“Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” –JK Rowling
I can think of few quotes more relevant to men who believe in gender equality.
Men, you too face a choice between what is right and what is easy. A choice between risk and comfort, between painful knowledge and willful ignorance. Though you stand at the mouth of a tempting shortcut, you must choose the narrow, trial-heavy road up the mountain.
We do not necessarily have to choose the hard thing. That is the simultaneous beauty and ugliness of free will. We can choose privilege, align with the powerful, and discard stories that threaten our worldview. We can worship at the altar of ease, safety, and comfort. We can embrace a risk-free life. But that isn’t the gospel.
The gospel consistently advocates for the narrow, trial-heavy road up the mountain. The way to life is narrow and yet, it is this elusive, rocky, winding path that Jesus calls us to walk. In more words, the gospel asks us to choose between what is right and what is easy.
Advocacy for the oppressed is a vital expression of the gospel mandate to choose right over easy. Thus, to fight against gender injustice is to choose the harder thing and the narrower path.
You might be thinking: I already believe in gender equality. Why is this author exhorting me to do what I’m already doing?
One of the biggest challenges women face in mobilizing men for gender equality is lukewarm activism. Many men believe that gender inequality is wrong, but their outrage doesn’t move them to action. Their advocacy is lukewarm, convenient, and safe.
They aren’t choosing the hard thing. They’re choosing the appearance of the hard thing. They’re taking the narrow path in the light of day but when night falls, they’re back on the open road.
Men, a lukewarm commitment to fighting gender injustice is a failed commitment to fighting gender injustice. James said it simply: “faith without works is dead.” Likewise, conviction without concrete action is dead.
Jesus also had something to say about the difference between authentic holiness and the appearance of holiness (Matthew 23). The appearance of holiness means little when the claimant does not act holy. And similarly, the appearance and title of advocate mean little without active, daily, intentional pursuit of justice for women.
1. Take risks in your activism.
Your advocacy should consistently point others toward justice for women. It can’t be lukewarm, convenient, or safe. It must be fiery, inconvenient, and risky. You must go beyond pretty oaths and nice sentiments. It is easy to commiserate with your sisters when gender equality costs you nothing. It is harder to step out when advocacy for women comes at a price: power, privilege, relationship, reputation, opportunity, or position.
Conviction by itself has little power, but conviction is a dangerous threat to injustice when action follows. It is risky to move from conviction to concrete action. But this is precisely why we must do it. Activism is meant to propel us into uncomfortable spaces and situations.
2. Be consistent in your advocacy.
Inconsistent activism is half-hearted activism. It’s lukewarm, convenient, and safe—the kind of advocacy that sabotages itself. Nothing but full-hearted, ceaseless advocacy will move this stubborn world.
Are you quick to grieve sexual violence but slow to ensure that your church is a safe space for survivors?
Do you approve of women in ministry but remain silent about your church’s all-male pastoral team and elder board?
Are you quick to agree that gender parity at Christian conferences is important but slow to call organizers about representation?
Do you see gender inequality at work but fail to campaign for opportunities for women?
Are you quick to agree that gender inequality is wrong, but slow to offer your time and energy to fight it?
Is your activism consistent or is it merely convenient? Are you the same men when things are difficult that you are when things are easy? Are you the same men in the shadows that you are in the light of day?
3. Give something up.
I touched on this concept briefly above when I challenged men to take risks in their activism. Part of being a strong advocate for gender equality is embracing the risk. You might lose a relationship, position, or opportunity because you’ve chosen right over easy. But full-hearted activism actually has two prices, one exacted by the world and another that advocates choose to pay.
It’s one thing to lose a friend or an opportunity because of your advocacy for women. It’s another to give up a friendship or opportunity as part of your advocacy for women. But that is exactly what authentic advocacy does. It sacrifices. It makes way. It steps aside. It goes willingly to the back of the line. It gives something up.
Men, because of your privilege, you could take an easier path. You could ignore the women waiting centuries at the base of the mountain. You could bypass injustice and summit alone. It is the obvious choice when the road is clear and you have the power to carry yourself upward.
After all, what is it to you if women are barred from the shortcut you take? What is it to you if they are forced to take a more treacherous path? What is it to you if they must climb with stone-laden packs?
But, that's not the gospel. The gospel asks us to choose between what is right and what is easy.
Men, the gospel implores you to choose liberation over oppression, equality over privilege, peace over violence, advocacy over silence, and justice over the status quo.
Don’t take the offered shortcut, tempting as it is. Don’t bypass injustice because it’s easier. Take the narrow path.