Friday, May 25, 2018

The Church and Women by Jennifer Hungerford, guest blogger




In today’s church, it is perplexing that just as much immorality takes place within the church at large as compared to the rest of the world.  It would seem that Christians shouldn’t struggle in the same way, since they have been “set free.”  Issues like sex outside of marriage, pornography use, affairs, and abortion are some of the big ones, but the fact of the matter is, sin is as much of a struggle for Christians as it is for non-believers. The abuse of women—the abandonment and the objectification—is the same. 

Why does the “church” struggle with sexual immorality and perversion as much as the rest of the world?  Why are women just as likely to be hurt by men within the church as outside of the church?  If the church is supposed to behave and look differently than the rest of the world, what has gone wrong?  Why do Christian men abuse, mistreat, and use women for their own satisfaction at the same rate as the non-Christ-follower?

It all goes back to the beginning—back to Genesis. Back to God stirring up the dust and breathing ruach into it.  Back to God reaching into the man and taking out his DNA and forming another human who was just like Adam and yet different. 

We must take a look at our basic premise of the value that God placed on men and women.  If believers in Jesus are taught that Genesis shows woman-kind as “less than,” then mankind will treat women differently than they do men. They will see women as a thing they can manipulate, use, consume, and throw away. 

So, who was woman?  Woman was called man’s ‘ezer k neged.  The word ‘ezer is a word that means ‘a helper who is capable, powerful, intelligent.’  It is the same word that is used to describe God in the Old Testament when He came to the aid of people in need.  It denotes great strength and power.  And yet we don’t assume that God became weaker or in some way less able than man when He stepped in to “help”. 

The word k neged denotes an equal partner, a corresponding equal, and adequate helper.  God did not give Adam a liability. He gave Adam exactly what Adam needed, a co-equal partner, one who was on the same level as he was, who would walk alongside him.

When our church leaders teach anything different, they set women up to be taken advantage of. As soon as respect for the equality of another human being is removed, it is easy to justify all of the ways by which we leverage our superiority over one another. It is true that physiologically, men are usually stronger and larger than women. Their body strength gives them automatic advantage over women. It can be a very easy step for men to abuse their strength to bully or force a woman to do what they want.  Men can (and have) used their strength to capture women, to hold them in bondage, to torture them, and to sell their bodies. Unfortunately, these terrible actions have even been perpetrated by fathers against their daughters! The Bible itself shows us situations where women were sold or “given in marriage” by their fathers. 

Physiologically men and women are different. They have different hormones, which causes a plethora of differences!  Just because men are more prone to risk taking, are more muscular and hairy, that doesn’t mean they are automatically superior to women. What it does mean is that they need to use their power to honor God and to show the true heart of our Lord by serving others, meeting the needs of the weak, lifting up the oppressed, advocating for those who have no voice. In God’s eyes that is true strength. 

A quick study of the Bible shows time and again that God’s heart is for the oppressed, for the downtrodden, for those who have been pushed to the outside of his kingdom.  Proverbs 31:8-9 (ESV) says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”  Isaiah 1:17 reads,  “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

The church at large needs to get a grip on an accurate teaching of the value of women, starting with Genesis.

There are many Christian men who are not abusers, who would never use their strength to hurt a woman, and who love the women in their life in a gentle and protective way.  And yet some of those same men still have deep-seated erroneous beliefs that women are inherently of less value and that they are not seen equally by God. They may not ever vocalize those beliefs, but these insidious belief systems are deeply rooted in the Christian psyche. Most women experience it in subtle forms on a daily basis.

It can be seen when a woman is standing with her husband, and another man walks up to introduce himself and make casual conversation. Imagine how it feels to the woman to not have the new acquaintance enquire after her line of work, or to ask what she enjoys doing in her free time.  Imagine what it is like to stand there and smile benignly while being ignored.  It can also be seen when a Christian man only makes eye contact with a woman’s husband, but never makes solid eye contact with the woman.  It can occur when the opinion of a man is asked in a meeting, but the woman is not given the same deference.

It’s not enough for Christian men to talk about women being co-equal partners. It’s not enough for well-meaning men to sympathize and feel regret for how women are treated.  Men must make room at the table. They must invite spiritually gifted women to be on the church board, to be elders, deacons, and pastors.  Because the patriarchal system is so entrenched, women need men who are not only willing to invite them into leadership, but who are excited and willing to leverage their power positions to see women using their God-given gifts for leading, teaching and preaching. 


Note:  There are many great books that can help Christians coming from a patriarchal background to begin to break away from the lies that Satan has used to keep the Church in bondage. 

Why Not Woman by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
Who Said Women Can’t Teach by Charles Trombley
What Paul Really Said About Women by John Temple Bristow
Half the Church by Caroline Custis James



Monday, May 21, 2018

Being a Woman in America Fact Sheet


Marginalization and Subordination of Women

·         The vast majority of Christian churches in America claim a patriarchal or complementarian attitude regarding women, simultaneously insisting that women are “equal” in value to men, but that God has given them separate “roles.” Due to this “separate but equal” paradigm, women are consistently denied equal leadership roles, equal pay, equal educational opportunities, equal access to promotions, equal voice, and equal respect in regards to decision making within the church, home, and workplace. When women express dissatisfaction with this system, they are often silenced, rejected, further limited, and even accused of sinfulness (especially of having a “rebellious, Jezebel spirit.”) This kind of gas-lighting is spiritual abuse. Hereby, the Gospel meant to free is used as a further means of bondage.


  •  Women are paid less than men and, therefore, receive less social security once their jobs end.


“In 2016, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent.” (https://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/)


  •   Women are more likely to live in poverty than men.


“In 2016, 13 percent of American women ages 18–64 were living below the federal poverty level, compared with 10 percent of men. For ages 65 and older 11 percent of women and 8 percent of men were living in poverty” (https://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/)

  •  Women are more likely to be left to raise children alone. (https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/)


“42 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 are their families’ primary or sole breadwinners.” (https://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/)

  • Women are more likely than men to be judged regarding their looks and what they wear.



Psychological Ramifications




Objectification of Women

  • Most pornography features women as sexual objects, not people.


“Men spend $10 billion on pornography a year. 11,000 new pornographic films are made every year. And in those films, women are not people. In pornography, women are three holes and two hands” (Jensen, Robert. “A Cruel Edge: The Painful Truth About Today’s Pornography—and What Men Can Do About It.” Retrieved April 24, 2014 from: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/pornography&cruelty.htm)

  • Popular media regularly portray women as sexual objects, which influences cultural attitudes toward women.


“Implicit messages such as those found in the Twilight series appear elsewhere, too. A newspaper story might describe a crime in a titillating manner or encourage readers to blame the victim. A novel might suggest it is noble for a woman to allow an abusive partner back in her life. A popular song might devalue or objectify women, or a movie might portray domestic violence as a ‘lover’s quarrel’ leading into a romantic interlude,” (Clark, Cat. “Intimate Partner Violence.” The American Feminist, Fall/Winter 2011, pp. 12-17.)
“Young women who have read EL James’s erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey are more likely to display sexist attitudes, according to new research.” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/may/10/fifty-shades-of-grey-readers-show-higher-levels-of-sexism-study-finds


Crime
  •          Women are more likely to be sexually abused as children.

“Child sexual abuse is not rare. Retrospective research indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. However, because child sexual abuse is by its very nature secretive, many of these cases are never reported” (“Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet, 2009.” The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Retrieved April 24, 2014 http://nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/caring/ChildSexualAbuseFactSheet.pdf)

  •          The cultural identity of womanhood and the female lived experience is indivisibly connected with being raped.


“Cultural representation of glamorized degradation has created a situation among the young in which boys rape and girls get raped as a normal course of events” (Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth. William Morrow & Co.: New York, 1991. 167.)
Approximately 90% of rape victims are women (“Get The Facts.” Rape Crisis Center. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from: http://www.rccmsc.org/resources/get-the-facts.aspx.)
Women who have been raped experience a great deal of rape-related fear; however, even women who have never experienced sexual assault nevertheless report high levels rape-related fear.
(https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01591487.1989.11005984?journalCode=rjfs18)

  •          Females are far more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence.


“In 2007, intimate partner violence resulted in 2,340 deaths; 70% of the victims were women” (Clark, Cat. “Intimate Partner Violence.” The American Feminist, Fall/Winter 2011, pp. 12-17.)

Females (76%) experienced more domestic violence than males (24%).” (Morgan, Rachel E. and Truman, Jennifer L. “Nonfatal Domestic Violence, 2003-2012.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from:http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=4984)

  •   Women are regularly held accountable for the actions of their attackers/abusers.


Women are more likely than men to think victims should take responsibility for their assault, and women ages 18-24 are, of all female groups, most likely to believe the victim is responsible. (The Havens. Wake Up To Rape Research: Summary Report. 2010: 5.)

  •          Though women commit fewer crimes than men, they are more likely to be victims of violent crime than men, especially domestic violence and sexual assault.


“In 2012, 73.8 percent of all arrestees were males. Males accounted for 80.1 percent of persons arrested for violent crimes and for 62.6 percent of persons arrested for property crimes. Males comprised 88.7 percent of persons arrested for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter in 2012. Of the total number of persons arrested for drug abuse violations, 79.7 percent were males.” According to this same study, the only crime where women accounted for a greater number of offenses was “prostitution and commercialized vice,” the majority of which could, arguably, simply be cases of victim blame—cases of women and girls who have been or are being sex-trafficked. Additionally, 99.1% of rapes and 92.2% of sex offenses are committed by males. 2012 FBI Criminal Justice Report. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/42tabledatadecoverviewpdf/table_42_arrests_by_sex_2012.xls
Males are more likely to be murdered (usually by other males); however, females are far more likely to be victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, usually by a man she knows. https://www.crimeinamerica.net/2016/10/27/females-have-higher-rates-of-violent-crime-than-males/
“The overwhelming majority of women in prison are survivors of domestic violence. Three-quarters have histories of severe physical abuse by an intimate partner during adulthood, and 82% suffered serious physical or sexual abuse as children.” Correctional Association of New York at http://www.correctionalassociation.org/issue/domestic-violence & https://www.crimeinamerica.net/2016/10/12/national-statistics-on-women-offenders/


“It is believed that only 15.8 to 35 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to the police.” (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, M. Planty and L. Langton, “Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010,” 2013; Wolitzky-Taylor et al, “Is Reporting of Rape on the Rise? A Comparison of Women with Reported Versus Unreported Rape Experiences in the National Women’s StudyReplication,” 2010)
“Due partially to low reporting rates, only 9 percent of all rapists get prosecuted. Only 5 percent of cases lead to a felony conviction. Only 3 percent of rapists will spend a day in prison. The other 97 percent walk free.” (Probability Statistics Calculated By the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, “Reporting Rates,” 2013)

  •       Women are more likely to be counseled (especially within the church) to remain in an emotionally or physically abusive marriage.



Victimization of Pregnant Women
·         Homicide is the leading killer of pregnant women.
  •  Pregnant women have been fired, denied employment, kicked out of school, denied housing, and restricted from other basic sources of economic support for refusing to submit to an abortion.
  • Pregnant women & girls in America have been raped, stabbed, shot, bombed, poisoned, beaten with bats, and strangled—most often by the father of their unborn child.
  •  64% of women surveyed reported feeling pressured to abort.
  • 79% of women surveyed were not told or deceived about available resources.
  • Post-abortive women are 6 times more likely to commit suicide.
  •  67% of women surveyed were not counseled prior to their abortion.
  •  84% of women surveyed weren’t sufficiently informed before their abortion.
  •  65% of women suffer trauma symptoms after abortion.
  •   Many post-abortive women report being misinformed by experts regarding fetal development, abortion alternatives, and risks.
  •  Many post-abortive women report having been denied essential personal, family, societal, or economic support.
  •  Post-abortive women are nearly 4 times more likely to die from any and all causes.(Forced Abortion in America, Special Report, Elliot Institute.)

·         Lack of Church Support for Abortion-Vulnerable Women
  •  36% of post-abortive women surveyed were attending church regularly at the time of their first abortion.
  •  70% of abortions are obtained by women who profess to be Christian or Catholic.
  •  76% of post-abortive women surveyed said the local church had no influence on her decision.
  • 59% of women surveyed received or expected the church to react to her in a judgmental or condemning way.
  •  49% of women agree that a pastor’s teachings on forgiveness don’t seem to apply to abortion.
  •  65% of post-abortive women believe church members judge single women who are pregnant.
  • 51% of women agree that churches aren’t prepared to discuss unplanned pregnancy options.

(Care Net National Office 2015 Survey)



Women Are Stronger Than We Think

·         Women are more likely to survive a crisis. (http://bigthink.com/philip-perry/women-are-more-likely-to-survive-a-crisis-than-men)



Things Men Need to Understand About Women
  •          Women experience far more fear than men, especially in regard to sexual violence. The threats are not imagined. Their fear is NOT irrational, nor is it due to being “overly emotional.”
  •         A man will never have a healthy relationship with a woman he sees as beneath him.
  •          Even “benevolent sexism” (e.g. “Women should lovingly led and protected by men.”) is still sexism. All sexism is bad.
  •          A man will never be able to love a woman he does not respect.
  •          Respect is recognizing and honoring another person’s unique, inherent value (even when they do not).
  •          Love is choosing the highest good for the other person.
  •         Intimacy is truly seeing and knowing another person for who they are. Think “Into-Me-See.”
  •       A woman must have respect before she has love. (Love cannot exist without respect.)
  •         In respect to a woman’s God-given identity of an “ezer” (Genesis 2:18), which means “mighty rescuer,” women will naturally fight to help and protect others. However, women in our society have been so ingrained with the idea that they are “less” and, therefore, deserving of less, many women are afraid to stand up for themselves—further compounding the injuries women suffer. Women are naturally others-focused, but this gift to humanity is systematically used against them.

 Compiled and Created by Susan Thomas, M.A.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Response to "Ruby Wives" by Sam Greenlee



I borrowed this post (with permission) from Sam Greenlee, who wrote this insightful response to a Facebook group called "Ruby Wives," which teaches terribly unhealthy attitudes and practices within marriage. Enjoy!


A couple of days ago, Facebook Memories reminded me of a terrible list of "insights" published by a group called "Ruby Wives" that I responded to, point-for-point. I am sharing it here because all this same nonsense is spread out so diffusely in so much Christian advice and teaching.
Here is the full article with my commentary in parentheses:

1. Men thrive on praise. Your verbal compliments and sincere appreciation are like gasoline in a race car. Your praise keeps him racing for you.
(Most humans like praise, regardless of gender. It is a good thing to praise your spouse when they do praiseworthy things, and to be grateful for the gifts they bring into your life, but don't offer insincere praise just to make them happier.)

2. Never tell him how to drive. Just wear your seat belt and whisper a prayer if you are afraid of his driving. Men absolutely hate to be told how to drive.
(Both spouses should try to be gentle and loving when offering criticism, but sometimes criticism is warranted. One of the benefits of marriage is that both partners have a life-time commitment to the other and can trust one another to look out for their best interest. This creates fertile ground for sanctification, as both partners can lovingly help the other to see their blind spots and to do better. Unsafe driving is a risk for your spouse, for any passengers, and for others on the road and warrants a conversation.)

3. Your motherhood cape...You need to leave it at the door of your bedroom. Remember, you married your husband before you had kids. He needs you to be his lover in the bedroom. Don't ever let him feel like he's last place. His reach for you is important. Your response to his reach even more so. He connects with you emotionally when he connects with your body. Don't let this area in your marriage be neglected.
(The apostle Paul offers his wisdom that husband and wife should maintain the sexual aspect of their marriage, unless they choose to abstain by mutual consent for a limited time. So it is a good idea to cultivate that aspect of marriage, but there is no specific level of regularity required and the willing consent of both partners is always necessary.)

4. A woman of honor does not need to correct her man. Don't correct him. He's not your child. He's a man.
(No one, with the exception of Jesus, is perfect. This means everyone needs correction sometimes. Correction can be given lovingly and in a way that does not demean the other person or embarrass them in front of others. See #2.)

5. Your reaction when he walks in the door is so important.
Your warm smile and light in your eyes is his greatest welcome. Put everything down to greet him. You should always be his greatest hello.
(It is great to really acknowledge the humanity of other people, to greet them with attentiveness, kindness, hospitality, and love. This is a great practice within marriage for both partners, although a marriage does not benefit from legalism and there will be times when either one of you is distracted and busy. You are both called to love one another well, but neither of you is called to be the door-man or hostess for the other.)

6. Chaos and clutter are not pleasant for a man in his castle. A man likes to come home to a clutter free environment.
(If a man does not like clutter in his house, he can always help clean it up. Different marriages will have different arrangements based on who is working, who is in school, who is at home, etc. There is no general rule in Christian scripture or theology that wives are particularly responsible for a clean house.)

7. Whatever he provides for you...a house, car, gifts, etc... Appreciate and don't take his efforts for granted. Whatever you do- don't complain and nag. It's like arrows piercing his heart. A man's identity is often felt by his work and how he provides for his family. This is a natural instinct. Men are wired this way. Don't put down his job or what he provides you with.
(It's absurd to claim that all men are wired the same way regarding provision and employment. Men are diverse and unique individuals, as are women. Gratitude is a great practice for every Christian and greedy materialism is a sin to be avoided, but these are not gender-specific.)

8. The Holy Spirit never needs a wife's help in speaking and convicting her husband's heart. Your job is to pray and let God do the work.
(The Holy Spirit doesn't need humans to share the gospel with one another, but God has chosen to involve humans in that work. The Holy Spirit doesn't need a church community to help Christians in their sanctification, but God has chosen to work through such a means. There is no prohibition in the Bible or in Christian theology on a wife being iron who can sharpen the iron of her husband. A healthy Christian marriage will involve both partners spurring one another on toward holiness. It is true that not every situation calls for one spouse to offer correction to the other, so discernment is needed. See #2.)

9. A moment of dishonor can cause great damage...Even if he laughs it off or doesn't say he's hurt...trust me, disrespect and dishonor hurt him more than he tells you.
(It is not clear what a "moment of dishonor" means. If it has to do with unkindness, an insult, etc., then really the issue boils down to sin. If either spouse sins against the other, he or she should apologize, seek not to do it again, accept forgiveness, and be reconciled.)

10. Your honor keeps his heart open for you.
(What?)

11. Never talk about his weaknesses to others. It's called respect. You represent your husband. speak well of him or not at all.
(It's a good idea for neither spouse to gripe about the other to others, in general. Christians should not gossip about others and Christians are told to present their complaints about wrongdoing first to the wrongdoer for the sake of repentance, reform, and reconciliation.)

12. Your "Not tonights" are huge rejections to a man. Let there be very few of these. If he's reaching, you're blessed. When's he not reaching for you, then there's something wrong in your relationship.
(It's ok to be too tired or stressed or just not to be interested. It's good to speak openly and honestly with one another about your felt needs in this regard and to cultivate this part of your relationship without one partner always having to assent when the other wants it. Your husband is an adult and should be capable of handling small disappointments with empathy and understanding for your own feelings. Also, don't buy in to to generalized broad-brush representations of how each sex feels about sex.)

13. Your looks do matter. Women often say, "My husband loves me just the way I am." This is true. And he won't tell you because he doesn't want to hurt your feelings....but honestly, he wishes you would dress and try to be your best for him. Many wives let themselves go and get stuck in a frump girl slump. Men are visual. Just being honest... a wife should be her best. You dressed nice and put make up on to impress him when you were dating...He still deserves this.
(It is good for both partners to try to love one another well, to be generous and considerate, and to tend lovingly to their relationship. This means it is a good idea for both partners to be continually putting in effort to make the other happy and to help them feel loved (although "happiness" can be a false idol if it gets in the way of holiness). It can be great for both of you to take care of your bodies for many reasons, including for one another's aesthetic preferences, but you also both need to love and accept the other when the other is exhausted, or needs a break from "performing", etc.)

14. A man will share and open up when he feels safe to do so. Keep your love nest with no thorns. Don't tell him how to feel or criticize him when he's being vulnerable with you. A man needs a soft place to land. Your warmth and non-judgmental approach offers him this.
(People in general sometimes need a place where they can be vulnerable and listened to without being given advice or criticism. It is important for everyone to recognize these times and to behave accordingly. It is silly to pretend this is a special husband-thing.)

15. Every man has a little boy in him. God made men this way. Don't forget to sometimes play, flirt, and laugh with your man. Men connect with women who can relax with them. Don't take every moment of the day too seriously.
(Everyone sometimes needs to play, to laugh, to have fun, to relax. This is part of why God gave us the Sabbath. Don't try to make in this into a gendered thing.)

16. Respect to a man is the same as romance is to a woman...Men feel loved when they are respected. Your respect is what he desires...more than your romantic gestures.
(Men, like women, are diverse unique individuals. Christians should do their best to respect everyone they encounter, which is not the same thing as obedience or pretending that a person who is wrong is actually right.)

17. When the world is against him, always be present and by his side. Your loyalty is everything to him.
(Loyalty and faithfulness are important to any marriage and to both spouses. Obviously you should both be faithful and supportive to one another. But again, you don't need to support someone when they are wrong and refusing to recognize it. That does them no good.)

18. Don't try to correct in him in how to be a spiritual leader. Let him become a leader by trial and error. God will raise him up. Yes, its scary being in the back seat, but there can't be two drivers at the same time. Let him lead the prayers at the dinner table. Let him suggest the devotions. Let him lead. God will honor you for this. Your husband will make mistakes...extend grace.
(There aren't two drivers in a car, but there are two on a Tiller truck. "That's silly! Marriage isn't like a Tiller truck!" you say. Sure. It also isn't a car. You are both responsible for your own spiritual lives and mutually accountable to and for one another and for your children. You should pray together, discuss matters of faith together, seek discernment on big decisions together, etc. Don't worry about who is in charge "as the Gentiles do". Seek to be faithful together in mutual loving submission to one another that seeks consensus in the Spirit. You should both be open to loving correction from the other.)

19. He needs your prayers when he's in battle. Be his best prayer partner. A praying woman is a strength to him.
(It is good for people to pray for other people.)

20. A man who loves his wife will do just about anything to please her...and a good woman will never take advantage of this. Appreciate and value what you have...Because you never know when it could be lost or stolen.
(Gratitude is good. Refusal to take advantage of others is good. These don't need to be gendered.)

Thursday, February 09, 2017

8 Ways Women Can Kindly Demand Equal Treatment (At Home, At Work, At School, and In the Church)



This list could have been a lot longer! Men aren’t the only ones with sexist attitudes against women. We ladies were raised to believe these very same things about ourselves. As a society, we’ve (ironically) worked together to keep women “in their place.” But it’s time for that to change. We’ve seen the light—that women are, in fact, equal in value with men and equal image-bearers of our Creator. Scripture is clear that we have equal access to salvation, equal responsibility for the problems in the world, and an equal calling to minister to, nurture, and rescue the lost. It’s time to ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the lies and half-truths about women’s value—and then confront them and reject them wherever they are found. Let us replace that which marginalizes and divides with that which unites us in love and respect. After all,There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).

1.      Stop asking permission.
     Let’s say you have a chance to hang out with your husband and you have an idea of something fun you’d like to do. How do you bring it up to him? Do you ask him permission, saying something like, “Hey, Joe, can we go see a movie tonight?” Or, “Is it okay if we go see that movie tonight?” If so, did you realize that, just by the way you’re phrasing the question, you are giving him the entire decision for what you hoped would be a joint activity? You’ve just posed a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, and unless this is something you’ve both been wanting to do for a long time, he’s most likely going to say ‘no’—simply because his mind is probably somewhere else at the moment and it’s often hard for men to switch gears that fast. And, when he does say no, you’ll probably feel like he’s being controlling and doesn’t care about what you want—as if he denied you any say so (when you actually denied yourself!). Often, the little power struggles that drive women crazy are the ones we create ourselves when we subconsciously accept and maintain a subservient position. Next time you want something, try a different approach—an approach that solidifies your position as an equal. For example, “Hey, Joe, I was thinking we could go see a movie tonight. What do you think?” See the difference? Instead of putting the entire decision on him, you’re inviting him into a joint discussion as an equal partner in the activity. You’re actually honoring him by, one, taking the pressure off of him for coming up with every activity, two, by being willing to hear what he would like to do, three, by letting him know you’re wanting to spend more time with him, and four, by offering a chance to plan a relationship-building experience together. Whether you end up at the movie or having a quiet evening at home with some hot cocoa and a shared blanket, you’re far less likely to resent him at the end of the night.

2.      Stop apologizing for everything.
     If you spill hot coffee in someone’s lap or lose your temper and say something mean, by all means, apologize. However, if you’re late getting dinner on the table because you’ve been working hard all day, don’t apologize. You’ve done nothing wrong. Instead, ask the family to pull together and help. That’s what families are for. If you made a decision in good faith that your boss or husband doesn’t happen to agree with, don’t feel like you have to apologize for it. Just explain your reasons, if pressed, and/or offer to readjust where necessary. But, as an adult, you have both the right and the responsibility to make choices, recognizing that sometimes those choices may not be perfectly on point. That’s just being human. It’s not a failing of womanhood. So, don’t apologize for not having perfect judgment or insight in every situation. Just recognize the error and adjust as necessary. As a general rule, try to limit your apologies to moral failures or for causing someone harm (whether intentionally or not). Otherwise, admit the error, but don’t apologize for it. Just fix it. To apologize for every single failure is to reinforce the idea that it’s your job to be perfect, that the person you’re apologizing to is your moral authority or superior, and that, if you’re not perfect, then you’re somehow less valuable as a human being. All of these are lies. Don’t perpetuate them.

3.      Stop treating adults like children.
     Women (particularly, Christian women) often buy into the lie that it’s their job to be everyone else’s “helper.” (In fact, the word mistranslated as “suitable helper” in Gen. 2:18 actually means something more like man’s best match and mighty defender/rescuer.) While there’s something beautiful about a person (males and females) who has a servant’s heart, there’s something unhealthy and misfocused about someone who doesn’t know how to value their own time and resources or set healthy boundaries. Women tend to believe that, if there’s a need, it’s their job to fix it. (Which doesn’t reflect the best opinion of what the Holy Spirit is capable of….) This is particularly true when it comes to their husbands. Here’s a tip: If you truly respect your husband, you won’t feel the need to serve him hand and foot or come to his “rescue” every time he can’t find the ketchup. He’s an adult. Stop treating him like a child. Let him figure some things out for himself. He can do it. He can cook a meal. He can do a load of laundry. He can take care of his own children for an afternoon. (It’s not babysitting if it’s your own kids!) Stop jumping in and doing everything. Let him join you in the responsibilities of caring for the family, and you could even step up to the plate in areas of minor home repair and auto maintenance, for example, as needed. The point is, if you want a love and respect-based partnership instead of a servant/leader relationship with someone, don’t assume the role of a servant. After all, you’re not really helping anyone when you undermine their identity as adults by catering to them as if they’re toddlers. So, go ahead and see yourself as worthy of respect, behave in a manner worthy of respect, and you’re far more likely to gain respect. (And do the same for others!)

4.      Stop reducing your value to how you look.
       Though we hear this message often, far more often we hear the message that our bodies (and, hence, ourselves) were designed to be little more than playthings for men. That is a LIE! Don’t feed the lie by dressing in a way that invites attention to your body (and yourself) as a sexual object. Rather, make yourself beautiful from the inside out, recognizing that you were designed to be intelligent, competent, compassionate, diligent, clever, wise, strong, and Christ-like. Of course, at the end of the day, no matter what clothes you choose, it’s never your responsibility to keep men from lusting. That’s on them. But you do have the responsibility to recognize your own identity as an image-bearer of God and to let that identity influence every aspect of your life. God has given you far too many gifts for you to sift them down to just one—the way you look. When you see yourself as more than a body and choose to build good character, others will also begin to see the real YOU behind the pretty face.

5.      Recognize and confront sexual harassment.
     Looking back, I’m appalled at how often I endured or ignored sexual harassment. Why did I do it? Three really stupid reasons: One, I didn’t recognize it as sexual harassment, Two, I didn’t feel entitled to better treatment, and/or Three, I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the person treating me like a piece of ___. (You fill in the blank.) As a society, sexual harassment against women is modeled and played out for us in so many different ways, we have started to see it as normal, healthy behavior—as if sexual harassment and even assault is some kind of legitimate courting ritual. It isn’t.

    Sexual harassment is the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks. So, if a guy you’ve never met approaches you with a skeezy, “Hey, Baby,” you know this interaction has already gone south. To him, you’re a sexual object, not a person. Examples of sexual harassment include everything from wolf calls to asking about your sexual history or fantasies to touching your hair, clothing or body. For a more detailed description, go to: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/pdf/whatissh.pdf. If someone (whether male or female) treats you this way, and you didn’t ask for it or don’t want it, it’s harassment, and it’s illegal. That person is not your friend. You are worth too much to become some disposable character in their sexual fantasies. Don’t worry about their feelings! (They obviously aren’t worried about yours!) Look them in the eye and clearly tell them to stop. A simple, “Please don’t speak to me that way,” should be enough, but if it isn’t, feel free to report them. But whatever you do, don’t just take it.

6.      Hold your head up, stand up straight, and look people in the eye.
     This might sound simplistic, but body language and eye contact are surprisingly powerful. If you carry yourself with an air of confidence, people will be less apt to think of you as beneath them, and their behavior towards you will adjust to those impressions. If you’re used to being walked on, overlooked, or marginalized, you have probably learned to keep your head down, talk quietly, and avoid eye-contact. It’s time to change that self-perception (because it’s based on a lie!) and practice a healthy, pro-active self-confidence. You don’t have to be the smartest, most attractive, or most talented person on the planet to stand alongside those who think they are. Just being you—a fully human being with inherent worth—is enough! No one—regardless of their posturing—is, at base, better than you. God made you in His own image to be YOU—a unique, non-reproducible way of reflecting His image to the world. So, when you start thinking about what you have to offer, don’t ignore God’s voice on the subject! As a child of God, you have Christ! I ask you, what better quality is there?

     “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (I Cor. 1:20-25).

7.      If possible, kindly replace sexist comments with egalitarian ones. Otherwise, flatly reject sexism.
      Sexist comments are so prevalent, we often fail to recognize them as such, but if they go unnoticed, their power to marginalize and silence half the population will continue unchecked. Because sexism is so prevalent in our society, both men and women use sexist comments without even realizing it. So, if you notice a sexist remark, simply kindly replace it with an egalitarian one. For example, if asked, “Can I speak to the man of the house?” Answer, “We’re both in charge of the house. How may I help you?” Or, if your pastor jokes, “I can see who wears the pants in your marriage,” you can respond with, “Actually, we both wear pants, we both care for the children, we both work hard, and we both love Jesus.”

      Other comments are harder to correct, such as those which deny you a voice or a promotion or an education based on your gender, or those which qualify as sexual harassment. For example, if you are told you won’t be considered for a promotion because the men in the office wouldn’t be able to respect a pretty woman as their boss, that’s grounds for lawsuit. Let’s say you’re cleaning a bottom shelf and your boss quips, “That’s where I like you. On your knees.” That’s sexual harassment. Also a lawsuit. Look them right in the eyes, calmly but clearly point out the sexism, and tell them you expect more respect in future. If they can’t comply, it’s time to find a good attorney.

8.      Embrace your femininity!
       Sadly, many women have been made to feel so devalued that they have adopted masculine behaviors. They may change everything from their clothing to their hairstyles to the way they walk and talk—just to blend in with the men. But to reject your own femininity is to implicitly accept and promote the idea that there’s something wrong with it. There is nothing wrong with femininity or womanliness or motherhood or sisterhood. You can wear a skirt (or not) and makeup (or not) and you should still be able to expect respect and recognition. You can be feminine, react in a way a woman would react, think in a way a woman would think—all without having to adjust it or apologize for it. Let’s say you’re sitting in a meeting where the plight of orphans is being discussed. You tear up because you identify with the trauma these children are experiencing. A man looks at you and says, “Are you going to be okay? Can you continue discussing this topic?” You can respond with, “The fact that I’m not okay with children being abandoned means I’m the perfect person to discuss this topic.” Don’t believe or perpetuate the notion that womanhood and femininity is somehow weaker or less capable or less valuable than masculinity. There is a great deal of power—life-changing, life-embracing power!—in the gifts women possess.