Seven questions for men and women on platforms

woman-speaking-into-microphon_450It’s been very interesting to interact with Steve Holmes on the question of men and women as conference speakers. Steve posted about Project 3:28 on his blog, to which I offered some comment, and Steve offered a response to my observations which I reposted here. I offer here some reflections and questions which come out of this discussion.

My first question is: where do we find our unity as Christian sisters and brothers? Steve opens his response with some warm comments which I appreciated:

Before I start, I should say that I respect Ian greatly, that we agree on most subjects … and have made common cause together before now… Ian has been a committed and effective campaigner for female leadership in the church, and has done much good as such, for which I honour him. If we disagree, it is en famille.

But the comment provoked me to ask whether we shouldn’t be able to say that to any Christian, even if we profoundly disagree on a particular subject. I am aware that the question of unity and separation is complex, and will be tested particularly on the upcoming debates on sexuality in the C of E. Yet in the fragmenting world of social media, it seems to me we are in serious danger of returning to the world of the Corinthian church: ‘I follow Brian’; ‘I follow Rob’; ‘I follow Steve.’ Was my previous post, however clumsy, so bad to warrant the term ‘Disgusting’ from one commentator on Facebook? Should we ever be using such language of sisters and brothers in Christ?

Secondly, can we take seriously the cause of patriarchy and discrimination whatever our view on women’s ordination? As Kate Kirkpatrick demonstrates, media portrayal of women is systematically prejudiced—something that has no connection with considered reflection on men’s and women’s roles. In Facebook discussion, Stephen Kuhrt explains some of the things that happen in Christ Church, New Malden, which includes recruiting women as well as men to ‘techy’ roles such as operating the sound desk, once a month having ‘men only’ serving coffee, and ensuring women and men lead services together. (You cannot disagree with anything in a church that has a Fun Committee, surely!).

Most of these things have nothing remotely to do with whether or not women can exercise a teaching authority in the church—so why aren’t we all doing them?

Thirdly, can we recognise that issues which look like a problem for women are in fact a problem for all? A couple of years ago, one of the plenary sessions at the British New Testament Conference was given over to a debate on why there are so few women in biblical studies as a discipline, when theology is a popular choice for women at undergraduate level. One of the issues that emerged was that, in order to get a PhD in the subject and find a job, you actually have to put up with a lot of what Paul would call ‘skubalon’ (Phil 3.8). Rather foolishly, men put up with it; rather sensibly, many women think there must be a better way to live. In many places where women are under-represented, what really needs to change is a system that damages people, often connected with an unhealthy workaholism. The absence of women points to a deeper malaise.

6a010536f51a3b970c01bb07a3235b970dFourthly, can we make proper space for parenting? In his response to me, Steve argues that speaking and parenting is not a ‘zero-sum game’, that you do not trade one off against another in a binary way. Related to that, he explores the reality of travelling and family life, and suggests that the best leaders are able to do both. My worry with this approach is that it reflects a contemporary cultural trend to reject human finitude. There is a strong narrative that ‘we can have it all’—but that narrative actually penalises those who put a premium on parenting, and privileges those who don’t, whatever the context. If I accept an invitation to speak, it means I have to sacrifice something else. Deciding to do one thing means deciding not to do another. Even though our children are teenagers, I need to plan very carefully when I am away, because if I am not home, someone else has to be.

In this, I profoundly disagree with Steve’s comment about gifting:

The point seems to me straightforwardly transferrable: if God has gifted a woman to teach, and she is being prevented from full exercise of that ministry by family responsibility, there is a gospel duty on the church to find ways to relieve that responsibility so that she may build up the church through the exercise of her gift.

As someone commented, would we say the same about men? And what if both parents in a couple were so gifted? It is not just about gift; it is also about calling. I might have many gifts, but I only have one life, and I need to heed what God is calling me to do with it—and one thing is for sure, it is not to use every one of my gifts! I treasured the comment of Holly on my post:

As a woman, no matter how gifted I might be, my children and my connection and my input into their daily lives is more important (not to me, but *for* them) than any representation I might have in any sphere…whether that is local church or on a conference level.

This might seem like a moot point, in that, I’m *not* famous and I’ve not been asked. I’m not uneducated, however, and I’m theologically driven. I’m articulate. I’ve got a good personality. The point is, that had I deemed leadership at any level worth more than my children, I have the skills and would have pursued it.

Now, I would be very happy to hear both men and women articulate this. But whatever the reason (and Steve and I are probably going to agree to disagree on the reasons just now), more women than men will feel this at the moment. Can we give the space for them to articulate it?

Fifthly, can we acknowledge that the nature/nurture debate has not been resolved? Some of the comments I received in response to my previous post seemed to assume a. that all gender differences were socially constructed, and b. that this was clear to anyone with any sense, as well as c. if you did not believe this, you were an enemy of the gospel! I have previously posted on this, and Alastair Roberts added a lengthy comment on my last post which merits careful reading.

Social constructs don’t just fall down from on high, but tend to result from the crystallization of typical patterns of behaviour in a given environment. Alternatively, they can be seen as the ruts that are driven by such behaviour, which make non-typical behaviour increasingly difficult. Social constructs are often unhealthy and need to be changed. However, although the behaviour that underlies them can frequently be redirected by strategic changes, the behaviour itself will always tend to push in some directions rather than others. In short, social constructs cannot be divorced from or escape underlying biological and other realities.

Sixth, can we admit that certain aspects of this Christian subculture need reforming? Jon Kuhrt offers a trenchant critique on Facebook:

One big issue underlying this whole issue is the obsession in Christian circles with platforms – it is a breeding ground for a deeply un-Christian culture of status seeking, hero worship and envy which deeply damages the church. One associated issue is the insecurities that Christian celebrity culture engenders within those seeking to cling onto their status as a big top speaker or top author…So I agree that there should be equality but we should all be far more suspicious of how platform culture has warped perceptions of what Christian leadership looks like.

David Shepherd, a regular commentator on this blog, says something similar:

When I think of large-scale religious celebrations like Spring Harvest and the Big Day Out, I am reminded of the banquets of the Jewish calendar and the shameless self-marketing of the teachers of Torah.

‘“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.’ (Matthew 23:5–9)

Seventh and last: can we be clear about this as a mission issue? John Drane commented on Facebook that this is a mission issue, a phrase that gives weight and priority to it—but what exactly does this mean? There is no doubt that unthinking patriarchy within the church has damaged and angered women in the church and put off many outside it. But in what sense is this a mission issue above all the other issues that the church must engage with? I am in no doubt that Scripture clearly supports the change made in the C of E to admit women to all orders of ministry—but there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that the C of E now has more credibility or effectiveness in missional terms.

In answer to my question, Stephen Kuhrt stated that Christ Church New Malden is about divided about 60/40 between female and male membership. This means the church is roughly 50% more effective at reaching women. Many Anglican churches are divided 2/3 to 1/3—meaning that they are already twice as attractive to women as to men.

If we are going to pick one issue which should be central to mission above all others, it is probably our very small appeal to working men. This is somewhat ironic given the make-up of Jesus’ first disciples.

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9 thoughts on “Seven questions for men and women on platforms”

  1. The appeal of the gospel to working men figured in the Bible reading from yesterday morning’s church service, It was taken from John 1:29 – 51.

    John’s extraordinary charisma and mentoring influence were instrumental in Andrew, James, Philip and Nathaniel (all working men) becoming disciples of Christ. ‘Give it to me straight’ typifies the no-nonsense approach of these guys. They have no time for couched language; they want the truth.

    That’s exactly what John gave them as he announced that the Kingdom of God was drawing near. The promised era of blessing would be preceded by retribution. It was enough to awaken consciences to seek forgiveness for squandering what was left of the ‘soon-to-be-exhausted’ patience and providence of God.

    Although his ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ tone of preaching may have won converts, he offended Herodians, Pharisees and Sadducees. The same would be true today. Adrian Plass wrote a brilliant letter satirizing the response of a modern-day church committee to such a blunt unembellished sermon style.

    I mean, imagine a naïve curate echoing John the Baptist in his first sermon: ‘And do not take comfort in your religious pedigree. I tell you that God, if he wanted, could even turn stones into the rightful heir of eternal life. Instead, the ax already poised in readiness at the root of the trees. Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’

    John’s message aroused a godly sorrow and a voiced desperation for divine forgiveness. ‘What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

    John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

    The assurance of God’s generous amnesty was reinforced by the symbolic washing of baptism.

    Some might argue that first-century Jewish society steeped in the prophetic tradition had very different moral expectations from our own. So, perhaps, Athens with its love of philosophy and innovation is a closer match.

    Like Paul, our enterprising curate might echo popular lyrics, like those of the Script:

    ‘Still alive, but I’m barely breathing,
    Praying to a god that I don’t believe in’.

    ‘I’m going to talk to you about the God who most people don’t believe in. Even when they’re at the end of their emotional tether…’

    ‘In ages past, God overlooked our slavish thoughtless devotion to the false idols of material wealth, romantic pleasure and success that will always eventually disappoint us. He now commands all people everywhere to abandon those priorities. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.’ (paraphrasing Acts 17:29 – 31)

    Most likely, any mention of the resurrection would again provoke derision, but others might just say: ‘We want to hear you again on this subject’ (Acts 17:32)

    So, for a few weeks, I would be interested to seeing what would happen if we paraphrased the gospel as it was preached in the first century: one that first awakens thoughtless consciences to the reality of eternal retribution fro the impenitent, establishes the risen Christ uniquely as the Judge and Saviour of all mankind and then assuages repentance with the assurance of God’s forgiveness.

    It’s so crazy, it might just work!

    • Thanks David, I go with 75% of your emphasis here. But

      a. we are in a different cultural context, where polemic has a different status.

      b. we need to take into account the highly condensed and summarising nature of the NT narratives. They are not sermon scripts!

      Both make a huge difference to the ethos and pathos of communication, even if we hold to the same logos.

      • Point taken, Ian.

        As you say, we probably largely agree. Yet, however summarizing the NT narratives may be, they provide a framework for proclaiming repentance towards God and faith towards Jesus Christ.

        As much as anyone else, I love a good joke and emotive modern-day anecdotes concluded with a pithy moral to the story. I won’t take step to re-think my life without an honest evaluation of the truth that God wants me to accept. If a preacher wants to dance around this to ensure his sermon gains a more favourable reception, I’m off elsewhere.

        It’s surprising that St. Paul told the Corinthians that his message contradicted the well-worn techniques of persuasive rhetoric. He also contrasted his faithfulness in word and deed to divine revelation with the clever rhetoric of his detractors. Even today, many people have become rightly suspicious of religions that unduly emphasise emotive appeals and the professional credentials of public speakers.

        As an example, in support of the motion that ‘religion has no place in the 21st century’, Richard Dawkins may have felt that describing religion as “cop-out” and a “betrayal of the intellect and everything human that is good” was the kind of rhetoric that would resonate with the values of a largely secular audience.

        In contrast, the former Archbishop identified the practical benefits of religion in “community building” and in building “relations of compassion, fellow feeling and inclusion”, which would otherwise be “absent from our societies”. It won the debate as many felt that the motion was far too strongly worded.

        As you’re aware, the message of the gospel is about God reaching down to participate in and transform our very ordinary lives with the power of eternity. It is about a new way of thinking about God, as One who doesn’t want us to prioritise materialism and thereby reduce either Him or each other to impersonal finite transactions.

        There is still a real eternal danger in refusing to relate to Him or each other with practical ‘compassion, fellow feeling and inclusion.’ So, I’d agree that we build trust through helpfulness and engage with communities, but at some point, we need the courage to speak with complete candour. There’s no reading of the gospel that can escape from this fact.

        The world is all the poorer when we don’t proclaim or exemplify this essential truth.

  2. Apologies in advance for an extremely long comment. Here are several points in response to this discussion:

    1. One of the problems that I have with Dr Holmes’ arguments is that they give the impression that women who choose not to exercise their teaching gifts in highly visible, prominent, and public settings are not really exercising them to the extent that they should. This privileging of prominent public ministry over less visible forms of ministry is hugely problematic. For instance, my mother has had hardly any public teaching ministry and very much dislikes being at the front. However, the extent of her private ministry—of which teaching has been a major part—has been immense and the fact that it is not prominent and visible does not mean that it is not recognized and profoundly valued by all who know her. She has also been an essential and invaluable partner in my father’s more public and visible ministries and someone who has supported and enabled many others whose gifts have become more public than hers have been. Everyone who knows her knows that my father couldn’t have done most of what he has done without her. The implicit stress that Dr Holmes’ argument places upon prominent and visible teaching ministry as the one ministry that everyone with teaching gifts should aspire to lest they be judged to have underemployed their gifts is profoundly unhealthy and makes people even less likely to appreciate the less visible teaching gifts and ministers in our midst.

    It also makes us less likely to recognize and honour the people whose quiet and unassuming ministry of their gifts make the public exercise of other people’s gifts more possible. Behind every prominent public minister in the Church there is a host of other gifted individuals, who make that ministry possible, while receiving little recognition by comparison. Any healthy Church will always be predominantly populated by such ministers. The extreme focus on public and prominent figures and the expectation that the true valuing a group of persons can only occur as they are equally represented in the spotlight says a great deal about the way that we view and the honour that we accord to private and less prominent ministries. It also may say a lot about the way visibility to other human beings and their praise has taken priority over the belief that the amazing work that many unassuming individuals do in secret is visible to God and greatly honoured by him.

    2. When the suggestion is made that conference speaking from the front platform is somewhat unbiblical, what is this claim being based upon? One could argue for biblical background for such forms of teaching from the front in a number of biblical settings, not least in Jesus’ own forms of teaching (such as the Sermon on the Mount). Nehemiah 8 even describes Ezra and a bunch of (male) Levites teaching a large assembled group of people from a big wooden platform! Besides, if we are really going to talk about unbiblical forms of ministry, perhaps we should start talking about contemporary worship leading. The problem is not the platform, but the celebrity culture. Nor is the solution that of pushing as many women as men into the prominence of the platform, but rather of placing ministry from the front conference platform back as one among many within the vast range of ministries that exist within the Church, undermining the connection between prominence and value and learning to value less prominent ministries as we ought—to value them as God values them.

    3. A great deal of what passes under the name of patriarchy seems to be a fairly universal set of human phenomena that arise from some basic and inescapable differences between the sexes as groups. While there are clearly some very damaging ways in which these have been expressed, the notion that any society where men are more prominent and powerful is pathological is completely unpersuasive to me. Nor is the pathologizing of more typically male traits that often goes along with this. This just seems to encourage a persecution complex in women, when much that falls under the category of patriarchy is a matter of differentiated strengths.

    The Church has often been complicit in this. As Callum Brown and others have argued, the Church has often represented feminine piety and virtue as the norm and aligned itself with women in seeking to ‘domesticate’ men (in this way of viewing things, women apparently have a natural affinity for Christian piety that men lack). If only those troublesome men—and working class men are the worst!—would behave a little more like women. As a result the Church becomes a religion of the private and personal domestic sphere and its values. The world would supposedly be a much better place if we all started behaving like women—more empathetic, inclusive, egalitarian, less oppositional and combative, more conforming, more affirming, etc. However, the scriptures will often happily celebrate behaviours and virtues that run directly counter to all of these things. Biblical leaders are far frequently praised for resisting pity, for excluding certain people, for upholding a differentiated structure (without thereby assuming that one group is better than another), for being prepared to fight and resist, for establishing antitheses, for rejecting error and opposing those who teach it, etc. This doesn’t entail a rejection of more characteristically feminine virtues, but it enables men to play to their own strengths, rather than just to women’s. And these particular strengths are often closely related to more prominent frontline leadership in the biblical mould. It might also strengthen the witness of the Church in the face of the world, no longer putting it in retreat and appeasement mode.

    4. It seems to me that Dr Holmes does not sufficiently recognize the importance of the factor of confidence (see this piece again). One of the things that has been quite noticeable to me over the years, for instance, even in settings where a number of women are present—dare I say, even in the seminars for Dr Holmes’ classes during my time at St Andrews—is that, as a group, women often underrepresent themselves in the conversation. If you want to be heard, you have to have the confidence to speak up and to insist upon your position even when opposed. I frequently see the same thing in the Bible study groups I attend. While one or two of the women regularly speak up, many of the women hardly say anything. The result is that most of the discussion is driven and dominated by male voices. No one is shouting down the women’s voices, they just don’t seem to have the same confidence to put themselves forward. People are often reticent to challenge them when they do, because they know that the women are often much more easily discouraged and are more likely to feel personally attacked (most don’t pay attention to the way that men routinely challenge other male voices and ‘mansplain’ to each other and presume that women are singled out for such treatment). As a result what skills they have are less visible and will end up less developed.

    The same is often the case in comment sections when vigorous dispute is taking place and people are expected to argue their corner. I suggest that everyone pay attention to the different sorts of cultures that tend to exist in male-dominated and female-dominated spheres of the blogosphere, especially in the comment sections, for instance. Male-dominated spheres have a tendency to be combative, confrontational, and focused upon arguments (male comments on a male blog often tend to contradict and challenge, develop alternative arguments, identify weaknesses, or test strengths by raising questions, often in aggressive and belligerent ways). Female-dominated spheres have a tendency to be highly intimate, affirming, and focused upon persons (female comments on a female blog often tend to contain lots of affirmation of the author for her ‘bravery’, ‘vulnerability’, etc., comments stressing identification with the post’s author, comments speaking of the strong emotional response to what the blogger had to say, or sharing of personal narrative).

    Male-dominated spheres can be fairly hostile places. However, they can also be very effective at rigorous debate, as sparring comes naturally, and even friends are prepared to be rough with each other. They train people to be confident and assured in their own voice, as they learn to withstand challenge and opposition. They reinforce men’s greater apparent need to prove their strengths to their peers in ritual (but not necessarily vicious) combat in order to be honoured and recognized and train men in self-confidence. Female-dominated spheres are often strong in creating a sense of community and belonging, but can be weak when it comes to the testing of ideas, as conflict cannot easily occur with people feeling personally threatened. They also reinforce women’s greater apparent dependence upon the affirmation of their peers. Also, while men’s spheres often naturally establish hierarchies of strengths through their rougher and more confrontational interactions, women’s spheres tend to be much less able to handle people who assert their own agency over against the group.

    This is something that many lecturers and tutors have commented on in university settings. Girls often thrive in the atmosphere of the primary or high school, where you don’t have to put yourself forward so much and you receive plentiful external affirmation, which can substitute for self-assurance. However, in the wider world, and often in the atmosphere of the university, external affirmation and reward is less forthcoming and if you lack self-confidence and self-assurance, you will be much less ready to put yourself forward and easily passed over or discouraged, especially when opinions are met with strong disagreement and challenge.

    Males tend to do much better in the confidence stakes because they are likelier to relish competition and opposition and often dislike highly affirming settings, where they aren’t taught or allowed to play to their strengths. They also happen to have lots more testosterone, which helps. If we really want more women in prominent ministry, they will probably need to develop this confidence and reduce their reliance upon group affirmation. We shouldn’t understate the degree to which men’s favoured modes of interaction often develop and hone the skills that propel them to the front and equip them for such roles. From childhood, males are more accustomed to criticism, to rougher interactions, and treatment, from peers as well as authority figures (this article speaks of boys receiving eight times more criticism in the classroom than girls, something that certainly fits with my experience). All of this, along with a healthy measure of teasing, roughhousing, and competition, is great preparation for life and leadership.

    The very tendency in many circles to treat arguments advanced by women or arguments in favour of women’s representation to much more affirming and less critical treatment than male arguments on other subjects is also in danger of diminishing women’s confidence, reinforcing the impression that they are weaker performers, and failing to provide them with the necessary challenges required to play to and thereby develop their strengths (the same dynamic as that described here in relation to race). While some women will be discouraged and drop out, other women will rise to the challenge and develop strong agency, self-confidence, and finely honed arguments. Such women will be well equipped for frontline ministry. The suggestion that women should expect equal representation at the front purely on the basis of the fact that they are 50% of the population is a great way to lower the bar in a way that leaves women paranoid about whether they are at the front because they are truly outstanding leadership material, with a proven capacity to face the same hardballs and challenges as their male peers, or mostly just because they were born with the right set of chromosomes.

    5. Here the point about different callings and motivations when it comes to the employment of gifts is an important one. Time and again I hear women complaining that they dislike or feel daunted by forms of interaction where high levels of self-confidence are required and developed. However, self-confidence is an important part of having a strong personal voice. We can’t really have equal men and women at the front if women are self-selecting away from the contexts and forms of interaction where traits that are necessary for frontline ministry are honed and developed. Also, any society committed to truth, justice, and freedom needs its leaders to be equipped for, confident in, and open to challenge, questioning, and opposition. If women lack these traits and don’t want to undergo the steps required to develop them, society is not advantaged by putting them forward. What if, knowing that they don’t have the levels of self-confidence needed or the appetite for the contexts and forms of interaction in which we are forced to develop self-confidence, women choose to exercise their gifts elsewhere? Must this be a bad thing? Couldn’t this rather be one way in which women play to their strengths, men play to their strengths, and society as a whole benefits?

    6. Finally, one of the things that analyses like that provided by Dr Holmes typically ignore is the role played by women’s agency, only seemingly registering women’s ‘agency’ to the extent that it is a function of some other party’s agency. So much feminist work—including Project 3:28—is about getting other people (typically men and their power structures) to change things on women’s behalf or blaming the system. Surprisingly little is said about the role that women’s exercise of their own agency could or will play. I would suggest that women’s generally lower confidence levels might be a factor here as well. The complaints levelled against institutional structures are often implicitly complaints that they aren’t functioning as sources of external affirmation for women—that life doesn’t have the same reward systems as primary school. Without external affirmation the effects of the ‘confidence gap’ really kick in in men’s favour (some have suggested that the ‘glass ceiling’ has a great deal to do with the difference between agentic and communal traits and behaviours). Women’s lower confidence in their own agency makes them more dependent upon other people recognizing them, putting them forward, granting them a hearing, giving them opportunities, and rewarding them, as they are less likely to make themselves recognized, to make themselves heard, to put themselves forward, or to create or seize opportunities.

    The assumption that institutional structures and systems are the root problem fails to take seriously enough the power of agency and the importance of confidence as an aspect of strong leadership. Those who are concerned to ‘affirm’ women in their gifts typically neglect the fact that one of the reasons that women are less represented at the front is because they are less habituated to opposition, challenge, rough treatment, and criticism than their male peers. They will be strongly opposed to any suggestion that women’s underdevelopment of independent and confident agency may be a significant part of the reason for their lesser representation. They will tend to see such a suggestion as a sexist slight on women’s character or as a sort of victim-blaming. The very exposure to challenge and criticism that would strengthen women in their agency (the sort of challenge and criticism that men are expected to take in their stride) can be presented as an attack upon them. However, the more that women’s representation is presented as resting in the power of some other party—a party that is supposedly trying to exclude them—the more that women’s confidence in and capacity to exercise their own agency will atrophy. The constant assumption that having one’s gifts developed and being heard requires someone putting you forward discourages people from seizing the huge opportunities that are just waiting out there for anyone who wants to be proactive about developing their own voice and platform. Why wait for someone to discover us when, by exercising the agency that we already have with determination, we generally have the means to make ourselves widely known and heard?

    None of this means that there aren’t systemic injustices facing women and ways in which their agency is cramped by others (the benevolent sexism protecting them from tough criticism and rough treatment may ironically be one form of this). Nor does it mean that we can excuse the status quo or blame all differences in representation upon women, rather than raising serious questions about injustice. However, the evidence that systemic injustice accounts for anything like the entire difference is slim at best. Furthermore, much of the power to change things is already within women’s reach and only requires the building of the muscles of their existing agency.

  3. Hi Ian,
    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blogs on this subject…and all the responses…and your feedback and 7 questions here… thank you!
    I just want to make a comment on the ‘nature or nurture’ question. As a mother of 3 and a grandmother of 6, I have found that I have learned more about this from ‘the school of life’ and from praying than I have ever learnt from studying. I am not a church leader and I will never have a platform, but I am a church musician and a retired teacher – I know about the tug of divided loyalties, and family always wins hands down when a family member is ill, or in need of ‘all hands on deck’. All the rationalizations I could think of have failed to win over my intuitive responses to such matters, so I have reduced my non-family commitments to take this into account.
    Thank you again for opening up this debate in such a comprehensive and friendly manner.

  4. There was an interview with Professor Alison Wolf on this morning’s ‘Today’ programme in which she argued that current feminist campaigns for quotas on boards and all-women shortlists only benefit a tiny elite, who are overrepresented on Twitter. I’m not qualified to judge these arguments, but there seems to be an obvious parallel to this discussion., which other readers might like to explore.

    • Thanks, STFF, that’s interesting to know.

      The other issue that hasn’t really been raised thus far is the extent to which such quota arguments backfire in stoking resentment amongst those who are not on side in the first place.

  5. Hi Ian,
    I just thought of an experience of ‘gender discrimination’ to which I had no objection whatsoever. It’s nothing to do with platforms or church – it happened in a social context.

    I was in a car with a French colleague and some of his French friends (male!), when they started talking animatedly and laughing loudly. Then one of them called a halt: ‘Stop! There’s a lady present!’ They actually over-estimated my knowledge of the French vernacular – it was only later that I discovered that they had been telling risque jokes!

    So maybe in some respects gender discrimination can have its advantages.


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