A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

#YesAllWomen (and men) don’t want to live in fear May 31, 2014

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I have been reading the tweets and blog posts all week from the #yesallwomen on Twitter and Facebook. Honestly, I did not jump in with any tweets or blogs of own until today. Why? It’s not because I am ambivalent or because I don’t think that I have faced discrimination. I am not ambivalent and I, too, was raised in the culture of both subtle and overt gender inequality and misogyny (as have all women, hence the hashtag). It struck me today that it was partially out of fear that I haven’t added my voice to this conversation. Fear. I was afraid of being labeled “one of those feminists.” I was afraid that to name some of the ways this affects me is to give it more power. I was afraid that my place of privilege as a white, heterosexual woman would be hurtful to my sisters who were LBGT or of another race. Let me say now that I understand that being born a white woman in America is akin to winning the lottery in other parts of the world. I have more resources, power and autonomy than most women in other countries will ever possess. I am beyond lucky and blessed-that is my privilege. When I realized that fear was keeping me from speaking out, I kicked myself for I am not a person who operates out of fear in my life. I have this privilege and I should use it to both reveal the brokenness in the world and the true presence of God and not allow fear to weigh into my decision making.

This social media conversation surfaced in me all the ways that fear does dictate my life and the lives of women. I am afraid to send my 17 year old daughter off to college. I’m not afraid that she will flunk out, I’m not afraid of the finances (well, maybe a little), I’m not afraid she won’t make friends. I am afraid of the statistics of sexual assault on our college campuses. I am afraid that what my daughter will really learn is that men are to be feared and not trusted. I’m afraid of these things because its what all women on a college campus learn. Don’t go out at night, don’t be alone, don’t walk down that street, don’t drink something that you didn’t watch be poured, don’t wear that dress, don’t be too nice to that guy, don’t touch that guy, don’t be too pretty, don’t be too smart. I wish I could say that all of that changes after college, but it never does.

It becomes subconscious the way the fear controls how women move in the world. Just today, I was at Target in the check out line, when a man came up behind me in line. He stood very close (too close) to me and was muttering something and looking at me intently. Yes, this might freak a man out as well, but I had in the matter of seconds four exit strategies in mind, what to do if he followed me, got my phone and keys out, and made note that I had spotted a police officer in the parking lot on my way in. Now, I am willing to bet that most men would not have thought that completely through all while buying granola bars. But women have been trained to do this as part of our daily routine. We don’t even realize we are doing it most of the time. We always have a worst case scenario running through our brains. When we see a man, we immediately do a risk assessment. How sad and heartbreaking is that?

This is why I am also afraid for my son. I am afraid that no matter how his dad and I have raised him to respect women, to see each woman as a beloved child of God (just as he is), to see women as equal partners in life, work and friendships, that he will be seen by women as a risk to be assessed. (My husband admits to crossing the street if he is approaching a woman who is by herself so as not to cause her any alarm.)

The #yesallwomen conversation brings to light what has been in the dark far too long. It gives space and voice to the reality that God didn’t create us for division and fear. God created men and women in God’s image to reveal the kingdom of God in the world, to reveal true Shalom peace and to treat each other with full respect and equality. God created us to speak truth and to hear truth from one another. God, our father and our mother, created us for unity and to affirm and celebrate our God given differences. So, I guess I am “one of those feminists” who believes that God is in this struggle, that this is not just about me and women but is about us all. What effects me, effects my husband, my daughter, my son, my best friend, her husband and children, my partners in ministry, my local and global neighbor.

Jesus prays in John 17: 11 and 21 that we may all be one. We are all one in this conversation and this is why I will not let fear determine my voice, my ministry or my life. What will you add, both my sisters and brothers, to this conversation? Don’t be afraid; we are all one in Christ.

 

What now? December 1, 2013

November 30th. About 10 days ago I would have given ANYTHING for it to be the end of November and this little experiment to be over. But I have completed the challenge that was put forth by my friend (?) Andee Zomermann, and I think that I have learned, grown and even appreciated the opportunity to blog every day and the other opportunities that have come my way because of National Blog Post Month. I have learned to let go of perfection (as I am sure anyone still reading can attest to), to view the world a little differently, to read what others are thinking more often, and to be grateful for seemingly random connections.

My sole reason for doing this experiment was to attempt to improve my writing skills, even minutely. I don’t know if I have accomplished that goal but I have discovered something about myself that 30 days ago I would have denied. I like writing. All the way through a M.Div., I loved the reading assignments but never cared for the writing. It always felt like a chore, a necessary evil. I think some of this stemmed from the forced prompts and also from a time crunch point of view. There were so many parameters on the writing assignments (which I understand) that it seemed to suck any joy, creativity or spontaneity out of the any writing that needed to be done. With certain professors, you could get away with being little more yourself and creative but there were others that you knew that you had to follow the letter of the assignment or else your grade could suffer.

But with this writing outlet of blogging, there is a freedom that I enjoy more than I anticipated. I also notice other people’s freedom in their own blog or other writing posts. Everyone has their own unique voice and when it is cultivated, honed and offered to a wider public there is a sense of being who God truly created you to be without any of the boundaries (other than appropriate ones!), limitations or societal expectations. Your experience and perspective on life, culture, relationships and more is your truth and others can take it or leave it; it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day.

For this opportunity, I am grateful. While not everyone will have a blog, I do wonder how it is that we can allow all voices to be heard regardless of platform. The internet has exploded with people offering their two cents, but there are so many more people whom I have the privilege of speaking to one on one each day who should also be heard by more than just me or a small circle. How is is that those without access to this venue can be heard? How do we make room for all voices to be heard in our society? Especially those who aren’t traditionally heard? I am a white middle class, well educated woman with many privileges. How can I use my position and place for the sake of others? How could I use this platform as a vehicle of equality? Perhaps that is the next challenge that I should accept.

*While I will not be writing daily anymore, I do intend on keeping this blog going. Thank you to all who read it! I am always amazed that anyone does! Advent blessings to you all!