Why Now is the Time: 7 Ways to Teach Our Sons, Our Churches, Our Communities to Respect Women #EndMisogyny

It happened the day after that guy in a white van ran down all those women.

It happened that one of our boys comes home from a Christian leadership gathering, and tells me quiet that one of the guys had piped up in one of the groups to say that, “Yeah, my dad says men are a whole lot more reasonable than women. Women aren’t rational really — just emotional.

“Yeah? One of the guys said that?We’re washing dishes, and I look up from the sink.

“I kinda waited for someone to say something?” he stands at the end of the counter, his ball cap pulled low. “One leader had talked about women being the weaker vessel, and another had talked about men needing women to support them? But — nobody in that church leadership group said anything at all after the comment about men being more reasonable than women and women being emotional and not rational.”

“Yeah?” I drain the water from the sink. Everything in life is about the art of lingering and listening. I don’t rush the boy. Just lean in and listen to what’s going on inside of him — let him find his words and his way.

“Why didn’t I say anything, Mom?”

He’s kinda choking on his words, blinking it back. And I nod.

I know — how I know. 

“Why did I — just sit there silent?”

Sometimes speaking on behalf of others means letting their pain split your heart in half.

“What — do you wish you had said?” The things we wish we’d said — can still be said if we wish enough for them still to be said.

The boy searches for words and we can’t stop searching for a way forward.

* * * * * *  *

“So — was it terrorism of some sort?” One of our sons asks as he passes the pork chops down the table that night. I mean, the kid has a point — yet another vehicle was used as a weapon against civilians. This looked like an ISIS-inspired attack — minus the ISIS ideology?

None of us would know till the next morning’s news, that Alek Minassian drove a white van into a crowd of pedestrians in downtown Toronto on a late April day, because he wanted to kill a certain people group: women.

“Isn’t it always terrorism when a particular people group are targeted, to make a particular statement — or is there more?” The lanky kid at the end of the table jockeys into the conversation.

What Alek Minassian did — was hit the gas pedal, and speed toward 45-year-old Beutis, who had just finished her first day of a new job as a teacher. And he ran down SoHe who was only 22 and a Toronto university studying molecular biology and he aimed the steering wheel at Betty and accelerated — Betty whose mother had long ago named her Mary Elizabeth — and who was revelling in one of the first warm April days in her 95th — and last — spring on this spinning orb.

Alek Minassian struck down 8 women, 2 men  — and injured 16 others — because, as he railed on Facebook just hours before his attack:  Let the “incel rebellion” begin. The rebellion of the “incels” — short for “involuntarily celibates.”

Alek Minassian had taken out womenbecause women had not let Alek take any of them.

Alek Minassian had decided if women would deny him of his supposed right to their bodies — he would deny them of their supposed right to life.

Maybe….. Whenever men mount daily wars on women, is where misogynists can become  terrorists.

A daughter at the table says it quietly, head over her dinner, “Women aren’t made as an object for man’s purposes. A woman is made in the image of God— for God’s purposes.”

Her brother passes the water down to her. And she turns and passes him down the bread.

* * * * * *  *

I can tell you where I was standing in the kitchen afterward, when I read the confused message from a teacher.

About what a young boy in his class had said to a cluster of girls, how he referred to the girls’ private body parts and what he wanted to do them, in such horrifyingly derogatory terms that this seasoned teacher could not even repeat it — and was at a rare loss as how to handle or move forward — beyond an immediate suspension.

The week before, it had surfaced that this same young boy had showed a handful of little girls the screen of his computer — that was lit up with the photographs of nude women. Like his father scrolls through nightly.

And the teacher asks, “What can we do?” How do we search for a way forward?  And I reach for a cloth to wipe off the counters, like there’s a way to clean the slate, to begin again, because:

Why is there a normalization of the devaluation of women? 

Why is sexism an acceptable part of systems?

Why have we too often translated differences between men and women, as valuing their worth, their potential, their callings differently?

How in the name of all things right and good did we get to this wrong place, and how does every parent look at their sons and daughters and write a different narrative?

The boy looks me in the eye before he calls it a day and heads to bed:

“Hey Mom? I know what I really wish I had done when they were saying women aren’t rational or reasonable, just emotional. I wish — I had opened my Bible — and just read what the whole Word of God says? I watch his eyes.

How did a group of young men walk out of the doors of a church, walk out of a Christian leadership group, with the unchallenged message that women, for all their glorious God-given differences, aren’t rational or reasonable? 

“Wish I’d said that Miriam was a leader and a prophet, and Deborah was a judge, and Huldah was a prophet who spoke to kings. Wish I had pointed out that Esther was the one chosen to save God’s people, and that the first evangelists were women, and Mary Magedelene was the “first apostle to the apostles”, and Philip’s four daughters were all prophetesses, and in the last days, God will pour out His Spirit and young men and women will prophesy.” He’s said his whole thing — and his eyes don’t leave mine.

Sometimes — to have the courage to speak justice is the courage to speak the heart of God out loud.

“I just think,” he says it certain, like he’s finding his voice, God’s heartbeat. “Whenever God’s people speak of women — don’t they need to speak of the whole of how God works with women?

And I nod — and we will love all always and live given always, no matter what is said or not said, — and always now is the time to speak the whole truth about the deep worth of God’s daughters.

Because if we don’t do it now, not only are we failing to advocate for the worth of our daughters, we are failing to believe in the work of our sons.

I keep nodding at our boy, becauses now is the time to teach our sons, our boys, our communities that:

1. Real Men have the work of not allowing any wants to trump the worth of any woman.

2. Real Men don’t make concessions for women’s gifts — they make real space to celebrate every woman’s gift.

Real Men —  regardless of differences between men and women  — make equal space for both men and women to grow and flourish in the body of Christ — otherwise they know that the whole body of Christ withers.

3. Real Men don’t fear supporting the gifts God supports in women — but rather fear supporting any misogynistic status quo.

4. Real Men know: When women are objectified, the tragedy is not only that women lose their dignity — but men lose their humanity.

Real Men know: When any culture treats a woman’s body as a product for male consumers — then it’s the male’s humanity that gets consumed.  

5. Real Men know: When you privately think that women are somehow less than — that will eventually manifest itself publicly as more than just a thought.

6. Real Men balk at stereotypes and walk like a type of Christ. In the strength of humility and vulnerability and generosity.

7. Real Men nurture the callings of women — otherwise they can’t be called real men. Ask Jesus — the truest, realest God-Man — who did exactly that.

And that boy of mine, he steps closer, towers over me, pulls me into a long hug, and whispers it like a benediction. “Love you, Mama. Grateful for the women who raise the men — who are grateful for women.” And he grins.

And I nod because this is what we all get to do — write a better story, the whole God-story, for all of us. Because: When we dismiss anybody within the church — we miss out on having any influence in the world.

Long after our boy’s gone to bed — I stand there, in a house full of sons and daughters — stand there, in a world where women were made to fill half the cosmos with glory, and all I can hear is the clock at the top of the stairs —

and feel the urgency of now.