Dealing With Sexism And Misogyny

In this column I have stated on more than one occasion that I loved to read the articles that St. Thomas University student, Isabelle Agnew, used to write in the Times & Transcript. In the August 16, 2014 edition of the newspaper I was both saddened and disturbed by a powerful piece she wrote, entitled, “Always Having to Battle Sexism and Misogyny Just Isn’t Right.”

In this simultaneously moving and disturbing article, Agnew wrote:

As a woman, I have come face to face with sexism and misogyny on several occasions. Ever since puberty, I have been treated like fresh meat on my own city streets and like a lesser individual by my own friends. Not only have I experienced it, but I’ve also watched my mother, sister and female friends experience sexism, and that just isn’t right.

Every single woman I know could tell you stories about times in which they’ve been harassed or discriminated against simply because of their gender.

A few months later, in an open letter to the teachers and students of Fredericton High School, Jessica Mullin wrote:

I was in an Introduction to Sociology lecture in my first-year of university when I realized for the first time that there were words to describe why I had been made to feel bad about my gender identity as a woman throughout my life.

Misogyny, my professor explained, is a hatred of women that manifests itself consciously and subconsciously like a plague throughout social structures in forms of violence and oppression. Misogyny was the reason why I and other girls were “pantsed” – the non-consensual pulling-down of pants or skirts – by young boys in middle school who received no consequence. Misogyny was the reason why girls at my former high school who had sex were openly slut-shamed by peers, while teenage-boys relished in their number of “kills.” Misogyny is the reason for so many of the experiences of women . . . .

As a pastor, a husband, and a father I was deeply troubled as I read these articles. I have no reason to believe that the experiences of these two young women is anything but typical of women in our culture today. Indeed, the misogyny that appears to be running rampant in our country takes much more virulent forms than those described by these two young women (see Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons).

What is the role of the Church in the struggle against misogyny? This is a much larger question than can be addressed in a brief article. Let me say, however, that the Bible teaches that women, as well as men, are created in the image of God and, as such, are of infinite worth. Women, as well as men, are to be treated with dignity and respect and provided with every opportunity to reach their full potential as human beings. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the Church should be on the forefront of the women’s movement in Canada. The Church should be a model for the larger society, embodying in its very essence, full equality for all people.

Unfortunately, so often it seems like the Church reflects societal values rather than shaping them. So often it seems that the Church is a bastion of misogyny rather than an opponent of it. It’s time for the Church to move beyond a simple lip service to equality and begin to model what it truly means to be a just and equitable community of faith. Women should have all the rights, privileges, and obligations of church membership that men have. No longer should the Church tolerate two-tiered memberships. No longer should the church relegate women to kitchen duties while the men make all the decisions.

If it is unacceptable that young women like Isabelle Agnew and Jessica Mullin are treated like “fresh meat,” if it’s unacceptable for women to be treated as anything less than beings created in the very image of God, it’s time for the Church to stand up and embody the radical egalitarianism we find in the Scriptures:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

Richard JacksonComment