Far from inducing a nap, this resulted in the following reactions from Crusty:
Resulting in this blog post:
Let's enumerate what's wrong with this photo.
1) It treats women differently than men, by definition a central component to sexism.
Example: Almy has what it calls an "ideal" clergy shirt for men, which zips up in the back and has a flat front. Hey, just like this woman's clergy shirt, which has a flat front and zips up in the back!
Have they ever, in the decades they have had this "ideal" men's shirt, EVER shown the back of the male model? Never. They have shown this guy, who's probably been dead for 10 years because the photo never changes.
For the woman's shirt in question, we have the shot of the woman's back, stretching down to her nether regions, paired with a frontal shot of the woman un/buttoning the front of a shirt. We don't have this guy's back showing how the shirt zips up. We don't have him showing us how the shirt works by pulling it over his head, revealing his 6-pack tawny port abs and Delta Tau Delta t-shirt underneath. Given the warm feelings this photo imparts, he likely has a pipe and a glass of scotch on the table next to him, jaunty thumb on his belt as he dispenses homespun wisdom.
2) You might argue, "Lighten up, they need to show that the clergy shirt layers over something else."
OK, here's the problem with that:
A) FEMALE CLERGY ALREADY KNOW THAT THIS SHIRT IS MEANT TO BE LAYERED.
B) YOU DON'T NEED TO SHOW THE WOMAN FROM THE BACK.
This is a particular trope: sexualizing women by showing them from the back. Comic books have done this for decades, sexualizing women in a way that they would never sexualize male superheroes.
Hey, here's a widely distributed promo photo for Netflix's series The Defenders. Guess who is photographed from the back, in order to accentuate her anatomy, while every other member is photographed from the front? It's Jessica Jones, the female member:
Hey, here's a series of promotional photos from the Avengers' movie. Robert Downey, Chris Evans, and Chris Helmsworth are all very handsome, buff guys. Guess who is regularly shown in profile, to accentuate her lady parts? Black Widow!
Here's a screen capture from the DVD's main page. Which one is posed differently from the others?
Crusty literally could go on and on and on. And we're not even getting into Game of Thrones. Thing is, I expect this from Hollywood. But the f****g Almy catalog?
C) It's also not how a specifically female-oriented company markets it. Women Spirit, a company specifically promoting women's clerical wear, advertises the exact same shirt as follows:
The focus is on the garment, it tells us the story of the person who designed it, there is no person buttoning/unbuttoning her shirt, and the person is facing the camera.
So that's what's wrong with the photo: It treats a female model different from a male model, markets an item for women differently than it does for men, and either intentionally or unintentionally perpetuates a stereotypical visual sexualization of women.
OK, so that's what's wrong with the photo. Crusty is frankly baffled that in 2017 this somehow was considered a good idea for a marketing campaign.
Now -- why does this matter in the broader issue of sexism in the church?
1) It represents the same kind of failure adequately and fully to bring women clergy fully into the life of the church, even though it has been decades since we have had female clergy in The Episcopal Church. It matters because the church has to face its issue with the Smurfette Problem. The Smurfette Principle is the concept that an otherwise all-male cast of characters gets a lone female character, often sexualized or some other stereotype, as a token figure. Black Widow, as portrayed in The Avengers movies, is the perfect modern analogue.
The reason the Smurfette Problem matters is because it inhibits the full equality of women in the life of any group or organization: in the words of the person who coined the term: "The message is clear. Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys." Over forty years after the ordination of women, nearly thirty years after the consecration of the first woman bishop, we must address the fact that maleness is still the presumed as normative, women are tokenized, often placed into stereotypical categories.
Crusty wants to be clear that the Almy catalog is not the problem, and a write-in campaign will not fix the deeper, underlying issues in the church.
Any look at any objective series of data confirms this. Women clergy still lag behind men in the church in the following ways:
--Overall, average compensation for male clergy is $60,000 and $45,000 for women
--Women tend to receive less in average compensation than men for the same job with same years of experience.
--Women are less likely to be rectors than men: 93% of male clergy have held a Rector or Vicar position, as opposed to 65% of female clergy.
--Men are 61% likely to say it is difficult to balance being a clergyperson and parent; 84% of women clergy say it is difficult to balance being a cleric and parent.
--Married male clergy received more in compensation than unmarried male clergy. It is the inverse with female clergy: unmarried women receive higher average compensation that married women.
--Men are more likely to say it was "easy" to find a suitable paid position (42% of men vs. 28% of women)
--We have been consecrating women as bishops since 1989. We have over 100 dioceses in the Episcopal Church. We have had 15 women diocesan bishops in those thirty years over those 100 dioceses.
And more! Here's 40 pages of recent data on women clergy which demonstrates differences with male clergy crunched and explained by the Church Pension Group!
Just like electing Barack Obama as President did not solve the issue of race in the United States, electing Katharine Jefferts Schori did not solve the issue of sexism and full equality of women in the life of the church. We still have a glaring Smurfette Problem, down the level that a photo like this was considered appropriate for a marketing campaign.
2) In fact, there are precisely those who think because we have lady bishops, lady rectors, and lady doctors [note: this, as the Official Child of Crusty Old Dean (OCOCOD) would say, with an eye roll, is "sarcastic voice." There is no such thing as a lady bishop or a lady doctor, appending a "lady" in front of something only reinforces the Smurfette Principle that maleness is the normative paradigm] that sexism is no more. Over a year ago Crusty was serving as supply clergy and preached a sermon where we spoke about the need for full inclusion in the life of the church, and specifically named racism, homophobia, and sexism as areas where the church cannot pretend that these issues have been resolved. Someone came up to him afterwards and said, "I can understand you naming racism and homophobia, but why sexism? Women can do anything men can do in the church." Literally, Crusty laughed and said, "Yeah, amirite? So many people think that." See, I thought the guy was joking. Staring at me stone faced, I then stammered, "Oh jeez, you were serious?" Crusty then rattled off the statistics cited above and more, but the man walked away, clearly unconvinced. Another parishioner came up and said, "I don't mean to pry, but I overheard. Don't be so hard on him, nobody has ever talked about sexism in this church from this pulpit except you here this morning. Nobody's ever told most people this. It's probably is news to him."
Another example! Crusty was on a non-voting observer on a search committee for a church institution which brought in three candidates for a senior leadership position: a white male clergy person, a male clergy person of color, and a female clergy person. It came down to the white male clergy person and the white female clergy person. One prominent member of the search committee solemnly intoned that they were both great candidates, but the female "Just isn't ready for prime time." People around the table nodded. Crusty thought, "WTF are these people talking about? The woman headed an organization with a larger number of employees and larger budget than the male clergy person, but somehow the male clergy person was "ready for prime time"?
So not only do we have a Smurfette Problem -- not only are women tokenized and marginalized -- many times leadership is complicit.
Nobody had spoken to that congregation about sexism, so it was a surprise to some.
No voting members challenged the assumption that an equally qualified female candidate leading a larger sized organization than the male candidate was "not ready for prime time." [Crusty, who was an observer, and had no voice and no vote, but did express this concern privately, during a break, to several members of the search committee before the vote was taken. I felt it was not my place as a non-voting observer publicly to insert myself into another organization's decision making process.]
Church leadership stand convicted of failing to call out and name this kind of sexism, particularly and especially male clergy, who benefit from the systemic sexism of the system. We speak of poverty having systemic components. We speak of racism having systemic components. We must name the fact that sexism in the church has systemic components which transcend whatever individual persons may or not may not express.
And these examples here are ones of discrimination in employment and deployment and equal opportunity and access, which, as reprehensible as they are, pale in comparison to other manifestations of sexism in the church. This does not take into account sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and physical and verbal abuse towards women and women in leadership in the church. It wasn't even until the 1990s that our disciplinary canons were amended to remove statutes of limitation for sexual misconduct, and to permit single individuals to bring charges of sexual misconduct (rather than needing people to "sign on" to a presentment, which was the previous process. Can you imagine being a woman who has been the victim of sexual harassment or misconduct and having to go find some priests to convince them to sign on to your complaint?).
3) One may argue, "Oh come on, Crusty, it's just a photo, they didn't mean it." You know what? Crusty doesn't care whether this was intentional or not, just like it doesn't matter whether one intends to be racist or not, whether one unintentionally invokes racist tropes or motifs. That perpetuates the power dynamic: those with power do not get to define what is sexist and what is not.
4) Hey, full disclosure: my wife is a priest. Mrs Crusty [again: sarcastic voice; Mrs Crusty kept her maiden name, we have a child with a hyphenated name, all of which has caused untold confusion when it comes to compiling church directory time] was ordained at age 25 at a time when only 300 or so of the 7,500 or so clergy in the church were under 35 years of age, let alone female. We have been married for nearly the entirety of her ordained life, so Crusty has had a front-row seat to sexism in the church. Crusty has seen her subjected to a whole range of sexism: from explicit sneering, to using passive-aggressive tactics as a cover, and even from people utterly clueless they're being sexist. COD has always always tried to be as helpful and supportive as possible to Mrs Crusty, while also realizing he cannot reinforce patriarchal paradigms and be some kind of savior.
But guess what? One does not need to have a gay nephew to understand homophobia and discrimination against LGBT persons is wrong. One doesn't need to have a black friend to understand that racism is wrong. Just because COD is married to a female clergyperson does not mean one has to have a connection to a woman to realize that sexism is wrong because EVERY HUMAN BEING ALIVE TODAY HAS A CONNECTION TO A WOMAN BY VIRTUE OF BIRTH. While giving you my own testimony, it doesn't make me special, one shouldn't get a cookie just for doing what is right, and doesn't let anyone else off the hook. Standing against injustice should not depend on having a personal connection to a particular injustice. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
I call you out, whoever approved this spread in the Almy catalogue. But that was only the symptom that set off Crusty's rage: we have much deeper, systemic issues around gender inequality. So while I call them out, Crusty does not want the Almy catalog to be the issue, that will only keep the church from addressing the deeper questions. I call out a church that doesn't think it is a problem.