Oh, it’s not worth rocking the boat about.
It’s not that big of a deal.
They’re doing the best they can.
They aren’t going to change anyway.
I don’t want them to think bad of me.
I don’t want them to think I’m bitchy or petty.
I don’t want them to stop respecting me.
I don’t want them to ___________ (you fill in the blank).
These are just a short list of things that often rattle around in our head about speaking up when we notice something about equality in our churches or organizations.
I’ve thought all of them at some point (and a whole lot of other ones, too).
I spent so many years staying quiet. Toeing the line. Being a good follower.
Honestly, it did serve me well in many ways because I was more “liked” in the systems I was in and received a lot of kudos for my “good-Christian-woman-ness”.
Over the years, I have so many stories of inappropriate comments made to me about looks and gender, inuendos, of male power dominating decisions and not for a moment considering women and others from the margins, and of down-right sexist moments.
And honestly, for many years, I never spoke up.
I smiled, absorbed the shame, and remained scared to say anything because I didn’t want the repercussions. For a woman in the evangelical church, I had it pretty good in terms of leadership, and was just thankful for the opportunity to do what I loved. I didn’t want to jeopardize that in any way.
Fortunately, over time, I knew I couldn’t just sit there anymore.
I had to say something.
When I started speaking up and out and rocking the boat a bit, there wasn’t a warm response. No one overtly told me to be quiet but I could feel the chill. I could feel the awkward silence. I could feel my golden Christian girl glow begin to fade.
But oh, I’m so glad I started saying something when it needed to be said.
“When you talk about women like that, it is really offensive.”
“Where are the women in this lineup of speakers?”
“I want to share how that feels to those of us who aren’t in your inner circle.”
“Have you thought through what saying ‘But we let women lead’ implies?”
“I’m not sure you are aware of how disrespectful your introduction was.”
“It is so painful when I see how women aren’t included.”
Every single time it was–and is–uncomfortable.
And every single time there’s been some kind of temporary cost–maybe not being invited again, being axed off the A list, an uncomfortable silence, hearing through the grapevine that negative things were shared about me.
But every single time I know that it’s worth the cost.
Jesus was clear that kingdom of God doesn’t come cheap or easy.
And it won’t come from silence about issues of inequality.
If we don’t say something, things won’t change.
They just won’t.
Many leaders and groups are truly unaware of the realities of inequality because they haven’t had to be; homogeneity has been a very efficient tool for systems.
Things are shifting, though, and there is definitely a change of tide in the right direction. More groups are noticing their lack of diversity and making conscious efforts to shift it. I’m so glad.
However, while we should celebrate any inroads toward greater equality, it’s critical to not rest on our laurels and assume we’re “there.” Hierarchy and power are still the name of the game, and a big part of the Christian empire has a theology that keeps women underneath men (and almost all underrepresented groups underneath as well).
The stained glass ceiling is real.
This past week I saw something on Facebook that I knew I needed to speak up about. Every single one of those thoughts I listed at the beginning of this post rattled through my head. I seriously thought of just ignoring it, not getting involved, letting it go.
But then I considered that it’s quite possible that if I didn’t say anything, no one else would. Not in that particular circle of leaders.
So I gulped, and sent a message to some friends I knew who were involved.
I’m so glad I did.
It was received with conviction and humility.
Plus, I discovered another amazing female leader I deeply respect said something, too. Knowing we weren’t alone in saying something was comforting to both of us.
The reason I wanted to write this post wasn’t just to encourage everyone to “say something” when confronted with these issues of inequality, although that is my hope.
I also wrote this post to remind myself that it’s worth it.
That speaking up even when it is uncomfortable is how we will get to another place.
That sucking it up like I used to was damaging to my soul and didn’t help anyone else, either.
That a whole lot of men and women “saying something” is how the tides will keep turning.
God, give us courage when we know we need to say something but we are afraid. Help us push through our fear and just say it.