This whole post was edited to be more clear about the point I intended to make in the first place but failed to communicate well. I hope this is better. Let me just be very clear about what this post is not. It is NOT a claim that men are perverts. It is NOT a claim that every woman has experienced some form of sexual abuse or misconduct. It is NOT me saying that I hate men and think they’re all evil. It is NOT me saying that men are not entitled to an opinion. I don’t want any man to read this and believe they have no voice about women’s issues. I know it’s an unpopular notion within feminism (like many of my personal convictions) but I believe dialogue is important between the sexes–really all people in general–and I always welcome it! I love to flex my brain muscles in that way! So, thank you for reading and for giving me the opportunity to redeem my poorly communicated post–not that I gave you much choice.
Recently I’ve been completely leaving my wheel house of quippy stories of motherhood and loving Jesus in a foreign state. This has been relatively uncomfortable for me but I’ve felt there are important things that need to be said and I have a voice to say them.
So brace yourselves.
I’m a woman. I’ve lived through most of (haven’t been old yet but I’m working on it) the stages of female. Baby. Toddler. Little girl. Teenage girl. Adolescent girl. Young woman. Woman. Now, here I am 33 (soon) living this woman life and loving it. Truly. However, even though I’m a woman, have been my whole life, I’ve never felt like I fit in with any feminist movement.
I’m a Christian–like the hardcore sold out for Jesus kind–and though at this point my leanings are of the liberal persuasion (sorry dad), something about mainstream feminism doesn’t quite jive with the bibles call to be a submissive wife (a widely misunderstood notion, if you ask me). I believe abortion is never the answer and have done my best to counsel friends–without judgment–toward taking other routes while loving them fiercely. I have grieved. I have deeply mourned when the choice they made was not the one I prayed for. I don’t have some high powered career. I don’t have any career. I’ve made the choice to not only stay at home with my four children but to also homeschool them. None of these things seem to be accepted by many feminists, at least not the ones who speak the loudest.
For a great many years, though there are things I do agree with inside the feminist movement, I stayed away. I didn’t speak much about my own experiences as a woman and I definitely did not call myself a feminist. After all, they wouldn’t want this stay at home mom of 4 who submits to her overlord husband speaking on behalf of women everywhere. I’m totally kidding about my husband. He makes submission really easy 99% of the time cuz he’s a good one. But recently the whole #metoo thing has struck a chord. It has triggered some memories in me of not so great experiences with men and I’m at a point where I can’t ignore them. So I started thinking about how I define feminism (see top of page) and decided I would indeed speak up.
I had a conversation with Paul last night about some of the things that have happened to me in the workplace, in school and out publicly–things that are not great. I realized that I really need to be talking about these things with my husband because it’s men that need to know. We know. Women know. We know where we’ve been used and abused and marginalized and devalued and taken advantage of. We know it all. The men who are the problem, they don’t listen to us. They don’t see us. They won’t hear us. They don’t care. They don’t see themselves or their way of thinking as problematic. These men believe it’s all in good fun or they’ll say they’re “just kidding.” Man, have I heard that one a lot.
But to the good men, they’ll hear you.
So this is my plea. If you are a man who values and loves the women in your life, if you believe we were created as your equal in every way, if you believe that we were created in the image of God just like you were, then please, open up dialogue with other men. Be willing to do this work. This is not about gender roles or about roles of women in the church. This is about a woman, being able to smile at a man out of kindness without that man seeing it as an invitation to look her up and down and lick his lips like hes preparing for a meal. I didn’t just make that up. It happened to me at the gas station on Monday. Forget the wage gap (though that’s important too), this is about a woman being safe at work and not being asked by her boss to flash him her breasts or having to deal with hostility from male coworkers because she’s taken initiative or because she knows things they don’t (God forbid). Those are true too. I have so many more, some even worse. If you ask your wives, sisters, friends and even daughters, they will also have these stories. They will. We all do. No matter which side of abortion we’re on, whether we love Jesus or not, we have these stories. God help my daughters.
What I can also guarantee is, no matter how good a man you are today, a woman somewhere has one of these stories about you. You may look at your past and think, well I wasn’t that bad. But you don’t get to decide that. You don’t get to decide how your actions effected someone else or made them feel. That’s for them. What you can do is acknowledge this pattern. Acknowledge that even if its not your current behavior, you see it! Just because you have a wife or a daughter that you’ve always treated respectfully, doesn’t exempt you from this conversation. If anything, it should motivate you to speak up for them. Change is in order. Opening up conversation is in order. Men, please do the work. Do it for your wives. Do it for your daughters. Do it for your sisters and mothers.
Now I’m not making some huge blanket statement that all men are sexual deviants or perverts. Two of my three examples were sexual in nature because that’s what the majority of my experiences have been. It’s not my intention at all to make it seem that men are all disgusting toward women. However, it is my intention to reframe your thinking. So for clarity’s sake, here are some examples of how men–often without even thinking about it–marginalize, belittle and devalue/undervalue women in (relatively)non-sexual ways:
-when a woman shows any type of emotion, rather than hear her out, you are dismissive and call her crazy
-if a woman is exerting authority in the workplace you think of her as bossy (or worse) and overly aggressive, where you’d see a male counterpart as strong, commanding of respect and productive
-you consistently dismiss female opinions (even your wife’s) because “what does she know?” or because you’ve decided they’re dumb or–the male favorite–overly emotional
-you give your wife a hard time when the house isn’t clean but she’s been home all day–the “what did you do all day?” mentality
-you weren’t appalled by the Serena Williams media coverage and the cartoon that followed
-you believe without exception, a woman’s place is in the home
-you make lude jokes about women or laugh when other men do
-you think that women hate men because they sometimes have negative opinions about male behavior
-you make comments about how women are bad drivers (even though Men cause 6.1 million accidents per year and women cause significantly less at 4.4 million per year)
-there are career choices you believe are for men only
-you don’t trust the word of a woman until a man–or google–can confirm what she said is true
-it doesn’t bother you that there’s roughly a 20 cent on the dollar wage gap between men and their female counterparts
-you’ve assumed a female doctor was a nurse
-if you responded to a “for sale” ad and instead of speaking to the woman who answered the phone, you asked for her husband
-you’re the man, so what you say goes and you make sure she knows it
-you’ve called a woman a slut
-you’ve called a woman fat
-you’ve judged a women based solely on her attractiveness
-you feel you’re entitled to opinions about a woman’s weight, height or general physical make up and you’ve told her so
-you hear the conversations of men who think, feel and act many of the ways listed above and instead of defending the personhood of women, you choose not to engage with them
This is in no way an exhaustive list of ways men treat women as inferior but I think it makes the point. And I’m not saying that because on some level every man is guilty of this, that somehow makes them evil or bad. If you really want to go down that road (which I know you don’t), I believe we’re all completely depraved and desperately in need of Jesus, that includes women. But anyway, I’m just saying that y’all need to be aware, these lines of thinking are harmful.
I’m not claiming that every single woman out there has the exact same experiences. What I am claiming is that we all do have experience–even if many of us choose not to communicate that. Or sometimes we choose to communicate, but we fail to do it in the most kind way so we’re dismissed by men as being too angry or aggressive. I’m not claiming that some of this stuff isn’t horribly uncomfortable and even offensive for some men. But push passed the offense and hear whats being said. You’ll always be able to give examples of women who lied about abuse or who use their bodies and sexuality to get ahead. But lets just admit, that’s not the norm. The norm is women who have been hurt, and even if you don’t like their tone when they give words to their hurt, it doesn’t negate their experience.
It’s time for some repentance and redemption. Ask God to show you your sin, show where you’ve failed to value us as equals, as image bearers. Ask Him to remind you of the times in your life where you have personally treated a woman as less than you. It’s scary. It’s really scary. But its beautiful. You will be better for it. You will be a better husband. You will be a better father. You will be a better man. Then go talk to your buddies.
These days, I spend most of my time in my home, with my kids–safe. My home is a safe place from these types of behaviors (now). But many of my sisters are not safe. It’s not acceptable. It’s just not.
Good men, we need you…