Chapter 23 » 23.42

Social justice

Discrimination and disadvantage

I am still concerned that there are not many women exercising leadership in government, industry and education… However, this is not a straightforward issue for me. I want to see women fully represented at all levels of society, and yet I share the misgivings that many feminists have for the hierarchical way in which leadership is traditionally exercised.

The Society of Friends seems a good place to explore this dilemma since it has, since the early days, attempted a more truly democratic and participative way of working than has been customary in society at large. This was one of the factors that first attracted me to Friends, as it seems to be an expression of the recognition that we are all equal in our shared humanity. Sexism does violence to this important insight, as it does to individuals of either sex who are seeking to find themselves and express themselves in the world…

I am not saying that the oppressive effects of sexism are never felt within the Society of Friends, for we are all members of the wider society and affected by its attitudes. There are Friends who think that catering should be the preserve of women and that matters of finance are best understood by men. There have been times within Friends’ circles when I have felt hurt by these attitudes, as I have no doubt unwittingly wounded others. But I have found the Society’s commitment to truth an encouragement and challenge to my own strivings for integrity, and I give thanks for that.

Pauline Leader, 1986

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