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The Truth About Sexism in the Church

And how to keep it from breaking you down.

The truth about sexism in the church needs to be heard, it needs to be told, and it needs to be called out. It should be devastating that you will experience sexism when it comes to your call to ministry. It should be devastating that the one institution on which you depend to be the most vocal about fighting sexism is the most resoundingly silent. It should be devastating that the one place where you might be able to escape the sexism of our culture will only make it worse. These facts could very well lead to discouragement. Why enter into ministry if you know that this is what you will face? Ministry is hard enough without having to prepare yourself for the many ways that sexism will succeed in demoralizing your position and sense of call.

Yet, these truths are not meant to be discouraging but to give rise to justified anger. Your anger will be justified and not only on the grounds of any one specific incident alone. It will be justified because the church should be so much better about dealing with sexism. The church, of all places, should not explain sexism away, sweep it under the rug, or insist it is really “not that bad.” Your anger will be justified because you will experience little to no support from those who you thought “had your back.” You will look around and say to yourself, because you can’t bring yourself to say it aloud to the bystanders, “Did you just hear that? Say something!”

Your anger will be justified because sexism is something your male colleagues will not have to deal with, and yet you have to expend energy and emotion on something that should have been addressed long ago. Your anger will be justified because you will just want the comments to stop, you will want to tell someone to shut up, and all too often you will bite your tongue, because the repercussions of responding can be worse than the initial insult. Why do we bite our tongues? Is it the result of fear? What are we afraid of? Is it not worth the effort, the “fight?” Monitoring these occasions when you choose to stay silent instead of speaking into the moment is an essential strategy for dealing with the sure reality of sexism.

The inclination will be to put aside your anger, to tell yourself to “calm down,” or convince yourself that it is an overreaction, that you are too sensitive, or that you are making “too big of a deal” about it. However, there is a difference between healthy anger and self-righteous indignation. You will have every right, every single right, to be angry, to experience hurt, and to feel—truly feel—diminished and demeaned. In fact, those are all the underlying and hoped-for goals of sexism. Those reactions are exactly the ones that sexism intends to instill deep within your soul.

June20, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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