Montana Voices: Hearing, respecting women’s voices will bring true equality

Pastor John Lund

Women are not treated as equal to men in our country.  Men, if you are willing to listen, women will often have stories of sexism ready to share.  They will likely have many stories of when they have been discounted, disrespected or were even invisible to men.  They will have times when they have not been listened to, were talked over, and have had opinions ignored until the idea comes from a man.   They will have times when men treated them as helpless or incompetent and many accounts of unwanted advice.

In addition, they will have numerous stories of unwanted sexual attention, times of being physically threatened by men, as well as actual sexual misconduct and assault by men.  Women often have to watch their backs while in public and especially at night if they are alone. If they are out socially or in a bar, they have to be careful about who they give eye contact to and always be on the lookout for predators.  This is what I hear to be part of daily life from colleagues, family members and students who are women.

Last year the #MeToo movement exposed a lot of predatory behavior, and the culture that allowed it, by male celebrities, executives and politicians on both sides of the aisle.  Strides were made, and yet we have a long way to go.

This was most evident these past weeks with three women speaking their truth about sexual assaults by Judge Kavanaugh.   The right tried to make it about politics, just like Bill Clinton did when he was accused. However, this was mostly about gender.  How many women have to testify against one man before we believe them? If we had full equality, these women would have been respected, listened to and given a serious investigation. Instead, Kavanaugh was cast as the victim, the women have been be dismissed, vilified and mocked, and we rushed through a Supreme Court confirmation of a man who may have been a sexual predator.   

This is all reinforced when we have a president who continuously disrespects, objectifies and belittles women, with his mockery of Dr. Ford being the latest on a long list of sexist actions or remarks.  According to Business Insider, President Trump now has at least 22 women who have accused him of sexual misconduct or assault. This is an alarming number! Where is the call for investigation and accountability of these actions?  Are we really supposed to shrug our shoulders and say, “At least we got a tax cut?” The cost to our society of supporting this man with no rebuke is far greater than the benefits of any policy he will ever pass.

We are in a time when our basic humanity is at stake.  Do we really believe in our core value that all people are created equal, or is it just the men, especially straight and white?  For men, even good men, we all have to look deep within ourselves and at our actions to see how we might perpetuate sexism within our own lives.   This goes far beyond politics, as it crosses both parties and into all aspects of our lives. Women are tired of being ignored, threatened, and treated as second-class citizens.  We need male and female leaders and politicians from both parties who are bold enough to call out sexism when it happens and fight for the full dignity and equality of all people regardless of their gender (or race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or social class).  That is the dream and vision of America that will actually make us great!

Rev. John Lund is an ELCA pastor and director of Emmaus Campus Ministry in Missoula.  He can be reached at John.lund@mso.umt.edu.