces where butch-femme women were able to discover and explore not only their sexuality but also their spirituality.  An opus of an academic accomplishment based off of the amount of in-depth interviews she conducted, Professor Cartier explores lived religion in an area that has become all too common within the LGBTQ community: the bar

The Palms, the last local and only lesbian bar to be found in city of West Hollywood, CA is closing its doors and I can’t help but wonder where its patrons or parishioners will now go? Continue reading “God Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Gay Bars and the Growing Divide Between Sexuality and Spirituality by John Erickson”

Thanks for Coming (Out): Sexuality, Sports, and Spirituality by John Erickson

I have to be honest, Jason Collins’ admission that he was a homosexual, albeit brave, upset me. While coming out is an completely unique experience to every individual that does it, Jason Collins’ story was just another example of the rampant sexist and heteropatriarachal world that privileges male bodies and sexualities over women’s similar experiences. While I applaud Jason’s story and it’s timing, the first thing I asked to my colleagues was: Where was the hubbub over Sheryl Swoopes or Martina Navratilova?

John Erickson, sports, coming out. Like marking off items on a proverbial checklist, closeted LGBTQ individuals who exist within and outside of the world of professional sports, can recount the numerous things they struggle with in terms of their sexuality.  From fearing of the actual coming out process, dressing in their car or at home to avoid the subtle glances and whispers of individuals in the locker room, to wondering what coming out would mean not only for their game but also for their social and, if they choose, spiritual lives, closeted and out LGBTQ individuals within the multi-billion dollar professional sports industry must grapple with that age old question: what does it mean to be gay and open about it?

The Locker Room

I have to be honest, Jason Collins’ admission that he is a homosexual, albeit brave, upset me.  While I understand that coming out is an completely unique experience to every individual who does it, for me Jason Collins’ story was also an example of the rampant sexist and heteropatriarachal world that privileges male bodies and sexualities over those of women.  While I applaud Jason’s story and the timing, the first thing I asked to my colleagues was: where was the same hubbub over Sheryl Swoopes or Martina Navratilova? Continue reading “Thanks for Coming (Out): Sexuality, Sports, and Spirituality by John Erickson”

Second Class Rape Victims: Rape Hierarchy and Gender Conflict

Deconstructing masculinity isn’t the key to solving social, sexual, and domestic violence across the world but it is a step worth taking when attempting to engage men in affecting change to stop these violent actions since men, statistically are the perpetrators of such crimes that both cause such outcry as well as perpetual silence.

johnThe most disturbing part of the 2006 documentary Deliver Us from Evil isn’t the fact that Father Oliver O’Grady is rewarded by the Catholic Church with a new congregation in Ireland after his short stint in prison for the rape of dozens of children in the 1970s, but rather the hierarchy of gendered victimization which is often created throughout the various rape cases that are both reported and unreported throughout history.

I am often troubled by the ways in which rape cases are discussed and deconstructed via mediums such as blogs, online communities, social media networks, the news, and popular culture.  No series of events troubled me more than the Jerry Sandusky trial, but more importantly, the ways in which the young boys and adult men who were subjected to Sandusky’s abuse quickly overshadowed the other rape cases that are reported on a daily basis, specifically those involving young girls and women. Continue reading “Second Class Rape Victims: Rape Hierarchy and Gender Conflict”

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