Sexism in the Church

SexismThis topic was bound to come up given some of the things that are going on in the election. For instance, the complete dismissal by D.J.T. of women’s complaints against ex-FOX news head Roger Ailes. The blatant denial of anything inappropriate mixed with the complete dismissal of a woman’s word against a powerful man is a clear example of how sexism can exist in many subversive ways, even when HR policies are written to prevent it.

And while we would love to believe that this kind of sexism (blatant and/or unconscious) is one of things that is cleared up by living as forgiven Christians, that is simply not the case. Crystal Lutton lays out what this looks like in the Christian context.

For the “secular” article this reflection stems from, you can see this article in Bustle. The arguments about sexist behavior start with blatant statements like this.

Some people say feminism isn’t necessary because sexism doesn’t happen anymore, or that sexism in the United States is just a first-world problem noticed by people with too much time on their hands. –Bustle

But when you are a woman facing this on a daily basis, you learn quickly how real it is.

Mansplainers remind us that our knowledge and expertise are considered less valuable than men’s, even when we happen to know more than them. –Bustle

And then, when we are brave enough to call out this kind of behavior, we are told we’re overreacting like “a girl.” That behavior is called gaslighting. It’s a dangerous tool used by abusers to control people. And women hear it all the time. Especially in the church.

When we try to call out all the behaviors above, we get told we are too easily offended or being the PC police. And because this leads us to silently accept injustice rather than speak out about it, it’s an insidious microaggression in of itself.  –Bustle

And this is what Crystal points out so well in the article. She helps draw the links and show how these things happen in our churches. It’s important to acknowledge that even in churches that are supportive of women in leadership, there are countless stories of all of the abuses she covers. That means a few things:

  1. That women really aren’t equal. As long as these behaviors exist, women are not equal.
  2. That hundreds of women quit ministry because they can’t handle the ABUSE. Yes, abuse. That’s what these behaviors are and they are hurting women that are called to serve.
  3. Every time a man dismisses this complaint they participate in systemic discrimination, even if they would tell you that they never do this.

Did you know that it’s sexual harassment to stand up and walk out of the room just because the person who got up to speak is a woman? –Crystal Lutton

Please. Ask the women you know in ministry when they have experienced this. Not if; when. Because this happens to most women in ministry at some point. People leave when you preach and teach and they often make sure to tell you about it. Lovely, huh.

And then there’s the victim blaming and purity/modesty policing.

This one isn’t that different from how it’s encountered outside of the church — women who dress like they want to be raped deserve it. Because you know we all shop at that store that sells things for the woman who wants to be raped.  — Crystal Lutton

I just saw a comment like this today in a Denominational feed – a man blamed alcohol as the factor in rape and abuse – not the rapist or the abuser. That is not okay. It is sexism. And it blames women for the actions that other people commit against them. Women NEVER, in any context, ask for this. It is never okay to rape or abuse someone. And it’s never okay to make someone feel like their clothing is the cause of that.

Another standard move is to make women feel less than, by questioning or ignoring their qualifications.

First year licensed pastors with no formal training whatsoever have been known to mansplain doctrine when I’m trying to make a point. I guess my Master’s degree from a world renowned seminary doesn’t mean I understand simple things because I have had people correct my word choice, argue for a different explanation of what I’ve said, or even try to apologize to others on my behalf because I clearly don’t realize that it says . . . .  –Crystal Lutton

This is so rude. If men did this to each other, it wouldn’t be tolerated. But for women, you just get used to defending your graduated with honors master’s degree that is clearly inferior to a bachelor’s degree that your pastor’s nephew just earned. Sounds harsh? For women, it’s called reality.

And it’s not okay. It’s not redemptive. And it’s not what Jesus would do.

I know this is a really hard topic to discuss. And many people have been taught that this is just complaining. But friends, it’s more than that. This is how we treat half of the people in our fully redeemed churches. And more than that, for women pursing a call to ministry, being forced to give up because of the pressure and abuse is not who we are called to be.

And before you mansplain how that’s just because women are weak or have other priorities, I have seen men find support when they’ve needed to take a break to take care of their families. It isn’t smiled on, but there is support. Why do we assume women are weak? Why do we assume they can’t handle it? Or are being disobedient?

Maybe it would be more helpful to admit that we are holding women to a different standard. That we are expecting them to perform at a higher level. That we expect them to be paid less for the same work. That we don’t treat them as equals at church anymore than we do in the world.

And that’s not okay.

Church, it’s time to level the playing field. It’s time to be honest about how we’re treating each other. And it’s time to have some hard conversations and then change how we do things. Please don’t dismiss this. For that is exactly the problem we’re trying to address.

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