If we are fortunate, occasionally, we have situations in our lives that provide moments of clarity. I was minimally participating in an online discussion about abuse survivors and a situation that triggered them and caused them more pain. Many of the women in the group were trying to explain why this was troubling to people who have suffered abuse. But many of the men were making excuses and trying to minimize the event and the understanding of the trauma survivors.
The women, who were abuse survivors, were saying to the well-intentioned men, “Please just be quiet and listen to us!” I’m sorry to say that the members of that group and even the leader of that group didn’t take the time to slow down and listen to those women who tried to tell them how their actions were further traumatizing them. That was their story, but most bystanders could only see their own story, and they didn’t take time to empathize and hear what the survivors were saying.
Since that event, I’ve been paying closer attention. As we interview people and hear their stories, we now hear the survivors more clearly. They say to us over and over, “I wish men would stop interrupting us and just listen!”
Several years ago, we started an online conference called Leaning Forward. It was also the book’s title that we published in the fall. Earlier this year, we published several interviews on the podcast under this banner, but we still felt like something needed to be done. So, we scheduled another conference for December 9th. And then, in the planning process, we decided to elevate women’s voices and have only women speakers at the conference. Most speakers also adapted part of their speech as a message to men. One of the speeches is called How to Speak Women.
When planning a conference, it’s a difficult dance to try to be inclusive and diverse in the speakers that we invite, and lots of things happen during the planning of a conference that makes it difficult to manage things like this. But probably the biggest thing that must happen is that the people in charge and the people in the spotlight must give up at least some of their privilege and give their seats to someone else. That is easy to mandate for others but sometimes very hard to do ourselves.
Leaning Forward will be free to attend and/or watch the videos later. We are suggesting a whatever-you-can-do donation to offset costs. But like we want to remove the limits on women speakers, we also wanted to keep the conference accessible to everyone.
It’s not a Women’s conference. It’s for men and women ready to move in this direction.
The patriarchy has survived since the beginning of time, and it remains in the DNA of conservatives, progressives, and even in deconstruction arenas. We must be intentional about offsetting this disproportionate power differential. I would suggest moving away from theological discussions because even though more and more women are being trained in theology, they are still not being heard. Besides, theology is a dualistic discussion and doesn’t achieve the necessary goals.
Please find the event now and get the Leaning Forward Conference on your calendar!
Be where you are, be who you are, be at peace!
Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Out into the Desert, Leaning Forward, Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart, The Tea Shop and Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast and community. He is married to his wife Laura of 35 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!