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I was recently part of a conversation on Facebook where a woman was asking for parenting resources particularly for her as a mother who was new to gentle parenting and wanted support and encouragement from other mums. One of the commenters replied asking why she would need resources particularly for mothers as "it's all parenting". A couple of other people who replied also seems confused as to why anyone would want resources specific to mothers. This was really disheartening for the original poster who just wanted some links to resources that might help her embrace this new philosophy. It also made me sad that Christian mothers couldn't see that parenting a child as a woman or parenting a child as a man are two different things and that each has value. Of course there is a massive amount of overlap which is why most parenting books are helpful to both mums and dads, but to deny that there are any differences at all seemed to me not only unbiblical (the Bible makes it clear that God created us with different unique gifts), but also reductionist, reducing us from our unique and sacred roles as mothers or fathers to an all encompassing and homogenous "parents". It's also just plain unhelpful for people seeking resources suited to their sex.
This denial that women and men have spiritual and emotional differences and needs is also happening in churches, women are rejecting sex separated groups and ministry, often preferring everyone together all the time. Long gone is the mothers union. Why are women rejecting women's ministry? Why do they see no value in women gathering together in a space of shared experiences?
I am sure I have some beloved readers who are feeling their blood pressure rise as they read this thinking I am talking about gender stereotypes. I'm not. I am not talking about how mothers should be staying home cleaning and cooking whilst dads should be the ones going out to work, nor am I saying mothers should be the soft ones who offer comfort and sympathy whilst dads should be the tough ones dishing out discipline and rough housing. The debate over whether and how male and females brains are different and whether these differences are social or biological will probably go on for decades, even some of the most respected thinkers haven't been able to draw concrete conclusions, but it is my belief that there are differences between men and women, fathers and mothers that go beyond our reproductive organs, hormones and social upbringing. This stems from my own personal observations and experience, and from my perspective as a Christian which looks to the Bible for truth about things that science cannot explain. The Bible is consistent in the picture it paints of what it means to be male and female and the fact of them being different, not that women in are in any way inferior to men or that women and men shouldn't do things together or that there are many things that are the same for women and men, but that God made us different for a special reason.
So all that to say (as a disclaimer!), what I want to discuss here isn't whether men and women, mothers and father are different (you can safely assume that I believe they are) what I want to discuss is why some Christian women would question the value of resources specific to mothers and fathers, men and women, why they would reject the Biblical (and may I say rather wonderful) ways than the sexes differ in preference for a homogenous application of spirituality and treatment generally.
So why are women rejecting women only spaces? And why are women not seeing the value in resources and support tailored to their unique roles as mothers?
Maybe women aren't just rejecting women and mother only spaces and specific resources but they are rejecting womanhood and motherhood altogether. I see this in the way we treat periods (pretend we aren't having them, treat them as a huge inconvenience, take hormones to eliminate them etc), breastfeeding (hide it away, minimise it as much as possible or decline participating at all etc), pregnancy (expected to carry on as if nothing is happening, talk about the pregnancy as it is is something the male partner also experiences "we're pregnant!" etc) and childbirth (unnecessary intervention, mistrust of a woman's ability to birth, rejection of physiological childbirth due to fear etc), women are rejecting the very functions that make them women (and just to clarify I am not saying that women who do not experience these things are any less women.) I talk about these more in my series on Patreon HERE . There are several reasons why I believe women are rejecting womanhood:
- History of marginalisation, oppression and persecution: Aside from a few ancient maternal societies, women have been marginalised, oppressed and persecuted by men. Is it any wonder then that they want to reject those things that define their femininity? By avoiding women's only groups, by rejecting the idea that resources designed specifically for mothers or fathers are of value women can feel like they are moving away from this historical oppression. Women can hope then to be treated exactly the same as men, be treated as their equal. Women and mothers are perhaps trying to shake off the negative historical connotations of womanhood and motherhood, those gender stereotypes I mentioned earlier, plus the stereotypes of servitude and weakness.
- Pressure to be an economic contributor: Motherhood has no immediate value to the economy, so it is not supported by government or businesses. In fact whole other businesses have been created on the back of women returning to work (childcare). The message that paid work is the only work that is of value is deeply ingrained into our modern society and into the psyche of women. Many of my mother peers have never had the role model of a mum at home to affirm their own desire to be with their children, and there are no celebrity role models for motherhood. Also women feel guilty about staying home when their husbands are in paid work (as if looking after your children is a holiday!).
- Sexualisation and objectification of women's bodies: Most women don't want to be constantly sexualised and objectified, yet this is the image we constantly bombarded with in the media and from society. We are told that our worth is in our ability to excite the male gaze and if our visage doesn't do this we are spent, rejected and useless. Some women find their sense of worth through being objectified in this way and when their bodies do not fit with the stereotype of what is sexually acceptable they lose their sense of worth. Women who don't feel this way and never wanted to be sexualised to begin with are stepping away from womanhood in order to avoid the sexualisation of our bodies. We think if we can be more like men then we won't be sexualised and objectified by them.