** Since this blog was written, IVP have changed their Christmas gift list. I was really impressed by their response and engagement on this.**
Please don’t laugh, I’m being serious.
What I’m asking here is can men read and learn from female authors? Goodreads analysis shows an overwhelming proportion of books read by both sexes, are by authors of the same gender. I know that statistics show that we prefer to read from authors of the same gender, that isn’t my point.
This question isn’t new to me, but it came to the forefront of my mind today. I stumbled across the IVP Christmas gifts list and was taken aback. Their Christmas list has sections in it “For Him” and “For Her”. What’s the problem with having lists for Him and lists for Her? When you look closely you’ll see that they have been almost completely segregated by the gender of the authors. Since writing this blog a few weeks ago, 10 of Those released a similar list, see below *.
The books “For Her” are written mostly by women and the books “For him” are written entirely by men. Only one of them is genuinely gender specific; “Ordinary mum, extraordinary mission” but the majority aren’t.
So, the men’s stockings on Christmas day will be full of books written by men. Their stockings will include copies of; Creation Care by John Stott, Reality and other stories by Peter Dray and Matthew Lillicrap and The History of Christianity in Britain and Ireland by Gerald Bray. Whereas the women’s stockings, will be full of books mostly by women with copies of; “Catching contentment” by Liz Carter and “L is for lifestyle” by Ruth Valerio. What about “More Truth” by Kristi Mair, BA, MA, Research Fellow, Lecturer in Philosophy, Ethics and Apologetics at Oak Hill College, who gets to read this on Christmas morning? Well, you guessed it, she’s in the “For Her” section. I do wonder if someone should let the majority male contingent at Oak Hill know?
I’m sure this is a marketing mistake; I know some of the IVP staff and have nothing but respect and gratefulness for the way they want to see more women published. I’m very aware that IVP has an active stance in encouraging women to write.
But the reason I write this is that I want to question this attitude more generally. Is this a marketing mishap or something more? This kind of marketing only adds to the slippery slope of segregation. A segregation that is endemic and destructive to the church and in such contrast to the church of the New Testament.
So, can men learn from women? I’ve thought about this question a lot in recent months. It’s not just about authors, books and Christmas wish lists, the slippery slope of segregation goes much further. I recently attended a conference where I was only allowed to mentor women, where women couldn’t teach, pray or MC from the main stage, women were not and would not be invited even to the steering group. I left disillusioned and disheartened.
Can men learn from women? Whether that’s a book in your stocking, a weekly Bible study in your home, hosting a main meeting, mentoring or in seminars? That’s our choice at the end of the day. But here are three implications when we don’t intentionally choose to learn from women.
1. When we don’t learn from women we miss out on half of the image of God.
I fear an unbiblically based segregation of men and women in certain spheres of the Evangelical church is growing. This means that women and their voices are not heard. That’s over half of those made in the image of God are not heard or listened to. Half of God’s image that we choose not to learn from.
There are plenty of examples of men learning from women. In 2 Timothy 1:5, we see that he was taught by his Mum and Granny, it says….“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also”.
But we miss out on something of what it means to be made in the image of God, when we don’t listen to women. Take the story of the Bleeding woman in Mark 5:25. How much richer would the explanation be if you hear this passage explained from a female perspective. Or take Mary being invited to join the male disciples and learn together in Luke 10:38, ask a woman in how that feels, and you’ll understand the text in a whole new light.
2. When we don’t learn from women we go against the pattern of scripture
Paul is a great example of learning from women. Have a look at Acts 18:26. Priscilla and Aquilla teach Apollos and instruct him in the faith.
“26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately”.
Rachel Miller Green helpfully writes this…
“Outside the ordained offices, there should be many places in our churches for women to serve and to use their gifts of discernment, encouragement, and teaching. As we see in the New Testament, both male and female believers have been called to discernment and to teach, encourage, and admonish each other (see Phil. 1:9, Col 3:16, and 1 Thess. 5:11,14)”.
3. When we don’t learn from women, we reduce the role of women in the mission of God.
Have a look at Romans 16 and you’ll see this theological masterpiece full of the language of co-workers, of siblings. Men and women working as one body, but made up of many parts, different, yet working together. Take Phoebe for example, she was entrusted with delivering the theological masterpiece of the letter of Romans.
“16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me”.
Phoebe not only traveled from Cenchrae, Corinth in Greece to the city of Rome (no small undertaking in the ancient world!), but she also represented Paul and his gospel message to the Roman Christians. Imagine receiving such a letter and hearing it read aloud for the first time. Members of the Roman community were no doubt full of questions after it was read. Phoebe was the person who could answer their questions and explain further what Paul meant, due to her first hand knowledge of Paul’s message and her experience of serving the gospel alongside him as a co-worker. So was Phoebe simply a postwoman or the first interpreter of Paul’s letter to the Romans?
The answer to this is important. It’s important for my female friends but it’s also important for those who need to hear from the Phoebe’s of today. Michael Bird asks a helpful question here… “Now if Paul was so opposed to women teaching men anytime and anywhere,” continues Bird, “why on earth would he send a woman like Phoebe to deliver this vitally important letter and to be his personal representative in Rome?” (21) And if the Romans had any questions about the letter like ‘what is the righteousness of God?’ or ‘who is this wretched man about half-way through?’ who do you think would be the first person that they would ask?
So a marketing mistake or unconscious bias? Can men learn from women? Over to you….
2/10 on the “Him” list are female authors 1/15 on the “Her” list are male authors.