One of the nation's largest Southern Baptist seminaries, the school is introducing a new, women-only academic program in homemaking _ a 23-hour concentration that counts toward a bachelor of arts degree in humanities. The program is aimed at helping establish what Southwestern's president calls biblical family and gender roles.
I just perused the seminary's course listings focusing on women and they include, among others, "Engaging Women in Ministry," "Wife of the Equipping Minister," and "Intro to Women's Studies." The Women's Programs description states that it desires to equip women for woman-to-woman teaching and to enhance their gifts "within the boundaries of biblical priorities."
I know some good people at Southwestern, and truth be told I know relatively nothing about the seminary apart from its conservative reputation. So I'm just going to comment on the surface data I've presented here.
Part of me thinks... you want to take a homemaking course? Sure, go ahead. Maybe if I'd had some meal preparation classes I wouldn't be so bumbling in the kitchen. Learning to sew sounds fun. And I liked child psych in college so I could use a couple more hours on it. Women have long asserted their own agency in the domestic sphere so empowering them to do it better wouldn't be all bad.
And part of me is just annoyed. Things like this are precisely why I refused to learn to cook. This is why, historically, women were encouraged to go to college (see Mona Lisa Smile), to learn to be good wives and mothers. It almost seems insulting.
Women who attend this seminary know what they are getting into; it's not like Southwestern hides its philosophy on gender roles. I'm a feminist, right? I believe in choice, right? So if a woman wants to go to SBTS to "find genuine freedom and real empowerment", I should be ok with that, right?
The core of my complaint really comes from one place: Telling women who to be. If a woman chooses to take a homemaking course because she believes it is good and wants to be there and be the kind of person they seek to turn out, then great. And i really mean that. But what about the woman who is discovering, while at a conservative seminary, that she has gifts of public ministry (and not just to women)? And she's being told to learn... clothing construction?
(And as a side note: Why not offer this course to men, or make it coed?)
I fully believe that Christ, not our gender, defines us. Gender is a gigantic part of identity but it doesn't make us who we are. Identity is a process and our individual giftings and callings make it that much more complex. We should let God define who we are, that's what I'm saying...