In the moment, it was as if I had been rendered mute. Caught off-guard by the interaction, I could not quickly think of a witty reply, or even a clarifying retort to offer the ignorant assumption.
Kelly states that in situations like this, women immediately engage in a mental checklist to assess the situation and whether we’d like to call out the problem. Almost every time, our response is minimizing in nature, not wanting to engage in confrontation—something we could do on a daily basis. But Kelly writes, “I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.”
Have you ever had an experience like mine? Have you ever shrugged off sexist remarks from your male coworkers, because you felt as though you had no other choice? Have you ever felt disqualified as you attempt to find a balance between home and work, between fidelity to your spouse and fidelity to your calling?
Oftentimes, I am able to think of the perfect retort―it just comes 12 hours after the fact. In the moment, however, it feels as though my tongue is tied, my brain frozen in hurt and disbelief. Lying in bed before I fall asleep, I search for peace by praying the consolations and desolations of my day: It’s frustrating that my husband had to respond first, in order for the other person to acknowledge my role. Jesus, you believed women equal to men; when will this equality come to fruition in the church today?
Tell Your Story—and Listen to Others’
In light of this, how are we to respond? How are we, as women leaders, to react in the moment―and beyond―when assumptions, inappropriate gestures, and blatant stereotypes occur?
I think we can follow Kelly’s leadership and exhortation to her audience―we, as women leaders in the church, can begin telling our stories and listening to the stories of each other. “Listen because your reality is not the same as hers,” she writes (albeit to men who might be reading her article). “Listen because her concerns are valid and not exaggerated or inflated.” Engage in the art, in the practice, in the discipline, and in the encouragement of listening, especially to the women around you. Lean back so you might tell the stories that have changed you, and lean in―ever more deeply―so you might hear the stories your sisters share in return.