Life, Musings, Relationships, women

When Guys Don’t Notice You

There is a certain genre of writing/approach within the American Christian world that is semi-obsessed with marriage/relationships/purity/etc. Blogs abound and advice poureth over toward single folks, particularly single women, concerning how to remedy their unfortunate, single state. Most often, the content comes from blissfully married (finally un-single?) men and women. I do believe those who write these blogs and books are often well-intentioned and want others to experience what, for them, is a cherished gift (as it should be). However, the common threads found through much of their exhortation include thinly-veiled shame, a blind resignation to the mysterious will of God, and an often not-so-subtle patriarchy-infused logic.
An article of the same name as this one has recently been circulating that does much of this same work. It stirred up so much in me reading it, and many others, I discovered. I quickly realized it was not, in fact, satire as I saw my dear sisters be hurt, yet again. They were subjected to an argument that goes something like this: dress nicer and guys will notice you. While this article, like many others, have the obligatory, yet passing, references to things like “inner beauty” and being the “real you,” the core message rings clear in the minds of so many readers: I am not enough and my “enough-ness” is connected to whether or not a guy notices me and /acknowledges my beauty.
My dear female friends: you do not need men to notice you or tell you that you are beautiful, nor do we get to define what that even means.
There is so much to go into here, but I want to address the other side. Many have commented that such articles rarely address men. The burden is placed on women to doll-up so that guys’ hearts will start to beat faster and get all hot and bothered. This is not ok.
But, there is a strange truth in all this. Women, us men don’t notice you. And, my dear sisters, it is not because you need a teen movie-style make over or more rouge: it has way more to do with us. I dare not point a finger at you for what is, at a basic level, a problem that we have at noticing what is good and wonderful.
We don’t notice you because we are often caught up in our own worlds of fear, brokenness, anxiety, competition, and loneliness. Though we won’t admit it, or don’t know how to.
We have been breathing the air of a male-dominated society for so long, that we can’t name it. We have been conditioned not to notice you unless you offer something to us: pleasure, advancement, codependence, money, status, or power.
We have been conditioned by the “male gaze” to commodify you before we even meet you. We have fallen victim to similar lies that tell us we are not men unless we conquer you sexually, which manifests both in rape culture and in purity culture. We have come to believe that your bodies are ours to uncover as “earned” or to demand to be covered for “modesty” so we don’t “stumble”. In both cases, you are subjected to bear the weight of our own rampant sexuality and lack of self-control.
We are deeply insecure about our worth. We are afraid of failing because so much around us has told us we are not made for failure, but rather for greatness. We are threatened by your aptitude, your successes, and your accomplishments. We are so threatened because we think that these very things (success, accomplishments) are what make us and our lack of them unmake us. So we often don’t notice you, because to do so would mean to come face to face with our own lack, our own fears, our own issues.
This goes far beyond romantic interest. This is a core Sin at work from the beginning that takes the gift of blessed partnership, mutual submission, and community and twists into blaming, shaming, and disconnection.
According to the origin stories of the Hebrew Scriptures, the First Man in the Garden of Eden could look at the newly crafted Woman and burst into song and poetry, naming his deep kinship to her (bone of my bones) and calling her his mighty Helper (ezer: a term used of God, who helps the helpless!). Today, rather than looking to this an an example and original intention for our relatedness, we choose to live under what follows. After the entrance of sin, the response is one of shame and hiding, blaming women for our misdeeds and even blaming God for putting us together in the first place. God have mercy.We do not notice you because we are still hiding, attempting awkwardly to cover our shame.
We don’t notice how amazing you are, and it is a deep tragedy, because we are missing out on the very work of God around us. We are missing out on the ways in which we can learn to depend upon one another by being vulnerable, by celebrating all that God is doing in you, by admitting that, in fact, we need help (and Helpers) in all areas of our lives, not simply in a wife. And this is, again, to say that women need our “noticing”. Many of you are quite happy, thank you very much, in not being married or paired up. You have thriving careers, passions, and relationships. And the problem of not being noticed is, yet again, a loss for us men…a failure to see the work of God in you and your key part in it because of our own issues or our limited framework.
So, to my male friends, I invite you to hear the words and heed the example of your amazing, fierce, and powerful sisters. So many of them are killin’ it as they work way harder than any of us have had to because, well, they have to in order to get ahead. Celebrate the hell out of them. NOTICE them for who they are, not who you think they should be, because who they are is way better than you could imagine.
And to my female friends, know this: I am for you and I need your help. And I will never let other men get away with telling you how you need to be in order to be “noticed”.
Standard
church, Discipleship, Musings, Relationships, theology, women

I Give Thanks for the Presence, Example, Leadership, and Gift of Women

This is a post I’ve been thinking of writing for a LONG time. I’ve waited, and waited, and waited. Not because really because of fear, though I have felt it. Not because I wanted to stay on the sidelines, though at times I did. Not because I wasn’t sure, though I have long wrestled. I waited, because I honestly haven’t even known where to begin.

But, to not begin; to not speak, I now realize is one of these things I confess each evening in my prayers: “I have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done and what I have left undone.”

Without equivocation or qualification, I give thanks to God for the presence, example, and gift of women pastors, ministers, elders, professors, mentors, leaders, and teachers. Not just for those in my own life, but for those throughout time. We are better because of you. I would not be more whole and healed in my life without you. In short: we need you.

While this post may feel like a bit of a hot-take toward certain articles and posts that have been circulating recently, that is not really my desire. And, I do not desire to rehash tired arguments. I will leave that to others. I will simply say that I believe that the full-inclusion of women in places of leadership, authority, and gifting in the church and the world (and fruitful partnerships of mutuality between men and women) is the more faithful response to the full story of our Faith and a more beautiful witness to the world of God’s kingdom.

I was recently in a meeting with a group of women who are working to serve and love some of the most marginalized and vulnerable in our region. I had a moment as I was sitting at the table where I just realized how blessed I was to be in their midst. These are some of the most passionate, smart, strategic, gifted, and hard-working women (and people!) I have met. I felt overwhelmed by the fact that I got to work with them; that I had a seat at their table. That I was being led by them. This feeling of blessing was then commingled with sadness for others who are missing out on this opportunity for reasons of belief or institution or otherwise.

But rather than parse out the reasons for my support and belief (which again, others have done very well) I wanted to take the space to honor and thank some of those women who have had such a profound impact on me. They have led me and modeled for me what it looks like to be fully human and a lover of what is good in the world. Note: ***I will inevitably leave far too many out, and I commit to taking more time to share consistently how women continue to challenge and bless me. Forgive me and grant me grace, especially if you are left out. But this is a start. I’m beginning…

My mom helped to instill a vibrant and intellectually honest and curious faith in me from a young age. She took note of my needs while in middle school to homeschool me for a couple years to help affirm my thirst for learning and affirm the mind God had given me. She modeled faithful service and imaginative ways of using her gifts and talents in a variety of jobs and places of service in the church and community. She created space for my questions, she entertained my wonderings, she endured (endures?) the harsher edges of my idealism and fundamentalism with grace and love.

I think of my seminary professors who have profoundly impacted me. Dr. Rebecca Hancock, my Hebrew Bible professor who opened up the beauty and significance of these texts in a way that still challenges me, and who led discussions around the Psalms which have shaped my own prayer life. I think of Rev. Amy Richter, whose deep love for Scripture and pastoral heart gave me a renewed imagination for my own vocation. I still remember hearing her preach and seeing her interact with every single one of her parishioners after the service. I saw, in a fresh way, how robust preaching and faithful shepherding can go hand-in-hand.

I think of Dr. Tracy Radosovic who helped me rediscover the Gospels as stories to be told, not simply texts to be studied. Her fervor for seeing the proclamation of these texts as fully embodied, dramatic moments has influenced my own preaching to this day. And, of course, Dr. Pat Foasarelli, the “Double Doctor” as I call her, as she hold both an M.D. as a pediatrician but also a D. Min. as a professor, Associate Dean, and trainer of seminarians (yes, all-male Catholic ones, too!). Her depth of experience in pastoral ministry in her parish, her stories of working children living with HIV and AIDS, and her way of pushing us into deeper questions about practical ministry, continue to serve as a fuel for my journey. Her matter-of-fact personality and her sensitivity to the work of God in others as a spiritual director is a gift to so many.

I also think of my own spiritual director, Jackie, who helped guide me as a sort of surrogate grandmother, helping me make sense of the rublmings in my heart around vocation and life direction. The times with her, sipping coffee at her kitchen table and listening the Spirit together will continue to shape my life for years to come.

And there are the countless women pastors and ministers who have taught me (personally or from afar) in one way or another about God, ministry, preaching, and self-care (And I will inevitably leave someone out!). Sandy Boone, Toni Draper, Cathy Oatman, Christine Parker, Michelle Rader, Christa Burns, Mandy Smith, Barbara Brown Taylor, Fleming Rutledge…gosh I could go on.

And, of course, in my work now with HopeSprings, I have learned and grown so much under the leadership and direction of Erin Donovan. I am grateful for her philosophy of leadership, her passion and compassion for those we serve, and her faithfulness through challenging times.

(I have chosen not to include my wife here, because 1) that deserves its own post and 2) she is not fond of public attention from me like this! But, at the risk of violating my reasons, Kara, you are a gift, a means of God’s grace, and a wonderful life partner to me! And to my sister, Amelia…I will save my words for the endorsement or foreword on your first memoir or book, should I have the honor of being asked to write them! ;-))

So, at the risk of a reductionistic and overused phrase, I say again: thank you. And for all those women not named here who are wonderful friends and sisters: we need more than just your competence. Your competence is a given. Your qualifications are evident. We need your presence and your example. And I commit to doing all I can to honor you and open any spaces I can for you to continue to bless and teach us all. Not because you need my help, but because we need your voice.

Standard