When I was teaching, there was a past paper that we used for exam practice in Interpretation/Close Reading/What you will in which the passage set for interpretation dealt with the concept of the Glass Ceiling. This, of course, is the idea that women will never go all the way to the top in business because of factors which aren't obvious - or indeed are invisible - but merely because they are women. It was a difficult test, and some pupils struggled to understand the concepts, but the girls were uniformly indignant when the penny finally dropped.
My rant yesterday led me to considering a feature of this glass ceiling, one which the passage in question dealt with in one paragraph. (See how well I recall these things? I must have marked hundreds of papers on this one) The problem, apparently, is that an assertive woman is seen as strident, bossy. So any time a woman in a largely male environment comes up with a firmly-expressed opinion - especially if it's at odds with the opinions of the men - she's a nagging harridan. The men close ranks and freeze her out - and have a snigger later over a drink. And as her promotion will rest with men such as these, she'll stick. They don't want her in a position where she might also tell them what to do.
This was in business, but I can't help thinking it's pretty rife in church circles too. In the last twenty years or so there have been big changes in what is "allowed" in the church (let's stick with the Anglican/Episcopal model) - so we have women ordained to the priesthood and (though not yet in the UK) consecrated as bishops. But it's still seen as ok to object to them, to refuse to have them in your parish, to make sure they are not elected or even selected for consideration for a bishopric.
I was looking recently at a scold's bridle* in some museum or other. It was a vile instrument of torture, and it took little imagination on my part to feel the pain and horror of having to suffer this iron cage with a metal bar depressing the tongue and a padlock securing it at the back of the neck. I felt revolted that it was even there for me to see, representing as it did the unquestioned right of men to shut women up. I suppose these are the men who now look at a forcible woman as they would at a mouse who roared. Maybe that's progress after all...
*I'll leave this as a singular scold, I think, despite the horrid realisation that the thing would be used on many women.