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Constructing Gender

Constructing Gender

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Published by Darnell L. Moore
The purpose of this essay is to assess how the preached word — at least the ways in which
certain Christian teachings, doctrines, theologies, and moral ideologies are often framed for us through the preaching moment — has much to do with the ways in which gender roles are imagined, constructed, and lived out and even the ways in which gender-based violence and violation can be reinforced. By engaging the teachings of several prominent Pentecostal preachers as posted on YouTube, and the multiple/competing responses of the comments sections therein, I seek to demonstrated how new media tools can serve as catalysts for the production
and/or reproduction of problematic understandings of gender roles, and how these mediums reinforce sexual ethics that ultimately result in human violation.
The purpose of this essay is to assess how the preached word — at least the ways in which
certain Christian teachings, doctrines, theologies, and moral ideologies are often framed for us through the preaching moment — has much to do with the ways in which gender roles are imagined, constructed, and lived out and even the ways in which gender-based violence and violation can be reinforced. By engaging the teachings of several prominent Pentecostal preachers as posted on YouTube, and the multiple/competing responses of the comments sections therein, I seek to demonstrated how new media tools can serve as catalysts for the production
and/or reproduction of problematic understandings of gender roles, and how these mediums reinforce sexual ethics that ultimately result in human violation.

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Published by: Darnell L. Moore on Apr 11, 2013
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© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2011 DOI: 10.1163/027209611X575041
Pneuma 33 (2011) 254-270 
brill.nl/pneu
Constructing Gender: Old Wine in New Media(skins)
Darnell L. Moore
Visiting Scholar, Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality,New York University New York mooredarnell@gmail.com
 Abstract 
Te purpose of this essay is to assess how the preached word — at least the ways in whichcertain Christian teachings, doctrines, theologies, and moral ideologies are often framed for usthrough the preaching moment — has much to do with the ways in which gender roles areimagined, constructed, and lived out and even the ways in which gender-based violence andviolation can be reinforced. By engaging the teachings of several prominent Pentecostal preach-ers as posted on Youube, and the multiple/competing responses of the comments sectionstherein, I seek to demonstrated how new media tools can serve as catalysts for the productionand/or reproduction of problematic understandings of gender roles, and how these mediumsreinforce sexual ethics that ultimately result in human violation.
Keywords
 Juanita Bynum, Bishop Tomas Weeks, Youube, domestic violence
Constructing Gender: Old Messages in New Media(skins)
Te public can virtually “attend” church at computer stations, by way of liveInternet streams, merely by the click of a button. Tere are some who can evenload video clips of their favorite sermons directly on their mobile phones. Forinstance, “each Me How to Love You” is an instructional series on intimacy and relationship produced by Pentecostal evangelist Juanita Bynum and herthen-husband Bishop Tomas Weeks III. Te Youube clip aptly labeled“Bishop Weeks Cussin in the Bedroom” (which, as I write this essay, has302,997 views) captures a six-minute and fifty-five second portion of thisteaching.
1
Tis clip and the ready access to it speaks to one of the essential
1
Troughout this paper, I include comments that Youube subscribers have provided inresponse to the various Youube clips that are referred to in this essay. As a result, all comments will appear as they were posted on the particular sites both in terms of form and grammar.
 
D. L. Moore / Pneuma 33 (2011) 254-270 
255
issues that will be examined in this essay, namely, how televisual and new media means can be used as catalysts for the production and/or
re 
productionof problematic understandings of gender. Indeed, Bishop Weeks, who waslicensed to preach and ordained an Elder under the auspices of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, offers a sermon espousing traditional gender rela-tions within the institution of marriage with an iconoclastic spin. o quote Weeks at length:
Te Bible says that the bedroom is undefiled. Now if the bedroom is undefiled, thatmeans God wants some undefiled stuff to take place in the bedroom. He would’venever said that the bedroom is undefiled if you did not have any undefiledness [sic] tooperate the bedroom . . . So some of the stuff that you just don’t say outside the bed-room is supposed to be saved for the bedroom . . . “Don’t say that while we’re in here.Tat’s not good. Let’s just say I love you baby, ooh baby you feel good, ooh you’re wonderful.” I wish I could say what I want to say right here. You need to get some words that start expressing! You dont hear me right now, you dont hear none of that,“Baby, blank, blank, blank, blank, blank!” Ya’ll ain’t sayin’ nothing! “urn that blank blank blank BLANK blank blank blank blank blank!” Say it! Speak in tongues whenyou get outside the bedroom. “Ooh, let’s touch and agree” — that ain’t the place totouch and agree. Don’t take your salvation into the bedroom because the bedroombecomes the balance to your salvation. . . . And most people don’t get the enjoyment of that bedroom because you are trying to hold back all of that stuff ‘cause you think God’s gonna send down lightning if you say a couple of extra things . . .
2
It goes without saying that Weeks leaves much room for critique in this excerpt.o the more traditional ear and theologically conservative eye, Weeks’s mes-sage provides viewers with an array of problematic sound bites concerning notionsof intimacy and relationality. And for those viewers for whom cussin’ — whether partnered with a kick, punch, or shout — is not or has never been a novel practice in the bedroom, the overemphasizing of this practice on thepart of Weeks could further the physical violence that takes place within their walls. Yet, what does it mean for us to consider this particular message as possible normalizing of both a cognition and practice of male-domination,female-subordination that perpetuates the damaging social phenomenon thatcan lead to what social theorists refer to as institutional violence?
3
 Tis essay argues that the preached word — at least the ways in which cer-tain Christian teachings, doctrines, theologies, and moral ideologies are often
2
Youube, “Bishop Weeks ‘Cussin in the bedroom,’” accessed at http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=waXrbpFikZU.
3
Ivone Gebara,
Out of the Depths: Women’s Experience of Evil and Salvation
(Minneapolis:Fortress Press, 2002), 79.
 
256
D. L. Moore / Pneuma 33 (2011) 254-270 
framed for us through the preaching moment — has much to do with the ways in which gender is imagined, constructed, and performed.
4
In addition,this essay considers the potential of the preached word to function as an instru-ment that may, at times, contain prompts that reinforce gender-based violenceand violation. And while physical abuse and sexual violation are imagined asthe most conspicuous forms of gender-based offense, this paper examines the
tacit 
violence that emerges in and is perpetuated through the mundane prac-tice of religious broadcasting.
5
Feminist theologian Ivone Gebara argues thatinstitutionalized violence against women “is not just one specific act of vio-lence but a social arrangement, a cultural construct geared to degrade one poleof humanity and exalt another.”
6
Tus, gender discourse, through which theinstitutionalized violence and/or social arrangement (of what some might callheteropatriarchy) is framed and maintained, will be examined. Te purpose will be to theorize the extent to which the preached word — and its increasedproliferation via new media means such as Youube — might reproduce orcounteract such violence.In the following, then, thoughts are provided regarding the ways in whichincreased public access to the preached word through traditional (televisualand radio broadcasts) and new media means (such as social marketing web-sites; internet streaming portals; and video sharing sites like Youube) pro-vides both positive and unconstructive opportunities for shaping an audience’sunderstanding of gender. More specifically, this essay will address how broad-ened public access to traditional and new media, particularly online sites suchas Youube, can be the vehicle through which diverse types of theologicalconcepts are diffused. In doing so, this essay will examine the construction of gender through the Youube sermon clips of three well-known evangelists
4
I am using the term
 gender 
to refer to characterizations that are constructed and constitutedthrough the process of identification or the naming of one’s gender identities (i.e., masculineand/or feminine) and through the ways we perform gender identities. In sum, gender roles, or what we name “masculinityand “femininity,” are nothing more than indefinite and inventedcategories that are considered fixed and instinctive. Gender orientation, then, is a performance,a caricature at best, of those roles. For some, this concept will appear to be heretical because itchallenges the assumption maintained by many that gender is an innate quality. Instead, we(meaning societal groups) construct the gender roles/rules, characterizations, and scripts, andthis, in turn, informs our own gendered expressions. In fact, preached messages are but oneexample of a type of conduit for this gendering process.
5
See Vivian Deno’s very useful article for more on the intersections of gender, race, andPentecostalism in the United States. “God, Authority, and the Home: Gender, Race, and U.S.Pentecostals, 1906-1926,”
 Journal of Women’s History 
16, no. 3 (2004): 83-105.
6
Gebara,
Out of the Depths 
, 81.

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