It’s been a long season of revelation in our culture, one where everywhere you turn someone is being outed for behaving badly. Even within a matter of days, this post will be old news. And since I write most of my posts/articles over the course of months, this post is already dated. But sadly, new revelations are always coming to the surface about sin, abuse of power, and women being hurt. So in many ways, talking about how women are treated in our culture is an evergreen topic—from the Bible until today.
I haven’t been able to get this article out of my head ever since I read it months ago. It haunts me, but not because I relate to it. I can’t get it out of my head because I can’t relate to it. The world described by this woman, and countless others who come forward with stories of abuse, harassment, and mistreatment, is a world I have never really had to inhabit. Sure, I have my fair share of stories of dirty jokes and inappropriate behavior at the hands of boys over the years. But I never once had to face it in my own home. In many ways, the fact that men behaving badly was an “out there” reality for me meant that I was spared a lot of the baggage and shame that stays with you over a lifetime.
I was raised in a home with all brothers. I felt protected. I felt cared for. I felt like an equal. My dad and brothers to this day care about the work I do both in the home and outside of the home. My brothers have stood up for me when I needed the weight of a man behind me. My dad has valued me and encouraged me. They’ve cried with me and for me. They’ve supported me.
But you know what else? They’ve never been afraid of my femaleness. I may have been treated as an equal my entire life, but I was never treated as the same. I think sometimes men can’t bear the weight of the horrors women face because it’s so foreign to them. They haven’t spent enough time with women to know them and the unique challenges they face. God has given me a different story with my dad and brothers. I’ve nursed in the same room as my brothers. I’ve bought feminine products when they’ve been at the store with me, which something the author of this Washington Post article says is anathema even to some fathers. Being a woman was as much a part of our family conversation as being a man was. And as a mom of four sons, I’m thankful for that perspective now!
What I didn’t get in my younger years, I get with deep gratitude now. My comfort with living in this world is directly owing to how they treated me. I was shaped by them as much as I was appreciated by them. They were man enough to bear the weight of having a sister or a daughter, painful as it could be. They could handle my stories of horrible interactions with the opposite sex without overreacting or shaming me. They could handle my monthly cycles, hormones and all. They can handle my birth stories.
But you know what else? This gift has also made it harder for me to see the horrors all around me. The Washington Postarticle helped. As one who has been loved well, I want to use that gift to bear the burden of others. I want to listen and believe that my experience might not be normative, but it should be. I want to let me privilege free me to bear the weight that my fellow sisters shouldn’t have to bear alone. And I’ll labor to help my sons love the same way I’ve been loved and continue to love.
I hear you, sisters. I’m sorry. May we all love and listen better.