In my previous article for Ezer Rising I listed a few obstacles that men encounter in their goal to be an ally to the women around them. I’d like to go into more detail now. The first obstacle I pointed out was our tendency as men to squash actions around us that don’t look like “equality” to us men. Why does so much of women’s effort get labelled as “misandry”? Let’s take a look.
Whether we like it or not, there is a definite difference in perception of equality from the perspectives of the privileged and of the oppressed. This leads to a great deal of confusion in conversation. A woman seeking to loose herself and her fellow women of the bonds of patriarchy or complimentarianism is going to be focused on fixing an imbalance. Trying to maintain surrounding men’s comfort is not going to be a priority, and that will sometimes look like an imbalance to the men she encounters.
Sometimes this is not so much due to a character flaw on our part, but rather how we were taught. A lot of Christians have been raised to believe that rebellion against the status quo is a bad thing. When we see injustices, we’re taught, the answer is to seek the “true balanced middle ground”. We’re programmed with an aversion against “going off the deep end”.
I get it! Strong reaction taken to correct an imbalance can look a lot like radicalism, and the Church in 20th century America was terrified of radicalism. Newer generations are rising up without this fear, and that scares older Christians even more. However, the truth is that the very act of correcting an imbalance sometimes involves introducing an imbalance. We should not commit violence or sin in order to correct other sins of course, but sometimes society needs to be jarred in order to shake loose a rotten outlook.
Sometimes though, it actually is due to a focus on ourselves rather than on our sisters in Christ. We men are so used to being at the center of everything, the reason for everything. We’re so used to being “normal” or “default”. When we encounter a movement that is focused on women, we start to feel left out or ignored. When that happens, our tendency is to try to bring ourselves back into the focus, where we have been for centuries. It’s uncomfortable because it’s new to us.
But this feeling isn’t new to women. It’s their reality. They’ve been shoved outside the spotlight throughout the entirety of history. It’s time to give them the spotlight. If that means we need to step aside, then so be it. If there isn’t room at the table for women, then until we can make it bigger, we men need to get up and make room.
This is why I personally don’t usually use the word “egalitarian” in my advocacy work. So many men on the internet misuse it. I wish it wasn’t the case, but it’s true. When a man talks about equality on social media, it’s typically to shut down the women around him. To be sure, there are men out there who are looking to make the table bigger to make more room, but there are just as many men (perhaps more) who are more concerned with making sure women don’t push men out of the way. In addition, there are men working AGAINST the cause of women who have latched on to the word “equality” as a way to prop up the status quo while appearing benevolent. With all this action in play, I simply try to avoid this perception.
It’s important to shift our thinking, men. Are we dedicated to the cause of lifting women up to their rightful place in the Church and in the world? Are we committed even if it means we could potentially better do it from the sidelines? Are we willing to step aside to make room?
It really comes down to a matter of trust. Men, do we trust women? If we don’t, why not? Is it because we expect them to treat us the way they’ve been treated? Do we think we’ll be oppressed? If that’s how you really feel, then I suppose it’s good to get it out in the open in honesty. The women you say you’re advocating for need to know that about you. It can be an interesting conversation. However, if you trust women to handle equal agency and person-hood with grace, let them take the stage. I think you’ll find that trust is well placed.
Steve Neu is the Media Coordinator/Editor and writes as a father of daughters about parenting with equality and liberation in mind. He supports women’s causes from the sidelines, passing the mic to them as often as possible so as not to become a distraction from the cause.