Monday, August 20, 2012

God shows up at girls' night

Yesterday, I realized that I harbor a strange prejudice against women's events, and I'm trying to understand the origins of this feeling.

Last night, one of the churches I have been visiting had two special programs, one for men and one for women. Each event had its own speaker. I went because I thought it would be a good way to meet more people from the church. However, as I sat at the table, I was distracted from my desire to make friends by waves of sarcasm.  Before the speaker was even introduced, I had made up my mind that it was probably going to be overly emotional and focused on something that was not particularly relevant to me. Apparently I need to start resting from snarkiness on the Sabbath.

As it happened, the talk was on a subject I've lamented is usually neglected in churches--friendship.  The speaker's message (dare I say, sermon?) was deep and compelling and challenged me to re-examine a painful and confusing division I have had from one close friend.

My pride was wholesomely wounded over the course of the evening, and I repent of my bad attitude. Today, I'm trying to understand why I am so ill-disposed towards events like that. I have always had strong female friendships, and although I have never planned anything called a "girls' night," I spent almost every Sabbath last year sewing and knitting with Katie. And I've never been a tomboy -- if I could, I would wear silk blouses and pearls to work every day for the rest of my life. I've even been to excellent programs for women, including two women's retreats with my church in Texas.

So what is my problem?

Maybe I'm uncomfortable with these events because they seem in danger of making generalizations about women and/or gender roles? Or perhaps I am still worried that the boys are getting to do something more interesting, like Greek? Or maybe (and this might be nearest the truth), I have been scornful simply because I don't see the point of women-only events. I'm not denying that there are issues women might best discuss with other women, but I'm not sure what those are for me. I'm not sure if this is because I am willing to discuss more things in mixed company, or because the questions that really haunt me are such that I would be slow to discuss them with anyone, male or female.

This realization is so fresh that I don't entirely understand it myself. Whatever the cause of my disdain, I want to use my fresh humility to keep an open mind about women's events in the future. If I truly believe that it is presumptuous to say whom God can and cannot speak through, then I should be ashamed to doubt that the Spirit of the Living God will show up at a girls' night.

 What about you? Do you like church events that are geared for a specific gender? Am I missing something in my lack of appreciation for them? 


  1. Well, I've sometimes been tempted to skip the "guys' night" and slip over to the ladies' event to see what's happening. Believe me, we're not studying Greek over there. At least, not this time around. It was very good, nevertheless.

    I suppose I also tend to be cynical about events targeting one gender, or even one age group. That's partly because I've never felt that I "fit" very well with my peers. Most guys in my church like to talk about sports, guns, and fishing; I like to talk about poetry, gardening, and theology. (At least we have house repairs in common.) Most guys in my church need to hear sermons that are clear, simple, and pointed. I like sermons that are reflective, nuanced, and meditative. (At least we can all agree on the virtues of clarity and precision.)

    And yet, somehow, I think I need those guys to keep me grounded. Maybe they need me for something. I don't really know.

    -Steve S.

  2. I'm scared of women's events. When I was a teenager, I remember the "Feminar" overnighter my church youth group had. They did makeovers and things like that. My mom made me go. While I wasn't scarred for life, I felt very, very out of place. When I was in middle school, I felt accepted by the boys in my school, but too far different from the girls. I didn't like what they liked. So, as an adult, I was afraid to try my church's mom's group. I forced myself to go, though, and ended up enjoying the fellowship there. With greater courage, then, I tried a woman's Bible study and enjoyed that, too. Now my two best friends are from that study. Sometimes, though, there are woman's things I go to that seem to deny that women have an intellect. They're all touchy-feely, and I'm just not like that and can't relate. But for all I know, perhaps there are men's events like that as well. For me, I think the reason I fear women's events is because I don't like things many women like, I'm not interested in "dolling myself up" (as my mom would say), so I fear judgment; also, I don't feel comfortable sharing my feelings, which is practically expected at a women's event.

  3. I find that the more I grow the more I need "difference." I think the biblical picture of God's image as a shared relationship between male and female under God underlies this desire. Since this relationship has been among the most troubled in the church (for a whole variety of reasons), we are all likely conflicted to some degree. I wonder if we could find greater clarity here if we joined together in serving others more than we do. Serving binds us in a shared commitment to be present for others and within that shared commitment to serve I suspect we'd discover a mutuality and a more appropriate set of boundaries that will enhance the gift of difference we are to each other rather than trading in gender stereotypes and suspicions.


  4. I find groups in general to be difficult. My husband is older than me. We don't fit well into the young marrieds group. (Of course, at this point, I'm not especially young anyway, but that's another topic.) Our children are a lot younger than those of many other couples our age, so sometimes it's hard to relate. Women's groups are hard to get involved in because, as much as there are many women in our church who work full time, most groups meet during work time. So they mostly draw in those who are retired or fortunate enough to be able to stay home. On those rare occasions that I'm able to take part in a group, I enjoy it, but it's definitely not easy. And it's hard to find a group that feels like the right fit. I know, I'm not getting deep, but I do understand where you're coming from.