Equals: Enjoying Gender Equality In All Areas of Life (A Review)

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This.  This is the book that the church needs to read about gender.  This is the book that most colleagues, couples and families should also read about gender regardless of faith, because it is very gentle.

This book is clear, level headed  and sensible.

It’s smart and compelling.  It’s energised, passionate and and talks about gender as no-brainer discussion that needs to be happening.  It uses really pragmatic arguments highlighting the affects of inequality on both women and men, boys and girls in our contemporary society and cultures around the world.  It’s inoffensive, and would serve as a marvellous tool to people who are not particularly experienced in the language or theory of gender or faith and church.

I care a lot about the influences of gender on myself and the world I work, live and am now raising children in.  I also spend considerable time studying and listening to and observing the experiences of men, women, boys and girls in faith communities and churches and see the way that theology and church and faith culture influences our ideas about gender.  I write about this, but I also follow what other people write about it.  I’ve been disappointed with the high profile books published in the last year by North American authors Sarah Bessey (my review is here) and Rachel Held Evans – they’ve been too lighthearted, too emotive, too spiritualised, not comprehensive or robust enough.

This book is robust.  It introduces key issues and tensions in the conversations about gender in very accessible ways, exploring how gender is defined, how it alters across different cultures, what is actually fixed about maleness and femaleness and what isn’t, and the way that gender intersects with other aspects of our identity such as ethnicity, class and education.  Jenny Baker argues for why we need to see the potential in all people and support each other to flourish regardless of gender and criticises the limitation and messages and stereotypes of gender ( including Christian/Bible based ones) and our own laziness in not challenging them or colluding with them to put unhelpful expectations on people.

What I particularly like about the book is that it includes discussion questions, case studies and stories from both men and women about how they have tackled gender and had better conversations about it.  This makes the book accessible on many levels but particularly for men, who could potentially see or fear a gender book only being about women and women’s inequality.  The inclusion of specific ideas and themes to take into your workplace, discuss with your team, your church leadership, or to just sit down with your partner over a few evenings means that there is a way into a discussion of the issues for people at any place and stage of life.

The book spends time exploring the themes of inequality for men and women and boys and girls using examples such as sport, politics and public life and health, but then looks at areas of life such as work, education, marriage, parenting and church to consider the ways that gender assumptions may prevail and continue to exclude or limit people and the church from fulfilling their potential.

It was the first few paragraphs of this book that made me love it – and the prevailing word to describe it is reassuring.  There’s a well known exchange in the film Shadowlands between the character CS Lewis and one of his students where they agree that you read ‘to know that you are not alone’.  This book made me feel less alone and gave me hope to know that there is a comprehensive, concise and accessible resource for the church, workplaces and families to begin conversations about gender or just assist the conversations about gender that may tentatively or passionately already be going on.

We in the UK and in the UK Christian church may not have the same culture of ‘platform’ and ‘movement’ as other authors writing about gender have across the water.  But This.Is.The.Book.  This is the book we need to be reading about gender and read it with your community and your colleagues and your family.

I’m so grateful it’s been written – I’m hoping it will make a significant dent to the church in a good way as well as the lives of people trying to do life with each other in this struggling world.

Equals is out today (20 March) and you can buy a copy here - stock is running low!

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Filed under Gender, Talk About God: Theology