Why I Love-Hate “Women’s Month”

cropped-Theotokos-Eucharist.jpgMarch is the month when women across my archdiocese will take a more visible role during the Divine Liturgy. Mostly “Women’s Month” means they will read the Epistle and collect the offering. I am glad for this month because I do think women need not only work with the kids or in the kitchen, but giving them one month out of the year feels like an empty gesture that, I’m afraid, reinforces the paternalism it pretends to testify against.

Women’s Month is proof that there is misogyny in our church, just like Black History Month proves systemic racism. African Americans need one month out of the year only because people like me pretty much get free reign over the other eleven. The same is true for women. Every month is Men’s Month.

I think sometimes in the Orthodox Church we worry that giving women a more prominent role in our worship will take us too close to feminism, but the problem with letting fear dictate our actions is that we end up needing what we are not in order to know what we are. To fear letting feminism influence the church is for feminism to influence the church, only in reverse. It is to listen to culture more than the gospel.

St. Nino, Equal to the Apostles and Enlightener of Georgia
St. Nino, Equal to the Apostles and Enlightener of Georgia

Once upon a time in Orthodoxy, women were deaconesses. Some preached the gospel (Sts. Nino and Thecla). Others led liturgical processions. Women have been pushed to the margins for cultural reasons that have nothing to do with the kingdom of God. “Your daughters shall prophesy,” Peter told a crowd of his fellow Jews after Pentecost (Acts 2:17), which is a sign that God’s kingdom has come close. The kingdom of God breaks into the world in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, breaking down barriers between life and death, the holy and profane, and even male and female. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). In the Orthodox Church, we believe that our journey into the Eucharist is a journey into the kingdom of God, but it is a kingdom we testify against insofar as we carrier old barriers into it.

I know this raises the bogeyman of women’s ordination, but don’t get distracted! One need not support the ordination of women to believe that maybe they should collect the offering or read the epistle during the other eleven months of the year. Some women are gifted speakers; maybe they could preach (which anyone can do with the priest’s blessing). At every liturgy the kingdom of God breaks into the world. It comes close to us; it both beckons and testifies against us. The kingdom of God calls the church to become its future, it is a future we begin to fulfill when we let women on the ambo more often, when we make every month Women’s Month.

19 thoughts on “Why I Love-Hate “Women’s Month””

  1. I'm having trouble with women's month (something I also don't know about, women read the Epistle in my church though not as tonsured readers- OCA) as proof the church hates women; or at least part of it does? This word is thrown around too carelessly. This also begs the question, even though Orthodox women do so much in our parishes, because these liturgical acts are often denied, is the rest is meaningless? I personally see no problem with women readers and collection plate hander-outers, but I'm not ready to say that parishes that do see this as a problem actually hate women. Forgive me but I think this word is lazy.

    1. Fair point. I think "misogyny" typically refers to something more like systemic sexism than an actual feeling. At least that is what I meant by it.

  2. I'm having trouble with women's month (something I also don't know about, women read the Epistle in my church though not as tonsured readers- OCA) as proof the church hates women; or at least part of it does? This word is thrown around too carelessly. This also begs the question, even though Orthodox women do so much in our parishes, because these liturgical acts are often denied, is the rest is meaningless? I personally see no problem with women readers and collection plate hander-outers, but I'm not ready to say that parishes that do see this as a problem actually hate women. Forgive me but I think this word is lazy.

    1. I'm declaring March "Me" month! or French Fry month, or Rollie-Pollie month. Women's month? Pffft. Oh, brother. Why does every group feel so bad about themselves that they have create month commemorations for themselves?

    2. I like what Chris Rock said about black history month being February, "Not only did they give us the shortest month, they gave us the coldest month in case we wanted to have a parade!"

    3. It is Antiochian and designated as such by Metropolitan Phillip. Every Antiochian woman throughout the Archdiocese will be handed a blue and white sticker to wear as she enters the church. The sticker will read, “I AM AN ANTIOCHIAN WOMAN.” :)

      http://www.antiochian.org/node/17290

    4. It's hard for me to understand something like this going on in the Orthodox Church. Perhaps it's because I hail from a hyper patriarchal background (in one of the Protestant denominations I was part of, women were not allowed to even attend congregational–i.e., men's–meetings, let alone vote), but as soon as I set foot in Orthodox churches, I no longer felt inferior in any way for being a woman. I would say that nearly all of the Orthodox women I have met so far are "strong" women who do not hesitate to speak their minds and who expect to be taken as seriously as any man. But I guess as long as we are, as a culture, confusing equal value with lack of distinction, then we (in this case, women) are going to fight to do whatever it is that someone else does who we think has an unfair advantage over us.

    5. I agree with everything up until the last sentence, which I think oversimplifies the issue. But I recognize I speak as an outsider (i.e. "male") looking in.

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