August 21, 2013

"Even though the feminist project has been underway for decades now, plenty of people still view women doing work..."

"... especially nonservice work, in the same boggled way that you look at a dog walking on its hind legs. Is it still a dog? How can this be?"

Writes Amanda Marcotte, mangling or accidentally getting close to the famous Samuel Johnson quote:
I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. Johnson: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."
It's not that anyone thinks the woman preaching ceases to be a woman or the dog walking on its hind legs ceases to be a dog. It's that people act impressed simply because it happened and fail to hold the creature to the normal standard that would apply to men. I think Johnson's quote is regarded as quite sexist, but — looking only at this quote and not the whole body of Johnson's sayings and writings — it can almost be defended. It's patronizing to mention that a woman did something as if that's remarkable. Did she do it well? If you think women are as capable as men, that should be the question. But Johnson speaks in an aphoristic form that implies that women will never be able to preach well. He did not say — or Boswell did not transcribe his saying —You say a woman preached as you might say a dog walked on his hind legs; let me know when a woman preaches well.

22 comments:

Crunchy Frog said...

I want to know who all these "plenty of people" are. Until I get names of actual people, I will doubt their existence in any place other that the authoress's fevered imagination.

jimbino said...

Right on. Let me know when a second woman contributes to math, physics, economics, chess, haute cuisine, haute couture, cabinetmaking, filmmaking and so on.

I'm surprised we don't have more women on the Supreme Court, where you only have to be either Jewish or Catholic with undergrad major in wishy-washy subjects to qualify.

Lyssa said...

plenty of people still view women doing work, especially nonservice work, in the same boggled way . . ."

Once again, I am floored at how much more egalitarian and progressive on woman's issues the older conservative white fundamentalist Christian men in my very red state are then the surely young, urban, enlightened, pro-choice, GLBTQ whatever folks that people like Amanda Marcotte apparently spend time with.

No one in my life has every suggested in any way that they viewed me working as anything like abnormal.

LoafingOaf said...

"It's not that anyone thinks the woman preaching ceases to be a woman or the dog walking on its hind legs ceases to be a dog."

I'm not so sure this is still a dog: Dog Walks Like Human

chuck said...

Woman have been doing nonservice work throughout history, and before. It was only the well off who could afford female trinkets. Among whom I am pretty sure Marcotte belongs, as she doesn't appear to have any useful skills.

traditionalguy said...

Women preaching do well, although many now raise their voices to sound more like men. Beats me why.

Women make very good Christians. They are sensitive to more than just authority issues.

Sam L. said...

Amanda wields and exceptionally wide brush. Also, she seems incapable of believing that the opposition to Wendy Davis is for what she said, not that she's a woman, or pretty, or not pretty. Just like Barry can only be criticized by a raaaaaacist, because Why Else?

Paco Wové said...

"I want to know who all these "plenty of people" are"

Jimbino is large; he contains multitudes.

Carol said...

I do non-traditional work and yes, people are still all boggled by it. Even the young, the hipsters, the artistes. What it comes down to is that women are still craven conformists, and are generally expected to be so.

BTW I don't think doctor or lawyer is viewed as nontraditional female roles anymore.

Ambrose said...

Interesting that Amanda objects to Wendy Davis's opponents referring to her as "Barbie." What female politician was most recently called Barbie? Caribou Barbie, I think, but I can't quite recall. She must of course have been a progressive heroine, besmirched by some right wing knuckle-draggers, but I am not sure. What was her name again?

Alex said...

I dunno, I find it charming when a dog walks on its hind legs.

Alex said...

jimbino - Madama Curie!

Moose said...

Seriously? You can't find anything better to do than to read Marcotte? How about root canal without anesthetic?

YoungHegelian said...

@Carol,

What it comes down to is that women are still craven conformists, and are generally expected to be so.

Thank you for saying that. I was wondering if I was the only person who thought that. The "conformity" angle was my take-away from the whole Fifty Shades of Grey business. Here was basically a piece of literate pornography, the likes of which are not uncommon. It seemed to be celebrated because, through some magical antenna to antenna communication, the great mass of American women had given each other the "OK" to enjoy S&M en mass.

Christy said...

Jimbino - Rosalyn Yalow


I heard it said that Ruth Graham is the best preacher among Billy' s kids.

Shouting Thomas said...

I'm tired of grievance mongering, no matter the source.

Grievance mongering is all we've been doing for 60 years. I'm worn out. Can't even get it up anymore to trot out my own grievance.

Life is good. None of the women I know care about this bullshit. Women I know just want to have a good time. Babysitting my granddaughter is a gas. I'm rehearsing my nursery rhymes.

Let me be the first person in the U.S. in the past 60 years to say: "I've got no complaints!"

Richard Fagin said...

Women don't preach well? Someone hasn't heard of Suze Orman. She's a superb preacher, just not for an established religion.

EDH said...

I've always said, "She can suck the chrome off a trailer hitch" as a compliment to a woman.

"Was that wrong?"

Rusty said...

Ms. Marcotte is the intellectual equivalent of Archie Comics.

colleen cafferty said...

Unfortunately, I have had to be around a lot of doctors lately - specialists, and I have found I prefer white female doctors. Guys can be okay, but, it's hit or miss. Unfortunately, the closer I get to my demographic, the happier I am because it cuts down on subtle communication issues which become very important in critical situations. Of course, nothing is one hundred percent, it's just a higher probability of good communication.

Yeah, I was surprised too, but as it turns out, it really matters when you don't have time to waste.

Gabriel Hanna said...

My favorite Johnson quote:

My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may talk as other people do: you may say to a man, "Sir, I am your most humble servant." You are not his most humble servant. You may say, "These are bad times; it is a melancholy thing to be reserved to such times." You don't mind the times. You tell a man, "I am sorry you had such bad weather the last day of your journey, and were so much wet." You don't care six-pence whether he was wet or dry. You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society; but don't think foolishly.

Johnson's views of women were of course colored by his time, but I do not think he intended to disparage the possibility of any woman ever preaching well. He was close to many talented and respected women. I think his remark was partly a dig at non-Anglican Christians, and partly a dig at Boswell who may have been overly impressed by the novelty of what he saw.

Rick67 said...

In seminary during my last preaching class I made the mistake of saying anyone who thinks women can't preach should come and hear our classmates. They took it as a compliment. My mistake was that it doesn't matter if they preach well or not, what matters is whether one thinks they should preach. If women should preach, then they have an obligation to preach well.

In my experience women preach differently from men. Can't quite put my finger on what that difference is. Men have a habit of "thundering", of sounding like they know it all and are telling you how it is, we're supposed to agree. This is a generalization, but I listen to (and give) enough sermons that one starts to notice.

Here's a question. Can one distinguish women's from men's sermons if one has only the text?