[This essay was originally published as “The Pastoral is Political: Woman Card, Man Card, Winning Card” for RevGalBlogPals during the 2016 presidential election. The meeting with the church leader took place at a pizza place in the Oregon District in Dayton OH, a favorite meeting place for downtown workers. Early Sunday August 4, the Oregon District was the scene of a deadly mass shooting.]
Republican presidential candidate, about Hillary Clinton:
“I think the only card she has is the woman’s card. She has nothing else going. Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she would get five percent of the vote. The only thing she has got going is the woman’s card.”
I was accused of playing my own “woman’s card” in a professional setting many years ago. It was my first pastoral call.
The church president called a lunch meeting with me at a pizza place. A well-known and highly-respected professional man, this leader of the church leaders was to meet with each of the three pastors on our “pastoral team” to review the results of a congregation-wide survey. The church council had crafted this tool to “assess the effectiveness” of our “team” and rank the three of us pastors — one male and two female — on the basis of the “data” they gathered.
There is a complicated, messy congregational back-story, of course. The proposed salvation for said messiness/nastiness was to be the “data” revealed in this “assessment” which would allow the powers-that-be to carry out their not-so-hidden agenda to dissolve of the “team,” identify a lead pastor, and determine the fate of the other two pastors.
Inexperienced as I was to ministry, I had figured out that this survey was not going to provide good news for the church, for the Gospel, or for any of us on the pastoral “team.” Still, the survey’s responses yielded very positive “data” on me, my preaching, and my presence in the congregation.
The president of the congregation defused any temptation I might have to construe the “data” as a professional accomplishment when he said:
“The reason that you are so popular in the congregation is because of your great husband and your beautiful children.”
Yes, he did that. The only thing I had going for me was the Traditional Family woman’s card.
Eve had her apple.
Bathsheba had her bathing ritual.
I had my family.
Hillary has her woman-ness.
Those are a few of the woman cards we women have been accused of playing to give ourselves an unfair advantage over the men we seek to serve alongside or live among.
In church world, we have sufficient reason to ask: “What advantage?”
In my United Church of Christ, in 2013 — 160 years after our first woman was ordained — in the denomination that has been vilified for being too liberal and lauded for being leading-edge progressive:
Solo and senior pastors are 35.6% women
Conference ministers are 26% women
One of three national officers is a woman
We have never been led by a woman General Minister and President
Sometimes we dare to ask:
“How did this happen?”
“Why is it taking so long?”
Then these man cards get played:
Look how far women have come
There are/were no qualified women applicants
Women are their own worst enemies
And the now legendary, but common Trump Card man card:
You only got that because you are a woman
Let’s call these man cards even when they are played by women, because they serve to perpetuate the patriarchy, including (and especially) the benevolent patriarchy. Women are not promoted or elected or protected or kept alive or fulfilled by “be patient” and “it could be worse” and “women are really the ones to blame.”
This election year, it is very likely that we will finally have the opportunity to vote in a national election where there will be a woman at the top of the ticket. We will consider it a victory for women to see Hillary Clinton, highly experienced and widely accomplished, achieve her party’s presidential nomination. And rightly so.
A safe prediction: She will choose a man as her running mate. Because he will be the most qualified. Or because a woman presidential candidate “is progress.” We will “be patient” until the day when a two-woman party ticket will seem as normal as 240 years of those two-men party tickets.
An even safer prediction: There are man cards yet to be played this political season.
We look forward to the day when we will have “equal representation” in pulpits, at tables of influence, on the news as experts in every field. We may be expected to consider “equal representation” a victory. We may even be expected to be content and quiet down.
Me? I’m holding out to play the rare Notorious RBG card, so very well played by our wonderful Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg:
“[W]hen I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”
Indeed. Why not? And how long?