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(Retro)sexism in the church

I learned a new word recently and then encountered it three times that day. "Retrosexism" hasn't made it into the Oxford English Dictionary yet, but a Google search turns up several thousand hits, and Newsweek noted last month that "the term 'retrosexual' has all but replaced 'metrosexual' in the lifestyle sections of national magazines."

If a metrosexual male is all about fashionable clothes, designer hygiene products, willingness to show emotions, and general open-minded eschewing of traditional masculinity, a retrosexual is the opposite. Retrosexuals reclaim the old notion of men who care little about their appearance and harken back to a more classic understanding of masculinity, no hair product allowed.

"Retrosexism" is the sexism that can accompany these retrosexual attitudes. Often this includes an ironic twist: the retrosexual understands that an idea is offensive but persists anyway, assuming a free pass since he knows it's sexist. Anita Sarkeesian calls this the "I know that you know that I know" approach to unacceptable sexist behavior:


Retrosexism often glorifies sexism of the past with the double logic that, since folks know the attitude is sexist, it's somehow okay to look the other way. Think of jokes that end with punch lines about what an old-fashioned grandfather might say about gender relations. Or consider an otherwise forward-thinking college guy winkingly telling a female friend to do his laundry.

Call it "retrosexism" or just plain "sexism." The objectification and undervaluing of women continues to get a pass in our culture. This is wrong; it's sin. But I'm betting that it will become more common in our churches in the near future. As women finally make significant inroads into equitable leadership and encounter fewer sexist attitudes in the church, there will be a backlash. Congregational presidents will joke about a pastor not truly deserving maternity leave. Masculine homiletics will attempt to crowd out the feminist voice.

Also, since retro culture tends to look backward with rose-colored glasses, perhaps the church will increase—if this is possible—its glorification of the past. This might include snippets such as "Back in the day before woman pastors" or "I remember when we didn't need female representation on the church council."

Maybe I'm wrong about this. I hope so—not everything retro is worth bringing back.

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Comments

Retrosexism

Unfortunately, sounds about right. Whenever people feel threatened, as if their territory is being encroached upon, regression and entrenchment are the usual responses.

Pat Pope

retro

In my last call a colleague, the head of the local ecumenical org, made a date to have lunch with me when I first arrived in order to fill me in on the org and its programs.

When he arrived, he informed me that he was an 'old fashioned guy' and proceeded to tell me that he was going to treat me "like a lady" the way his mama had taught him even though he knew I wouldn't like it! So he opened doors, pulled out chairs, took my coat, paid for lunch... I'm still fuming and that was 9 years ago! I was not his date, but his (equal) colleague...

Apparently his mama did not teach him that good manners do not include doing what the other does not want in order to fill your own need...

retro?

the prefix here implies that sexism is something of the past that ended, and then came back, like bell bottoms or pageboy haircuts.

it's hardly necessary to point out that sexism never went away.

retro?

...and yet! and yet we have to point that out anyway, don't we?!!

Commercial

Actually, that Twix commercial was a little creepy. A guy, even though he was young, ogling teenage girls?? That's definitely over the line.

I also agree with the person who said that the term "retrosexism" implies that it went away when it's been here all along.

retro from women

What's worse is when women excuse it as well. When I say that at the age of 45 I'm getting tired of being called 'young lady', women older than me tell me to enjoy it while I can, even though I've been referred to that way my entire life. There are also women who perpetuate this without even knowing it, not wanting to rock the boat.

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