I was just on Tumblr when I came across this quote:
“The thing about patriarchy is that individual men, gay and straight, are often really wonderful people who you love deeply, but they have internalized some really poisonous sh*t. So every once in a while they say or do something that really shakes you because you’re no longer totally certain they see you as a human being, and you feel totally disempowered to explain that to them.”
I reblogged it because it completely explains the feelings I’ve been harbouring about men for a long time. I’ve gone through many phases, thinking at one point that I actually hated men. When I think about what women are going through at this moment in time, what’s happened to women in my own family, what’s happened to me on occasion, I feel sick and angry. This anger begins to form against men in general. I’ve been praying about it, but I think this is something that will take some time.
It’s within the confines of a church setting that I see male ignorance and privilege at an astounding level. I was dubbed the “feminist ranter” so often that I couldn’t be bothered to get annoyed anymore. Thinking logically about it, if the men in church really understood what it’s like to be a woman, then they would be ranting too, because Satan’s influence over certain men has made them all look bad. I feel sad that the only men in my life [excluding my Dada] who really and truly get angry over misogyny, male dominance and patriarchy are not in the church. I speak of my friend Tim in particular, smartest person I know, who is just so clued up about these things and the compassion he feels towards women puts a lot of church guys to shame.
I wonder, do church men feel threatened when a woman talks about independence? Or when she expresses anti-misogynist sentiment? Do they think she’s trying to usurp his divine appointment of head of the family?
Then I think about all the times I’ve heard the “male-edited” edition of Ephesians 5. Yeah, let’s skip 5:21:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
And let’s erase 5: 25-28:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
And let’s concentrate on this little gem, right in the middle:
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Because that’s all that matters, I’m sure.
Church men have the luxury to be ignorant about the abuse women have suffered under the system of patriarchy, because they are of a privileged position. I’ve used this analogy before, but I’ll use it again: their ignorance is similar to the ignorance of the Royal Family. Why would the Royals care about what a single mother living hand-to-mouth on a Peckham estate is going through? How could they possibly know what it feels like to worry about bills or debt? They’re too busy cutting ribbons and posing with Usain Bolt. Likewise, I can’t expect these men to really be clued up about misogyny and the disastrous effects male dominance has had over the world. They’re men; they’re not going through it. No where in the world are men dominated, oppressed, sexualised or subjugated by women. It’s always the other way around.
Yes, I know I’m being general. I’ve made a lot of generalisations, but this is what resonated with me when I read the above quote: the individual men in my life are wonderful people, but as a collective there’s an attitude that emerges that makes me really fearful about my relationships with men—romantic or platonic. My parents’ divorce isn’t the only thing that puts me off marriage; it’s my misgivings about religion and female oppression. My closest female friend believes that I will never marry a church man because he would make me feel imprisoned.
I would like to think the men in church care about us women, but I fear their concern is only surface-level, and that that’s all it will ever be.
(And honestly, I love you guys—almost all of my closest church friends are men—but these things have been burdening my heart for a long time.)