A ViewPoint by Michaela Grace
In the past week, I was in a class that was short but long. Short because it was only two and a half days but long because the two days were eight hours and the third day was four. It was exhilarating but exhausting.
At the beginning of this class, after four men asked questions, I started the questions for the females. I was the youngest in the class, female, and scared to speak into a microphone, but I wanted to ask about everything, as my curiosity and questions could be answered only there.
What I started to notice was an equality I did not expect. After opening the floodgates, women and men equally asked questions. I am talking about a straight 50-50! That has never happened before in my entire experience at church, in my undergrad work at a Bible school, and throughout my three semesters of seminary. I was excited about this, ecstatic, because I, for one of the first times, did not feel like I carried the load to trailblaze as a female, and I did not have to stand out for asking my questions.
But this article is about the collective response of the males. Yes, yes it is!
A collective response is different from a set response. A set response is when the teacher asks for questions from us, so we raise our hand, the microphone goes around, and one person at a time has the floor. The collective response is the teacher asking the entire class a question. The presenter often did this, as he wanted us to engage with questions about where something was in the Bible or what he had mentioned previously or a theme we had seen that had shown up again. I was engaged, curious, and all into this class, but to these types of questions, only males responded. I did not notice the auditing female with a PHD answer any questions.
I always thought I didn’t answered these questions because I was in my own head about class and life, and I was there as only a learner with no answers, and that all the men were there to answer for me. I looked at the classroom from the outside because of my personality, right? Or maybe I am too far in my own head.
But maybe I am actually excluded from the classroom.
I’m in the classroom physically, but apart from the classroom because I believe I am not really a part of it, that I am not as smart as the men who know the answers to the teacher’s questions.
This is not true! I am just not brave enough to say what I think and risk being wrong. When I was a little girl, I was not encouraged to jump in and play and fall down and make mistakes like the little boys. I was not praised for my curiosity, stubborn-headedness, or enthusiasm. It was not upheld as the ideal for me, a little girl. In entering adult life, I was not encouraged and built-up in ministry to downright fail and for that to be okay because I “will become a great pastor” with multiple opportunities because of my charismatic personality. The collective response in the classroom is only one sign of the privilege. I’m looking out from afar because I do not believe I can be included in what they are doing. I don’t feel allowed to participate equally to mess up and answer or have the boldness to know all the answers.
It takes courage, but it takes brave women to start answering questions collectively in classes and encouraging their little girls to go boldly and fail. In doing this, we will make change.