Are our gender discussions alienating men?
By Malaina Yoder | Contributor
“Awesome. Yet another guilt-trip chapel.”
My friend’s comment at the beginning of Wednesday’s chapel wasn’t the only one of its kind. If you didn’t come to chapel and didn’t hear about it afterward, Suzanne Burden, author of “Reclaiming Eve,” spoke about a Biblical view of gender and how we need to join together as men and women to redeem our culture. The idea sounds fairly agreeable, right? But as I walked away from chapel, I didn’t hear unity coming from the student body.
I heard guilt.
The friend who said this is one of the most supportive people I know. He consistently enters into discussions of gender equality, gender expectations and women in the church. He respects me as a person in ways that culture didn’t teach him. When Burden was reading off statistics and talking about faulty mindsets, she was not talking about this friend. Yet, somehow, he felt condemned.
Why are we alienating men in a conversation that needs their voices? People become defensive the moment anyone talks about gender equality. I wish I were wise enough to know how we can approach social injustice without putting this burden on Taylor men, but I’m not. After talking to people who are wiser than I am, I have a few ideas that could bring us closer as men and women working together in the way described in chapel.
- Stop making general statements.
We need to stop saying “men oppress women.” The man beside you in chapel is most likely not oppressing you. In fact, the Taylor men I talk to advocate the efforts to end cultural oppression. By not clarifying, we create a divide that’s hard for people to cross. Of course men feel accused when they’re put into a category with abusers. We need to invite them into the conversation rather than alienate them.
- Stop viewing privilege as purely negative.
Men—you have privilege. It’s not your fault, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. You’ve been given this double-edged sword that can hurt or heal society. We often sit through discussions on gender, race or even American privilege and feel responsible for what our specific group is doing or has done. If used correctly, privilege can inspire so much more than guilt.
- Desegregate the conversation.
After chapels like this, we tend to sit with our wings or floors and vent about how frustrating it is that women feel unwelcome in ministry positions or that men feel like they can’t have an opinion about gender equality. But the moment you invite two or three people from the opposite gender into the conversation, it starts to change. People start sharing their stories and attempting to understand both sides of the gender gap. We need perspectives from both men and women if we’re going to get anywhere. Men, I know how hard it can be to enter a place where you feel condemned. But if you don’t join in, nothing will change. Whether or not you feel offended, gender equality is a problem. We don’t have the option of being quiet about this.
If the only goal of Wednesday’s chapel was to create discussion, then it was a success. But if we want solutions, we need to try a different approach.