I have been born to privilege. In my many adventures around the world, I recognize that being a white American has its value.
I have also been born to a place of secondary value. In the subculture that I grew up in, women were considered to be second-class citizens. They existed to serve men and to remain under male dominion.
In a recent post I wrote about the women I encountered in India. I wanted so badly to communicate to them their beauty and value. I don’t know if I succeeded at all, but this experience also reflected upon my own personal journey.
Unlike me, they were born with what they understand to be a less desirable skin color. Like me, they were born as what many consider to be the less desirable sex.
Who told me that women are lesser in value than men? I can recall a few of the male voices that spoke this message in clear words, although it was more often communicated in subtle ways. The message was powerful… and hurtful.
Those voices told me that my relationship with God must be channeled through the authority of a man. That I belong to one man until he gives me to another. That if men use and abuse me, it is my fault. That women are less qualified to serve God simply because of their sex. That women cannot be trusted. That women are easily deceived and that chaos erupts when women are in leadership.
These voices were powerful, and they defined me from a very young age.
Thankfully, they were not the only voices I heard. I have a clearer recollection of the men who spoke differently into my life, and those voices were also powerful.
The voices that told me that I am a daughter of the King and that no man has the right to mistreat me. That the Lord alone is my Master and that I bow only to him. That God has created woman in his image. That women can also make an intelligent contribution to the world. That women can also be trusted and respected.
While I was in India, I distinctly recalled those first voices, coming from men born into privilege, who were all too ready to highlight their privilege while emphasizing my lack of privilege. I don’t understand. It would be like me going to these girls and saying or behaving as to say, “Well, we can’t change how we are made. I am superior, yes, but that’s just the way it is, and the best thing you can do is to serve me well so that I can thrive.” Was this not the attitude that reigned throughout the horrific history of slavery in my own country?
And yet I know that I, too, have acted and spoken in ways that have hurt others, even though I didn’t see it at the time. I see it now. And for this I am so deeply sorry.
So I understand and yet I don’t. I get what it’s like to be devalued in some ways due to the body I was born into. And yet there are others who deal with this on a daily basis in a way that I can never fully understand, simply because I have never lived even a day in their shoes. I just hope and pray that I will always be willing to listen and to grow, and that I will be an agent of change as I am also changed.