Reflecting on #Yesallwomen

This week, I’ve been thinking about the #Yesallwomen hashtag. And like most hot cultural issues of the day, I keep avoiding putting my thoughts down for public consumption. Even with the sincerest of intentions, it’s often feels difficult to contribute anything positive to such loaded conversations.

It always takes longer than it should but eventually I realize that loaded conversations never go away. They may slip out of the public scene but it’s only temporary and they keep coming back with greater tension, sometimes they come back with fury. It’s better if we can speak into them and in the best case scenario, contribute progress, redemption and hope into them. This will of course, expose our pre-suppositions, philosophies and guiding narratives and frankly, I have a lot of faith in mine. Hope you join me.

When I look at my Twitter feed, I’m struck by how many times #Yesallwomen comes up. I follow a wide variety of people, including thoughtful feminist types and I also know I follow many women who would not describe themselves as a feminist. Yet, they too are using the hashtag which should force the most casual of male observers to to pause and think, “Wow, yes all women?”

Of course, you don’t have to have Twitter or Facebook to see this as we know this in culminating as result of last week’s Santa Barbara shooting. A deranged young man attacking random women because they represent other women who have rejected him in one form or another. Now I know there’s a backlash (and maybe some thoughtful critique) against the #Yesallwomen hashtag campaign but my lingering question is this:

Where all these men that make society so unsafe and why does it feel like I don’t know any of them? 

Or do I?

That’s part of the problem. We often don’t know enough until it’s too late. Which is the point of this post  “Schrödinger’s Rapist: Or a Guy’s Guide to Approaching Strange Women Without Being Mased.”  I especially encourage my male readers (married or unmarried) to read the post in its entirety  but here’s an exert:

“So when you, a stranger, approach me, I have to ask myself: Will this man rape me?

Do you think I’m overreacting? One in every six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. I bet you don’t think you know any rapists, but consider the sheer number of rapes that must occur. These rapes are not all committed by Phillip Garrido, Brian David Mitchell, or other members of the Brotherhood of Scary Hair and Homemade Religion. While you may assume that none of the men you know are rapists, I can assure you that at least one is. Consider: if every rapist commits an average of ten rapes (a horrifying number, isn’t it?) then the concentration of rapists in the population is still a little over one in sixty. That means four in my graduating class in high school. One among my coworkers. One in the subway car at rush hour. Eleven who work out at my gym. How do I know that you, the nice guy who wants nothing more than companionship and True Love, are not this rapist?”

I know some will read that – men and women and opt out. “She’s writing from a very specific context.” Sure, maybe not all of us ride the subway to and from work. Maybe the only time you are walking alone is from your mailbox to your front door and maybe you are skilled in MMA and can defend yourself.

Regardless of how you feel about the post, the one thing that I think all honest people must agree on is that present day society is dangerous for women. Ancient society was extremely dangerous as well and I know some will get too preoccupied on which times were worse while they should spend the time and energy insuring that the present is better.

Those of you who know me might think I’m over-reacting now that I have a daughter. Well, I can’t say I can compartmentalize that out but I can also say that I’ve known that society is dangerous  for young women all my life. Further, we have two sons, whom we pray for and will do our best to raise to treat women (and all people created in God’s image) in a way that honors God and serves others.

But back to the point at hand – Present day society is dangerous for women. And we know this as we collect all sorts of stories from our adolescence, college years, and all the years from there. And you don’t have to be a woman to know this.

I’m betting that after some thought, most of us would not dispute this. We would also add that our society damages young men in different ways as well. We would then list all of the dysfunctions of society and end up with an overwhelming conversation of the brokeness of everything. And while there’s goodness in that exercise, we should not let that distract us from the moment at hand.

What can be done for a society that is dangerous towards women?

Much of what we read relates to self-defense for women and the other part is directed to teaching men to treat women honorably. The latter is generally contested as many men feel they are honorable hence the popularity of the “#Notallmen” hashtag which by the way is not only not helpful, but indirectly supports misogyny (Whether you realize it or not, the “#Notallmen” hashtag is an alternative way of saying, “This isn’t my problem”).  I encourage you to Google #Yesallwomen and read through some of them. Yes, you’ll find some better than others. In a twitter campaign of thousands that’s how it goes. But let’s not dismiss the big picture issue over its least helpful expressions. Instead, let’s listen so we can make this world better.

I know that’s not going to be good enough for some so if you need me to say it so you can get on board there it is:  Yes there are many men who treat women, fellow men, and children very well. Now what are we going to do about the ones who don’t? My  brothers, the helpful part about the hashtag campaign is that it describes our society and not you personally. That is, unless it does.

It’s a dangerous thought to have but I bet we all know someone similar to the pre-violent Elliot Rodger. Think about it. It would do us all well to not only take inventory of the other men we know but to prepare ourselves for the conversations that begin with, “Is that a joke or do you really hate women because …” We avoid this because it feels judgmental but as we learn more and more about misogyny, we cannot afford to keep taking these risks. Further there is a difference between being judgmental and discerning. May God give us wisdom to keep learning the difference.

I think about this in my church. What does our community say to us on Sunday? What does it say to those that don’t believe, or not sure they want to continue to believe? What is our community (which I believe is informed by a Christian Trinitarian, Biblically-grounded theology) saying to women? What is it saying to men who find it difficult to connect in how many feel is a setting that emasculates? What will this community say the generations looking back on mine?

Some big questions that require serious thought and prayer but for that last one, I can’t help but be grateful that I get to be part of this time period and not any other.  Which is predictable as I’m sure most have felt similar. My point is that there’s goodness in owning your time right now. We need to be faithful stewards of it now and all that it includes. We cannot merely exist in it. For me, that’s convicting. 

In Scripture, we often read that a symbol of peace is the wolf sitting down next to the lamb. In light of this conversation it feels like peace is a woman walking alone at night without the need of thinking to use her keys as a weapon. Further, in the very big picture, it occurs to me the best starting point to address these issues is in following Jesus’ words, “Love your neighbor as yourself”  including #yesallwomen.  Now, what that love looks like, that’s the work to be done. May God give us all strength. 

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