Anecdotally, it is known that women are bullied in the church to a greater extent than men. The data that was used in my previous post on bullying has been analysed by gender. It is noticeable that 11% of women say they are bullied most of the time or always compared with 0% of men, the chart is below.
Women priests are regularly treated as being second class by congregations and even if it stops short of bullying it is simply exhausting; the church still hasn’t worked out what it feels about women and consequently does not adequately support women priests. Jules Middleton describes how guarded she feels in mixed groups of leaders as a result of being a woman in leadership in the church. Emma Percy describes the situation as an ‘ambiguous welcome’. She writes:
“Careful provision has been made at every stage for those who not only will not accept women as priests, but require the service of bishops who have not participated in the ordination of women. The path to acceptance for women bishops has also been lengthy and subject to the same caveats and provisions. [T]here are still profound inequalities in the Church’s treatment of women in leadership.”
Percy, E. (2017) Women, Ordination and the Church of England: An Ambiguous Welcome
This ambiguity and discrimination is bound to cause women to be badly treated in some quarters and this needs to be addressed.
8 thoughts on “Women Priests are Bullied More than Men”
Personal experience leads me to agree with this. I’m in a church where women priests are accepted but still have been bullied. I also find that some men use words they would not use to a man, thus seeming to demean me eg ‘Don’t bother your head about … I’ll take care of it’
I’m a concerned by the headline women are bullied more than men. I was a consultant reviewer in my diocese for about 5 years. I reviewed 7 clergy over that time. 3 were men who were broken by individuals in their churches. They were bullied. They were broken. I think 0% is inaccurate and worrying.
I wonder if the real gender difference is over admitting to being bullied? Despite progress in recent years there are still very macho expectations out there, and the perception that ‘real men don’t get bullied’.
I also think it is too easy to cast the opponents of the ordination of women as ‘the bullies’. I was an opponent (but am no longer), but when I was appointed to a ‘resolution parish’ both my clergy referees were women – I thought this would be a good way to flush out mysogeny masked as theology! In the event I was appointed (to my surprise!), and our church proved time and again to be the one where women clergy felt comfortable locally! Repeatedly female colleagues shared their difficulties with other clergy who, though ‘affirming the ordination of women’ (and vocally condemning my parish!), in reality patronised female clergy and treated them as second class.
That was a long time ago, but I wonder how much has changed? The C of E still strikes me as a very macho club!
Yes, good questions. If I were to guess, from my own experience and from talking to people like archdeacons I would say it is more toxic for women and often unconscious bias or conscious bias that is not justified theologically, but is affected by the theological get out clause.
This raises a further question regarding the amount of bullying by women priests of both men and other women, clergy and lay. I have come across this fairly recently and have first-hand experience of being bullied by a female member of the clergy and have witnessed two members of her team (men) leave under similar circumstances. It would appear that said female can do or say whatever she wishes (according to the Diocesan Registrar) and appears to have got away with such appalling behaviour!
Well I suppose in the end bullying personalities exist in both genders. In another age, I was a male prefect in a largely female school – we would always find a female prefect to break up the fights between girls, as we couldn’t cope with the levels of viciousness.And the bullied so easily become bullies too!
Yes! I too have encountered women in ministry who can seem to do no wrong, and ‘get away’ with terrible behaviour. Over-compensation? I’m just glad I’m more or less out of it all!
It seems to be harder for a man to admit to feeling bullied.
I was recently alerted to my tension around men by the fact of transgender. In a woman-only group I suddenly felt a physical frisson of fear when a trans woman, who I do not know, asked a question of the female speaker, and for the first time in an hour I heard a male voice in the room. It was as though the whole space had suddenly become unsafe, even though she was no doubt the most vulnerable person there.
The sudden fear felt completely ludicrous, and depressing. May God help us get past this.