By Ellen Romer
In my last post, I encouraged people to delve into #yesallwomen and engage with its implications for life in the church. The next best thing to check out after #yesallwomen is definitely #notallmen. It covers a lot more contentious ground, from many different viewpoints. Some folks use what is being called ‘mansplaining’ or use the hashtag to avoid responsibility for sexual harassment against women.
#NotAllMen, while being used by some as an excuse to avoid responsibility, serves an incredibly important, humanizing, and dignifying task of not allowing for the demonizing of men. Men should not objectify women or other men or anyone at all. Equally so, men should not be lumped together as a herd of demons. Men also suffer sexual harassment and abuse. Yes, men who do nothing are still complicit in the dehumanization of women through sexual harassment and other manners of objectification. It is also important to remember that saying or doing something can be difficult and risky. I have had times in my life where I should have spoken up for someone – and I didn’t. Rampant and imprudent blaming is very counter productive and creates more demons in the world. We all drop the ball on speaking up and acting for those who have been treated less than human. We are all imperfect and we all sin. That’s the truth of it. If we hold one another accountable in a loving, critical, compassionate, and courageous way, we can still hold on to one another’s dignified humanity.
#NotAllMen also reminds us that there are wonderfully fantastic men who do speak up! When dehumanization and suffering seems overwhelming, it is important to remember and be grateful for those who have courage and see the image of God in others. It can be so hard being a woman in the Church, but I am still so grateful for the men in my life, even those who haven’t always spoken up for me when they could.
I have witnessed moments when men have become righteously angry at women and others’ suffering.
I have seen when they have noticed those tiny little spaces where someone didn’t say something overtly sexist – but it left much to be desired.
I have been empowered and comforted by offers of the men in my life to stand up for me when I was struggling – but respected my autonomy and my decision to deal with challenges in my own way.
I have had my heart warmed in moments when I have truly been listened to and given the wonderfully honest response of ‘I have no idea what it must be like to be you’ in lieu of an excuse or an attempt to fix my problems.
Working for human dignity in any capacity is a critical piece in working for the Kingdom of God. We have to hold one another accountable to actually doing this work, in the littlest and largest of ways. We have to continue to be aware of the ways doing nothing makes us complicit in the sufferings of others. We also have to remember to listen. We have to pay attention to and take seriously one another’s suffering. Because we are all part of the people of God. We are all disciples. #yesalldisciples