I’m angry today, and I think Jesus is angry too. I spent the last two days with Jeanne.* Jeanne is 17 years old, and back in March, she was raped. But her rapist wasn’t the first man to victimize her. Jeanne’s father abandoned her mother and his four children long ago. The reality is that generations of men who have gone before her have harmed the women in her life. Her rapist was one of many.
Jeanne is now pregnant. And the violence imposed by the men in her life continues without skipping a beat. The man who married her mother (in full knowledge of her four children) doesn’t want an unwed pregnant child in his house. And apparently the other men in his community don’t feel it’s their place to challenge him on that. She’s forced to live an hour bus ride away from her mother with her auntie, whose husband begrudgingly will accept her. But he refuses to let her go to school after the baby is born.
I wish these men were an exception. I wish it were true that the world is full of strong, compassionate, caring, gentle men. But alas, it seems that those of us who grew up with caring fathers and come home to loving husbands should thank our lucky stars.
The irony of driving an 8 month pregnant teenager around on December 15 and begging people to take her in is not lost on me. Two thousand years later, women are still treated as trash. The burdens on this young girl are ignored. The men in her life are happy to cast the burdens onto her. She is expected to carry this child, birth it, and care for it alone (and God forbid she raise her voice in complaint!).
And lest we think that poor treatment of women is only found in the developing world, let’s look at our American homes and communities. According to a 2001 study, the leading cause of death among pregnant women in America was homicide by the baby’s father. Rape culture permeates marketing, media, music, and books. Our churches preach that women should submit to men and that men need to be respected. Sexual violence is ignored and covered-up. We teach modest dress as the solution to rape. My son watches The Little Mermaid and learns to sing about how women talk too much and are much more attractive when they are silent. And on and on and on.
Jeanne is having a baby girl. What can we expect for her life given all of these men she’s surrounded by? More victimization? O Church Arise. We must speak against the cowardice that treats women as property at best and as an inconvenience at worst. Where are all the good men? I know they exist. Why are the women who care for her (myself included) not surrounded by men doing the same? Why are we women cleaning up messes made by men, hiding in shame, and fearing the next mess? Where are the NGOs and churches that teach men that women are human beings desiring of love and respect? Jeanne’s daughter needs the cycle broken. There are countless women advocating for Jeanne and her daughter. Where are the men?
*Jeanne is a pseudonym