Earlier this month Australian start-up company Nomadic Thinkers announced they were building a new co-working space that would be male-only. Their motivation is to address depression and male violence against women by creating a workspace where women are banned as a preventative solution for this.
They have a comprehensive white paper which misuses research to back up why their approach is going to work and they quote 'the classical author' John Eldredge. He of the 'every man has a beauty to rescue, a battle to fight and an adventure to live' fame. They use archetypes of masculinity to explain a 'true man…is strength in action with character, which is determined in guiding his action outwards towards his family, community and nation.' They don’t explain what a true woman should look like.
Today is November 25th. The international day for the elimination of violence against women. Across the world there will be campaigns launched, marches done, politicians speaking about the issues and awareness raised.
Every Christian I know would tell you male violence against women is wrong. Every Christian leader I can think of would assure you that it is abhorrent and should end. Yet, how many Christians are up in arms about divorce rates, with no acknowledgement of how divorce may be liberation for women with abusive husbands? In fact, the introduction of divorce laws in the US led to a 20% decrease in female suicide. How many Christian leaders preach forgiveness with no mention of how forgiveness is not the same as accepting abusive behaviour. How many youth groups fervently advocate abstinence whilst being deafeningly silent on the need for consent in sexual activity? And how many Christians, both individually and corporately blame the feminization of the church for a lack of Christian men?
Just as Nomadic Thinkers have wrongly concluded that a workplace devoid of women will make men less depressed and less violent to women, so the church assumes that by appealing to traditional forms of masculinity we will get more men in church.
The reason men are alienated from church is not because church is girly.
It is because the rules of manhood insist that men must not be weak. Little boys learn early that crying is for girls. The violence towards gay men and men who do not conform to those rules reinforces that it is safer to reject weakness. There are less men in church because the Gospel insists that admitting weakness is the only way to receive the life Jesus offers and that is deeply offensive to masculinity.
The reason men are violent towards women is not because they don’t have any male only space.
Men are violent because they are socialised into believing they own women and are entitled to do what they want to them. Highly masculine environments do not reduce male violence. In fact, football matches are a trigger point in which some male attendees whose team loses throw tantrums by abusing their wives. Because to abusive men, women (and children) are possessions to own, control and dominate. Male only spaces breed beliefs of entitlement that are at the root of why abuse happens. Ironically Nomadic Thinkers’ intention to be part of the solution actually makes them part of the problem.
Oh how I would love to hold the church up as a shining example of how Christians are better than Australian start-up companies. But I can’t. For many of us, the abuse that women are subjected to is seen as a women’s issue, talked about in women’s events. However, women are abused by men. This is a men’s issue.
The almost ubiquitous reality for Christian women with abusive husbands is overwhelming guilt at failing God. Forgiveness and submission are used as weapons to control. She is not able to talk to her church because she is unsure of whether they will support her, blame her, care for her or insist she must work harder at her marriage. Church, we need to do better.
We must repent of our complicity, become informed about the reality and choose to be part of the solution. The actual solution, not the one we invent in our ignorance.
- Why Does He Do That? By Lundy Bancroft
- Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine
- The Masculinity Conspiracy by Joseph Gelfer
- Invite Natalie to deliver a training event in your church or organisation: www.sparkequip.org
- Book onto this Gender Reconciliation Workshop: http://www.sparkequip.org/gender-reconciliation-training
- Access excellent youth based resource via DAY Programme training: http://www.dayprogramme.org/trainingdates.htm
Natalie Collins is a Gender Justice Specialist. She set up Spark (www.sparkequip.org) and works to enable individuals and organisations to prevent and respond to male violence against women. She is also the Creator and Director of DAY (www.dayprogramme.org), an innovative youth domestic abuse and exploitation education programme and organises Project 3:28 (www.project329.info). She speaks and writes on understanding and ending gender injustice nationally and internationally. You can connect with her at www.nataliecollins.infoor on twitter: @God_loves_women.