These days, I’m astonished at the level of “get over it” I’ve managed to accomplish. When I was first ordained as a Teaching Elder (the Presbyterian version of preacher, also known as Minister of Word and Sacrament), I was super sensitive about everything even remotely patriarchal or sexist. I would label even the most benign comments sexist, and seethe internally for a day or so. It wasn’t that I was looking for things which I could call oppressive, it was just that I had been so steeped in women’s ministry horror stories that I was constantly on edge about what was going to happen to me.
Constantly. On. Edge.
When it finally did happened (it didn’t take long), it was, of course, right before worship. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it was still pretty bad. I had asked two men at the same time to light the candles on the Advent wreath one Sunday. No big deal, right? They both said yes and I began preparing their remarks. The next Sunday, one of the men came to me less than five minutes before worship, in the sanctuary, to tell me that the other man didn’t want to do it. Okay, I thought, he certainly doesn’t have to. Then, the first man went on to explain that the second man didn’t know what he was agreeing to because he was distracted by me in my sexy dress.
Seriously. That happened.
I stopped him before he could finish and told him it was inappropriate. He said it three more times, despite my protestations.
So there it was. The not-the-worst-but-not-the-best comment which placed the blame squarely on me for existing and having a woman’s body and daring to wear clothes. And then I had to go lead worship. I’m a professional, so it was fine.
Except that it wasn’t fine, not at all. But that’s what we do. We keep moving, because there’s work to be done, and the patriarchal bullshit which tries to tell us everything is our fault because we exist is trying to stop us. Nevertheless, we persist.
We persist because there are people dying and their families are in need of prayer and care.
We persist because there are children who don’t know when they’ll eat next.
We persist because we worship a God who rose above.
But please do not hear me saying we get over it. We DO NOT get over it. This comment was made to me almost a year ago. I’m not over it. I’ll probably never be over it. If it were the only time it had ever happened, I would maybe get over it. But it happens with such frequency that getting ragey about it would leave me ragey literally all the time.
I can’t serve God that way. I can’t serve God’s people that way. And so I, we, persist.
This shift from rage to persistence happened gradually for me. So gradually, in fact, that I barely noticed it happening. All I know is as I sat down to write this, it occurred to me that I haven’t felt ragey about being a woman in ministry in a while. So that’s pretty good. I’ve still been met with “You’re too pretty to be a preacher,” and “You sure do have the body to pull off that dress,” and “You really should do something about your bangs.” But I’ve also heard “We’re so glad you’re here, we needed you,” and “We sure do love you a lot,” and “You knocked that out of the park…” (this one is iffy for reasons, but I’m often insecure about my preaching so I’m putting it in the good column).
That’s the thing about being called. I feel very strongly that I am called to my current position, and there’s very little which could turn me around on that right now. And these people express love in deep and meaningful ways, and their love helps ease some of the burden of being a woman in ministry. I’m able to recognize the good intentions of many of the more banal comments (though I like my bangs), and instead of getting ragey, I just keep moving.
I certainly don’t want to diminish the danger of the microaggression. I just want to highlight the goodness I have overlooked in my angst over the microaggression. And I want to be able to hold both in the tension that they deserve. But for now, as I’m settling into my new call, it occurs to me it’s okay for the pendulum to swing this way a bit. I need to be able to dismiss the microaggressions for now and focus on how much I love them and how much they love me. The pendulum will settle, and the patriarchy will still be there in need of tackling, and I’ll be its staunchest enemy.
Today, though, I’m choosing to bask in the joy of a place and a people so filled
with love that I actually do have the privilege of ignoring the patriarchy for a time.
I know it won’t last, and the world is aching for voices which remind us that God is against racism and misogyny and misogynoir and homophobia and transphobia and xenophobia and nationalism and white nationalism, and the joy of loving and being loved by God’s people lessens the burden of ushering in a new, diverse, creative era replete with people who have been living on the margins for all of history.