She can’t have the job because … she’s a girl.

June 19, 2006 | By | 6 Replies More

A woman was recently elected as the first Episcopal presiding bishop and it’s causing quite a ruckus.  As reported by MSNBC,

The situation has been complicated by Sunday’s election of Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the first Episcopal presiding bishop — the first woman ever to lead an Anglican province. Only two other Anglican provinces — New Zealand and Canada — have female bishops and many Anglicans believe women should not be ordained.

Outside of religions, of course, this sort of explanation–that obtaining a job would be improper because the applicant is a girl–doesn’t fly.  In fact, it’s beyond laughable.  It’s grotesque.

I have two young daughters.  If either of my daughters grows up to be competent at doing X, she should be allowed an opportunity to have a job doing X, right?  Whether it’s working as a coal miner, a corporate officer, a computer programmer or a rock musician.  I’m not trying to be idealistic.  Rather, I’m trying to be empathetic.  What kind of crazy world would this be if I were prohibited from doing a job for which I was otherwise qualified simply because of my male gender?  What kind of crazy world, indeed!

Outside of religions, opportunities for women have opened up dramatically over the past few decades and it all seems to be a good thing to me.  I have to wonder, then, how intelligent people can stand up, unashamed, and announce that a person can’t hold a religious post because–well–to be blunt, that person has a vagina.  I can think of very few jobs that would legitimately require a particular type of sex organ.  Such a bizarre screening requirement seems especially strange for a religious organization that preaches love and compassion. 

Also, to be blunt, I just don’t recall any scripture that specifically provides that God Himself had a real penis. Yes, He is referred to as a He, but it is also widely held that God didn’t have a bodily existence at all (hence the necessity of Jesus, as I understand the logic).  No Divine body, therefore no Divine penis.  So it doesn’t seem that doing the job of God requires a real-life male body. 

Ergo, in my simplistic way of seeing this, it wouldn’t seem that serving a God who is only metaphorically male would require any particular physical sexual equipment.

But somehow, I fear, that I’m missing the point. 

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Category: American Culture, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (6)

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  1. Mariann says:

    I was just thinking about this topic today. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to voice my opinion on it.

    You're right- nowhere in the Bible does it state that God has a penis. In fact, I'll go a few steps further and say that the only reason God is referred to as He is because of the patriarchal culture in the time the scriptures were written. I've said it once, and I'll say it again. The Bible was written by men, for men.

    There are other reasons I've heard- such as God has revealed Himself as male for reasons unknown to us. There's also the argument that He is just a default pronoun, but that ignores how male-centric the Bible can be at times. I've also heard that because of the many masculine traits He holds, we refer to him as male. This is ridiculous though, because according to Scripture God has many different qualities that can be considered "feminine" as well. And again, the question of the scriptures' male-centricity comes into play. If God is truly gender-less, than why are women considered subservient to men? Why is He constantly referred to as the loving, compassionate, forgiving Father if gender stereotypes dictate those roles as feminine?

    The list goes on and on, and the only logical answer is that man chose to depict God as a male because it suited their patriarchal culture.

    Anyway, I agree whole-heartedly that women have every right to perform the same functions as men, and vice versa. I truly cannot believe that some religions cannot progress toward gay and gender equality, when they're able to throw away all the other beliefs that don't fit well with modern times. (Don't wear clothes of two different kinds of materials, things like that.)

    Which is why it's so frustrating when someone insists on traditional gender roles (man as protector, bread-winner, and woman as caregiver, nurturer) because "the Bible says so." First of all, gender roles were a form of punishment because of the first sin of Adam and Eve- so they weren't God's ideal roles. Second of all, the Bible says a lot of nonsensical things that no longer pertain to our culture. But we ignore those don't we, while inflicting equally ridiculous doctrine onto women and gays whose so-called handicap is what God himself gave them.

    Anyway, I could go on and on about this subject. This is just a small part of what I was pondering.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    I agree with Mariann's comment about how the Bible needs to be seen in the historical context in which it was written; i.e., a patriarchal, even misogynistic, society. In a culture where women were considered the property of men, and stoned to death for all sorts of behaviors that were apparently taken for granted in men, is it any wonder that God was portrayed as male?

    Other possible explanations for God being portrayed as male include: the lack of a gender-neutral pronoun in lieu of "he;" God supposedly impregnating the virgin Mary; God supposedly creating Adam in His image (Hmmm…then would Adam have had a penis?); etc.

    As regards Mariann being frustrated when someone insists on traditional gender roles, the way I understand things, many conservatives blame today's social problems on single, working moms, and believe that America will be magically transformed if it returns to a traditional family structure — i.e., a patriarchal family structure. They appear to have no clue, or don't care, how impractical or unlikely their scenario is, but at least in their own minds they apparently believe that the world (or, at least, they) would be better off in a world of traditional gender roles. These folks look at the correlation between the changed family structure in America and the many social problems in America, and presume there is causation.

    As regards whether God has a penis, it seems to me the only evidence that God is male is that "He" supposedly 'fathered' Jesus by impregnating the virgin Mary. Aside from that, the Bible never mentions a Mrs. God, so unless She always stays home cooking, cleaning and caring for the Godlings while God is out running the Universe, She doesn't exist. (Either that, or God just doesn't think She is worth mentioning.) Either way, if God is eternal, why would "He" even need a sex partner? Maybe this is why Believers have such negative views about sex: God has no need for it, so why should we?

    This raises another question. If God is genderless, then why didn't God create humans as genderless, too? If humans were created in God's image, then why aren't we all asexual? Indeed, where did God even get the idea of creating a two-gender species if He had no antecedent for it and apparently could have designed us without it? The purpose of sexual reproduction is to enable a species to adapt to a changing environment, but if, as so many creationists claim, the earth is only 6000 years old, then environmental change would not have been one of God's design criteria. God could have, and presumably would have, created us for asexual reproduction.

  3. Mariann says:

    I love your last paragraph. I never thought of that before- why would God create humans of two sexes?

    Then again, according to Christian myth God created Adam in his image (which implies that God is male) and the constructed Eve because he was lonely. Then, after the first sin, God punished both of them by forcing them to carry certain duties. Adam was to spend his life doing hard labor to provide for the family, while Eve was going to have painful childbirth and be subservient to Adam. So Christians COULD argue that God created sex and gender after they sinned.

    But that would also imply that our traditional gender roles are not really desired by God. They were a form of punishment. So either way you look at it, gender restrictions such as "woman can't be priests" are unprogressive, both socially and spiritually.

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    As regards gender being God's punishment for the sins of Adam and Eve, I agree with Mariann that this is what Christians could argue. However, I would counter that argument by pointing out that God could have punished Adam and Eve just as effectively without creating two different genders — i.e., gender was unnecessary to God's punishment. Indeed, had God made Adam and Eve asexual, He could have made them both do hard labor and both suffer the pains of reproduction. Likewise, gender was also unnecessary to providing Adam with companionship. Accordingly, my question remains valid: if God is genderless, and if we are (or at least Adam was) created in God's image, then why didn’t God create humans as genderless, too? The alternative is to say that God is male, but what use does God (an eternal being) have for reproductive organs, especially if there is no Mrs. God? If we follow the Christian argument to its logical conclusion, then God has male sex organs and their only function is to provide God with…ahem…self-gratification. (How's that for a visual to torment the theocratic Right?)

    Moreover, if Adam were made in God's image, then wouldn't it make more sense for God to make Adam reproduce asexually– i.e., by cloning exact copies of himself and, thus, remaining as God-like in his appearance as possible? Sexual reproduction means that Adam's descendants look less and less like God with each generation, and surely a vain and jealous god would not want that to happen.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    It goes on and on. Here's a response to one of the Catholic Church's favorite ongoing versions of bigotry. http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2006/07/31/women

  6. grumpypilgrim says:

    I sometime wonder if the human race was misogynistic before the Church came along to declare women to be the evil cause of Mankind's fall from grace. In many aboriginal cultures, women and men have equal status, suggesting that perhaps life was more equitable for women before the Church created its conveniently self-serving hierarchy.

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