There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
A few months ago, I was having a conversation with a young person who was part of a sports team at school. This young person described a team mate who struggled with anxiety and depression and the team mate’s parent had confronted the whole team on some of their language and inclusion, saying that the team was ‘bullying’ this team mate. The young person I was talking to was greatly offended. They prided themselves on their leadership, their athleticism and their kindness. They didn’t believe for a moment that they had engaged in behaviour that would be hurtful or difficult.
Now I need to qualify right away that I wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened exactly. In fact, I only have one side of a multi-sided story; and I’m not going to pass judgement on whether or not the team was bullying their team mate. What I can tell you is that the young person I was speaking to believed that their team mate was over reacting and being overly sensitive to what was ‘normal’ conversation and ‘normal’ interaction between the team members. What brought me up short in this conversation was that this young person casually said to me that their team mate needed to “grow a pair”.
This really casually uttered phrase was just loaded with misogyny. And was really very hateful. And was said so easily to me as a woman. I gently called out this young person and it started to escalate a fairly precarious balance so I dropped it. I dropped the idea that my gender was somehow inferior; was linked to being overly sensitive and was linked to being difficult and unworthy. I dropped the idea that anxiety was a feminine characteristic and that the antidote to anxiety was to be more masculine. I dropped many things in that one conversation. Because it was easier. Because I didn’t want to harm the relationship I had with the young person and their family.
And to be frank, I dropped it because I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to advocate for equality in the face of casual embedded sexism. I’m tired of being seen as ‘difficult’ because I believe in justice. I’m tired of being thought of as mean or ‘unkind’ and somehow not attractive as a woman because I call out people when they say things that are, frankly, awful. I’m tired of people getting their backs up and severing relationships with me.
This week, our neighbours to the south were delivered another blow on their hold on equality with the reversal of Roe v Wade. I’d like to be clear from the onset that I’m not making a statement on abortion, or when life begins. My deep concerns are instead around the loss of bodily autonomy for women, and our ability to make conscious faithful choices about what happens to us. But once again, the embedded misogyny in our culture has meant that women no longer are considered able to make choice. That somehow our reasoning and understanding is fatally flawed. And the Supreme Court of the U.S. is telling us that we have to ‘grow a pair’; and since that’s not biologically nor desirable an option for many women, then, apparently, the men of the Supreme Court will make decisions about our bodies for us.
Now, while Roe v Wade is a glaringly obvious problem for equality, I think we also need to look critically at what’s happening in other parts of our world, and in our own beloved Canada in terms of embedded sexism and oppression. We have heard recently of cultures of sexual harassment and assault in the Canadian Military, in the RCMP, in Canadian sport (Most recently, our beloved Ontario Hockey League) and in the Church. Women have been telling their stories of careers cut short, and mental health struggles for decades because of the belief that they are somehow disposable, that they somehow are not equal, and that they somehow can be subjected to dismissal at best and sexual assault at worse because they…..
Because they aren’t men.
But our faith, my dear Bethel friends, tells us that not only are all of God’s creation equal, but that our responsibility is to treat people from this place of equality all of the time. God’s expectation for us as God’s people is to be a prophetic voice against systems that promote sexism, harassment or hate. God’s expectation for us as God’s people is to speak against language casually uttered that would mean that people are treated as lesser. God’s expectation for us as God’s people is to consciously promote bodily autonomy, and a world free from oppression and control.
So, I confess to you today, my tiredness and my lack of willingness to stand up for full equality for all of God’s people. And I ask all of you to join me. Join me because I can’t do this by myself; I haven’t got it anymore. Join me because I know that there will be people who will stand against me – who think I’m being ‘difficult’ and unkind when I speak of the need to change our language or our legislation. Join me, because I need you. Because I think God needs you. Because I think all of the people who identify as women need you.
Blessings today my friends, and remember that you are Loved. (And are equal in God’s eyes).