I was looking through my Twitter feed and found #YesAllWomen: a conversation about the sexualization and degradation of women, instigated by the kidnapping of the schoolgirls in Nigeria.
Never mind being a woman, as a human, of course I’m on board with the equality of all people and speaking out against mistreatment and inequality. However, there are a few things I think need to be addressed when we talk about equality, especially when it has the capacity to morph as the conversation grows. Whether it’s equality for women, the LGBTQ community, people of different races or whatever else, we can unwittingly dole out inequality as we fight for the rights of the disenfranchised.
Some of the tweets for #YesAllWomen were as I expected, from having to worry about where they jog to whether they wear make-up or not, date rape and worse. (The fact that I expected those makes me sad.) There also seemed to be a general tension over women having to learn to defend themselves rather than men being taught how to respect women. In other words, only the woman has to change, and the man gets to stay the same.
#YesAllWomen also generated a discussion on how #NotAllMen behave like animals (a true and important thing to note). It also generated some defensive posts from men regarding feminism and how #YesAllWomen is a way for highly emotional females to get attention. Some women expressed frustration over perceived hashtag-jacking (some men supposedly using #YesAllWomen to make it about them).
Women are not the only things on two legs being sexualized and degraded. It is not limited to any group. It supersedes age and gender, unfortunately. Regardless of what cause we are out to bolster, it is hugely irresponsible to think our cause is isolated and singular. It is also hugely irresponsible to assume there is only one thing/person to blame. The rights for which we fight ought to shore up the rights of all people, not create new ways some rights can be overlooked.
Some months ago I attended a worship service downtown. It was a nice service. Everyone was very genuine and authentic, but I found myself feeling like I didn’t really belong there. The welcome slides depicted a newly married same sex couple, updates about community outreach, and a number of other current event type things. Most slides were garnished with a rainbow. That’s great, I thought, it’s so refreshing to be in a setting in which no one raises an eyebrow because two people got married or that there are rainbows on the slides. But after a while, I must confess to you, I couldn’t help thinking, What about me?
Please hear me. I think LGBTQ oriented churches are wonderful. I am glad they exist. I am glad there were rainbows on the slides and I am glad a lesbian couple could hold hands in the pew, but not everyone who attended that worship service was LGBTQ.
Weeks later, I was flipping through OUT Magazine (reading material on the coffee table at my dad’s) and saw an ad for Las Vegas. As many Las Vegas summer ads go, there was a pool with lots of very pretty people, except unlike most ads, there was not a single woman. I know. I know. OUT Magazine’s target audience is gay men. A woman in a bathing suit would be out of place. However, off to the middle left of the ad was a straight couple taking in the sights wearing grandma and grandpa camping wear. It made the straight people look dweeby and lame, and it ticked me off a little.
Racial equality, gender equality, LGBTQ equality cannot be left alone to work themselves out, but the intense pushback makes it so terribly easy to return the favor.
When we talk about equality, we should strive to really create equality instead of creating additional inequality. We have made strides globally and as a nation, but we are not in a position to use the word equality and truly live up to what it means. Creating space for equality and acceptance means our labels are irrelevant. Maybe we aren’t fully capable of this, but we ought to try. I think if we are doing what we are called to do as God’s people, we should stand for the rights of all people. Though our cause may be just, we are still responsible for how we pursue equality. We ought to foster sensitivity over how our pursuit affects others…even those viewed as “the enemy.” We will probably fail to achieve true equality, but we must set intentions to be for all people.