So as you may have read in some of my earlier posts, my husband is currently looking for a new ministry position. This has meant lots and lots of visiting new churches and services to get a feel for the places he’s applied to. A few weeks ago, we went to one of these churches and I was met with a pleasant surprise.
The pastor was a woman. Her official title was a pastor. She was not the senior pastor but happened to be preaching that week. This was the first time in my entire life that I heard a female pastor give a sermon. I am a huge advocate for women pursuing their gifts in ministry, whether that be in children’s ministry, worship ministry, or at the pulpit as a pastor. I am as egalitarian as it gets.
And yet I noticed something strange happening about a week after this visit.
As I’m sure you can imagine, searching for a new ministry position has been stressful but it has also been exciting! Mine and my husband’s favourite past-time right now include dreaming about possible new opportunities in the not-so-distant future. So we told my parents and in-laws and a few close friends about the church we visited that week.
And the same thing happened over and over again.
“We enjoyed the service. The woman who preached had a great message.”
“We loved the worship there. Plus the woman who preached gave an awesome sermon.”
“We got a good feel for the church, and even had the chance to meet the woman who preached after the service.”
Huh. The woman who preached? She wasn’t just a woman who preached on a one-off Sunday, she was a pastor. When we told our family and friends about other services we visited, we never once said: “the man who preached,” we simply said “the pastor.”
Internalized misogyny is a thing, and it is so deeply ingrained in most of us that it’s hard to even recognize. This is a term I learned in my sociology classes, but it appears many people outside the sociology classroom haven’t heard of it. So, what is internalized misogyny?
(This is a quote from Wikipedia, which I am using because this isn’t high school and I’m allowed to now!)
Women who experience internalized misogyny may express it through minimizing the value of women, mistrusting women, and believing gender bias in favor of men. Women, after hearing men demean the value and skills of women repeatedly, eventually internalize their beliefs and apply the misogynistic beliefs to themselves and other women
Source: Internalized Sexism on Wikipedia
Words are important. Calling a male pastor a pastor but a female pastor “the woman who preached” is clearly believing a gender bias in favour of men (male pastor) and diminishing the female pastor’s role in the church.
My husband and I both caught ourselves doing this and had a really great conversation about it afterwards. As someone who is so vocal about empowering women, especially women in the church, I was sad at first about my own choice of words. But then, I was happy because at least I was able to realize this, my husband was able to realize this, and we were both able to change our language for the better.