I grew up with a father who listened to me. He didn’t just listen to me–he sought out my thoughts and opinions, and was interested in my ideas and my delights and my sorrows. I never got the impression that he thought of me as a “hysterical female” or that he was inwardly rolling his eyes at me. In my writing, he’s been one of my biggest cheerleaders, encouraging me to be bold in telling the truth. And he often texts me after I’ve written something, claiming that he learned from it or that it spoke to him in some way.
Maybe it’s because I grew up with a father like him. Or maybe it’s because I was raised in a small town where old men encouraged me in my gifts. Maybe it’s because I married a man who values my opinion, who invites me to be a part of conversations and decisions and complications. Maybe these are the reasons that I had no experience with not being taken seriously as a woman. But then social media happened. Every bad thing about the way people think and feel came into focus a little bit more, and then it began spilling into real life. Suddenly, I could clearly see the disdain that many men have for women’s ideas and opinions. I could feel the dismissal of my own thoughts by men. I saw the difference in the promptness of response when my husband had a concern, and the way my own concerns seemed to be brushed off or forgotten. My husband has even signed emails that I wrote, just because we knew they would get more immediate and serious attention.
We have certainly seen that some men (even those who call themselves Christians) delight in disparaging women on the internet. But in the case of most Christian men, I don’t believe that these are necessarily conscious differences. I believe that Christian men often have an ingrained way of seeing women that was implanted there from very early ages. They may not even know exactly why they dread talking to a woman or “dealing” with her. They may not understand themselves why they are happy to immediately call a man and take care of an issue but will fairly ignore a woman, refusing to meet with her or shutting her down by making her jump through procedural hoops in the hopes that she will drop the matter. But I believe it’s worth calling Christian men to account over.
It goes without saying that men who are followers of Jesus should be the loudest champions of abused and marginalized women. But, brothers, your responsibilities as Christians go far beyond just taking up the most egregious cases of mistreatment among women. I would ask you to also examine yourself, or better yet, ask God to examine your heart (Psalm 139:23-24), and see if there isn’t some “grievous way” in you when it comes to the way you feel about, view, or treat women. Of all the men in the world, you are the ones we’re counting on not to be dismissive, not to be callous, not to discount women as overly emotional non-thinkers.
Jesus was unusually interested in the hearts and minds of the women he encountered during his earthly life. Women were an important part of his inner circle, and he never dismissed them as inferior or harder to deal with. He has a tender heart toward them. I believe that God can awaken in his sons a care for women that would make the world wonder.