Sunday, September 6, 2009

Expanding blog list with women's voices

I commented a few days ago that I thought that women blogging on the bible were invisible because we weren't including them on our biblioblog rolls and that if we linked to them and included them, that this would increase their visibility and hopefully change the appalling stats. So I had promised my readers that this weekend, when I had more time, I would get them into my own blog roll. My husband (thank you Wade!) and I are in the process of searching the web for blogs written by women who address the bible. As we find the blogs, we are putting them into my blog rolls. In order to try to organize this a bit, I have now put up two blog rolls. One I call "Women and Religion Blog Roll" and the other "Early Christian History Blog Roll." I will continue to add blogs as they come to my attention.

I especially want to thank all those women who emailed me and pointed me to their blogs. It is unfortunate, however, that the biblioblogging environment appears to have become even more hostile to women since I started talking about this on my blog. Many women have said to me in those emails that they have not felt welcome in the biblioblog environment and some have faced such hostile reactions to their previous posts that they have retreated and stopped talking about the bible on their blogs anymore. This is so incredibly sad to me. What is it about women's voices on the bible that is so threatening, especially to male readers?

I have to say that it is striking how immediately aggressive and sexualized some of the male reaction to my gender blogging has been, and how the humor used (including the cartoons and some of my colleagues reactions to those cartoons and circulation of them) turned women like me into either bitches, madams, or dominatrixes. Much of the male interpretation of my words has literalized them and exaggerated them, so that my words have been turned into the sexist words of a "man-hater" as one blogger put it. I wonder if he would say this to my husband?

I wonder if anyone else has wondered what the purpose of this kind of sexually aggressive rhetoric is? What is it trying to accomplish?

So what have I discovered out of all of this about gender and biblioblogging?

1. Males dominate the biblioblogs, not just in terms of numbers, but in terms of voice and interpretation. Many women who have tried to blog on the bible did not find it a welcome environment. They talk about aggressive and hostile reactions to their posts from male responders, so they chose to retreat and stop writing on the subject rather than become involved in a fight they didn't seek.

2. Women bloggers are not showing up often enough in biblioblog rolls. This is compounding the problem of the appallingly low numbers of bibliobloggers who are women.

3. Women bibliobloggers are usually devoting their blogs to subjects that most bibliobloggers consider marginal or uninteresting or perhaps (dare I suggest this?) threatening. A good number of women bloggers I'm finding are either blogging on extra-canonical materials or feminist issues which is not considered "biblical-enough" to bother with.

4. Women bloggers who talk about the bible are not doing so exclusively nor in the SBL sense. Women's blogs show more concerns for the present-day church and gender issues related to their relationship with the clergy and the church. They are more in line with AAR considerations than SBL. Many are confessional and include a significant amount of personal journaling. So again they are "on the margins" of the bible and not turning up in the biblioblog conversation.

5. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Gage were right (more on Gage in another post).

14 comments:

Patrick George McCullough said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vhtnguyen.com said...

April, thanks for drawing the needed attention to this issue. And thanks for leading this effort!
–Henry

maggi said...

thanks for raising this issue! I am glad to have found your blog - loving your biblical studies posts.

Didymus Thomas said...

April, sadly I think you are right. Women scholars are few and far between and the few are often on the outskirts of this study. I wonder if some of these scholars would not have been so interested in the non-canonical material if they had been fully welcomed to research the canonical material. Even so I applaud those who do stick their necks out in both of these studies.

J. K. Gayle said...

This is so incredibly sad to me. What is it about women's voices on the bible that is so threatening, especially to male readers?

It's sad and it's also very ironic! Males who devalue women devalue their own grandmothers, mothers, wives, sisters, and more. They devalue themselves!

Richard said...

I belong to a church where we have 3 woman pastors. One is the music leader which is an incredibly important post to my way of thinking. The others are the family/education pastor and the youth/college pastor. My grandmother was an Assembly of God minister and was senior pastor of a church before her death! I also participate in a mystic Christian meditation group called Magdalene Circle. So I bristle at the notion that "men" are threatened by "female" comments on the Bible, religion or anything else. Here is one "male" who is not threatened but welcomes the female voice. How many times have I recommended this very blog to both men and women I worship and serve with? Often!

But this is a legit complaint, April. It is another area where we have gender issues to account for. Yet I also wonder if the issue isn't deeper? Is it the fact that it is women or the approach these individuals take on their subject? I know I have met a lot of anger and dismissive even abusive language on the blogsphere. I can't say it's because of my gender but the more liberal approach I take. Just sayin'.

Until we stop labeling ourselves and others we will have to deal with issues like this. On the internet I note that people feel freer to "act out" when they get to hide behind a user name without giving their identity. So I also feel there are more than just gender issues here. But there are gender issues.
Richard B.

Mark Goodacre said...

I continue to appreciate your posts on this subject, April. As I hope I have conveyed on my own blog, I regard your contributions here as most welcome.

I get the impression from the current post that you have found the recent contributions from male bibliobloggers wholly negative. I share your concern with some of the posts, but I would be disappointed if you felt that this was universally the case. Could you clarify whether you feel that there have been any useful contributions among male bloggers? I'm listening, and I would prefer not to post on the topic at all if I am regarded as contributing to the problem rather than to the solution.

Thanks again for your blog, and for the intellectual stimulation it continues to provide.

Christine said...

April,
Thanks for keeping this alive. i am very aware of being one of the minority when I blog as a woman - especially when i talk about the issues facing women which makes me even more aware of how much of our Biblical interpretation is done from a male perspective. Blessings
Christine

Shawna R. B. Atteberry said...

I think one of the main reasons I don't promote my blog more than I do is I just don't want the grief. It's sad but true.

The other part of this post that is spot on too is that I have no desire in doing just academic work. I want my study and scholarship to be used to fix problems in both church and society.

Thank for your wonderful blog. I've been a lurker for awhile. It was probably about time I came into the light. :)

Shawna

Catherine said...

Might I suggest the blog by Sarah Dylan Breuer, "SarahLaughed"? Sarah+ explicates the RCL for each weeks Scripture reading in the Episcopal Church. She is worth looking at and including in your blog roll.

Catherine+

Catherine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catherine said...

I deleted my previous post on Jane because I named the wrong university. So, I would also suggest you visit "Acts of Hope" by biblical and feminist scholar at Guilford, Jane Redmont.

RobKash said...

"I especially want to thank all those women who emailed me and pointed me to their blogs. It is unfortunate, however, that the biblioblogging environment appears to have become even more hostile to women since I started talking about this on my blog. Many women have said to me in those emails that they have not felt welcome in the biblioblog environment and some have faced such hostile reactions to their previous posts that they have retreated and stopped talking about the bible on their blogs anymore."

Is it not possible that it is an altogether hostile environment? Since there are a majority of males blogging, the resultant state of the blogosphere is that people are not "nice" or "congeniel" when blogging---at least for the most part. Men as well as women are likely to feel that it is a harsh place because it is a place where a lot of serious scholarship takes place. ***I am NOT saying feminist scholarship is not serious*** But what I am saying is that all ideas are strongly questioned in this environment. One can take offense or just realize is the environment in which we blog.

Marika said...

I've been blogging about theology for a while now, and although my blog hasn't been particularly well read, I have had a number of comments there, none of which have (so far!) been negative, and none of which have referenced my gender. My blog tends to focus on other areas of theology than biblical studies, though, and I wonder if this has anything to do with it: whether there's something about the demographic who engage with biblical studies particularly that entails a particular attitude to women and to acceptable forms of debate?