I’ve written before about my neuroses regarding other women. I trace it back, in part, to attending a girl’s school. This isn’t to say that all girl’s schools (or even mine), are ‘bad’ – just that same sex gatherings can look a lot more like Lord of the Flies than Enid Blyton. There’s nowt so bitchy as a gaggle of teenage girls. Plus, same-sex schools (whilst academically strong) can foster a competitive and judgmental spirit that does damage to both those delivering and those receiving verdicts.
So I was interested to read Rowan Pelling writing in defense of girls-only schools in The Daily Telegraph. She said,
“In co-ed classes, girls are too worried about male approval to behave with …carefree idiocy. Girls-only schooling raises aspirations, boosts confidence and helps women forge strong relationships with other women. Even now I can tell if a woman’s had a single-sex education: alumnae have an air of bright-eyed intrigue about them, as if they and you were still perched on the radiator in the common room, discussing the pros and cons of French kissing.”
Hmmm. This is not at all what I recall of my schooldays. Instead I remember reading with horror, that they were the ‘best days of your life’ and thinking that if this were the case, I was absolutely done for. I’ve always been far more worried about what other women think of me than men. Girl’s school made me more frightened of women, rather than less and more convinced that I was a guy trapped in a (supposedly) feminine body. Boys seemed much more straightforward, less likely to greet you with earth-shattering shrieking or to stab you in the back whilst pretending to be your friend.
This being said, all of my best friends (with one exception) are female. And there’s something about spending time with (small) groups of women that feeds my soul in a way nothing else does. But it got me thinking about whether or not there’s a biblical mandate for say, women-only events. Now, when it comes to things like women-only conferences or wives’ days, many people are in the love ‘em or hate ‘em camp. I’ve generally been in the hate ‘em group, but actually, that’s mainly because of my own insecurities. I’m not sure if I fit the criteria for ‘woman’ let alone ‘godly woman’. And I haven’t enjoyed the few such events I’ve been on – mainly because I’ve felt jealous of the men’s programme, which was looking in-depth at Scripture, whilst we had a ‘colour me beautiful’ seminar and a talk about modesty. (Do guys feel the same way about single-sex schools and men-only events? Maybe you want to be Coloured Beautiful?)
Also, I’m wary about going to events that make me feel condemned or like I just don’t measure up. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, Christian seminars leave you with a to-do list and a burden of guilt bigger than the one you walked in with. I don’t want twelve tips on how to improve my hospitality. I do want to spend time with other women talking and thinking about Christ and what He’s doing in each other’s lives. That’s exciting.
But actually I haven’t really given women only events a chance. So that’s my plan – because it’s easy to caricature and dismiss the things you’re scared of. It’s easy to criticise, especially from a safe distance. Many women I know are normal, claim to not only tolerate, but positively enjoy them. And who knows, if I get a bit closer, maybe I’ll find some kindred spirits lurking in the bike sheds.