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10 Ways Men Can Live Out Gender Equality

On September 21, 2016

It can be very difficult to know what makes a solid male ally, so I took a stab at answering that question. I’ve created a list of 10 ways men can act on their Christian feminism, with specific emphasis on the church.

1. Ensure the leadership of your church or organization reflects your feminism/egalitarianism.

It’s easy to affirm women in leadership theoretically, because it costs you nothing as a male leader. But if you and your male teammates stand at the helm of the church alone, your feminism is meaningless. A church that has egalitarian values should walk the talk by inviting women to take the wheel.

2. Let women lead the way.

Men have been at the forefront of many social and theological movements. A cultural preference for male perspectives can exist even in egalitarian churches, movements, and organizations, and that preference can make it difficult for women to be heard. Whenever possible, defer to women’s leadership, perspectives, and ideas to compensate for that cultural bias.

3. Ask women how you can be a better ally.

It can be difficult to tell a male feminist/egalitarian that he failed to live out his commitment to gender equality in the last church meeting, service, or group discussion. Instead of putting women in the position of having to convict you for betraying your egalitarian values, do the work yourself. Ask to be held accountable and humbly seek out women’s feedback.

4. Let women tell you what they experience.

Empathy is a beautiful thing. But male egalitarians should be careful of assuming that they understand women’s experiences as well as women themselves, simply because they empathize with women. Instead of assuming your background in Christian feminist/egalitarianism allows you to correctly interpret women’s stories and concerns, listen directly to women and be changed by what they say.

5. Let women determine if you are being helpful to the movement.

I love when men self-identity as “Christian feminists,” “feminists,” “egalitarians,” and “male allies.” But you’re not a feminist, egalitarian, or male ally unless your ideas and behaviors are evaluated by women and deemed helpful. It’s not enough to have good intentions as a male ally. Your feminism must be receptive to women’s needs, goals, and opinions. So make women the judge of your feminism.

6. Don’t ever assume you’ve “arrived” as a Christian feminist/egalitarian/male ally.

We can always do better. We can always be better sons and daughters, spouses, friends, employees, etc. Likewise, a male Christian feminist can always live out his feminism better. If you believe that you “get it,” you may stop doing the active work of trying to understand women and gender inequality. So don’t settle for where you’re at. Continue to interrogate your understanding of gender and attitudes toward women.

7. Encourage other men to embrace Christian feminism.

Women can ask the men in their lives to learn about Christian feminism. But your support as a male feminist can be crucial to swaying men who think that feminism/egalitarianism is only for women. So when you have the opportunity to swing a church brother towards gender equality, take it. Use your privilege as a man to champion equality and justice for your sisters.

8. Educate yourself about Christian feminism/secular feminism/egalitarianism.

Feminism has deep historical roots around the world. There are many different expressions of it, some secular, some Christian, and some which spouted out of other religious faiths. Additionally, many different racial, ethnic, and class groups have birthed distinct gender equality/feminist movements.

Knowing the history of gender equality can help you address some of the misconceptions around feminism and specifically, Christian feminism today. What’s more, you honor the women and men who fought for gender equality in the past when you learn feminist history.

9. Sacrifice opportunities out of a desire to see women succeed as leaders.

Women are underrepresented in most if not all levels of Christian leadership. At an average Christian conference, male speakers vastly outnumber female speakers. And even in egalitarian churches, I often notice a disparity between the number of male staff members and female staff members. With that in mind, choose to pass along opportunities to speak and lead to competent women who aren’t being asked to contribute. Give something up to make space for your sisters.

Pro tip: Give special preference to qualified women of color who face racial discrimination and gender discrimination in the church as speakers/leaders.

10. Accept that you won’t always be able to participate when women tell their stories.  

Sometimes women need to share about abuse, their bodies, their sexuality, etc. sans men. Accept that, even as a male ally, you won’t always be wanted or needed in these spaces. You can choose not to take women’s need for female community personally. And you can affirm women’s right to those spaces and support the creation of those spaces in your church or Christian organization.

 

 

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