We want to believe we live in an advanced civilization—one that has risen above the base prejudice of our unenlightened ancestors. Human beings have a bent to marginalize other people. We want to be the best Sneetches on the beaches. And those of us in the Church? Sometimes I wonder if we’re the most arrogant and delusional of all.
The pathetically tragic thing about our history as a church (just Google “history of misogyny in the church“) is that this inconsistency in belief and practice inspires disgust and flat out rejection in the hearts of people who are desperately searching for something real to worship. I believe human beings instinctively know when prejudice is present. It churns in our guts. (Please feel free to link to any quality articles about misogyny in the church that you know about in the comments section. I am not going to cover that here.)
What is Misogyny?
The word “misogyny” comes from the Greek words, “misos” (hatred) and “gune” (women). It means “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.” (link)
Wikipedia says this:
Though most common in men, misogyny also exists in and is practiced by women against other women or even themselves. Misogyny functions as an ideology or belief system that has accompanied patriarchal, or male-dominated societies for thousands of years and continues to place women in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision making. […] Aristotle contended that women exist as natural deformities or imperfect males […] Ever since, women in Western cultures have internalised their role as societal scapegoats, influenced in the twenty-first century by multimedia objectification of women with its culturally sanctioned self-loathing and fixations on plastic surgery, anorexia and bulimia.
Dictionaries define misogyny as “hatred of women” and as “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women”. In 2012, primarily in response to events occurring in the Australian Parliament, the Macquarie Dictionary (which documents Australian English and New Zealand English) expanded the definition to include not only hatred of women but also “entrenched prejudices against women”.
Misogyny in Me
I’ve had a lower view of women, and I wasn’t even aware of it. I’m still only vaguely aware of how deeply it’s been woven into the fabric of my being. It’s the result of marinating in our culture, for sure. But worse than that, my brain and heart soaked up the poison of patriarchy taught by men like Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips – both of whom had so little regard for women that they used young females to satisfy their sexual cravings while publicly preaching against that kind of behavior. I got the message that I could easily be a sinful stumbling block just for having curves. I’m not the only one who felt like less of a person for that reason.
I grew up attending Gothard’s yearly conferences, and having the kind of personality I did (I’m an all or nothing kind of gal), I slurped up every single word and tried to obey to the letter. I recently visited with some high school friends I hadn’t seen for over 30 years. One of the men shared that he had been interested in me at the ripe old age of 15 and had the audacity to wink at me one day. Apparently I rebuffed him with Proverbs 16:30: “He who winks his eyes does so to devise perverse things; He who compresses his lips brings evil to pass.” And that was the end of any serious interest on his part.
I was a fanatic. And I was terrified I would do something wrong to disappoint God and bring Him dishonor. I believed my body was something to be ashamed of. I viewed myself as a potential tool of temptation, so while boys fascinated me and I enjoyed their friendship and probably had puppy crushes on 75% of them, I worked hard at not doing anything that might cause them to think I was flirting or interested in anything other than friendship. Not that I think that is bad in and of itself, but I did it out of fear that if one of them became attracted to me, it would be terrible and all my fault.
I remember feeling disappointed with myself as a young person because I was a driven, type-A personality, but as a girl, I wasn’t supposed to be like that. I was destined to be a quiet, gentle wife and mother (and I wanted that with all my heart!) but that meant I would need to get beneath my future husband’s wings and be a nebulous breeze. How many times did I hear, “Behind every good man is a good wife?” It was the word “behind” that embedded itself in my psyche. When I pictured a marriage, I saw Gothard’s drawing with God on top, then the man underneath God, then the woman underneath the man, and the children underneath the woman. Why couldn’t I be directly under God? Because I was a woman. Children could grow up, and the boys could be directly under God eventually. But the women and girls would always have an authority as their “go-between.” The voice of God in their lives. What a damaging distortion of God’s design.
Even now when I visit my family of origin, the “hungry” men and boys go through the food line first (interestingly, not because they insist on that – but because the females insist on it!) Women and small children are last. Why? Why is there a distinction? Women and young children aren’t as hungry? Don’t need as much? Aren’t worth as much? Do you see what I’m saying here? It isn’t just men marginalizing women. Women are just as guilty of marginalizing themselves. Women, in general, are afraid to stand up and say, “The emperor is NAKED!” It’s uncomfortable to be shooshed by everyone around you. Writing this blog post was easy. Hitting the publish button? Not so much.
Here’s the thing I want you to get: until the last three years I embraced this thinking with every fiber of my being. It was so much a part of who I was; it was untraceable. And that’s the point of this blog post. Our culture and our churches and us—all of us collectively—are so immersed in misogyny that we don’t know it. I would never, in a million years, have believed anyone if they told me I had an innate prejudice against females. I was a CHAMPION for women, for crying out loud! I started this blog almost eight years ago now. Visionary Womanhood! WOOT! But I was not honest with myself. Well, we don’t know what we don’t know, right?
In all my eight years of consistent blogging here, I’ve never had an article go viral until one year ago when I wrote Deal Breakers: Advice to Unmarried Women about how to avoid marrying an abuser. It touched a nerve and had over 19,000 Facebook shares. Then last week I published The One Sure Sign You are in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship, and the blog went down due to the increase in traffic. I had to raise the bandwidth to accommodate the numbers.
I’ve had countless personal emails, Facebook interactions, and comments on my blog this past year from Christian women who love their families and love their God – and who are dying a slow, agonizing death in the silence of their homes because nobody in the church will listen to them. Nobody believes them when they say, “My husband is hurting me! HELP!”
I experienced this first hand myriads of times over the years. How about the time when I tried to get an appointment with a pastor multiple times and was put off? I never did get an appointment. But when I separated from my husband a few months later, and he requested an appointment with that same pastor, he got in within a week of his request. What was the difference? I’ll never know for sure, but could it have been because I was just a wife, and wives aren’t supposed to stand up and rock boats? But if the “leader of the home” has a need, we’ll make room in our schedule to hear his voice.
What in the hell is going on here?
Because that’s where this originates. Misogyny is the work of the devil, himself. The father of lies. The hater of God and all His creation. The author of division and hatred and death. He loves it when we marginalize any group of people.
I’ve got to tell you, the more people who have the audacity to stand up and point out the emperor’s naked butt, the more the people snarl. BUT— the more that people try to put the kibosh on the finger pointers, the more other people are alerted to the fact that there must be a reason why it’s such a big deal. And maybe your courage will be just the kick in the pants they need to come clean and be honest as well.
I can’t change the world. You can’t change the world. But we can change ourselves. How? First by raising awareness in ourselves, and then by raising awareness in those standing closest to us. We grab the elephant in the room by the tusks, and we ride it. We ride it and cry out, “It’s HERE! How do I know? Because I’m riding it! See!”
And some people will see. And some progress will be made.