Tag Archives: Feminism

the changing face of entrepreneurs.

2 Feb

I have passed this billboard more times than I can count in the past few months, traveling hither and yon across the southern U.S. And each time I do, I cringe inside. I cringe for the same reason that I cringed when, at a workshop on entrepreneurial ministry recently, it was quickly pointed out that in Unitarian Universalist ministry, we invest more innovation dollars and think of entrepreneurial ministers almost exclusively in terms of young, white, charismatic men (even with a sketchy return on investment). Why do we continue to perpetuate the myth that an entrepreneur is a young, white guy?

Some facts. In 2014, Harvard Business School reported that women are starting new businesses twice as fast as men. (1) In 2015, the Atlantic reported that “About 29 percent of America’s business owners are women, that’s up from 26 percent in 1997.”(2) Just two years later, in 2017, CNBC reported that women now make up 40 percent of new entrepreneurs in the United States – so the trend is growing, quickly. Out of the 25 promising young startups on CNBC’s 2017 UpStart List, 10 were organizations started by women in fields from from neuroscience to finance to retail. (3)

And lest you think this phenomena is the realm of white women – “The progress for minority women has been particularly swift, with business ownership skyrocketing by 265 percent since 1997…and minorities now make up one in three female-owned businesses, up from only one in six less than two decades ago.”(4)

As if this were not enough on its own, consider the Forbes report which shared that “women were more likely than men to introduce products and services that are new to customers and not generally offered by competitors (40 percent compared to 35 percent).” (5)

So really, if you want to advertise your business program, you would be better off with something like one of the advertisements below.






(1) https://hbr.org/2014/06/more-women-starting-businesses-isnt-necessarily-good-news
(2) https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/women-are-owning-more-and-more-small-businesses/390642/
(3) https://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/28/the-inaugural-cnbc-upstart-25-promising-young-start-ups.html
(4) https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/women-are-owning-more-and-more-small-businesses/390642/
(5) https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanprice/2017/11/15/as-entrepreneurship-thrives-women-are-starting-more-innovative-businesses-than-men/#644f56483da5

a letter to Democratic Party leadership.

19 Dec

Power to the People

This letter was written after I sat in the Kentucky Statehouse today (12/19/2016) with my teenage kiddo as the Electoral College voted. In that room, I heard the Governor say he didn’t understand why people were protesting. I heard the head of the GOP party in the state talk about how Republicans have a mandate in the state. I watched the old white men who were the Electors (one woman out of 8) sign away our future as my child asked me what happens now. When I reached my car, I broke down in tears, and then wrote this letter.

Dear Democratic Party Leadership,

What happened? Where did you disappear to?

When HRC was running, you seemed to be all over the place trying to defend her. But since the election, it is as if you have been sucked into a vast black hole.

We need you. Our children need you. The entire country needs you.

We need you to be on the TV news, on the radio, and in the papers, boldly asserting that THIS IS NOT OKAY. It is not okay that HRC won by nearly 3 million votes and Trump is proclaiming a mandate. His selections for cabinet positions are not okay. His business conflicts of interest are not okay. Bringing his children to State meetings is not okay. Not getting intelligence briefings is not okay. Being infiltrated by Russian propaganda is not okay!! Having election results stand, knowing the Russians tampered with the election IS NOT OKAY!

Others have written about this – about how, if the situation were reversed, the GOP leaders would be pitching a fit. They would be everywhere: they would be filing lawsuits, they would be gathering committees to examine WTF is going on, they would be giving press conference upon press conference stating and restating ad nauseam their horror, disgust, and how THIS WILL NOT STAND.

And yet from you, crickets.

I know you are shocked. I know you don’t understand what happened. And I don’t care. YOU MUST LEAD US.

For years now, you have been moving to the middle, thinking a centrist position would serve you best. And now you know how wrong that is. Now you know that we are well divided between left and right and the center is kinda lonely. So get out of there and come to where your people are!

I hear the cries for leadership amongst our people. We are afraid. Immigrants are afraid of being deported, whether they are here legally or not. Black people are afraid of not being able to vote, and of continued violence. Muslims are afraid of having to sign up for a registry. Same-sex couples are afraid to lose the rights they have gained in the last decade. Trans people are afraid they will be beaten or killed for going to the bathroom. Women are afraid of being treated as incubators for lives that are apparently more important than ours. The working poor are afraid they will never achieve a livable wage. College graduates are afraid that they will never be able to pay off their educational loans*. And across the board, we are afraid that our government has been usurped by the Russians**.

Progressives have a compelling message, if you would just claim it. Claim your voice, proudly. Claim your values. Stop being so wishy-washy-wait-and-see because there is an army of us who are behind you and who will put our bodies on the line for our cause.

And if you realize that maybe we are actually too bold for you, if you find yourself confused by how upset we are and how scared we are and HOW ANGRY we are, or if you don’t have the courage to speak up, then may, just maybe, you need to get out of the way so that others can step up.


Me, and probably a whole lot of other progressives desperate for leadership


* College enrollment has been steadily dropping since 2011.

** Russian popularity among Republicans has been skyrocketing, as shown in the tweet below.

the bruise that never heals.

21 Feb

a sermon, delivered at First Unitarian Church, Louisville, KY
on February 7, 2016


Derby City Roller Girls

Bruises are a part of roller derby. A celebrated part. So much so that it’s not uncommon for players to take pictures of their biggest, most colorful, most interestingly shaped bruises and post them online for the admiration of other players (really – look it up!). Bruises on your shins from where another player’s skate smashed into you. Wheel-shaped bruises on your thigh where you sat down on a pair of skates. Bruises on your hips and shoulders where you were hit or blocked by players on the opposing side. These are bruises that go deep into your tissue, and come out in amazing blues, purples, and blacks that eventually fade to greens, browns and yellows.

It is not uncommon to find bruises on top of bruises, especially on a skater’s hips or upper thighs, which get the most abuse in the game. A few of my teammates even had bruises that never went away – they would get worse and worse, becoming super-sensitive, where even just getting dressed hurt because the area had been mangled – not by one big hit, but by the constant barrage of small hits in the same place, over and over. What was strangest is that sometimes, these most sensitive bruises were invisible, lacking the loud color of bruises that would heal – as if the skin itself has resigned itself to injury.

For one of my teammates, this invisible bruise that never went away eventually hardened into a lump. She ignored it for a while, thinking it was just forming a protective barrier that would eventually heal, but when it didn’t go away even after she stopped playing, she got it checked out. It turned out to be cancer. A cancer caused by repeated minor trauma.

When I first heard about the experience of microaggressions, I immediately related them to bruises in roller derby. Derald Wing Sue, who has studied microaggressions for a decade, defines them as:

“the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

A person from any marginalized group can be the target of microaggression from someone from a dominant perspective: people of color experience them from white people, women experience them from men, people who are transgender experience them from cisgender people, people who are differently abled experience them from the able-bodied. You can experience them based on your sexual orientation, your religion, your social class, and more. What is common to all microaggressions is that they contain a hidden message that is experienced as invalidating, dehumanizing, and demeaning.

Some examples:

  • When a white woman clutches her purse as a Black or Latino man approaches or passes her, the hidden message being sent is that the Black or Latino man, and others like him, are criminals.
  • When an Asian American, born and raised in the United States, is complimented for speaking “good English”, the hidden message is: You are not a true American. You are a perpetual foreigner in your own country.
  • When a female physician wearing a stethoscope is mistaken as a nurse, the hidden message is that women should occupy nurturing and not decision-making roles, or that women are less capable than men.
  • When a person uses the term “gay” to describe something they didn’t like, the hidden message is that being gay is associated with negative and undesirable characteristics.
  • Or when the outfit worn by a TV reality-show mom is described as “classless and trashy” the hidden message is that lower-class people are tasteless and unsophisticated.

These are all examples of microaggressions. And there are many, many more. What they have in common is that they say to someone “You do not belong.” And because these are small, everyday things, the effect of their hidden messages is one that builds up over time. Someone who regularly experiences microaggressions becomes more and more aware of them. The bruise gets bigger and bigger, and more sensitive, until even the slightest touch is experienced as excrutiatingly painful. Sue points out that “These everyday occurrences may on the surface appear quite harmless, trivial, or be described as ‘small slights,’ but research indicates they have a powerful impact upon the psychological well-being of marginalized groups and affect their standard of living by creating inequities in health care, education, and employment.”

Now, I suspect that we would all like to believe that we are too enlightened to engage in this type of harmful behavior. But we do, often without realizing it. Sue shares that it is those of us who are well-intentioned who actually engage in the most harmful of microaggressions. Because of course, those who are not well-intentioned are often fin being experienced as racist, or misogynistic, or homophobic.

When experiencing a microaggression from someone who is well intentioned, the target person is placed into what Sue calls a “’damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ situation. That is, if the person does nothing, [they] may suffer from a sense of low self-esteem, a feeling of not being true to the self, and a loss of self-integrity. Yet, to confront the perpetrator or to raise the issue may result in negative consequences.” Negative consequences like further microaggressions.

Because what often happens when a person confronts the perpetrator of a microaggression is that the perpetrator tries to explain it away, or encourage the target person to “let go” or “get over it.” This results in further microaggressions by giving the message that the target person is off base in their experience, and by indicating that the perpetrator’s intent is more important than the impact it had on the target person.

One can see how this builds up over time. Say I experience a microaggression from someone I care about or work with, I may not say anything. And then it happens again, and maybe again, sometimes from this same person, and maybe sometimes from others as well. And then, because it is weighing on me, finally, I do decide to share my experience. How will I feel if I take this risk, only to be told that it is nothing? Most likely I will feel even worse, more invisible and invalidated.

Personally, I experienced this as a woman in technology prior to entering the ministry. But in truth I got it even worse from other Unitarian Universalists when I had won a sermon award and was constantly introduced as the “young minister” even though I was rapidly approaching 40. Yes, I knew that perhaps I was young compared to the vast majority of people in the room, but if that is what I experienced at nearly 40, what do people who are just out seminary at the age of 25 experience, and how often do we dismiss or overlook “young” ministers? Because that is what it felt like – a dismissal. I got to the point that I would constantly be sharing my age with people to try to prove I wasn’t as young as they thought so that I wouldn’t be so easily dismissed. And they would often laugh it off. It was extremely frustrating.

Of course, this type of microaggression did not carry the threat of danger. It was belittling, and it hurt, but it wasn’t scary. This is not the case for many other people who experience these everyday slights, snubs, and insults.

So how did we, as people who want to respect one another in word and in deed, get to the point where it is our good intentions that have inadvertently allowed us to engage in behaviors that “oppress and engage in prejudicial actions that harm others?” Sue says that “The answer seems to reside in a dominant culture that values ways of being, thinking, and acting that reflects the reality of a primarily Eurocentric, masculine, and heterosexual worldview that is imposed upon racial, ethnic, gender and sexual minorities.” And because we are a part of our culture, not separate from it, we have picked up on these same traits. Sue points out that whether intentional or not, “oppressors…[feel that they] do not need to understand the thoughts, beliefs, or feelings of various marginalized groups to survive…therefore it is not surprising to find that those who are most empowered are least likely to have an accurate perception of reality.” Indeed, he says, it is this obliviousness that “allows people to misperceive themselves as superior and other groups as inferior; it allows oppressors to live in a false reality.” A reality that we seldom interrogate as rigorously as we should.

It is clear from the the data that our good intentions often contribute to the experience of microaggressions for those who are in a minority. And the effects are far reaching. Sue has found that the “cumulative nature and continued day-in and day-out experience [of being the target of microaggressions] have been found to…contribute to a hostile and invalidating campus and work climate, devalue social group identities, lower work productivity and educational learning, perpetuate stereotype threat, create physical health problems, and assail mental health by creating emotional turmoil, low self-esteem, and psychological energy depletion.” Those who experience microaggressions suffer biologically, emotionally, cognitively and behaviorally.

This is where the metaphor of derby bruises and microaggressions breaks down, however. Unlike in derby, where the wheel or the floor suffer no damage when causing a bruise, it is not only the targets of microagression who are hurt in the process. The perpetrators are hurt as well. Sue explains that:

“None of us…would consciously and willingly consent to [perpetrating] such heinous actions. In order to assure the continuance of the oppressor-oppressed relationship, and to keep such injustices hidden…it is desirable to perpetuate a ‘culture of silence’ among oppressed groups as well as perpetrators. When the oppressed are not allowed to express their thoughts and outrage, when their concerns are minimized, and when they are punished for expressing ideas at odds with the dominant group, their voices are effectively silenced. [And] This allows perpetrators to hold on to a belief that they are good, moral, and decent human beings.”

Wherever we intersect with the dominant culture, whether it is because we are white, or male, or cisgender, or heterosexual, etc., we silence the oppressed that are not part of that dominant culture, and this allows us to maintain the illusion that we are good, moral, decent, and even superior whether we consciously believe it to be so or not. And there are costs to us when we perpetrate this type of oppression: cognitive costs, emotional costs, behavioral costs and spiritual costs.

The cognitive costs are demonstrated in the form of cognitive distortion and a false sense of reality. When we become aware of our biases, we often experience “debilitating emotional turmoil” and so we begin to deny our behaviors or rationalize them away. We try to “engage in denial and live a false reality that allows [us] to function in good conscious.”

Emotionally, Sue points out that “the harm, damage, and acts of cruelty visited upon marginalized groups can only continue if the person’s humanity is diminished.” This means that “oppressors lose sensitivity to those that are hurt; they become hard, cold and unfeeling to the plight of the oppressed; and they turn off their compassion and empathy for others. To continue being oblivious to one’s own complicity in such acts means objectifying and dehumanizing [marginalized] people.”

As perpetrators, we may also experience guilt – guilt for being in a dominant group and the realization that we are partially responsible for the pain of others. This guilt can cause us to be defensive, and we may try to deny or diminish the experiences of marginalized people when they share their experiences with us, so that we might avoid further awareness and guilt.

As we begin to feel fear and guilt, we may choose to avoid marginalized people or people who are different from us. We don’t want to continue to cause harm and so we choose to stay away. These are the behavioral costs. We may not go somewhere for fear of what we might do or say that harms others, intentionally or inadvertently. When we avoid such situations, growth becomes difficult to impossible, and as Sue indicates, it “deprives oppressors the richness of possible friendships and an expansion of educational experiences that open up life horizons and possibilities.”

Finally, there are spiritual costs as well. When we oppress, whether intentionally or not, we lose our own humanity for the sake of power, wealth and status. This causes us to lose our spiritual connection with others as we try to dehumanize them. Sue writes that “To allow the continued degradation, harm, and cruelty to the oppressed means diminishing one’s humanity, and lessening compassion toward others. People who oppress must, at some level, become callous, cold, hard, and unfeeling toward the plight of the oppressed.”

I know this is not how I want to live, and I would wager that you don’t either. So what can we do about it? How can we change, and become part of the solution instead of part of the problem? Sue13 indicates that there are seven things that we can work towards that will help create conditions that make change possible. He says that each of these are required – none of them are sufficient on their own:

First, and foremost we must have regular, prolonged “contact with people who differ from us in race, culture, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation.” We can seek out friendships with those who are different. This doesn’t mean choosing someone as a friend just because they are different, but finding someone with whom we can bond, one of whose characteristics is that they are different in some key way.

Second, we can work together “a cooperative rather than a competitive environment” understanding that when we combine our resources rather than compete for them, there is plenty for everyone.

Third, we can “share mutual goals as opposed to individual ones.” This is a shift in thinking from what I need to what WE need.

Fourth, it is important that learn “accurate information rather than stereotypes or misinformation” – this means questioning, interrogating, things that are presented as true even though they aren’t. For instance, the majority of people who receive food stamps are white, but if you watch the media you will often see a black person pictured when there is a story on the subject. We need to confront such stereotypes and misinformation in search for accurate information.

Fifth, we can work towards “sharing an equal status relationship with other groups instead of an unequal or imbalanced one.” Marginalized people are just that – shoved to the margins, where there is not much strength or power. I am reminded of a school that showcases boys sports, even though the girls teams are winning championships. The microaggressions that the girls experience when constantly seeing the boys teams on the front page of the paper or website can be addressed when leadership understands how this perpetuates inequality and they can work forwards a more equal, balanced status.

Which leads to the sixth characteristic for promoting change, we can choose leadership that is supportive of group harmony and group welfare. At the ballot box, but also in other areas of our lives, we can demand and support leadership that understands these mechanisms of power.

And finally, we can work on feeling a sense of unity, a sense of interconnectedness with all humanity. Even, especially, with those who might seem so different from us.

For more information on what these all look like, I recommend reading Sue’s book “Microaggressions in Everyday Life” or one of the many internet articles he has authored.

In roller derby, the bruise that builds up over time can become cancerous, eating away at the victim and causing them harm. Microagressions are like these derby bruises, building up, causing a person harm, impacting their physical, emotional and spiritual health over time. But unlike in derby, the perpetrators of microagressions also suffer harm, cognitively, behaviorally, emotionally and spiritually.

If we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of each person, and

If we believe in the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

Then we must put in the effort to face our own failings. It means learning about how we may cause harm to people, even unintentionally, and then working to make it right. It means using techniques such as “oops” and “ouch” when we have erred. It means recognizing that the impact of our words on others matters more than our intent. It means listening to the stories of others with humility and an open mind and heart. This requires constant effort, and does not come easy. And with so much other work of this nature, we will break each others hearts and fail over and over again. But, if we let it, this is what will allow us to grow. May we choose to face the difficult truth that we are each sometimes unwitting perpetrators that cause pain to another, and may humility, love, and understanding allow us to be a part of the healing process whenever possible. Blessed be.

FYI, My teammate with cancer has since recovered.

Footnotes removed, but quotes are from the following sources:

Sue, Derald Wing. Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics, and Impact. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2010.

Sue, Derald Wing. Microaggressions: More than Just Race, Psychology Today, November 17, 2010.

Sue, Derald Wing. Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2010.

a feminist take on Easter.

5 Apr


We probably all have at least one childhood memory where something happened that just didn’t fit with the world as we knew it. One such time for me was when I was in Sunday School, probably about 11 or 12 years old, and we were going around the table sharing how we wanted to serve God when we grew up. The boys pretty much all said they wanted to be pastors. The girls talked about teaching Sunday School. I was last, but I knew exactly what I was going to say. “I want to be a pastor!” I boldly declared. The Sunday School teacher, a woman with long brown hair, patted me gently on the shoulder and, with a sad smile, said “Honey, God doesn’t call women to be pastors. You can teach Sunday School, though.” And then we went on with whatever was left of the lesson. I don’t remember the topic at all – I do remember thinking that what she had told me made no sense whatsoever. My parents were telling me I could do or be anything I wanted. Free to be You and Me, right? Why would God put such a desire in my heart and then not allow me to fulfill it? It made no sense. (I must confess, when I am visiting my home town, I often have an urge to show show up at this church and say “Ha! Proved YOU wrong, didn’t I?”)

This congregation is not an outlier. There is a whole strain of Christianity in which women are told to be submissive to their husbands, who are to be the head of the household. Entire books from women, even, about how submitting to their husband provides them with more freedom than they would have otherwise, trying to explain how such submission does not make them less worthy than their husbands.

There are two primary places in the Bible that defenders of this belief system go to when trying to establish their authority: Genesis, and the writings of the apostle Paul. Holding all snark and commentary aside for a moment, here are some of their reasons:
Looking at Genesis, they say that man was created first, so therefore he is more important. Or they say that since Eve is the only creature not made from dust, but from Adam’s rib, this makes her inferior. They say that Adam has dominion over the creation that he named, and he named Eve so therefore has dominion over her as well. Or they point out that God never tells Eve not to eat from the forbidden tree – he tells Adam, so therefore Eve is not worthy of being spoken to by God. And it goes on, and on.

For a book written 3000 to 5000 years ago, Genesis has a large amount of influence on how our society models itself today. (Here in Kentucky, we only have to look at the popularity of the Creation Museum to know that!) It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that women actually do have the same number of ribs as men – I had learned in Sunday School that we have one less, which, when you think about it, makes NO sense at all since it would have been Adam who had one fewer ribs. Someone might have a completely different interpretation on some of these verse, but that is besides the point for these folks, who believe their interpretation is the only possible correct one.

The writings attributed to the apostle Paul are slight more contemporary, having been written close to the turn of the eras. In these letters, or epistles, Paul is writing to the new, struggling churches throughout the ancient kingdom to provide them with support, to give them direction, and to make corrections in how they are doing or interpreting things. It is from these letters that we get such gems as “For indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.” (1 Corinthians 11:9)

Or “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet, for it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” (1 Timothy 2:12-13 – not technically written by Paul but written in his name and style)

Or “As in all the churches of the holy one, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate even as the law says. If they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:33-35) Who knows what women are to do if they want to learn something and they are single or married to another woman!

Those who cherry pick such verses have a tendency of taking them totally out of context, and dismiss the places where Paul refers to women who were obviously holding leadership positions, such as Phoebe, Prisca, Mary and Junia. And cherry pickers often neglect to understand that Paul’s views reflect those of his time, and that if he were writing today it would probably be very different. In ancient Greece, women had very few rights. They were supposed to be submissive. In the Rome of Jesus’s time, women could be citizens but could not vote or hold office.

“Okay,” you might be saying, “I hear you, but we don’t believe all this. So what does it have to do with us?”

As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that people of all genders are equal, but even today, in the society in which we live, women are consistently and constantly not considered as worthy or as worthwhile as men. One does not have to look very far to find continuing evidence of the bias:

  • Women continue to earn only $0.78 on the dollar that men earn – even less than that for women of color.
  • Women are earning the majority of undergraduate and graduate degrees, while at the same time, women make up the majority of the poor in America.
  • There are 15 states that never ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, which means women technically don’t have equal rights under our Constitution.
  • Women fill more than half of the jobs in the U.S. economy but constitute fewer than 12% of working physicists and engineers, and that number is actually dropping as women are tired of the bias and prejudice they bump up against in these careers, such as the recent GamerGate controversy.

Of course it is not just science and technology in which women suffer from bias. South Carolina State Senator Katrina Shealy is the only woman in the 46-member chamber. When one of her colleagues made a crack (at a domestic violence event!) about how women should be “at home baking cookies” or “barefoot and pregnant,” not serving in the state legislature, she asked him where he “got off” in making making such remarks. “Well, you know God created man first,” her colleague replied. “Then he took the rib out of man to make woman. And you know, a rib is a lesser cut of meat.”

We may dismiss this state senator as one of the “bad eggs”*, but there are a lot of “bad eggs” out there that perpetuate the idea that women are “less than.” One only need search for “Women’s Rights Quotes Politicians” for an overwhelming example of men in power who share this worldview.

Though their quotes are more public than that of the average Joe, these men are products of their society. A society where men and boys are more likely to be called upon in a classroom. A society where men get more space in print and online journalism. A society where men are retweeted more than women on Twitter.

Then there is the interruption phenomenon. Women get interrupted more than men, and when men interrupt women, it is often to assert power. Sometimes, in the course of regular conversation, we interrupt the person we are talking with in order to be encouraging about what they’re saying. But a 1998 study showed men interrupt women frequently to assert dominance, and it happens even more often in mixed groups.**

We saw this recently on a panel discussion at the South by Southwest festival, where Google chairman Eric Schmidt continuously interrupted his former colleague, Megan Smith, who is now U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Toward the session’s end, an audience member’s question pointed to Schmidt’s tendency to interrupt and talk over Smith – and the question came from Google’s own Judith Williams, head of their Unconscious Bias program. She did her job that day, didn’t she?

Phenomena like this have given rise to the concept of “mansplaining”, wherein a man explains something to a woman, condescendingly and patronizingly, without regard to the possibility that the she might actually know more than the he does about the subject. Mansplaining exists because it is consistently reinforced to us that men’s words are more important than women’s. Going back to the story of Senator Shealy, she reports that her colleague seems to think that this is an ongoing joke between them. He has tried to mansplain away her feelings, saying that “We are just joking around”, despite the fact that she has repeatedly asked him to stop such derogatory comments.

Our society has internalized the inferiority of women based on a narrow interpretation of the Bible. But just as the Bible can be used to justify this mistreatment of women, so can we find ways to use the biblical stories to counter such mistreatment – and we can do it without cherry-picking individual verses that suit our perspective.

As we heard in the Moment for All ages, women in general, and Mary Magdalen in particular, had a powerful role to play in the Easter story. It is in this story, and in following the actions and words of Jesus, that we can find a counter to the verses used to justify the oppression of women.

All four of the gospels mention that Mary was present at the death of Jesus. She had been close to him in life – indeed was one of his disciples – and she remained faithful to him in death, staying by him. The gospel account in Matthew even goes so far as to say that the male disciples deserted Jesus and fled in fear for their lives. But Mary and the the women remained, standing as near as they dared, to the spot where the soldiers were carrying out the brutal execution.

When Jesus’s body was taken down from the cross, it was getting late on Friday. The Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday at sundown, and there are strict rules against touching a dead body on the sabbath. Mary witnessed that Jesus’s body was sealed inside the tomb, and she and the other women left to gather and prepar the spices they would need for a proper burial after the Sabbath.

Once the Sabbath was over, on Sunday morning, Mary went to the tomb and found that Jesus’ body was no longer there. She was the first to witness the empty tomb. Gazing upon it, Mary had a vision where an angel came to her and she understood that Jesus was no longer dead. When she went to tell the others apostles, the story says she saw and heard Jesus himself – she became the first person to witness his resurrection! I sincerely doubt Jesus would have appeared to someone whom he considered inferior. It is with good reason that teachers in the early Christian church called Mary ‘Apostle to the Apostles’, because in Greek “apostellein” means to “go and tell”, which is what Jesus told her to do. Mary has been one of the most revered figures in Christian history.

And yet. And yet in in his letter to the Corinthians where he recounts Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul does not include Mary or any of the other women at the tomb among the witnesses to the Resurrection. According to Paul’s story, Jesus appeared to Cephas, and then to the twelve male disciples, then to 500 people, then to James, then to all the apostles. Mary Magdalen is not mentioned at all. Paul was writing to Greeks in Corinth, and sadly his letter reflects the culture of the Greeks, who viewed the testimony of women as unreliable. Perhaps we could consider Paul an early mansplainer!

Feminist JesusAs opposed to Paul, and many of those over time who have continued to use his words to justify the subjugation of women, I think Jesus would be wearing a “This is what a feminist looks like!” t-shirt, because the way that he treated women, in his life, death, and through the story of his resurrection, was revolutionary. Jesus, unlike the men of his generation and culture, taught that women were equal to men in the sight of God. Women could receive God’s forgiveness and grace. Women could be full participants in the kingdom of God. He also had women among his personal followers and closest confidants – Jesus offered full discipleship to women. These were revolutionary ideas at the time – many of his contemporaries, including his disciples, were shocked.

One can cherry pick verses from the Bible to justify just about any form of oppression – from slavery, to the subjugation of women, to oppression based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But the message to those who would follow Jesus is clear: women are not at all inferior to men, and, indeed, can be trusted to carry the most important news out into the world. What better counterpoint is there to those who would preach the submission of women than to ask: What would Jesus do? The Easter story makes it quite clear.

* Yes, bad Easter pun. Sorry, couldn’t resist!

** Two men shared with me separately after the service that they considered “humorously” interrupting me at this point, ala Kanye West. I am grateful they didn’t, but it would have just proven my point quite effectively, wouldn’t it have?

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