Monday, April 14, 2008

Weak men being bullied off the platform (poll results)

Thank you to the 104 people who voted in the poll. I'm not at all surprised that the overwhelming majority (98) voted "no" i.e. they haven't been "bullied off the platform" by women. However, I was surprised that were as many as 5 people who said they had been bullied off the platform, and one who said "maybe". No one who voted "yes" emailed me to tell their story, so we actually have no information at all as to the circumstances.

I did, however, receive a response from Jonathan Burke, the Christadelphian who triggered this poll by making comments on a Christadelphian forum which was discussing whether Christadelphian women should be permitted to speak at Christadelphian meetings.

I quoted two of his comments earlier:
"When you have women actively competing for time on the platform, you're going to end up with conflict. No two ways about it. It's easy to see what happens. Weak men are bullied off the platform, or only permitted to speak when the women permit them to."

"Man bullying by women has become an increasingly popular pastime in the churches, and it's unfortunate that it's creeping into the ecclesia."
Jonathan responded with the following clarification (these are just extracts from a longer communication, but I believe the sense is unaltered):
"... you didn't quote any statements from me saying that Christadephian brethren are being bullied off the platform. I said that bullying of men is happening in Christadelphian ecclesias, but I said nothing about Christadelphian brethren being bullied off the platform."
Well, apparently I made a wrong assumption when I thought a comment about men being "bullied off the platform" in a discussion about whether Christadelphian women should be on Christadelphian platforms was actually about something happening in Christadelphian meetings. Apparently Jonathan was thinking about situations in non-Christadelphian churches.
I was making a general statement, not confining this to any particular denomination, and not talking about any current situation.

So no, I wasn't implying that non-Christadelphian men are on the (Christadelphian), platform. I was saying that when women are actively competing with men for the platform, then you are going to end up with conflict, and when that happens weak men are bullied off the platform or only permitted to speak when the women permit them to. It's a standard, general, conditional statement.
He went on to tell me about his own experience in "a standard evangelical church" which he attended "twice a week, Sunday and Wednesday, for 2-5 hours a time, every week, for over 6 months" in which there was a "power struggle" which resulted in women taking over the church.

So to be fair to Jonathan Burke it's important that I clarify that he does NOT believe that Christadelphian men are being bullied off Christadelphian platforms by Christadelphian women. However, from his experience in "a standard evangelical church" (whatever that means) he obviously believes that there is the potential for this to happen in Christadelphian meetings and I guess he's encouraging vigilance against this kind of thing happening.

That makes it even more surprising that 5 or 6 people who voted in my poll felt that they had been "bullied off the platform" (assuming that the people who voted were genuinely Christadelphian men who genuinely felt that they had been bullied off the platform. This is an open site so anyone could have voted). Seeing the question was asking about "weak men" who had been bullied off the platform I am actually even more surprised that anyone would admit to being in that category.

I think we can confidently say that in reality there is no evidence of this sort of thing happening in the Christadelphian community (and Jonathan Burke isn't suggesting that there is), and despite the fears of some people that it could happen down the track there is no indication at this time that it will. Jonathan pointed out that one person who left a comment on my message is:
"under the strange impression that sisters are never allowed to speak on or off the platform in the Christadelphian community, whereas you and I both know that's not true and that there are ecclesias in Australia where sisters speak from the platform regularly (the fact that this is uncommon and unrepresentative of our community doesn't change the fact that it happens)."
And not just in Australia.

I have removed the poll results from the side panel, so here it is for those people who may have missed it.
If you are a Christadelphian man and a Speaker, have you ever been "bullied off the platform" by a woman?

Yes: 5 (4%)
No: 98 (94%)
Maybe: 1 (<1%)>


Deb said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to turn the poll somewhat around and ask how many Christadelphian men feel they have been 'bullied' off the platform by other Brothers?

ntbrierly said...

It's been my experience that both male and female bullies are present in CD ecclesias, and that power struggles can occur between any mix of genders.

The fact that a small percentage of females are or may be bullies is not anywhere close to a good reason for excluding the vast majority of sisters who are not.

Wise shepherds will deal with bullies (wolves in sheep's clothing) to prevent them from harming the sheep. This does not happen anywhere near as often as it should. They are sometimes excused because they give an appearance of knowledge and speaking ability, or because no one wants to mess with them. They are referred to with euphemisms like "has a strong personality". And so people get hurt, who are then told to suck it up and stop being so sensitive.

Steve said...


You are so right that people should be selected for speaking positions based on their gifts and talents, and not solely on their gender.

I made a comment to the person who originally raised this that (i.e. that weak men were being bullied off the platform) that "weak men" shouldn't be on the platform! We need strong, godly, gifted teachers on the platform.

Anonymous said...

It just seemed strange to me that concerns should be raised re Sisters bullying Brothers, when in my experience, men are more prone to bullying than women. Apart from which, most of us 'born and bred' Christadelphian women have learned early on not to open our mouths in fear and trepidation of disobeying God, that the simple idea of standing on a platform and speaking is terrifying.

Sunny said...

One of the most insidious and soul destroying methods of bullying is 'bullying by exclusion'. In the general, women are not power seekers, but they are confident and fluent communicators who need to be involved and to be active participants in their community. The 'learned helplessness' that women develop within the traditional ecclesial environment is reinforced over time with gentle rebukes each time a bit of life and enthusiasm pops up. Women are very good at 'thinking outside of the square' and viewing a situation from another perspective. This doesn't sit well with the establishment. It's sad that the unintentional bullies don't seem to know what they are denying their communities.