Well, where to start? Space is limited, but as so much of this book resonated with me I wished I was reading it in the same room with a group of friends so we could discuss various issues and points that Jenny Baker raises! And one of my reasons for recommending this book to you is that I suspect many of you will have a similar reaction. So many of the things Jenny has witnessed or that have been said to her over the years, have been said to me or people I know, for example challenging event leaders over the lack of female speakers (an issue we have covered on the Sophia website many times) and being told ‘they just don’t know any gifted women’.
Jenny gives several qualifications at the start and throughout that are worth bearing in mind e.g. when work is spoken about, in the context of this book, it usually refers to paid employment. And it seems to me that it does consider a particular, dare I say it, middle class experience.
This book is set within the redemptive nature of Jesus and the idea that women and men both suffer from inequalities and that neither is more important than the other. Jenny says
'There is no blueprint for sharing life more equally but I hope that this book will provoke many discussions about how it might be done so that both women and men can thrive. More than that, I hope that it will be a catalyst for some creative explorations for doing life together differently, creating communities and churches where the fantastic diversity of women and men are released and celebrated, and the liberating truth of Christ’s redemption is experienced' p. xii.
There are some shocking statistics contained within its pages and there is a comprehensive section of notes at the end of the book should you be inspired to find further reading.
If you find parts of the early chapters more academic than you are used to please persevere – there is so much here to explore. The last few chapters cover very practically how we might begin to make change for example in the home or at work with real life experiences and questions to think about. Jenny points out that you may not find each chapter particularly relevant to your own situation and you should feel free to skip them – but please don’t because I feel it adds to the whole context of the discussion, it may be applicable to you one day and it might just give you an insight into an experience you have seen someone else go through. As I read the chapters on work and church, I thought about several men I know who might also identify with being marginalised, as they don’t fit the image some people have of how a Christian speaker/leader should be.
I think this book should be read by men and women, even those of us who think we’ve got is sussed when it comes to how we approach equality. I think as we read, we should allow ourselves to be challenged as each of us considers our own behaviour, particularly the unconscious stereotyping we might be guilty of and our need for control (perhaps that last one is just me!). Jenny suggests we should be more intentional about creating opportunity to further equality in the world in general. This is a book, which encourages us to ‘celebrate the gifts, talents skills and abilities of men and women. Perhaps if we talked more about our common humanity and what we share as human beings made in the image of God, we would get less hung up about ways in which men and women might or ought to be distinctive’.
I look forward to discussing this with you on the website – book club anyone?
Karen Beal is coming to the end of her time as Manchester Development Worker with The Girls' Brigade & is settling into her post as Chaplain & Team Leader with Christians in Schools Trust, Stockport.