At one point or another, every woman must deal with the fact that her body is a problem. Isn’t that what we learn from the #METOO movement? Women face sexual objectification, assault, and rape in alarming numbers.
Last year there was an outrage for a brief moment. There was hope that change was in the air. Finally, women’s voices heard and bodies appropriately honored. It wasn’t long-lived. The November 8, 2016 vote minimized us, silenced us, – or so it seemed. And as a woman of faith, the deafening silence by my male leaders left me feeling betrayed and disturbed.
It’s been a year since Trump was elected, and once again I have a spark of hope. I contribute the outcry to be directly related to last year’s tape and election. Outraged women were silenced but even still the smoldering stayed. Last year‘s silence made way for this year’s cry of “ENOUGH!” I believe that’s what we’re observing with men like Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. and as I write – Roy Moore.
But even with the loud outcry of “enough” I’m bothered by the silence or worse yet, support reported by my brothers of faith. I’ve been noodling on why they support men who objectify women. I choose to think the best and forgo the idea that perhaps they don’t think what’s being done to women as a very big deal. You know, the “boys will be boys” attitude. Rather I’m wondering if it’s because they truly believe the church doesn’t contribute to the sexual exploitation of women. They don’t have a dog in this fight because they protect women rather than sexual objectify them.”
It’s time to rethink that!
We, the Church, also teach that her body equals sex. We hosted a salon on body image and had women write on sticky notes the messages they received about their bodies from their mom, culture and the church. As we read them out loud you could feel the toxicity. What caught my attention, which I’m sure it’s due to the climate right now, was how the church is also complicit in sexualizing the female body. We don’t do it the same way as our culture, but it’s still very real and present.
Take note how every message relates to her body and men. Sex, purity, and marriage.
Her body is a problem for her and for him!
Just like those men being accused, we too see her body as sex. Whether she’s a temptress or frigid, she’s defined by her body. And although I’ve never had a man of faith sexually assault my body (there are women who have), my female body has been considered a liability in my vocation. The first time I preached from the pulpit there was SO much focus on what I wore and how I fixed my hair. Turns out my long curly hair is too sexy and I’m big chested so how would I hide that fact? Ugh. Through all this, I suspected my male counterparts didn’t have to go through this rigamarole in order to preach.
I had a man of faith who held a high-status job share that he would never promote a woman to be his co-partner because he didn’t trust himself. He was married and wanted to stay faithful to his wife. There was something in that seemed right and good but not totally. I couldn’t help but think of how many women have sweat and sacrificed to climb the ladder, but regardless of their qualifications and experience, they won’t get to the top simply because he can’t view her in any other terms than danger and romance.
I remember having a conversation with a male pastor about the “Billy Graham rule.” He said he couldn’t get into a car with a woman without having sexual thoughts about her because men think about sex every seven seconds. (Which by the way is not true.) I proceeded to dig a bit more.
“So you’re saying that men can’t be alone in the workplace with a woman because they can’t help themselves. They will think sexually of her?”
“Okay, so let me ask you this. If a woman came to you and said she thought about buying clothes every 7 seconds, what would you say as a pastor?”
“You’d say she’s got a problem, right? An addiction. And needs help. You wouldn’t say, ‘Oh well, it’s just what women do. It’s in their DNA.”
“And furthermore, we both have the Holy Spirit, 1/3 of the Trinity, living in us, and Jesus said we are to be like him. I think what he means is all people, men, and women, have the power to become more and more like him. Men are not animals; they are image bearers. It’s time we called them to that truth.”
We live in a culture where women are told they are their bodies. Their worth is defined by how thin and how sexy they are. We, the church, should not be saying the same thing. We have a long history of viewing women through the lens of her female body. In light of what’s happening, we should perhaps reconsider what we teach about her.