“We’re so excited to have you here!”
“Yes, it’s always great to have more lay women here with us.”
I am a lay woman. That is my label. I’ve never really thought about it before, but as of yesterday I’ve been called that twice. Not only that, but I’ve been heartily welcomed into my Eastern Christian Theological classes because of that. Not because of my personality, or my obvious thirst for knowledge and a deepening of my faith, but because of my gender and vocational orientation.*
This would never happen to a man. There is no such thing as “Men’s Studies.” Whether due to historical tradition or patriarchal hierarchies, a man** is always the default setting, the norm, and anything outside that (i.e. a woman) is abnormal and therefore solicited. In this case, I am praised for having chosen to study a subject that, like many, is chalk-full of the male perspective, no doubt so I can chime in with my (supposedly) opposite, female perspective.
This begs the question, “What if my views aren’t any different from a man’s?” Does that all of a sudden make my opinion any less female and relevant? Of course not! Because my opinion comes from me, it is automatically a female perspective (see Always’ “#LikeAGirl” video to see what I mean).
That seems like a lot of pressure, to be welcomed into an area of study because of one’s gender and vocational orientation, almost as if one is a mythical creature. Because the truth is, I am just like any man, lay or otherwise, who comes to study the same subject. We all come because of an itch, of that thirst to know more, to have a deeper understanding of things we can never fully know. Yes, the product of our studies may be different, but our faith and scholastic journeys are the same. We’re all going to the same place, whether we’re female, male, religious, or lay. So why does the distinction need to be made here and now if in the end it doesn’t really matter?
Food for thought. Your turn.
*Not true for all of my classes, but I’m simply making a point.
**If I’m being completely accurate, I should say a white, straight man is the default setting, but since I’m only discussing gender, I thought I’d stick just with men in general.