“Here, you can sit on my lap!” This was the comment made to a friend of mine after she walked into her conference room for a staff meeting complete with new members joining their ministry. Every chair around the table was taken and a male supervisor thought he’d amuse everyone with this crude comment. Equally disturbing was the fact that five Christian men were seated at the table and not one of them held him accountable for his lewd comment. Shameful as it may seem, it was a female co-worker who spoke up and said the comment was inappropriate and proceeded to tell him ‘you can’t say things like that today’.
Rather awkward, wouldn't you agree? Does it shock or surprise you that sometimes Christian men behave poorly, while others tend to look the other way? Do you find yourself thinking what my friend should have said or done? That often is the response to sexual harassment, even in Christian environments.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks later. My friend was in the hallway of her office when this very same supervisor smacked her on the rear end as he passed by saying hi. Once again, she was shocked. When reported, she was told she needed to handle it on her own or it could become a ‘he said, she said’ dilemma. Nothing was done to address it for what it truly was: sexual harassment.
Unfortunately, what my friend’s situation demonstrates is that even Christian men are not immune to the kind of behavior encouraged by pornography and our sexualized culture. When men behave poorly and are not held accountable, it simply sets the stage for the next incident to take place.
The truth is that there is a progression that happens when women or children are dishonored and objectified through pornography - it leads to sexual harrassment, abuse and the trafficking of our women and children.
Men should be speaking up on behalf of their daughters, wives, mothers, and sisters. It may take having awkward conversations to call someone out on inappropriate behavior but doing so is important, first because it is honoring of all people.
Secondly, it begins to transform our culture into one where men are called to treat all women with respect - the kind of society where every man treats every woman as if she were somebody's daughter, wife, mother, or sister. We need a unique combination of grace and fearlessness for these conversations; but they must be had.
How would a conversation like that have looked in that conference room? What might the men looking on have said that would have honored my friend as a woman and highlighted the impropriety of the man's behavior? How about this? “Here, you may have my chair. Let me get another one.” That's the kind of statement that could have deterred any sexualized remarks and hepled to begin creating a climate where men honor women.
It is time to collectively use our voices to start the conversation that honors and values every woman and child…and one another!