It’s patriarchy that says men are stupid and monolithic and unchanging and incapable. It’s patriarchy that says men have animalistic instincts and just can’t stop themselves from harassing and assaulting. It’s patriarchy that says men can only be attracted by certain qualities, can only have particular kinds of responses, can only experience the world in narrow ways. Feminism holds that men are capable of more – are more – than that. ~ Chally Kacelnik
In my previous blog I identified how our culture is shaped by patriarchy and how Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God totally subverts the patriarchal system. But I didn’t offer much practical advice on how to actually do that, so a few male readers asked me for a follow up article. I’ve read a few posts recently, offering advice on how to move forward on this, and gleaned ideas from a few sources. Here are some suggestions. After all, why should women have all the fun smashing the patriarchy!
Take seriously the fact that Jesus instituted a new family of God, one that included Gentiles, foreigners, widows and orphans. This isn’t to say he rejected the Jewish understanding of marriage. Actually he reinforces the sanctity of marriage in his teaching on divorce. But he sees marriage operating within a broader, new context, a context in which non-paternal brothers and sisters were given equal status. In this way, he shattered the basis of patriarchy, which is the obsession with paternity and the control of women.
Stop deifying the nuclear family. If the church takes our calling as a family seriously we would take things like reconciliation more seriously, as well as the radical idea that our family includes more than just those who live under the same roof. Include singles in our communal family life. Practice radical hospitality. Be involved in the raising of each others’ children. Include your non-paternal Christian brothers and sisters in your biological family’s life together.
Don’t take your daughter on a Valentines date. Or better still don’t “date” your daughter at all. The nomenclature around both Valentines Day and dating is irredeemably romantic. Please spend time with your daughter, but let her know that you want to be with her to work on joint projects or play sports or because you value her opinion on things, and not just because she’s “beautiful” or “my little princess” or that you’re filling in until she’s old enough for Mr Right to show up.
Don’t enact the “Billy Graham rule.” This is a practice among some male Christian leaders where they avoid spending time alone with women to whom they are not married. I have no doubt Mr Graham instituted it in his life for all sorts of good reasons, but in most instances it treats all women as potential sexual temptations, it excludes women from joining men as equal partners in creative projects, and it surreptitiously silences them from decision-making. By all means, consider strategies for creating good, healthy boundaries in relationships, but social and professional exclusion isn’t the answer.
Like any good, healthy family, the older members need to remain open to learning from the younger. Call out the everyday sexism of older church men, even if they’re nice guys in every other respect. I once had a colleague refer to my “little girl” and assumed he was speaking about one of my young daughters. It turned out he was referring to my personal assistant, a highly competent woman. Call that stuff out, even when it’s expressed by kindly old folks.
Listen to women’s voices. This is what healthy families do. This is what the #MeToo movement has been all about, forcing us to hear from women about the prevalence of sexual harassment. There are other ways we can listen too:
- Listen to female preachers, and if your church doesn’t allow women to preach, seriously question the leadership about it.
- Read female theologians and bloggers, and if you’re looking for a quote for an article or an essay, go out of your way to look for a female voice to make your point.
- Listen to women on social media. I read a comment from someone this week, saying that even if a woman sounds angry we should set aside whatever discomfort we might feel about that because that feeling is our male privilege prompting us to disengage from an important conversation that women don’t get to disengage from.
- Ask for consent when engaging in romantic and sexual encounters with women. And make sure you know what sexual consent should look like. It’s not about you having your way with someone until she tells you to stop. You should engage sexually with your partner as much with your ears and you do with your eyes and your hands.
Be mindful of how you use your own voice when speaking of women:
- Don’t make misogynistic jokes, and speak out against other men making sexist or demeaning remarks in your presence (currently, it’s women who are more likely to challenge men on sexist comments than men).
- Don’t talk over women, and don’t stand for it when you see another guy doing it.
- Be conscious of how you introduce women. There’s plenty of research to suggest we introduce men with their titles and/or achievements, while we introduce women as “the lovely Julia” or “the beautiful Sarah”. Don’t do it.
- Don’t refer to women as sweetheart, dear, gorgeous, honey, baby, darling, young lady, or “little girl”. The reasons should be obvious.
- Be wary of only telling little girls they’re pretty or lauding them for their hair and fashion choices. Sure, little girls love dressing up and enjoy those comments (we raised three daughters), but if that’s the only affirmation they get it shapes their sense of what’s important and how they’re seen by others.
- Don’t put the onus on women to have to prove we live in a patriarchy and then argue about whether it’s as bad as they say. There’s nothing more repulsive than a powerful male debating a form of discrimination he’s never experienced.
Pay women as much as you pay men. And stop quibbling about whether there’s a gender pay gap and how large or small it might be. Just agree that, in every circumstance, a woman should be paid at the same rate as a man doing the same work.
Don’t use your power to force women to honour you or acknowledge you. In the kingdom of God we’re called to the self-emptying work of giving power away. Be aware of your inherent power (patriarchal, political, social, economic, etc) and use it to protect and empower women, not to use or abuse them.
If we are the new family of God, we need to work on showing grace and practicing reconciliation. In this whole project of trying to subvert patriarchy, which is the superstructure of our society, we’re going to make mistakes and fall back into old patterns. So, when a woman calls you out on a misbehavior, and you feel embarrassed and ashamed, she didn’t do anything wrong! Don’t put it on her to make you feel better. You’re not a child, you’re an adult. Don’t get all defensive. Acknowledge when she’s right and apologize. There’s a long journey ahead and we need to make it together. As equals.
11 thoughts on “Why should women have all the fun smashing the patriarchy!”
When I saw the title and picture at the top of this post, I assumed it was from a secular perspective. I am a professional woman with a strong theological education and deep love for Jesus and the Christian tradition. However, most of the discrimination and abuse I’ve experienced has been in my time in the church, and I’m not sure I’ll ever go back. If a generation of men could live with the integrity, respect, and grace you’ve outlined, maybe someday my three boys and I, or women and young people like me, will consider returning. Thank you for your strong and grace-filled encouragement to other men!
Thankful for my husband who actually lives all of those points and actively speaks out against oppression.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post. The crap I’ve had to deal with in the ministry environment would make your blood boil. But we women are not free enough yet to as mad and vocal about it as we should be (at least without tanking our careers or churches). So we need all the men who believe in the equal imago dei in women to fight this fight.
Don’t just listen, act. And be brothers and sisters with us. That creates the community of heaven.
Thank you, my brother, for speaking out.
Awesome tips. I want to underscore that consent applies within marriage as well. Many Christian men have a long way to go to honoring their wives in that way and it perpetuates disrespect in deep ways.
What’s the biblical basis for challenging leaders on women preaching?
There’s an excellent book by the evangelical scholar RT France ‘Women in the ministry a test case for Biblical Hermeneutics’. It is relatively short, making it even better.
If you seriously wanted to know, any cursory search would yield a wealth of websites and books dedicated to that topic.
It’s true that men create and support patriarchal privilege and power so they are well placed to dismantle these customs. If ideals of equality are not apparent in a church then something must be wrong with its understanding of the gospel and women will continue to vote with their feet. As a Christian I believe we can do better than that.
Jesus, it has been said, raised the estate of women during his ministry. He had female patrons and disciples. He chose to reveal himself to a woman at the resurrection. Paul chose Phoebe to deliver his Epistle to the Romans; gathering the Christians in Rome, reading and expounding on Paul’s message (sounds like leading and preaching to me). Paul called Junia an Apostle and named several other notable female coworkers and leaders. I believe the evidence for equality for Christians is stronger than for patriarchy.
Terrific writing on random topics. Im trying to currently
accomplish something similar to what you have here except for on
a totally different topic. Many thanks for the motivation to
write better content.
Recently due to my husband’s 3 decade long mistreatment, as well as some issues we both had to work on in our marriage, we had a 3 month separation to have counselling separately with the purpose of getting back together. My husbands eventually said he is not willing to work on his sin or our marriage and that we should make our separation public. I was heart broken. When he told our elders what was going on, one of them invited me to dinner with his wife. I tried to talk to him about how I was broken from decades of lies and mistreatment. He just said, ” You are your husband’s help meet. You have to go back to your husband to help him straight away. It felt like he and the other elder treated me like a wanton women. I tried to go to church but I would cry so much I would go home. I just struggle to go to church anymore. My husband and I are back together but he is lieing again and doing the same thing. Where is there a church that treats women like people?
Oh you dear woman. You should not have to put up with violence or mistreatment at all! Ever! Sending a woman back to her abusing husband is NOT what the church should be doing. I’m not sure what city or country you’re in or what resources there are available to you. In my home city of Sydney, I have found this website helpful. It is full of information and numbers for practical support. https://www.saferresource.org.au/