IVP - Strangely Dim - Inside the Circle of Women

June 17, 2004

Inside the Circle of Women

By David A. Zimmerman

If you’re like me (and by that I mean, if you are male), you are likely overwhelmed by equal parts dread and curiosity by the phrase “circle of women.” I remember, back to the fourth grade, a general sense of frustration at having no idea why only the girls in my class were called into a special assembly. I have some idea now, and frankly I’m left a bit nostalgic for the days of my youthful ignorance, but I digress. The point is, early on we men are systematically excluded from this “circle of women.” We have to content ourselves with the meager provisions left for us outside the circle, which consist mostly of overwhelming systemic cultural, political and financial bias toward the male gender.

But I recently found myself smack-dab on the circumference of the circle of women in, of all places, an ice cream parlor. Suddenly, I was the minority. I would not be directing the conversation; I would not be the center of attention; I would not have occasion to share stories of all my accomplishments or talk about weighty matters of sport and golf. No, we talked of girly things—things that you spray on yourself, for example.

Don’t get me wrong. I have great respect for the women I was gnoshing with. Perhaps what surprised me most of all about the afternoon was how comfortable I felt in the circle. I mean, let’s face it: guys’ conversations can be somewhat stilted. The “circle of men,” if there is such a thing, might often be confused with a “cone of silence.”

I have a friend over for chess every once in a while, and we could easily play one game of chess for an hour and a half without any dialogue beyond the occasional chess smackdown. My wife is dumbstruck when she comes home and asks me, “How he’s doing?” and I tell her, “OK,” and she asks me, “Did he tell you about the big changes in his job or that his wife is pregnant or that he’s thinking about joining the Peace Corps?” and I tell her, “No.”

She’s dumbstruck, I think, because she’s used to life in the circle of women, where people seem to be taught to set aside their agendas and enter into communion with one another. I, on the other hand, am not put off by silence because I so often inhabit the cone of silence myself. It’s easier there—if no one knows what you’re thinking, they’re less likely to disagree with you and more likely just to shut up and move their bishop.

Perhaps I’m idealizing the circle of women. Perhaps I’m even oversimplifying the circle of men. I do, after all, have very healthy, soul-building relationships with men, and I know of some women who do not feel safe with one another. But I do find my fourth grade memory a little easier to take when I imagine the girls assembly as a half hour of chit-chat over ice cream rather than a half hour of talking about what I think they were talking about. Some things are none of my business.


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Posted by Dave Zimmerman at June 17, 2004 4:21 PM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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