To Be a Gracious But Angry Christian Asian American Woman

I’m trying not to let all of this Deadly Viper stuff emotionally hijack me. Writing helps. Talking with “Kathy Khang husband” helps (btw, that is exactly the search engine term someone used). Praying helps.

I’m trying to muster up the courage to say something else about a situation that is already heated and complex without blind-siding anyone else, without derailing what could be a conversation in the making about the racial, ethnic and faith issues at hand, without sounding too angry, bitter, or in need of inner healing.

But can someone please tell me why pink frosted cupcakes, salads, Richard Simmons and pink Smart cars are girly which is code for “not manly” or akin to being wimps and wussies, which clearly are not adjectives any real man would want used to describe men?

Deadly Viper is NOT the first, last or only leadership development that uses what some would call a hyper-masculinity to appeal to men and their leadership. There are several male pastors who are calling out for men to be warriors, man-up, go to battle, etc. There is a shift in some circles arguing that the feminization of the Church is why men are failing to lead. Jesus as manly man.

But I make the connection here in the middle of all of this talk about culture, race, ethnicity and pain because it is in these conversations I often feel like I’m choosing first to be Christian Asian American and put the “Woman” on hold. It feels too complicated to simultaneously engage people across the divide in a conversation about racial stereotypes AND gender stereotypes. I don’t want my Asian American experience to be defined by ninja warriors, but the message here is so much more nuanced because there are parts of my Christian and Asian and American culture that try to silence my leadership.

Women and men are different. Yes! How can we speak respectfully of those differences, learn from one another and affirm one another without resorting to one of the worst insults a boy can throw at another boy at the playground: “You throw/hit/punch/run/laugh/cry like a girl”?

Just last week I heard a few men at the bowling alley ask me if I had a french maid costume for Halloween. Was that a man being a man in his public man-cave? If those men were just being stupid, isn’t it possible that all of this talk and imagery about real men versus chickified church boys could add unnecessary fuel to the fire?

I’m struggling here.  I am the mother of an amazing daughter and two amazing sons. This isn’t me ranting. I am feeling deeply the brokenness of our world as my kids sleep soundly tonight. How will the church lead in teaching both my daughter and my sons to be strong, effective, compassionate, gracious, courageous leaders? Can we do it without making fun of one another, without Kung Fu warriors fighting off pink cupcakes or salads?

Is anyone else bothered by this hyper-masculinity? Am I being too sensitive?


  1. Barnabas November 4, 2009

    i feel you, kathy. no coherent words or thoughts at the moment, but i resonate with you deeply.

  2. Shirley Hou November 4, 2009

    The point you made about some churches blaming feminism for the downfall of the church resonated with me. I definitely hear some of that, and it is disturbing.

  3. Spiny Norman November 4, 2009

    What is troubling about a lot of this is that women get blamed for the downfall, exclusion, emasculation, apathy and (fill in the blank) reasons for men needing to rise up and take their manly place. This is such recycled BS from antiquity that hamstrings the Church and keeps us all from growing up and maturing. Reasons that are given have more basis in Plato, Aristotle and others and NOT in the Bible. I am fatigued by being blamed. I am saddened that the Church is not better than those outside the Church as it relates to gender relations.

  4. alice November 4, 2009

    Thanks for posting this, Kathy! I’ve also been wondering how to feel about the masculine portrayal of leadership and how to relate it to all the important conversations happening around race.

    My temptation is to shrug shoulders and say “It’s not as important” or “We’ll get to it later. It’s not time.”

    It’s a terrible thing to have to choose between your race and your gender. There are few situations when I’ve felt this way so I can’t think of any off the top of my head. I think the term for being both minority and female is “double threat”.

  5. Lisa November 4, 2009

    At church, every time I get invited to a woman’s spring tea, Xmas cookie party, or women’s salad buffet, or, alternatively, hear an announcement for the “Real Men’s Breakfast with Bacon and Theology” a part of my dies. Why women’s events must include a budget for table cloths and baked goods and men’s events must include a budget for meat, I do not understand. Why can’t the focus of either event be leadership or the Bible with meat or flowers on the side? Our advertisements to ourselves are just as suggestive as Zondervan’s message on the book’s cover.

  6. andkim November 5, 2009

    Nuanced is a great way to put this situation.

    Matt Redman had some interesting words to say about this in relation to worship song language:

    As a guy, I think my challenge has not been the feminization OR masculization of the Church– its been the asexuality of the Church, the Korean American Church to be specific. I’ve never developed any type of understanding of gender and its impact on faith and Christian living until the past year or so. Until recently, my thoughts of gender were basically a black hole, devoid of anything.

    Sure I grew up hearing stuff like women can or can’t preach or men struggle with lust. But as important as those debates are, they certainly don’t do anything to help construct gender identity in the same way my ethnic identity was constructed over time through my Korean church, albeit implicitly.

    With no implicit or explicit gender construction in a Christian sense, what I was left with is a gender identities as prescribed by my ethnic culture — an outflow, a symptom of the ethnic culture i was buying into. So then as a dude its no surprise that I’ve never felt my leadership silenced…. but have always enjoyed a place of privilege and authority, at least in my own cultural niche.

    All this mumbo-jumbo to say: I’d be fascinated if you at somepoint decide to take the discussion about women off of hold, especially in comparing the development of gender identity to the development of ethnic identity. I think it would be helpful for guys, and Asian American guys, to consider these issues through the lens of an Asian American woman.

    In the case of the Deadly Vipers Controversy, we can start to see different camps emerging: majority, minority, offended minority, non-offended minority. We start to see different responses forming: defensive, overspiritualization, sarcasm, ignorance, accusing others of being oversensitive, hostile, academic, emotional, claiming its not a big deal, not seeing this as an issue.

    How would the camps or responses be similar or different if this was about gender and not race?

    Obviously a lot of this stuff is in MTST, but I think its helpful to see it unfold in real time with current events.

    • Kathy Khang November 5, 2009

      Brother, you’re killing me 😉 I’m so stinking tired right now…but your comment…I can’t resist a quick stab and will return later…

      Having grown up in the Korean American church, albeit a decade earlier than you, I would say that it was driven by the Korean masculine – men leading in positions of power, authority and influence. My thoughts of gender started early. The choir director – male; the accompanist – female. The pastor – male; the kids’ Sunday School teacher – female. It was both ethnic and Church culture merged into one.

      I suspect that for you and my brothers of color gender identity can and often happens later for some of the same reasons why ethnic identity often happens later for the majority culture – because it can. Men in the Korean church were the majority culture so perhaps you didn’t need to think about.

      What do you think?

  7. .elise.anne. November 5, 2009

    Kathy, I found your blog through following the Viper stuff through Dr. Rah’s blog and facebook.

    Thank you for this post. I am a white woman, and as I posted on the DV blog and Dr. Rah’s, and shared the links through facebook, I too felt like I had to choose – that I had to fight for the humanity of my people through fighting against the dehumanizing of my brothers and sisters, but that I had to ignore the obviously sexist and hyperfalse masculinity issues in order to focus on the other.

    Thank you for fighting both. As someone else already said on here, “part of me dies” when I see the images of cupcakes and salads, meat and rambo. I also know that part of my aware male friends dies, too, when they see their own gender oppression in that.

    Lord save us from our multi-faceted captivity.

  8. Paul November 5, 2009

    As a man I agree with you. I too am troubled by how the church often views and portrays gender. I have not read Deadly Viper, but even the mention of a “ManCave” troubles me. I have read other leadership books and books telling me how a “real man of Christ” should act and have always felt excluded. IN your example I guess I would be the guy at the meat and theology meeting making sure there were table clothes and that the food was displayed in a visually appealing manner- and the message I often get from the church is that I would be better off with the women.

    On another note I am truly sorry that you find yourself having to choose between being Asian-American or a Woman. You are absolutely both. Your comments about this reminded me of a phrase that was used by African-American women in response to the civil rights and feminist movements. They noted that ” All the blacks are men and all the women are white.” Civil rights and racial rec. issues almost always centered around black men with women being excluded. Womens rights and the feminist movement almost always centered around White women, again excluding women of Color. It seems this is a common problem among many women of color regardless of their particular ethnicity and it is what many writers have called the “double yoke” of being a woman of color.

    THanks for all of your time and emotional energy in this Kathy! It is so great to see someone standing up and confronting these complicated issues.

  9. andkim November 5, 2009

    Here’s another somewhat random comment that may or may not mean anything or be related to this discussion:

    In responding to the Deadly Vipers fiasco I frequently began my posts, entries, emails, facebook msgs with “As an Asian American” or “As a Korean American”…. but in writing this post, I hesitated over writing “As a man”… I almost considered not writing it because I assumed it would be obvious. My first reaction was “that sounds silly” or “that seems unnecessary.” After I probably spent 30 seconds thinking about that, I decided to go with a more casual “As a guy” (I was tempted to write ultra-casual “As a dude”). Reading Paul’s preface made me realize what an interesting internal dilemma I had, even if it only was for a few fleeting moments.

    Whereas with my ethnicity, it was a no brainer for me to self-identify myself along my ethnic lines.

    I wonder what that says about how I view gender and my identity as a man? What that says about the power of ethnicity versus the power of gender?

  10. Melody Hanson November 6, 2009

    following this on FB via Jimmy McGee, and just getting into the heart of it. Keep thinking of the quote “The way things are is not the way things have to be” Chris Rice. I am ‘with you’ on the women piece. Who is at the table? Who has the power. Who has a voice.

    • Kathy Khang November 10, 2009

      Melody, I’m grateful for your willingness to keep following this and get into the heart of it. I do not want to separate what has felt like separate issues – the cultural concerns and the gender concerns. They are so intwined for me that I am having a difficult time processing all of this and giving it voice. I find myself at the table, but not always with the same power or voice as my brothers. May God unite our voices as we learn from one another.

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  15. Nafeesa Mangat August 16, 2012

    I just love keeping up with these stories It makes the


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