2 comments Written on November 3rd, 2015     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Jo Ann Deasy is an ordained Covenant pastor currently serving as the director of institutional initiatives and student research at the Association of Theological Schools in Pittsburgh, PA.

Declan's Birthday 003This past week was my son’s third birthday party. Despite a more than full work schedule this past month, I pulled out all the stops for the occasion. I made cupcakes decorated to look like penguins. I wrapped juice boxes in penguin outfits. I put together little treat bags filled with penguin crackers, penguin stickers, and penguin rubber duckys. I prepared most of the food, just ordering in a bit of chicken to finish out the meal. And I loved doing it. What I wasn’t prepared for was how I would feel when everyone found out what I had done.

There were the moms who looked at all the homemade food and decorations and commented, “Thanks for making us all look bad!” I knew they were joking, but I was surprised at my reaction. Rather than laughing it off, I felt guilty. Here I was an advocate for women leaders and pastors, a full-time working mom, and I had done something that made other working mom’s feel inadequate, as if they could not measure up. I made it look like I could do it all, which is so far from the truth.

Not only did I feel guilty, I felt embarrassed. As if showing this side of me, this craftiness, this domesticity, was somehow betraying the professional side of my identity. I had always equated such craftiness with the Martha Stewart types of the world, with those women in those church women’s groups that had never accepted me… or at least who I never felt accepted by because I was single, working, a pastor, with no family and very little desire to talk about what most women in the church seemed to want to talk about. I was not one of them and I would never be one of them! Even if I had just spent several evenings cutting out little penguin feet to glue on juice boxes.

I often feel the need to hide the more feminine (is craftiness actually feminine?… what a stereotype) sides of myself. The softer side. The emotional side. The crafty side. The side that cares about my clothes and make up. The side that fantasized about being a wife and mother when I was younger. The side that sometimes wants a knight in shining armor to come in and rescue me. I fear revealing anything in myself that fits gender stereotypes, that might remind people that I am a woman, that might cause people to remember that they don’t really believe in women leaders, that they don’t think women are smart or strong or worthy of trust.

I often feel the need to choose between the various “types” of women depicted in our culture. I can be a wife and mother or a pastor and career woman, but I can’t be both. I can be a sexy seductress or a virginal and/or asexual innocent, but nothing in between. I can be meek or angry. Loving or cold. Intelligent or emotional. But never both. To be more complex is to risk being marginalized, to risk being stereotyped away.

Women actors often have to fight for roles that are more rich and complex, layered and complicated. Women, especially women pastors, often have to do the same. We have to fight to bring all of ourselves into our roles as pastors… to bring ourselves as mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters… to bring our full range of emotions and experiences… our full range of interests and passions. It can be exhausting, but it is so important. Only by bringing our full selves can we break the stereotypes and create a world that sees women in all the rich complexity that God created us.

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Joann — thanks for your honest sharing. I look forward to the day when, if you’ll allow me, you won’t have to write about such struggles. May God speed the day when all the women ministers of the church can “bring their their full selves” into their roles.  Thanks for the ways you are doing that now!  Your congregation is blessed by your doing so. 

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Jo Ann – So glad you named this and are delivered from the projected stereotypical expectation of others. We are indeed free in Christ to bring all of ourselves into the various roles we fill! Praise the Lord! Catherine

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