Ahead of International Women’s Day, Rev Janet Stains looks at the pursuit of gender equality.
The 2020 theme for International Women’s Day #EachforEqual moves beyond individual action and calls on everyone to work together to achieve gender equality.
The pursuit for gender equality has tended to centre around the key question: Should gender equality be achieved by treating women the same as men or by treating women differently? This question has proved contentious in shaping how scholars, policy makers and CEOs have engaged with gender issues.
The sameness-difference debate reached its height with the inclusion of sex discrimination in the Civil Rights Act in the United States in the 1960s, securing sameness of treatment as the preferred strategy for securing women’s rights in the workplace.
One of the outcomes of this approach is the assumption that gender inequality is an individual problem and the result of individual actions. In other words, women have been made responsible for bringing about their own equal standing in public and private spheres. #EachforEqual suggests that significant change will only come about when the responsibility for achieving equality is shared.
So how are we going in the church? The Basis of Union expresses a commitment to the equal recognition of the ministry of women and men. Our theology and liturgy are an example to the whole church in reflecting the early church’s example of gender-balanced leadership witnessed in the Galatian baptismal hymn: “There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).
And yet despite our aspirations, our clerical practice is statistically more reflective of the corporate world. Constant attention is required by everyone to check who is not in the room when policies are being developed, or how women are being engaged in decisions or what processes are failing to name or are even protecting sexist comments or behaviour.
A commitment to equality is required by everyone, along with the conviction that without gender equality, the church is not whole.
Rev Janet Stains is the minister at Chermside Kedron Community Church. Find out more about International Women’s Day.