Despite advances to women's rights, patriarchy is still alive and well in nearly every area of our lives from business to government. One of the institutions that has been most complicit in the spread of this ideology is the church even though Jesus treated women with respect and dignity and some of the earliest prominent Christians were women. Pastor and blogger, Erin Wathen takes a look at what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, delving deep into the many complex layers of the gender equality debate, while examining the problems we face in our current socio-political climate. In doing so, she challenges everyone, both men and women - including those within the church - to face this issue head on while finding ways to break down the barriers that keep us from fully realizing the equality of all.
Erin Wathen happens to be the former pastor of the church I currently attend. She was already gone before I found the church and started going there, but I've been happy to get to know her a little through her writing. The more of her work I read, the more convinced I am that I would have loved her if I'd gotten to know her in person. Our church book club previously read her first book, More Than Words, and I was very impressed with it. But after reading Resist and Persist, I think I like it even better. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because gender equality is a timely topic with the #MeToo and Time's Up movements in the spotlight or maybe it's just because I related so well to everything Reverend Wathen had to say. Whatever the reason, I very much enjoyed this book and feel that it was a strong and much-needed manifesto on feminism and the role faith should play in furthering the cause.
Both Reverend Wathen and I come from a mainline protestant denomination that tends to have more progressive views, so I'm sure that she'll likely receive pushback on many of her ideas from the church at large. However, I can't help but agree with her on the fact that the patriarchy found in many churches is partly to blame for the misogyny and sexism that a lot of women face. I've seen it firsthand in churches I used to attend, and I see it frequently in news stories of abuse or abuse cover-ups in faith communities. So in that respect, I know that persons of faith must do better. We must clean up our own houses of worship first before we can take it into the wider world and expect to be respected.
I really liked how Reverend Wathen takes a look at not just patriarchy but all the different aspects of the gender equality issue. She discusses internalized misogyny and how women themselves can contribute to the problem, as well as privilege, and how women of color sometimes get left out of the equation. She also takes a look at etymology and how the language of equality can be a useful tool to promote healing. In addition, she covers topics such as The Motherhood Myth, Equal Pay and Representation, Double Standards and Demanding Routines for women, and the silencing of women in public spaces. I especially appreciated her coverage of Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault, issues that are now making headline news, but which we still have a long way to go to eradicate. And finally she wraps it all up with a discussion of one of the hottest hot-button topics: abortion. Yes, she did dare to go there, but in a sensible manner which I think more people need to examine as a possible way forward in this debate.
Whichever aspect of gender equality she was discussing, Reverend Wathen did so in a straightforward way while still embodying compassion, love, and understanding. And whatever the topic, I agreed with her wholeheartedly. I know many will not agree with either one of us, but if we are ever to make progress and stop treating women like second-class citizens, logical and balanced steps like the ones the author presents in this book are desperately needed. I didn't used to think that I was a feminist, maybe because of the old connotations associated with the word or maybe because I've made choices in my own life that I felt many feminists would disdain. But the older I get, the more I realize I actually am one, no matter what the rest of the world may think, and my absolute love of Resist and Persist has only solidified that belief, as well as my understanding of the issues of gender equality. I highly recommend the book to anyone who is seriously looking for a way to put their faith into action in the fight for gender equality.
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