Sunday, July 16, 2017
The other day, when the story about Mr. Trump saying that Brigitte Macron was "in good shape" broke, I found myself angry and bemused. Angry, because sexism is real and it hurts. Bemused because I am at a total loss as to how to deal with it.
Sexism in the Church is a real and current problem. It is especially bad when you begin to talk with female clergy. I have yet to meet a female priest who has not experienced some form of demeaning, objectifying or downright discriminatory behavior from both parishioners and, more worryingly, male colleagues and superiors.
But how do you deal with it when someone says something along the lines of, "You are in good shape."? After all, if you are in good shape you have had to work at it, and someone complimenting you should be just that, a compliment. The even harder piece of this is that for many older people it is a compliment with no thought to web of culture and misogyny into which is is woven.
One problem is objectification. Women have been objects for centuries, property to be passed from birth family to marriage family. Little wonder that generations of men grew up and were trained to look at whether women were a good asset and a sensible investment in terms of genetics. The underbelly of the compliment is , "remember to stay in your place, quiet and pretty, that is what you are for."
It might look as if we have done the hard work already, after all women are in all levels of leadership in the Church, so we must be OK. But in some ways, that is just the surface. There are layers of assumptions and culture which we have to learn to notice alongside the blatant sexism which allows people to tell me they would rather have a male priest do their wedding or funeral.
Jesus always challenged assumptions and stands up for those who have no voice. When a woman is victim of a system which is institutionally sexist she cannot stand up to it herself - this just compounds the issue. If you are a man and you are getting this, if you are nodding along and not writing me off as over-reacting or of otherwise reduced capacity then this is your job, this is what you can do. We really need your help.