10 Ways Men Can Smash the Patriarchy
1. Take seriously the fact that Jesus instituted a new family of God, one that included Gentiles, foreigners, widows and orphans.
This isn’t to say he rejected the Jewish understanding of marriage. Actually he reinforces the sanctity of marriage in his teaching on divorce. But he sees marriage operating within a broader, new context, a context in which non-paternal brothers and sisters were given equal status. In this way, he shattered the basis of patriarchy, which is the obsession with paternity and the control of women.
2. Stop deifying the nuclear family.
If the church takes our calling as a family seriously, we would take things like reconciliation more seriously, as well as the radical idea that our family includes more than just those who live under the same roof. Include singles in your communal family life. Practice radical hospitality. Include your non-paternal Christian brothers and sisters in your biological family’s life together.
3. Learn how you have been taught to read the Bible on gender.
Reading patriarchy as God’s norm has skewed the way we interpret God’s intention for us. We miss that we were designed equally. We miss the radical ways the New Covenant and the coming of the Holy Spirit have changed gender expectations for believers.
4. Ask women to look closely at how safe your church or organization is for them.
You might not notice that there’s not adequate lighting in the parking lot, but women sure do. An all-male church council/board/elders might scratch their collective heads as to why they can’t get women to join them, but astute women will be able to help you see why, and how to change it
5. Don’t take your daughter on a Valentines date.
Or better still, don’t “date” your daughter at all. Please spend time with your daughter, but let her know that you want to be with her to work on joint projects or play sports or because you value her opinion on things, and not just because she’s “my little princess” or that you’re filling in until Mr. Right shows up.
6. Don’t enact the “Billy Graham rule.”
I have no doubt Mr. Graham instituted it in his life for good reasons, but in most instances, it treats all women as potential sexual temptations, it excludes women from joining men as equal partners in creative projects, and it surreptitiously silences them from decision-making. By all means, consider strategies for creating good, healthy boundaries in relationships, but social and professional exclusion isn’t the answer.
[How one male pastor has stopped worrying with the Billy Graham Rule]
7. Listen to women’s voices.
Listen to female preachers, and if your church doesn’t allow women to preach, seriously question the leadership about it. Read female theologians and bloggers, and if you’re looking for a quote for an article or an essay, go out of your way to look for a female voice to make your point. Listen to women on social media. I read a comment from someone this week, saying that even if a woman sounds angry we should set aside whatever discomfort we might feel about that because that feeling is our male privilege prompting us to disengage from an important conversation that women don’t get to disengage from.
8. Be mindful of how you use your own voice when speaking of women.
Don’t make misogynistic jokes, and speak out against other men making sexist or demeaning remarks in your presence (currently, it’s women who are more likely to challenge men on sexist comments than men).
Don’t talk over women, and don’t stand for it when you see another guy doing it.
Be conscious of how you introduce women. There’s plenty of research to suggest we introduce men with their titles and/or achievements, while we introduce women as “the lovely Julia” or “the beautiful Sarah”.
Be wary of only telling little girls they’re pretty or lauding them for their hair and fashion choices. Sure, little girls love dressing up and enjoy those comments (we raised three daughters), but if that’s the only affirmation they get it shapes their sense of what’s important and how they’re seen by others.
Don’t put the onus on women to have to prove we live in a patriarchy and then argue about whether it’s as bad as they say. There’s nothing more repulsive than a powerful male debating a form of discrimination he’s never experienced.
9. Pay women as much as you pay men.
And stop quibbling about whether there’s a gender pay gap. Just agree that, in every circumstance, a woman should be paid at the same rate as a man doing the same work.
10. Don’t use your power to force women to honor you or acknowledge you.
In the kingdom of God, we’re called to the self-emptying work of giving power away. Be aware of your inherent power (patriarchal, political, social, economic, etc) and use it to protect and empower women, not to use or abuse them.
Men, we are the writers of these #MeToo stories. It’s time we owned this sickness.
[With thanks to Bronwen Speedie for some of the ideas here.]