Can the Subaltern Blog?: The problem of institutional sexism and the biblioblogs

DISCLAIMER: As one who is familiar with the work of Gayatri Spivak (author of the essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?”), I know that it is foolish for me to claim that I represent those who are considered subaltern (marginalized). I am not speaking for the subaltern of the biblioblogs (in this instance, women) nor have I claimed to do so.  I am speaking for myself, as an individual, dedicated to anti-sexist movements within Christianity.

Later has come for Nick’s questions concerning my latest post (the meme).

A.

Nick first asks me to unpack my definition of “the conservative evangelical faction on the biblioblogs.”  First, I would like to correct myself, if I may.  There is “a” faction of conservative evangelicalism in particular in the realm of the biblioblogs as I see it that has a large voice and influence and intentionally or unintentionally ignores the plights of the quote-unquote marginalized (more on that later in my address to Nick’s second question).  Just as national politics here in the United States plays itself out in terms of a two-party system, so do scholars in religious studies and denominations align themselves up with a particular agenda.

For example, Celucien and James Mcgrath (and here as well) had a back and forth over the positive and negative influences of liberal/progressive Christianity.  On the flip side of things, there may be a pre-supposed an [not-liberal?] and [not-progressive] Christianity that was not a part of the conversation.  This is where one turns to the conservative, evangelical side of things.  The recent controversy surround April DeConick’s post on the gender gap on the biblioblogs has revealed a division between those in religious studies that is blatantly obvious to the naked eye [here].  There are individuals who have nothing to do with those in the Evangelical Theological Society just as much as there are persons who would not have anything to do with those in the Jesus Seminar.  If there were not a difference in opinion, there would only be a monologue of hegemony, where there were bloggers agreeing on everything, just like some view the early church where they all gathered in one place.

The particular conservative evangelical faction I am referring to on the biblioblogs is the one where there are social and political opinions given that match up with conservative evangelicalism but where there is very little regard for histories of oppression; yes, for example it is true we can say that it is the fault of blacks that blacks are viewed as criminals today, but when the other side of the story may be one who disagrees, and asks why not we also look at the histories of black stereotypes and see that in a lot of instances black men are portrayed as black violent bucks in order to justify enslavement, lynching, and racial segregation.

When these questions are asked, conversation is discontinued because it leads this conservative evangelical faction down a road and towards a conversation it is not willing to have: the problem of institutional, corporate sin.  All of this leads me to a definition of this conservative evangelicalism as a faction on the biblioblogs: generally, a specific group of bloggers in the field of religious studies (mostly biblical) that believe in usually plenary inspiration and  inerrancy of Scripture, most of the principles of the Reformation (the Five solas) retaining an affection of the certain figures of the Reformation (perhaps Calvin or Luther more often than not, sometimes Zwingli), and lastly, the common strand of a highly individualistic view of sin–an idea that individuals alone are judged according to their sins and actions.

B.

Next, Nick asks me to explain “the ancient binaries of anti-sexist movements as nothing but angry, bitter male haters.”

Example of a binary: Early, I said that there are some bibliobloggers who may intentionally or unintentionally ignored the plight of the quote-unquote marginalized.  The use of the term “marginalized” is a the second half of a binary, the marginalized-center binary, or what one would call oppressor-oppressed dichotomy (or binary, similar to an absolute dualism, like  all powerful all knowing God vs. an all powerful, all-knowing Devil).  As I see it, there are a few members of different factions in the biblioblogosophere have yet to escape the binary of margin-center.  Postcolonial theory, as I understand it, calls us to escape these binaries.  I have not claimed that Jim West or any one else on the “Other-ed” side (if you will) is completely wrong; in fact, if you look at both of my posts in response to Dr. West, I say that Jim West is partially correct.  All I have tried to do is posit the other sides of the story, rather than completely placing all of the blame on the victim, I was trying to call into question whether there is a completely “marginalized” side or not by telling the other, untold side that is not as prevalent.

On the question of the concept that all antisexist movements are filled with angry, bitter male haters, I can point to an example that Dr. West happily agreed with: the notion that perhaps April DeConick is angry , like all second wave feminists. These images are just not mere pictures; they express a political opinion, the opinion that women have no right to be angry, for sexism, according to  the individualistic definition of sin that the faction (explained in the first part of the post) holds. It is advantageous for this particular faction to discredit any theological notion of corporate sin, and therefore discredit the claims of these “angry women and their allies” since institutional sin does not exist.  If institutional sins such as institutional sexism does not exist, then DeConick’s claims cannot be explained except for anything but a
“conspiracy theory.”

C.

Let us now go to reasonably deconstruct the notion that institutional sexism is nothing more than a conspiracy theory and look at the concrete facts:

Of the  nearly 60 available accredited theological schools, seminaries, and divinity schools that could be labeled conservative evangelical located in the United States,  at the least 40 of those disavow the allowance of women in the pulpit.  There may be professors, faculty, and students who may agree with the idea of women as pastors, preachers, and/or religious scholars, but these are the exception to the rule.  If there is (on paper) a ban on women in the teaching ministry in the by-laws of a particular Christian denomination, then logically, the seminaries affiliated with that certain Christian denomination, will not be in disagreement with the denomination’s position.  I am probably just repeating what Judy said.

Even if one is to hold a complementarian view of humanity, should not one agree that the best theological education should be available for women assigned to teaching women in the church? The bans become barriers to women, discouraging them from even thinking of making theological education an option.  It is the closing of this option that is primarily responsible for the gender gap in the biblioblogs, and not solely the individual choice of individual female persons who fail to choose to blog.  The question is not a matter of either/or, but a question that deals with both/and–the individual choice of the female person who is a religious scholar  and the social decision of a few individual conservative evangelical denominations.  Whether one has adopted the label of complementarian or egalitarian, I conclude that there can be a sufficient case made either way to start listening to the voices of women.

If in the context of colonial production, the subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is even more deeply in shadow.- Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”

Truth and Peace,
Rod

16 thoughts on “Can the Subaltern Blog?: The problem of institutional sexism and the biblioblogs

  1. Vinny

    Very interesting. I have never really thought about the issue of of institutional or corporate sin. It seems to me that many conservative evangelicals are quite fluent in the language of institutional sin when it comes to the agenda of “the left” which many seem to see as a single-minded monolith.

    Reply
    1. Rod

      You are right Vinny.

      It does seem it is that way, that the left can be guilty of institutional sin but the right cannot. Very unbalanced.

      Reply
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  9. Bitsy Griffin

    “Even if one is to hold a complementarian view of humanity, should not one agree that the best theological education should be available for women assigned to teaching women in the church? The bans become barriers to women, discouraging them from even thinking of making theological education an option.” Excellent observation! BUT I believe that it is the intent of many that women not be educated theologically to the same high degree as is possible for men. It is easier for women to look to men as the beacons of knowledge if they know/understand less.

    Reply
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