Below are the questions in the email interview with the Voice of Russia and my answers. I was grateful that I was quoted in this article. It is an avenue for others to hear about the work we are doing.
What is your full name and profession?
Shirley Taylor. I am the founder of bWe Baptist Women for Equality which promotes reclaiming women’s equality in churches and in our homes. I am a blogger advocating for Christian women’s equality.
How equal do you think men are to women, is it 50/50 now or something different?
That is interesting phrasing because the question is usually how equal are women to men, which makes being males the standard. In this question as it is, men are trying to reach a 50/50 with women. That would indicate that men are trying to catch up to women and they would not want that.
My guess is that you want to know if women are equal to men. The answer is no. Women are nowhere near 50/50 in equality. Gender preference begins early in childhood. Many countries place a greater value on boys, and as a result, girl fetuses are aborted, or girl children are left to starve while the male children get the best food. Little girls are often adopted out to families in foreign countries. In a world where boy babies are more desirable than girl babies, that attitude remains in the society, and is found in job discrimination, abuse of women, and is carried on into the next generation.
In fact, in a society willing to abort female fetuses, or starving little girl children, or seeing girl children as commodities to be sold at a cost, then there is no way you can suddenly change how you feel about females. You cannot ever see adult females as equal with men. The mothers themselves are often the ones willing to do away with their female children, so this is not just a male attitude.
The United States does not condone gender selection at pregnancy, and Christians hopefully would not do that. But we have other ways of showing gender selection, and that is in the church where women are told that God assigned women certain roles and that they cannot cross over those roles. Not every church teaches that, of course, but that is the attitude that prevails in the Christian community, in the Unites States and in other countries.
Do you think women are more equal with the opposite sex than other countries?
That is hard to say. Legally, women are equal to men. In practice and thought that is not the case. In the United States we still find that women are secondary to men. It is prevalent in our churches because, like I said in the previous answer, the majority of churches teach that women must be in submission to their husband. The largest denomination is Catholic and while they teach equality in the home between husband and wife, they show another side in their churches because only men can be priests.
The second largest religious group is the Southern Baptist Convention, which I focus on. Their teaching is that women cannot be pastors of a church, cannot preach, and cannot be a deacon or elder in a church, based on their understanding of Bible verses that say that women cannot have authority over men. They quote such people as John Piper who helped write the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which is still a leading affirmation of faith in Southern Baptist seminaries, where future pastors receive their training. This makes women in Southern Baptist churches, and in other churches, unequal before God, before their church, and before their families. This is the equality that I am seeking to reclaim. What is taught in the churches bleeds out into society and people who do not ever attend church accept that men are superior to women
In the end, it doesn’t matter what I think about equality among the sexes. What matters is what girls themselves think because this will either propel them forward, or hold them back. A study by the Girl Scout Research Institute reports that four out of five girls believe they don’t have what it takes for leadership positions. It is an attitude that is taught in fundamentalist churches and is borne out in studies such as this. Girls must begin thinking of themselves as being equal.
What other countries come to mind where you believe women have less equality?
Of course Afghanistan is one of those countries. They have a deep-seated belief that women are inferior. Even those who are willing to help the United States believe that women are inferior, and when forced to make a decision, they will decide for what they have been taught about women. That is why the United States can’t win the war in Afghanistan. In fact, our own young men and women who are helping fight for women’s rights in that country, come home and find in their churches that same teaching that women are to be in submission to their husbands.
Why do you think they are less equal in these countries?
Attitudes toward women are birthed in culture, tradition, and religious practices. Those are factors that determine how a woman will be treated in their country. All are hard to change. All can be changed in some ways, so women should not be discouraged. In fact, we have already seen changes in all those factors in the 20century, and I hope to see more in the 21 century.
What actions can be taken to make women more equal with men?
Legal actions have already been taken in the United States and in many other countries, so that leaves the emotional and/or relational actions that need to be taken.
First we need to realize that being male is not the standard. One-half of the population is female, and it is certain that no man or woman would be born without women. Men are necessary for conception, but it is the woman’s body that gives birth, so that in itself should make women special. Therefore, greater respect should be shown to women, the mothers of all. But it is not just the ability for childbirth that makes women worthy of respect and equality. Women have an intelligence that is equal to men’s intelligence, a soul that is as precious as a man’s soul, and the capacity for love that appears to be greater than men’s capacity to love.
This requires us to see women as being fully human. It requires us to see women as complete as males are and as worthy as males are, before God and society.
So, the action that needs to be taken is an action of decision. We have to make the decision to see women as complete, and not some other human creation that needs to be compared to men.
What advice can you give to women (no matter where they live) who want to have more equality?
My website is exclusively for Christian women across the world. That doesn’t mean that non-Christian women are not important, rather it means that any suggestions I give will be centered around women who are Christians. I tell women to pray for equality. Talk about equality in your home and church to shed light on what is needed. Create a network of friends who will bolster you in this endeavor. Above all, remember that being a woman is the most important part of your life. Be proud that you are a woman, and do not allow others to limit what you can and cannot do simply because you were born female.
What can people do on Women’s Equality Day to show their appreciation and respect for women?
Step outside your home and pray for women everywhere. Pray particularly for Christian women, and women of all faiths, to bring about equality in churches, or places of worship, that limit women to certain roles. Join with other women who are speaking out for equality. Most importantly, on this day, recognize that for centuries women have had to fight for equality. If your attitude needs to be changed, be open to changing your own attitude.
Do you celebrate Women’s Equality Day?
If so, how? If not, why?
Because I was unfamiliar with it until now. That surprises me since I like to keep up with what is going on in the world regarding women.
Are there any projects your site is currently working on that has to deal with women’s equality that you would like to highlight?
Yes, thank you for asking. Commit to 5 is a simple plan of action that any one can do and it can be started at any time, alone or with a group. Choose one or more of these five things to do and commit to doing it for five months. 1. Pray for women’s equality; 2. Read books and articles supporting women’s equality; 3. Participate with others through groups that support women’s equality; 4. Change the way you speak and think about women’s equality; 5. Tell others how they can work for women’s equality.