Equals: Enjoying gender equality in all areas of life

By Bernadette Meaden
April 11, 2014

Equals: Enjoying gender equality in all areas of life

By Jenny Baker

Published by Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge

What first struck me about this book was its beautifully simple, clear and straightforward prose style. It is highly readable, and whilst drawing on a great deal of research and scholarship, never becomes heavy or tedious. The tone is lively, warm, and engaging. The author relates the issues discussed to her own life experiences where appropriate, giving the whole an authentic and personal feel.

The book explores how gender stereotypes affect both men and women in every area of life, and how this begins at a very early age. When taking tests for instance, boys and girls who are told, ‘boys are usually better at these types of problems’ or ‘girls usually do better at these tests’ respond to the pressure or lack of expectation this brings, and their performances are affected accordingly. The author then goes on to explore how these affects are felt at home, in marriage, parenting, work and in church.

There may be many people who see working for gender equality as being all about the rights of women, and striving to remove the barriers women may face. But this book persuasively argues that striving for equality is equally important for both men and women, because inequality means everybody is disadvantaged, and society is much the poorer for it. When men and women feel obliged to conform to accepted stereotypes their personalities are stifled, talents undeveloped, and relationships distorted. Gender equality would enable both men and women to be who they are, honestly express what they feel, and take up the roles most suited to them, not the roles society deems appropriate. The status quo is often damaging to men’s lives: males are doing less well in education, they die of cancer at a higher rate than women, and they are far more likely to commit suicide, for instance. Released from the pressure to conform to what society thinks males should be like, they may find their lives more fulfilling.

The book is written from the standpoint of egalitarian Christianity, and has much to offer men and women in the Church who may be struggling with these issues. Despite the traditional teachings and structures of the Church, Christianity does offer a model of how we can relate to each other in a much more egalitarian way, as brothers and sisters in Christ. At several points in the book the author sets the reader a thought-provoking task. For instance, she lists a number of jobs and activities and asks us to consider how we think about them in terms of gender. Some may be seen as being stereotypically female, some stereotypically male. At a later stage in the book, we are told that, in his life, Jesus did all these things.

The book shows just how far we have to go in terms of equality, but is far from negative. The author gives many positive examples and practical suggestions as to how we can all move forward and help to bring about a society in which all people enjoy gender equality. It would be ideal reading for anyone who wished to stimulate discussion in their church, home, or workplace.

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© Review by Bernadette Meaden who has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden

Keywords:Gender | equality
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