A Message to the Women in my life

12 10 2017

WomanYeah, I know, this is risky!  The last thing women need today is another white guy ‘mansplaining’ about all that’s going on in our culture — especially when it comes to issues involving the sexism and misogyny that is running rampant in our nation!

So I won’t go there. I have no desire to try and explain anything to anyone.  Rather, I simply want the women in my life to know what I, and what countless other men, think and feel about all that is going on in our country.

And why should you ‘care’ about what I think? Because I care for you: and because I want to be a friend and an ally as we together seek to bring about the changes that we all know are way overdue.

Last month my wife and I went to see “Battle of the Sexes”, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell.  It’s the story of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs’ infamous 1973 tennis match, which became the most watched televised sporting event of all time.  America was still in the midst of it’s ‘sexual revolution’: traditional gender rolls were being challenged, women were demanding equal pay, and society was finally beginning to have open and honest conversations about homosexuality, premarital sex, and contraception.   It was also a time when movement towards the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment was picking up steam, and progress appeared to be on the horizon.

They were exciting days, and while I was not even a teenager back then, I have vivid memories of many of the conversations that were taking place.  While Jim Croce was singing about ‘Leroy Brown messin’ with the wife of jealous man,’ women in America were messin’ around around with causes that should have been resolved years before; causes that were first raised during the days of abolition, and then followed up by the suffrage movement of the early 1900s.  The 70s were years when our culture appeared to be ready to expand our understanding of civil rights, and to revisit the gender bias that can be traced all the way back to the days of our founders. And we did . . . for a while.

But then something happened.  I’m not sure what it was, but something changed; and for the past 40 years, things seem to have slowed down!

Until now!

Today, living, working, and talking with women, as well observing, engaging, and listening to women, I am being reminded that you are not a monolith.  And I know that.  Each of you is an individual, and your approach to these issues varies. Some of you have clearly never given up the fight — and sadly, it is still a fight. You have taken up leadership roles in spite of the challenges, and you have never been afraid to call out the sexism that abounds in our culture. You work hard to break stereotypes and challenge ideas and norms that in no way reflect the justice and equality that should be the norm in the ‘kin’dom of God.

Others of you have decided to work outside of the power structures that exist in our nation; and because you are not willing to wait for change to come in order for you to be faithful your created identity, you do what you’ve been called to do in spite of the obstacles.  You’ve told me that you are more concerned with your influence being felt that your voice being heard; and I get that.

And still others of you have told me that you’re tired: tired of always feeling as though you need to prove yourself, and tired of always being perceived as the angry woman who sees every issue through the eyes of gender.  Never the less, you continue to strive to be the person God created you to be, but you do so quietly, calmly, faithfully, and without fanfare.

I’ve certainly met women who don’t fall in any of these categories; but by far, the women in my life who I most admire and respect are those who do.  And you are the ones to whom I write. And all I want to say, is that I’m with you. Because in light of the days in which we are living you need to know that.

In spite of the fact that this nation has sent to the Oval Office one of the most openly misogynistic presidents in our lifetime, if not ever; and even though sexual harassment and assault continue to lurk behind the scenes of Hollywood and in the back alleys of Wall Street; and although the Church, the institution in which I continue to serve and the community I continue to call ‘home’, is still full of people who refuse to move beyond antiquated beliefs and practices: I simply want you to know that you are not alone. I, and many other men I know, gave up ‘locker room’ talk back in high school. Cat Calls and groping are not how we operate, and we long for the wisdom and perspective that you bring to our Church and our world. And we know that our voices are often too loud, and so we are working on give you, and others, the opportunity to speak.

Further, because of most of you don’t fall into the category of white, Evangelical Christian: you need to know that people like me are especially longing to to hear from you.  We’ve heard from those other women long enough: women who do little more than amplify the traditional white, Christian, heterosexual, male voices that dominate their world.  But today, now, we need to hear from you!

And we need to hear from you, because the world needs you.  I need you!  YOU . . . NEED YOU!  We need to hear what you are saying.  We need your gifts and abilities.  We need your strength and leadership.  And we need your grace and compassion.

For too long, men like me have held you down and kept you from being all you were designed to be.  We’ve carefully and methodically built a culture where we call the shots, and where we are in control.  We’ve tried to keep you at home because we didn’t want to have to compete with you in the marketplace.  We’ve forced you to raise our children because we didn’t value the work of growing the next generation.  We’ve told you that your worth is determined by your appearance, devaluing your gifts and abilities, and minimizing the deeper and most beautiful aspects of your being.  We’ve thought you to be more emotional, than intellectual, and thus denied our society the benefits of your knowledge and wisdom.  And we’ve done it all under the guise of ‘family values’ and Biblical faithfulness.

But today, for many of us, things have changed.  We no longer want to perpetuate the patriarchy that has dominated American life for the past 400 plus years, and we want to reject the gender bias that continues to keep our nation from becoming all that we know it can be.  But most important, we are concerned for you.  We want more for you.  And we want to be the ally that we know we should be.  We don’t want to lead the charge: we’ve done that long enough.  We don’t want to set the course: we’re trusting you to do that.  But we WILL do whatever we can to stand with you, and to work to bring about the change that this so overdue in America.

So to this end, I will listen to you more, and I will talk less.  I will follow your leadership, and I will respect your opinions and decisions.  I will walk beside you when you need a friend, and behind you when you need support and encouragement.  I will name sexism and misogyny when I see it, and not be afraid to call out those who consciously or unconsciously perpetuate a chauvinistic view of the world in which we live.  I will monitor my own bias, and language; and I will work hard to change old thought patterns and ways of generalizing gender roles and stereotypes.  I will see your strength and determination as a sign of giftedness, not ‘bitchiness’; and I will carefully walk that line between respecting the rights of others, and your right to choose what you do with your body.  And I will not place value judgments on the differences between women and men, nor will I continue to interpret the Bible in ways that fail to acknowledge it’s damaging paternalism – a paternalism that has been used to oppress you for centuries.

If there’s anything that should be added to this list, feel free to let me know.  I want to hear from.  I want to do my part in changing this nation.  Perhaps, if we finally work on things like this together, side by side, as equals, we can be the partners we were created to be, and the world will move one step closer to the ‘kin’dom of God.

This Thanksgiving, please know how grateful I am for you.  And know that I will do my best to translate that gratitude into action . . . not for me, or even for the world.  But for you.