As hard as I try to be egalitarian, the truth is, I am a chauvinist! My entire world view is shaped by the fact that I am a man. Men are my heroes, the movies I watch are about men, the books I read are written by men, and manly activities are the ones I enjoy. When I am not intentionally thinking about it, I have a totally male dominated worldview.
But me in neutral is not a good place to be. Women populate a little over half the earth, I am married to a woman, and I am raising a young woman. They deserve to have larger representation when it comes to their perspectives, their stories, and the celebration of their heroines in our culture.
My chauvinism was brought into light by a TED talk of all things.
Below is a talk about how movies impact boys and their world view. He highlights how the Wizard of Oz is a great movie that has women as lead characters and uses women's gifts and abilities to solve problems and build friendships. This is in stark contrast to how most contemporary movies are war movies about defeating villains and getting a reward.
One of the points that the Colin Stokes brought up was the Bechdel Test. This is a test is a way to see how chauvinistic a movie might be. Here are her three questions for the Bechdel Test:
- Is there more than one main character who is female and has lines?
- Do they talk to each other at any point in the movie?
- Is the conversation about more then the boy that they both like?
It is a little depressing how few movies pass this simple test. And as Colin points out, there are in fact "girl power" shows and movies. But the problem is not that the girls have their movies, but that the boys are not learning to learn the right things in "boy" movies. They are not learning to respect or partner with girls or that they are really understanding who the bad guys really are, the ones who use and abuse women.
As a human, this is an important TED talk and worthy of watching and consideration. As a Christian, and even more as a Christian leader, I am stopped dead in my tracks by how little of what I do, say, teach, and lead that would pass the Bechdel test.
When we read the gospels we see Jesus, in revolutionary fashion, engage with and stand up for women. They were treated as equals and they were given responsibility and leadership. There are women all over the gospel stories and that was in a culture that was dramatically more oppressive then ours is today. Shouldn't our ministries in the 21st century be significantly more egalitarian than 1st century Palestine?
My challenge is to get over my passive chauvinism and make sure that my ministry can actually pass the Bechdel Test. I want the women and girls in my ministry to have heroines to look up to, to have stories to relate to, and to have opportunities to lead. And even more, I want the boys and men in my ministry to see women not as objects or as passive bystanders, but as people worthy of friendship, worthy of respect, and worthy of following.
As a man in a male dominated profession in a male dominated religion this is going to take some work, but I am up for the challenge! We must challenge our assumptions and be pro active or we will miss over 50% of the people in our congregations and in our world, and unintentionally teach the other 50% a distorted version of our faith. I need to do a better job at telling stories that are less about conquering the villain and receiving a reward (old skool evangelicalism) and more quests about joining a team, maybe a team lead by a women, to help make the world a better place, and in our vernacular, to expand the Kingdom of God! (N.T. Wright maybe?) Are you in?
"It is not so much about highlighting girl power, but a new definition of manhood. We must show and model for them that a real man is someone who trusts, and respects their sisters, wants to be on their team, and stands up against the real bad guys, the men who want to abuse women."
Who are the heroes of our stories? Are the women in our ministries lifted up, are their stories part of the stories of the youth group? Are they given opportunities to lead? Are they respected by the men? Are you modeling that?