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« Repurposing | Main | Ridiculosity, tripled »

Too many smart women

Suppose you're among the people running a male-dominated country where many men like to think that women exist primarily to serve them and otherwise should stay out of sight.

Suppose, however, that women in that country show a lot more spunk and desire for education than men, many of whom appear to be interested only in making the most money from the least effort.

Suppose you've reached a point at which women make up 65 percent of university students, and that they routinely perform at a much higher level than their male counterparts, and they're starting to expect something approaching ... gasp! ... equal rights.

What are the men in authority to do? Should they have an "Aha!" moment and recognize the great, untapped potential that they've been ignoring? Should they seek ways to integrate these intelligent, educated, and motivated women into leadership positions so they can help move the country forward?

Or, feeling threatened by so many educated females, should they solve the discrepancy by banning women from fields of study in which they want men to retain a monopoly?

That's the course recently taken by the increasingly insecure leaders of Iran, where women have been barred from pursuing more than 70 degree programs, according to The Telegraph. These include English literature and translation, hotel management, archaeology, nuclear physics, computer science, electrical engineering, industrial engineering and business management.

Iran's Islamist clerics don't like the trend of women getting more educated, seeking to establish identities of their own, and becoming less willing to submit to a life in which their only acceptable role is to marry and raise children and stay quiet.

One interesting note is that both the Oil Industry University and Isfahan University (which offers a mining degree) announced that they would exclude women because so few of them could find jobs in those fields.

By the same token, should Baptist divinity schools stop admitting female students, since so few Baptist churches are willing to call them as pastors? A recent article from Associated Baptist Press revealed that seven percent of CBF churches are now led by women. That's a surprising increase and more than many people would think, but still a tiny fraction when set against all Baptist churches. It remains exceedingly difficult to persuade many churches to even consider a woman as a candidate for pastor.

Should we throw in the towel and refuse to admit women, since few churches will call them? Should we deny female students the chance to learn and grow and answer what they believe to be God's calling on their lives because job opportunities are few -- or because educated women could threaten a male-dominated system?

Some questions don't deserve an answer ... but the women of Iran deserve our prayers.

References (1)

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Reader Comments (12)

Thank you Tony,
I recently met an outstanding Iranian young woman. She gives me hope for her country and courage for all women to keep on going. The odds are not always in our favor but it is encouraging to have people like you walk the journey with us.

Aug 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTina Bailey

Excellent thought-provoking article. While I haven't personally met many men who have this fear of women's success, I would instead blame the churches that are perpetuating sexism as God's mandate. Most men I have known in Baptist churches are upright men, desiring to follow God as best they can, but misguided by the Church's own teachings. Most, for example, were happy in 2008 to vote for a female national VP, while in their own little congregations they won't allow women to serve as deacons or pastors. It helps to look at other cultures and see if we can recognize ourselves there.

Aug 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Vestal

I think the answer is clear. Women that go to divinity school clearly understand their options once they complete the degree or they are not receiving appropriate guidance from the start. Many CBF churches will call a female for some type of pastoral ministry and I attend one of those churches. Of course, these women attended seminaries that readily admit women to divinity programs and are connected with churches that readily hire women. Once again, Cartledge can't see the progress already made because his instead of celebrating and affirming the progress, he moans about the churches that don't call women. Get over it and work on partnering with the many churches that will call a female instead of working to "persuade" those churches that will not.

Aug 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlee

You went through the whole Iranian thing just to draw the parallel of those mean Iranian men with those mean Baptist men in the last two paragraphs. Maintaining the same line of thought, what do you propose – maybe a beheading or two just to straighten them out?

Aug 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Clark


It has nothing to do with mean Baptist men. It has everything to do with the 2000 BF&M written by men not allowing women to use their God given gifts. No, the SBC should not be in the beheading business but allowing women to use their God given gifts.

Aug 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertommy9999


I’m as interested as you or anyone else in women using their God-given abilities and favor ordination and all the rest. The blog WAS about mean Baptist men as compared to mean Iranian men and that can’t be sugar-coated. The blog was mean-spirited. Your mention of the BFM is a further allusion to the mean Baptist men who fashioned it. What the SBC does is its business, but over half the SBCers are women who apparently either approve of the BFM or simply couldn’t care less, the latter probably the reason. Those who disagree can follow other Baptist opportunities such as a denomination disposing more to their interpretation of the scriptures.

Aug 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Clark

Jim Clark:

You said:"Those who disagree can follow other Baptist opportunities such as a denomination disposing more to their interpretation of the scriptures."

Many have moved on from the SBC and you want more to move along. But cheap shot about folks wishing to have their interpretations. You are really clueless as to why the many have left the SBC, aren't you. But I will give you a hint it is partially because of attitudes like yours.

Aug 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertommy9999

Hi Jim,
I don't often respond to comments on the blog, wanting to let readers have their say and not appear defensive. I don't understand, however, why you think the blog was mean-spirited. I said nothing about "mean Baptist men," or even "mean Iranian men," for that matter. When it comes to churches not giving women a chance to be considered as pastor, men are not the only ones holding up the show -- many women are just as reluctant as men to consider the big cultural change of calling a woman as pastor. While I wish more churches would give women a chance at pastoral leadership, I did not and do no imply that those who don't are mean. Since some Iranian administrators argued that there's no point in educating women for a job they're unlikely to get, I thought it was worth posing the rhetorical question of whether we do women a disservice by educating and encouraging them when so few churches will call them. If you want to project a mean-spirit into that, go ahead, but I assure you that was never my intent.
Tony Cartledge

Aug 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTony Cartledge


I appreciate the explanation but the fact remains that you could have made your point, as you did in the last couple or three paragraphs, without any mention of Iran or Iranians. You could have used statistics pertinent to this country, in which more than half of all college/university students are women. Women are slowly taking over the courts and comprise nearly half of law-school students (50.4% in 1993, 47.2% currently). The same or similar situations obtain regarding medical schools, and most schoolteachers are women. I’m not a professional religionist but I know of no Baptist seminary that refuses to accept women students. You ask if seminaries should stop admitting women because they make it into few pastorates. The same could be asked regarding all the other professions, except that the women do make it into their chosen fields. Until as recently as half my lifetime, women did not go in great numbers into those professions. So…give it some time. In 2010, less than 15% of military personnel were women, with none of them officially in combat roles. Actually, I’m chauvinistic enough to hope they forget the military altogether.

I used the term “mean” because you used the term “Iranian male” as an example, and the Iranian male official/entrepreneur is MEAN. When you juxtaposed him with the “male-dominated system” vis-à-vis women in ministry, I logically concluded that you considered that system to be made up of MEAN men. If you or anyone else has been offended, apologies all around! As for the pastorate (I’ve never been a pastor), something no one likes to mention comes into play, the fact that there is a difference in genders that has nothing to do with intelligence and little to do with spirituality.

Aug 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Clark


You said:"something no one likes to mention comes into play, the fact that there is a difference in genders that has nothing to do with intelligence and little to do with spirituality."

I'm not following what you are trying to say.

Aug 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertommy9999

It’s hard to discuss this without being branded everything from a misogynist to a hopeless idiot or totally insensitive thug…or, as noted above, a brutish chauvinist. The politically correct (for want of a better term) insist upon a sort of unisex, i.e., no significant differences between the genders. There are obvious differences, however, among which is not IQ, though men seem to be better spatial thinkers while women are better in language and the humanities. The main differences, also quite obvious, are physical and psychological. Collectively, men are stronger and when necessary can will themselves in an instant and with no backward look to break things and kill people, while women are less strong and inclined to nurture. Women are barely tolerated in the Marine Corps, for instance, while only a few men can be found working in hospital maternity facilities. There are no women on NFL, NBA or MLB teams and no men playing in the WNBA or women’s soccer leagues.

Historically and for good or ill, world leaders overwhelmingly have been men, especially with respect to the establishing and maintaining of societies. More often than not and all things being equal, this has been because physical struggle has been necessary to success, with the greatest warriors achieving the outcome. The key, of course, is leadership. Religionists cringe when reminded that God and Jesus are always referenced in scripture in the masculine and try in every way to explain that away. That’s fine with me and I already understand that God has both male and feminine attributes. Almost without exception, however, biblical leaders were men (I do admire Deborah and Jael and even the wily Delilah) and apparently that was not by accident, unless one considers the Bible as not being actually God-inspired. From a practical standpoint, this may explain some of the reason that churches do not “call” more women to the pastorate. One remembers, also, the silly effort in the 80s-90s in some denominations to remove all masculine references to God and violence from hymnals.

Mine is not a popular approach in many circles and is likely to induce argument, so this is all I have to offer, my last word.

Aug 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Clark

Jim Clark:

You are right, I will let you have the last word. A made up mind can not be changed!!

Sep 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertommy9999

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