Continuing the Deadly Viper Conversation: Illuminating Gender Blind Spots

By Ken Fong 11-23-2009

In response to Kathy Khang's recent blog post, "Unseen Privilege: The Overlooked Gender Dimension of the 'Deadly Viper' Conversation," I want to say as one of the three men (and all of us Asian Americans) involved in bringing the "Deadly Viper" controversy to the attention of the publishers and authors, I want people to know how clear-minded, unflinching, and resolute Kathy and the other two AsiAm female leaders (Nikki Toyama-Szeto and Helen Lee) were and continue to be in this ongoing effort to sensitize the Body to less respected or valued parts.

To those who would cite scripture to insist that God would not have wanted any women to contribute their strengths, gifts, wisdom, and experience to this cause, I can only say that I believe that our efforts would have suffered in so many ways if these three Christian colleagues had not been allowed to weigh in with us men.

When I first got involved with the Deadly Viper issue, I zeroed in on the co-opted stereotypic Asian images, most of which were of Asian males. But I am embarrassed to admit that I really didn't catch the denigration of women aspects when I first procured a copy of the book and began working through the content. However, because I have long believed that a huge part of Christ's redemptive work is to have the powerless teach the powerful, I was moved by the outcry of some Christian sisters and then started to notice how males-only many of the character lessons were. I too began to be upset about that and joined the chorus of those who wanted to confront the authors and publishers about this, too.

But in order not to overwhelm them, we all agreed to keep the focus on the misuse of images. I believe that that was the right approach and the response received from Zondervan seems to bear that out. However, as they regroup soon with the authors to re-present the content, it's now appropriate to work with them to correct this blind spot in the content.

No doubt there are folks out there who think there's nothing wrong with having stuff that is exclusively aimed at one gender or the other. However, given the history of excluding women from leadership and given the importance of pursuing solid Christian character among ALL Christian leaders, I believe it is paramount that a book about that topic should not in any way, shape, or form exclude female Christian leaders from the conversation. To do so, especially if the original target audience was males, is only to perpetuate that blind spot which continues to cause you pain. Kathy's post, something that I doubt I could do or do nearly as well, serves to make my whole point to those who are willing to hear it.

portrait-ken-fongKen Fong is the Senior Pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles.

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