When Netanya was born, one of the things I was looking forward to was reading to her. So an overly excited father went shopping for books. As a child, I can remember just how important books were to me. We didn’t have a functioning TV until I was in my Primary 5 and even then, it was kept in my parents bedroom until some time in Secondary School and by then, having access to a TV wasn’t a thing. Anyway, between a Professor of Biochemistry and a literature teacher, my parents had ensured there were enough books around the house to last us our childhood. Everything from the two types of Trypanosomiasis to the Lion and the Jewel were there for us to devour. Being the last born and four years younger than my sister (who was my closest sibling), I found myself having to ‘read up’ in order to keep up with any conversations.
Anyway, I digress. The one book that I think passed through all our hands was a hardcover yellow children’s bible called My Book of Bible Stories. I loved it!
So when shopping for Ayinza’s books, I ended up buying one that went by the same title thinking it was the most recent version (it wasn’t). Her auntie got her another and our church gave her a third when she was dedicated. Because the last two were presents, we have generally been using them more than the one I bought. But recently, I decided I will read her a story from it. I picked up the book and started looking through its table of contents, looking for a story that might captivate a 7 month-old girl. After looking from start to end, it struck me that none of the stories in this version had a female as the main character. No Rahab. No Sarah. No Esther. No Mary or Martha or Woman at the Well or…nothing! The only story I found with a girl was the one about Jesus healing Jairus’ little daughter (and the emphasis was on Jairus’ faith).
I called my wife and asked her if she had noticed this. She said she hadn’t. And then, as is my habit as an introvert, I began contemplating (perhaps too intently…or not) misogyny in our society generally, but particularly in the Church. How much of our literature, lessons, sermons, bible study guides etc are conscious of and intentional about the need to have women seen in our faith? And no, not the tokenistic mention of inner beauty or the Virtuous Wife of Proverbs 31. I’m talking bold leadership lessons that we can all learn from people like Esther who not only turned the fortunes of the Jews, but actually saved them from genocide. Of what we can learn from Rahab, described by the chauvinistic society as a prostitute, even when her claim to fame had nothing to do with her bedroom antics, but helping the Jews taking over Jericho and eventually being part of the bloodline of a Savior born of a virgin (oh the irony). Of Delilah and the danger of underestimating people on account of them being women.
When my daughter goes to church, I would like her to see herself as an integral part of the family of God, not some seat-filling spectator in a story that rotates around men. Everywhere on earth, women make up the majority of the Church. Yet we, the minority, sit and have heated debates about whether they should be part of its leadership. And when we somehow convince a minority of grumbling men to allow them into priesthood, we put caps on how far they can go in the leadership hierarchy. Let them be ordained, but don’t allow them to become canons. Okay, let’s allow one or two of them to be Canons, but we must make sure they are more qualified than the entire House of Bishops. That way, the other women that want to serve God will think twice about it and decide to stay in the kitchen, pretending to be inferior to us in order that our egos don’t get too hurt.
Anyway, I digress.Again.
I guess all I wanted to do is put you…no, all of us (myself included) on notice. Ramya isn’t going to be raised as a professional ego masseuse in the name of being marriage material.
Or a woman of substance.
Or any of those coded phrases used to mean ‘acceptable to the patriarchy’.
And we are starting with getting rid of books that are introducing the patriarchy to her in the name of Christ.