Wednesday, April 24, 2019

In defense of Sansa Stark

The final season of the series, Game of Thrones, began last weekend. Naturally, this has sparked passionate discussion with friends and family over character romances, tinfoily fan theories, and most importantly, who will end up on the iron throne. One character’s cause that I’ve been particularly committed to lately is that of Sansa Stark.

At the beginning of the series, Sansa is a 13-year-old girl who enjoys embroidery and daydreams about marrying a prince. She aspires to be a proper royal lady, upholding tradition, which causes tension with her tomboyish younger sister, Arya. Initially, many viewers (including me) were put off by Sansa’s snobby demeanor, materialistic nature and na├»ve obsession with living a fairytale life. However, through the course of the show, Sansa endures a series of traumatic experiences which transform her from a callow child to an intelligent and resilient woman.

First, Sansa leaves her home and is betrothed to a destructive young prince, who soon orders her father killed (and makes her watch). Living with his family, she must conceal her grief and act agreeable, or risk her own life and the lives of the rest of her family. During her time living essentially as a prisoner, Sansa learns from others how to survive in such an environment. She meets other women who advise her to use her sexuality and charm to persuade men to do what she wants. In femininity, they find strength.

She later escapes this place with a quasi-family friend, Petyr Baelish, who is known throughout the kingdom for his manipulative and conniving ways. Nevertheless, she initially trusts that he has her best interests in mind. They take refuge with Sansa’s aunt, whom Baelish convinces to marry him so that he can gain control of her stronghold. Sansa then watches as he murders her aunt and frames another person, discovering that this is a trick he has pulled before.

Still, Sansa does not foresee Baelish’s next betrayal. He hands her off to be married to a sadistic man who has taken over Sansa’s home, and leaves. Her new husband brutally rapes her, beats her, and threatens her with violence. Eventually, she manages to stage another elaborate escape and sets off to find her brother.

Having endured years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, Sansa displays extraordinary strength and grace. When she reunites with her brother, she immediately takes the lead on reclaiming their home, negotiating alliances and working toward unifying her family. She is no longer trapped in her prior passive role of being tossed from man to man.

The seventh season satisfyingly highlights the progress she has made. Aforementioned Baelish is back, and spends the season sowing seeds of discord between the Stark sisters. His interactions with Sansa echo those of prior seasons, particularly during the time when he “rescued” her from one dangerous situation only to throw her into another. Feigning concern for her safety, he tries to convince her that her sister is scheming against her.

In the final episode, it is revealed that Sansa had been pretending to believe him the entire time. She puts Baelish on trial for treason and sentences him to death. Before ordering his execution, she utters her iconic line, “I’m a slow learner, it’s true. But I learn.” Though he had dismissed her as gullible, Sansa was able to outwit a man not only famous for his insidious cleverness, but who had previously taken advantage of her. Her measured temperament, thoughtfulness and careful calculation brought her justice.

Despite this radical growth, many have not come around to the Sansa train. Perhaps it is true that “no character can ignite a fandom’s ugliest instincts more than a flawed teen girl doing her best.” I’ve had conversations about this with women who identify as feminists, and who continue to hate her character. They cite her prissy attitude at the beginning of the series and the fact that she is not aggressive enough in war (never mind her diplomacy).

Last week, a friend said that she would never like Sansa because she made a certain military maneuver once. In this case, Sansa’s brother, Jon, had refused to take her advice, so she negotiated an alliance on her own and saved their army from certain defeat. This strategy was a success, but my friend insisted that Sansa put her brothers at risk by not sending the allies in even sooner. This argument seems to imply that Sansa should have just worried about taking care of her family rather than thinking about the bigger picture, relegating her to the private sphere and a caretaking role.

Men in the series have made much riskier military endeavors resulting in tragedy. For example, in that very battle, Jon is provoked into charging too soon after the rival leader kills his brother (without Sansa’s secret plan they would have lost). His emotions overcome him and he falls into an obvious trap, yet I have never heard anyone suggest that he should have had more concern for his family or is too emotional to be a leader. Dismissed for her “feminine” qualities and criticized as heartless when she is strategic, Sansa is tied up in double standards.

Unlike other, more popular female characters (e.g., Arya and Daenerys), Sansa did not have the luxury of impulsively using violence to get her way. She could not rebel overtly against the people who held her captive, lest she be killed. So, like many women in the real world, she relied on her wit and negotiation skills to stay alive and attain her goals in a patriarchal society.

Women are often put in positions where lashing out is not a permissible response, and we cope with our emotions in other ways. This approach should not be devalued just because aggression and anger are the more accepted (masculine) way of accomplishing something. Stoicism should not be mistaken for weakness, nor rage for strength.

Perils of the modern arranged marriage process

Please note that the following reflects my personal experience and may not reflect the experiences of others engaged in the process.

As a practicing Muslim woman, there are two tenets of my faith that have colored my life: (1) a Muslim woman must not have sex before marriage, and (2) a Muslim woman must marry a Muslim man.

Based on these tenets, entrepreneur Shahzad Younas, aptly stated that "[M]uslims don't date, we marry." The question then becomes how we should get married without dating. There are three common avenues to meet one's spouse: (1) an affinity group in college, (2) Muslim-geared dating apps, and (3) arranged marriage.

Affinity groups (e.g., Muslim Student Association and Pakistani Student Association) not only served as inclusive, safe spaces for like-minded people, but served as hubs to meet a large number of other “eligible” Muslim Americans. Most of my friends have found their spouses in affinity groups and have gotten married by the time they graduate college. When I was a college student, law school was my dream—not marriage. To avoid the prospect of marriage ruining my academic ambitions, I dodged joining or affiliating myself with any kind of affinity group on campus. Because affinity groups were out of the question—and I was embarrassed to get on a dating app—my only other viable option was to opt for an arranged marriage.

Modern-day arranged marriages are very different from stereotypical arranged marriages where one (or both) parties were forced to partake in the marriage. I liken modern day arranged marriage, at least in the Pakistani-American community, to a very public Tinder arrangement. Basically, my “profile” comprises of my biodata which includes my name, age, height, education, parent’s education, and "profile pictures".

My biodata is given to a matchmaker in my community who later distributes it to matchmakers throughout the United States. This matchmaker, our “network”, serves as an intermediary between eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. The matchmakers assess my biodata and distribute it to men whom they think I would make a good fit for. They also assess and send me the biodatas of men whom they think would make a good fit for me.

If I liked someone, I would tell my parents I am interested in pursuing this relationship (“rishta”). That would be my version of “swiping right”. If I did not like someone, I would tell my parents I am not interested in pursuing this rishta ("swiping left"). The men went through the same process. If we both swiped right, we would meet each other and determine if we had a spark.

This process has been described as being “like dating fully endorsed by our families . . . there are no secrets or hiding.” During this entire process, I would have a say in whom I chose to marry. While the freedom of choice was exciting, the process has had a dark side in my experience. Almost every single man who received my biodata has “swiped left”.

My mom reached out to the matchmaker to ask why people were continuously swiping left. The matchmaker bluntly told her the following reasons for the continuous rejection: I was too fat, too old, too short, too dark, and too educated.

The ideal Pakistani mate would only have a college education, be fair-skinned, have long lustrous hair, and have the body measurements of a Victoria's Secret model. On top of these qualities, the woman needs to be seen as someone who would make a good housewife in terms of cooking, cleaning, and childrearing (e.g., June Cleaver). For women who fit the ideal Pakistani mate, the process has been empowering. It is the exact opposite for women who don’t tick one of these boxes—and I don’t tick any of these boxes.

I started this process when I was twenty years old, and I will twenty-five in June. To say this process has been debilitating is an understatement. Every ounce of professional confidence and growth during law school was crushed in my personal life because I did not fit the Pakistani ideal. I became increasingly anxious, depressed, and developed a sense of self-hatred.

Social cues from my cultural community told me to deprioritize my career ambition and focus on molding myself into the ideal Pakistani mate. This process feeds into the separate spheres ideology where women are expected to be caretakers and homemakers with the bodies of Victoria’s Secret models. I feel like the unrealistic expectations of the men (and their mothers) reflects how they view women: objects who serve a purpose.

I never wanted marriage to be an “accomplishment” I tick off. I grew up loving “love” and believed that form of intimacy and companionship can enrich someone’s life. I wanted marriage to be the culmination of a journey full of love and commitment. While every rejection may make me question my self-worth, in the long run, I know that men who choose women off of their ability to serve—rather than their ability to live their lives to their fullest extent—are not the right men for me.

In an attempt to add personality to my biodata, I wrote out a rishta "cover letter". Below is a short snippet from that letter:
As a woman, I have heard that I can have a family or a career. While I would love to have my own family one day, but I do not believe I have to give up my life’s work to have one. I want to enter into a strong partnership where we both support each other’s goals and dream . . . . If you are curious about my complexion, weight, or height, I do not think we would have a future together.
While my mother hasn't been convinced to attach this letter to my biodata, it was empowering to write because it reminded me that I am more than who I am on paper—and that has made all the difference.

Confessions of a feminist promo girl

While reading through the myriad of Spring 2019 feminist legal theory blog posts, I noticed a trend among many: A confession to being a bad feminist. Whether it was an admission to watching The Bachelor or participating in cultural, sexist traditions or religiously watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians, each author questioned their feminist identity.

After watching Roxane Gay’s Ted Talk on her “bad feminist” ways, I couldn’t help but to think of my own. So yes, I too confess: I am a bad feminist.

How? I absolutely capitalize on my femininity every weekend to help pay my way through law school.

As we all know, law school costs are an arm and a leg, and then some. To help pay for my living expenses, I work as a “promo girl” on the weekends. I essentially do promotional marketing, as an independent contractor, on behalf of marketing companies. Their clients are big alcohol brands like Bud Light, Stella Artois, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Hornitos, Effen Vodka, and Courvoisier cognac just to name a few. I go wherever they send me - clubs, bars, restaurants, golf courses, or professional sports games - to provide complimentary alcohol samples, educate consumers on the brand, and most importantly, push sales. Even though I do not receive a commission, high sales equals job security.

The work itself is minimal. We simply get paid to talk to consumers and the shifts are just 4-5 hours long. I make my own schedule, so if I choose not to work during reading period, my employer is okay with that. Best part is the pay. If I work through the weekend, I can pocket anywhere between $500-800, which contributes to my monthly bills and permits me to financially assist family when needed. Sounds pretty nice, right?

Well let me explain the reality of it. Consumers see us in a different light. They treat us in ways they normally wouldn’t treat us if we were out of uniform. For instance, I’ve had consumers rub my back, touch my waist, and walk up and hug me out of nowhere. I’ve had consumers inappropriately comment on my body and tell me creepy things like, “I’ll buy anything from you looking like that.” I’ve even had a club owner tell me, “Didn’t your dad tell you to never give anything away for free?” He thought it was funny.

If you work in the industry, you know the unwanted touching, objectification, and inappropriate, sexual comments come with the territory. So generally, women learn to smile, laugh, and then turn to roll their eyes out of “professionalism.” However, I’ve never been one to play it off. I look at them with the “Seriously?” stare or I move so they stop touching me.

Even though that's my way of fighting the patriarchy in this field, I feel like I should do more, especially as a feminist. I’m already letting my fellow feminists down my conforming to the “promo girl” stereotypes and capitalizing on it. Further, I’m moving the movement backwards by being a part of an industry that normalizes the objectification of women, minimizing us as a whole. So the least I can do is say something or move their hand, and not feel bad about it.

I think there are two things in play here: 1) the power dynamic; and 2) who's responsible for educating the obnoxious consumers?

Even though our marketing companies say they do not tolerate sexual harassment and claim they want all promo girls to work in a safe and comfortable environment, none of us dare to report the things we endure for job security purposes. Many of us keep our mouths shut because the business reports back to our big company client, and if the business speaks highly of us, we will get booked more often. However, if we make waves at a business and that information flows up the ladder, we risk losing work.

To maintain steady employment, and thus pay our bills, we put up with the behavior. So like many women in other professions, there’s an embedded power dynamic that must be overcome to address the issue. We also need our employers to have our backs, and mean it.

Maybe then we will speak up without the fear of retaliation. But even if that were the case, should the onus really be on us? We already have to deal with the behavior, and now we have to treat it? But if not us, who is going to educate these people? You would think with all the public discourse on sexual harassment, consumers would treat us with respect, regardless of what we're wearing or doing, but I see from personal experience, we still have a long way to go.

So yes, I am a bad feminist on the weekends to make ends meet, but thanks to feminism, I have the freedom to choose to study law during the week and do promos on the weekends to pay for it. Additionally, thanks to this course, I’ve been empowered to speak up and educate the obnoxious hereon out…and that’s a promise to my feminist comrades, good and bad alike. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Just not *that* woman

Currently, eighteen (18) people have thrown their hats in the ring to run against Trump in 2020. Eighteen. It's sometimes hard to remember just how crowded the field is when the media really only wants to talk about about a few of these candidates: Joe Biden, Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and now, Pete Buttigieg. These four men entered the race at different times, yet each has received a similar flood of attention. Biden and Bernie are familiar faces and were among those who people wanted to see run. Beto and Buttigieg are exciting political up-and-comers, who promise to breathe fresh air into Washington. And, of course, they are all white males. By itself, that fact isn't all that surprising. Most politicians are white males. Like the law, the field of politics has been and is still dominated by them. We made progress on that front in 2018, when a record number of women were elected to Congress. However, the top jobs - that of president and vice president - have remained staunchly male, and, at least in this initial coverage, it looks like that will not be changing this cycle.

Hillary Clinton tried her best to change that, and very nearly did. Hillary has always inspired me, and she inspired many of the men and women I was closest to in 2016. Despite that, her campaign was excruciating and frustrating to watch every step of the way due to the sexism of the media, and the general electorate. Apparently, Hillary just isn't likable. She alienates people. She's a war hawk. Her pantsuits. Her emails. And then there was the most irritating line from those who claimed they weren't voting for her: "I'll vote for a woman, just not that woman." The people who were saying that particular line weren't Republicans, who likely weren't trying to vote for a woman, but rather other liberal and independent men and women.

One of the women most cited as one whom the aforementioned group would vote for was Elizabeth Warren. Warren officially entered the 2020 race in January of this year. Despite a good deal of excitement surrounding her announcement, the focus on her has died down in favor of the four men mentioned at the beginning of this blog. Nonetheless, Warren has continued to campaign and release detailed policy plans - my favorite of which has been been her ambitious plan for universal child care. Not only is it a good plan, but it is also one that likely would only be thought of by a woman. Yet, one of the more recent Quinnipiac polls as her well behind Biden, Bernie, and Beto, and tied at 4% with Buttigieg, who entered the race well after she did. Some chalk this up to that whole DNA testing thing. As a person of color, that put me off a little bit too. But, not only did her childcare plan win me over, but I also took care to check any vestiges of internalized misogyny and remember that people, men and women, are imperfect and make mistakes. It isn't fair to dismiss a candidate due to a single judgement error, because everyone makes them.

It has been tough for other female candidates, too. Kamala Harris is polling better than Warren, but still no where near frontrunners Biden and Bernie. Like Warren, Harris' entry into the race was met with excitement. She is a strong woman of color, with a progressive record in Congress. Her background as a prosecutor was no secret, but people dug in anyway, and then came the criticism - as a baby prosecutor she was not progressive enough. I've worked at a public defender's office, I get the general distrust of prosecutors. But, Harris' record here needs to be looked at through an intersectional lens. As a woman of color, she wouldn't have had the power, at the beginning of her career, to have the kind of record and make the kinds of changes progressives want from her. The law is dominated by white males in almost all fields, offices of district attorneys not excluded. As much as Harris likely wanted to keep the needs of her community in mind as a prosecutor, she also needed to ensure that she had a good reputation with her white male bosses. This likely meant she couldn't appear to "go easy" on anyone.

But, in politics and other high-powered positions, women are not allowed to make mistakes or have questionable past opinions or records. The poll referenced above has Joe Biden leading the field with a whopping 29% of people polled. Biden, as much as people loved him as President Obama's Vice President, is not a perfect candidate by any means. One of his biggest flaws is his treatment of women, which has come to light in the past few weeks. Biden's boundary issues with women are well documented in pictures. His actions suggest a pattern rather than an isolated incident. However, he is still in the lead for the nomination, whereas Warren's one mistake may be tanking her chances. The same poll puts Bernie in second place with 19% of the vote, though much ado has been made about his lead in terms of fundraising. But Bernie is not perfect either. He has been dismissive of the concerns of people of color and some of his more rapid supporters are crazy, and he didn't do enough to calm them down. I could run a similar analysis on Beto and Buttigieg, who also have flawed records and are similarly not perfect candidates. People are still more excited about them than Warren or Harris - or at least that is what a quick glance at The New York Times or Twitter would have you believe.

I was hoping that after Trump's election, the double-standard in politics - expecting near perfection from female candidates while forgiving males - would lessen enough to give women a fighting chance at the presidency. It's not like people didn't notice the disparate treatment Hillary received in 2016. We seem to be falling into the same trap again, though. On the progressive side of the aisle, most are just concerned with ensuring that Trump is voted out of office. This is a goal I fully support, and thus I will vote for whoever the democratic candidate ends up being, which may mean voting for another white male. However, we as a society, must do a better job of policing ourselves when it comes to evaluating female candidates in particular. There will never be a perfect candidate - male or female - so evening the playing field necessarily means that we stop holding women to a higher standard. How do we do that? We can start by being truly honest with ourselves about whether we would dismiss our favorite male candidate for the same reason we want to dismiss a female one. If we start making excuses about why it wouldn't take away from the appeal of a man, it's time to start contemplating if internalized sexism is at play.

Tackling the objectification and harassment of women in the airline industry

On March 4, 2019, Virgin Atlantic took a “small but symbolic step” when it eliminated the mandatory makeup requirement imposed on its female flight attendants. Virgin Atlantic’s new company guidelines grant its female flight crew the autonomy to choose whether or not to wear makeup. However, if they choose to wear makeup, some restrictions still apply, such as adherence to the suggested color palette articulated in the company handbook.

Additionally, Virgin Atlantic took their efforts a step further and modified the standard red shirt and skirt uniform to include an option to wear pants provided by the company. Prior to this new company guideline, crew members needed to place special requests for a pant uniform from Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin Atlantic adopted these changes to its styling and grooming policy in light of employees expressed opinions and its desire to foster a more inclusive corporate environment. Virgin Atlantic’s Executive Vice President Mark Anderson stated that “not only do the new guidelines offer an increased level of comfort, but they also provide our team with more choice on how they want to express themselves at work.

Virgin Atlantic’s new guidelines serve as a breath of fresh air in an industry plagued by a lengthy history of objectification, sexual harassment and sexual assault of its female employees. One study shows that roughly two-thirds of U.S. flight attendants experience some form of harassment or assault during their careers. The Huffington Post article, For flight attendants, sexual assault isn’t just common, it’s almost a given, provides insight into the egregious treatment female flight attendants face from both their co-workers and airline passengers.

The article sheds light on the sexual harassment flight attendant Caroline Bright endured in 2017 at the hands of a pilot she worked with. She recalls noticing how the pilot’s facial features reminded her of her father and showing a picture of her father to the pilot. She told the pilot “You look just like my dad!” The pilot crassly responded by saying “It’s been a long time since a girl like you called me daddy.

In addition, the article highlights how the industry’s “the customer is always right attitude” and the discouragement of causing inflight delays inherent in the nature of the flight attendant’s job deters female flight attendants from confronting their perpetrators and ultimately drives them out of the industry. Lanelle Henderson, a former flight attendant, describes how an intoxicated male passenger made unwanted sexual advances toward her. The male passenger repeatedly grabbed and rubbed her hands, legs, and butt until another passenger intervened.

In the article, Dawn Arthur, a flight attendant for eight years, articulates sentiments similar to Henderson’s. During her career, male passengers often “pushed her into a corner and felt her up.” She never felt supported by her colleagues in the industry to come forward and cites the failure of airlines to train their employees in handling instances of sexual harassment and assault as exacerbating the problem.

Moreover, Arthur emphasizes how passenger perpetrators face limited to no consequences for their actions because “airlines are on a tight timetable and they’re not going to stop the plane.” She notes that if a flight attendant complains, “everyone’s just going to be mad at [her] because [she’s] not a team player and [she’s] just being difficult.

The objectification, sexual harassment, and sexual assault of female flight attendants continues to be a rampant issue even in 2019. As recently as two weeks ago, two JetBlue flight attendants filed suit against the airline and two of their pilots for drugging and raping them during a flight layover. The airline failed to take any sort of action when the two flight attendants brought forward their sexual assault and rape claims.

Virgin Atlantic hopes that the modifications it incorporated into its new uniform and makeup policy will help combat this continued objectification, sexual harassment, and sexual assault female airline employees face. The company believes that the policies can serve as a step towards mitigating the toxic masculinity and misogyny inherent in the flight attendant job and airline work environment.

Following Virgin Atlantic’s footsteps, other airlines such as American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Aer Lingus have eliminated their makeup requirements. They only maintain specifications for the type of makeup flight attendants wear if their flight attendants choose to wear makeup. Airlines such as Southwest and British Airways have also eliminated their skirt requirement and incorporated a pant option into their flight attendant uniforms.

However, not all airlines share the sentiments of those who have undertaken these changes. Despite removing its makeup requirement, United Airlines continues to heavily scrutinize its flight attendant’s attire and grooming choices. In an accidentally leaked internal email, United Airlines “expressed concern for skirts with improper lengths, shirts with wrinkles or stains, visibly worn-out shoes, and other personal grooming issues.

Moreover, many Middle Eastern and Asian air carriers also continue to uphold their stringent appearance standards. For example, Singapore Airlines’ requires that its flight attendants, commonly known as “Singapore Girls”, wear a skin-tight uniforms, get their hair cut into one of the five approved styles, and apply the approved lipstick, blush and nail polish prior to arriving on the plane. Similarly, airlines such as Malaysia’s AirAsia and Vietnam’s Viet Jet require female flight attendants to wear tight-fitting or revealing clothing while in flight or filming for promotional videos.

With airlines opting to take different approaches, the question still remains: Are changes to styling and grooming policies enough to combat the objectification, sexual harassment, and sexual assault female flight personnel face? On one hand, providing women the autonomy to make clothing and grooming choices that might “deter” objectification or harassment in their workplace may seem empowering. However, on other hand, the choice feels arbitrary because the burden of consequences of their clothing and makeup choices ultimately rests with them in an industry where there is no support or training to stop such conduct.

Without establishing formal training for airline personnel to learn how to constructively deal with instances of objectification, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, the egregious treatment of female flight attendants will persist. Forums must be established to ensure female flight attendants can bring forward claims and airlines must develop in-flight procedures for handling situations as they arise, even if they do cause delays or inconveniences.

Female flight attendants’ safety in the workplace should be of utmost importance to air carriers. Their clothing and grooming decisions should not dictate the treatment they face at the hands of their male colleagues and passengers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Is God a woman?

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. . . 
For many people, Christian or not, the Lord's Prayer is instantly recognizable. As a child of a Christian household, it is one of the first things I remember memorizing, and despite my distance from the faith for several years, I still know every word. The prayer, which promotes devotion to and reliance on God, starts out with two very important words that will be focus of this post: "Our Father."

Christians repeat these two words frequently and instinctually. Like I mentioned before, I memorized this prayer at a very young age. I recited it often and without much thought (although admittedly the pastor would always direct us to savour every word. . . oops). But this practice, bolstered by language throughout the Bible, leads Christians to think of God as a man.

Assuming God's gender as male has sweeping ramifications for women in religion, and specifically Christian women. In short, characterizing God as a man imbues male dominance into every aspect of the religion. While some women in the Bible are lauded for their faith and character, ultimately a man is at the top of the hierarchy. It is a man that occupies the highest two positions of the faith - God the Father and His Son. Naturally, it follows that a man in the world today is most equipped to occupy the highest position as well. Women, although they may be virtuous, can never come close to the top precisely because of their gender.

But is language as influential as I posit? What if we took Ariana Grande's pop hit seriously? What if God was a woman?

Language plays a pivotal role in how people think and act. Thoughts not only shape our language, but language often shapes our thoughts. Gendered language in particular has a significant impact on how societies treat men and women, and those who identify elsewhere on the gender spectrum. In fact, "languages in which nouns are given male or female status are linked to gender inequality" across the globe. Psychology Professor Jennifer Prewitt-Freilano who conducted the research on the relationship between language and gender inequality asserted:
Not only is language a source for conveying current systems of hierarchy, but (it) might also be a way of reproducing them . . .
If gendered language is integral to thoughts, actions, and hierarchies, then God the Mother, hallowed be Her name might be essential to reversing the deeply ingrained inequality present in Christianity. If we regularly thought of God as a woman, then we might change thought-processes in such a way where women are equally accepted as having the potential to occupy positions of power and holiness. Language can be used to subvert the male hierarchy after thousands of years of it being used to reproduce it.

While I agree with many Christian feminist articles that changing God's gender may make Christianity more inclusive and more equal among the sexes, part of me still wonders why we are gendering God in the first place? The Bible features one predominant "description" of what God is in Genesis 1:27, but is otherwise silent as to who or what God is and what God's visage may be. For the record, Genesis 1:27 reads:
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He create him; male and female He created them.
This passage can be read in many ways. Most often it is read to mean that males were created in God's image, thus God must also be a male. However, alternative interpretations do exist, including one where both men and women were made in God's image, accordingly God may display characteristics of both men and women. Regardless of the textual interpretation, the fact remains that we know very little about God. We cannot say for certain that God is a man, a woman, somewhere in between, or even human; and yet, we insist on gendering God. So maybe removing gender altogether is the way to go?

There are movements within Christian spheres to adopt more universal language for God. This includes substituting male words and pronouns, like "the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit", with inclusive language like "Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer." However, gender-neutrality also presents its fair share of problems. What surprised me the most in my research was that languages with no gender at all - where different genders are represented by the same words - still reflect high levels of gender inequality. Analysts suggest this is because when faced with gender-neutrality, people automatically categorize the un-gendered as male.

So what do we do with God?

Personally, I think each follower of God should choose what or who they want God to be for them - be it a human male, a female angel, an agendered peacock, you name it. However, I recognize this does not do much for fixing the gender inequality issue in Christianity. To that end, I encourage followers of faiths that characterise God as male to start referring to God with female pronouns and female words. I do believe that language influences thoughts. If hearing God, the Mother, more often switches the tune even a little bit, then I think it is worthwhile. This is something I have actively been working on in a secular context. When speaking about hypothetical Presidents, Congresspeople, business owners, etc., I try and default to female pronouns. Maybe this only comforts me and impacts no one else, but I think it is good training for my brain, which has been taught to think in terms of men.

While there is no one solution to gender inequality in religious spheres, something so essential to religion as language may be an excellent place to start.