[This is part five in a series of blogs which were written to help me make sense of the whirlwind of emotions I’m feeling with this #metoo movement. If you’re going to read one, please read them all because this is a complicated and nuanced life we’re living and it deserves more than 1000 words. Part one is here, part two is here, part three is here, and part four here. ]
I’ve lost tolerance for the tiny, every day things we do that contribute to a #metoo world. They grate on my soul now, like sandpaper.
And by we – I mean we. Christians. The Church. Me. And my friends.
Here are five things that go down in my personal cultures, that are not born out of sexism or malice, but nevertheless they help perpetuate a #metoo culture. These are the things I am asking my friends to call out in me, and I am committed to calling out in them.
Thing #1: anything that furthers the belief that sexuality is masculine.
It’s okay to believe men and women are different, but I’m out of patience for any thing that fosters a culture that communicate sexuality is masculine.
This culture is formed when preacher consistently references ‘lust’ as a male struggle. It’s formed by the types of issues addressed in classes offered for men vs. women at Church. It’s the contrast between the million dollar industry devoted to making sure men enjoy sex, and the way my friend’s gynecologist just shrugged and informed her she was ‘a normal woman’ when she raised concerns about her lack of sexual satisfaction in marriage.
It’s formed in the moments we react to one another’s struggles. When I have shared my own sexual experiences, they’ve sometimes been met with questions about past abuse – as if, as a woman, the only reason I might struggle with physical lust is because something is broken. I guaren-damn-tee you, no one is looking at a man and wondering ‘what abuse’ caused his sex drive to be so high.
And why am I so done with this? Because the belief that ‘sexuality is masculine’ is not only unbiblical, it has contributed to the attitude that men can’t help themselves. It has contributed to a culture that tells women if they don’t go along with something even when they don’t want to, they can’t expect men to be faithful because of ‘they’re a man.’ It has contributed to an assumption that women will always need a little coercion to engage sexually; that it’s normal to have to pressure them into sex.
And it’s a hop and skip from there to #metoo.
Thing #2: anything that furthers the belief that you cannot trust what women say.
This culture is formed in a million ways. It’s the jokes that perpetuate the myth that it’s just the nature of women to not be able to say what they mean: “he asked me if I was okay and I said I was ‘fine’, but of course he knew, because I’m a woman, that fine doesn’t mean fine.” Cue the laughter that now disgusts me.
I dream of a world where women answer the question of ‘how are you today?’ with the truth. And they get to speak that truth without fearing they will be perceived as a burden or crazy – not because men won’t perceive them that way – but because they know that how men perceive them is not their problem.
And why am I so done with this? Because there are people depending on us to break out of cultural bonds that keep us quiet about our preferences. There are men depending on us – in order for them to be able to trust that a woman’s yes means yes. There are women depending on us – in order to create a world where no means no.
This culture is changed by us beginning to take one another at our word. I’m no longer doing the work of trying to tug out of you what you might mean underneath what you say, and you know why? Because I believe in you. I believe you can know what you want and say it.
This culture is changed by men who listen when women speak up. I long for a world where we don’t need to post public letters on the internet, because when we talk behind closed doors, we’re heard the first time.
Thing #3: anything that confuses not using your voice with godly self-sacrifice.
We are not fulfilling the command to serve others when we (1) serve others because we don’t know what we want (2) serve others because we don’t have the option to act on what we want (3) serve others because we are a slave to approval. This is not godliness. I don’t care what it looks like externally. It is an approval idol or co-dependency or cultural oppression.
This culture is formed when we praise that woman who ‘does it all’ without regard to how much time she had to just be with God, (or – in fact – because of how little time she had.) It’s formed by the ‘sorry’s that slip out of our mouth when we say a perfectly healthy ‘no.’ It’s formed in the moments we pity one another for our busy lives without asking the question of ‘why did you say yes?’
It’s formed when we get angry with others for asking for what they want because we blame them for our inability to say ‘no.’ We don’t know how to have boundaries, so we expect others to have them for us.
And why am I so done with this? Because I have sat across the table from too many women who are traumatized because they spent years having sex with their husbands because they thought it was sacrificial love to ignore their own desires and force themselves to do something they didn’t want to do. But this is not sacrificial love. Sacrifice requires that we recognize our own preferences and that we choose to lay down our desires because we believe God when He says He has good for us, not out of pressure to please or avoid.
Thing #4: anything that reduces women to caricatures.
Sexism begins when we group all women together and reduce them to stereotypes. I read this excerpt from this article a few weeks ago:
There’s nothing holy about the cultural condescension and spiritual laziness that treats women as caricatures of perpetual motherhood, infantilized girls, sexual temptresses, or nagging emasculators.
This is where prejudice against women is born; in a culture that reduces them to stereotypes. And this culture is formed often unintentionally. It’s a byproduct of the moments we announce a sermon series on biblical womanhood that ends up teaching through marriage. As if a woman’s identity is as a wife. It overflows when the new mother communicates that she has finally experienced – not just her personal fulfillment – but female fulfillment itself in motherhood.
It happens when men and women don’t have any interest in friendship with a person who is not or has no potential to be their spouse. It happens when men are the only ones held responsible for consensual sexual activity outside of marriage, or misunderstanding in dating relationships, and it happens when women are perfectly happy for that to be the case.
I understand why many men find it important to guard their purity by never meeting with women alone, but there is a cost to women in that choice – a psychological communication that they are all objects of temptation rather than human beings who you might be able to treat distinctly and uniquely based on your ability to manage your own issues.
Church – we don’t just have porn to blame for reducing women to sex objects – we do that all by ourselves when we assess them primarily as caricatures.
And why am I so done with this? Because all of these conclusions are dehumanizing to women, all of them help contribute to a culture where an individual might feel no hesitation before treating a woman as if she is nothing more than an object who exists for his pleasure.
Thing #5: anything that communicates women are less valuable to the Church.
I am done with people standing on a stage or sitting in a room and saying they value women, when the outworking and culture of the Church communicates that while women are welcome, they are not necessary.
This culture is formed by a lack of women in leadership. Churches – you know how we can know you value the leadership of women? We see women leading in your Church.
This is not about encouraging women to lead, it’s not about being open to women in leadership, this is about realizing we need them to lead. The body will grow when every part functions properly. Women don’t need to feel wanted, they are needed.
I think the terrible tragic truth is that sometimes men in the Church hire and elevate men because they believe there are limits on the roles women can play, and – deep down – they think a man can do everything a woman can do. And that, my reformed friends, is not complementarianism.
It is because I believe men and women are distinct that I cannot comprehend the view that you wouldn’t need the voice of women in strategic leadership in your body.
And why am I so done with this? If you teach your men that women are valuable to lead your children, welcome people on a Sunday, but that they are not valuable to challenge men to grow in theology or wisdom (despite the fact that Priscilla unpacked theology for Apollos), then you begin to help sow the seeds that women are in some way less able to instruct, convict, challenge men. And you know what happens when this happens? Women become humans who are loved, considered, treasured, protected, but not necessarily respected. And I believe a lack of respect is at the root of this #metoo society we’re living in.
THE END OF THIS SERIES (hopefully)
I think this is the end of this series. It’s been hard to write. Hard to process. Hard not to process.
Where individuals are responsible, we’re going to have to hold them accountable, but this thing is bigger than just individuals. We have a culture to change. Systems have been set up by people who came long before any of us and we will have to dismantle them, now that we see the danger tucked within them. We are going to have to partner – male and female – to demolish them, having patience for one another and having an impatience with sinful prejudice, even when unintentional.
I think, mostly, we’re going to need Jesus.