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June 12, 2006


Deborah Taggart

this is lovely, Jacqui :)

So Josh's song ('senior pastor') can be seen as part of the prophetic poetry to create more images of equal value, empowerment and liberation for Pentecostal women ;)

I wonder what other images we can come up with....I will have to keep thinking.

Dreu Harrison

Seeking Clarification: Doing or Being?

I find it interesting in a discussion on prevalent images of women and/or men in Pentecostal representations that little mention has been made of the distinction between sex and gender.

Sex maybe understood as a biological datum (the body) while gender is socially constructed (meaning socially conferred on the body). My basic position is that bodies are important and have a range of meanings that can be ascribed to them by various cultures. I do not endorse a pure constructivism which tries to erase bodies as mere sites of cultural inscription - bodies limit by there very solidity, function and commonality the range of meanings that can be given to them. Of course, the interesting part of my position is: (i) how does society decide which meanings are appropriate and which are inappropriate? (ii) how does technology affect the range of meanings society permits for bodies? (iii) how does the notion of gender as performative versus constitutive alter our understanding of bodies?

To explain this last point more clearly, I would direct people to the work of Judith Butler, a feminist theorist who writes:

"There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; ... identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results."

In other words, gender is something I do at particular times rather than who I am at all times. I would argue, circa feminist theory and post-colonial theory, that the range of meanings bodies can engage is in fact broader than what the status quo holds.

To give an example of where this thinking leads, the question we might ask in critiquing the masculine hegemonic view of gender in Western discourse is why male bodies came to be allied to logos (rationality) while women were relegated to eros (emotion) in Western cultural formations. Why, given that it is grossly inaccurate, stereotypical and insulting to say simply that 'men are logical and women are intuitive', would our culture have adopted precisely this interpretation of bodies? The answer, in part, lies in the fact that 'logical' was more valued thus men were recognised and sanctioned as uniquely fit to be leaders and primary earners. However this state of affairs is an accident of history, not a divine fiat. Thus, we are compelled to move beyond an essentialist view of gender and identity into the more challenging, though not unlimited, interplay of modern constructed identities as well as recognition that without acknowledging the place of power and socialisation any comments on what it means to be masculine or feminine will probably end up simply affirming whatever view faddishly prevails at this time.

In relation to ‘princess theology’ then, I largely reject this discourse but not for the usual reasons. I accept that princess theology is simply one more self-conscious gender performance, that is, it is trying to inscribe female bodies with particular sets of meanings and values seen to align themselves with what ‘redeemed persons’ are about. However, I reject it because to me it is too easily read as yet another iteration of female cooptation and commodification with too little reflective effort. You can say women are princesses (there is no essential argument against it) however such statements affirm women in a way that is complicit with capitalism and the male ‘colonising’ gaze so you shouldn’t (there is a political argument against it). For my view, it is just not subversive, or, better yet, open enough in allowing for a range of meanings. Finally, I would note that the argument that ‘princess theology gives women esteem and therefore is of merit’ is a touch too ‘popular utilitarian’ for my liking. It is a worthy goal to give women a sense of worth, esteem and love. But ends do not justify means – one cannot say that because a program achieves this it is socially justifiable. Nationalism gives people a strong sense of identity but also tends to instil them with an inordinate tendency to blow stuff up…

In true Dreu style, I’ll end with Foucault (just to satisfy Josh and Ben):

“As the archeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.”

Oh, the possibilities...


Oh Dreu,
How many times have I told you not to use the "F" word (Foucault) in Christian discussions.
It's just not appropriate...
: )


I have some questions:
1) Can the 'Princess" metaphor be redeemed? Just like language can change over time (eg the use of the word 'gay'), can the meaning of metaphors be changed over time? If we understand the negative baggage of the term 'Princess', can it be infused with positive notions that overcome the baggage?
2) If we understand that one metaphor can never encapsulate the whole of what we are talking about, what other metaphors can be used alongside the "princess" imagery to bring out the positives?
3) Can we convince our marketing machines to use theologically balanced imagery in their campaigns?
(I understand that it doesn't look as good to have a note underneath the "Princess, Warrior, Daughter" logo explaining in detail the theological significance of the imagery and instructions on how to escape the negative connotations. For one thing, it really ruins an otherwise nice pink t-shirt)


In answer to Josh's question 3) and in honour of Grenz's approach to Trinitarian theology I give you the 'Trinity' metaphor......It has so much to say to ladies in our churches.


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