“we let women lead…”

kathyescobar equality, injustice, women in ministry 63 Comments

blog we let women leadi had to squeeze this post in while it was fresh in my mind, and it just might be my shortest blog post ever, yeah!

on friday night at the voca femina denver share party (glorious!) i was talking to a wise and lovely friend who reminded me of something i also absolutely can’t stand when it comes to the conversation about women and church–when men (and women, too) say “well, we let women lead…”

“we let women…”

i’m sure many of you have heard–or said–some variation of this (i have said and heard both in all kinds of shapes & forms over the years): “we let women lead”,  “they let me lead”, “it’s so great that my church lets women lead.” “our church let a woman speak this weekend, isn’t that cool?” 

i completely get the victory that happens when women are somehow freed, and that always makes me happy.

but these statements also make me cringe.

like really cringe.

and unfortunately they are so common that we accept them as progress, as something good.

but when people say it like this, it is revealing to what is going on underneath–and the telling assumptions that exist.

it tells a story that we often want to minimize–a story where men hold all of the power to “allow or permit” women to do or not do certain things.

a story where patriarchal systems & structures & influences trump the fullness of God’s spirit-at-work-in-women’s-lives.

it’s a story that we’ve accepted as okay somehow.

and it’s not okay.

the story of God is a story of freedom. of dignity being restored instead of stripped. of being empowered instead of shamed.  of   equality instead of oppression. of breaking down barriers instead of building them.  of loosening chains instead of tightening them.  of creating the kingdom of heaven on earth  here, now instead of perpetuating historical injustices.

men do not give women freedom.

and when they do, with statements like “we let women lead”, it does not heal the deep grooves of patriarchy but actually magnifies them.

women, i know it’s so easy to get sucked into and i have so been there, but i really hope we can resist celebrating someone “letting us” do what we have already been empowered to do.

we’ve got to change this jacked up language. 

yeah, i hope we can keep remembering that men, women, and systems ultimately do not give women freedom.

God does.