During the last week of 2012 a 23 year old woman from Delhi died after she was raped by six men, beaten with an iron bar, and thrown from a moving bus. We know her fate, but not her name.
During the first month of 2013 my wife will give birth to our second daughter.
My two daughters (and son) will grow up in a world that is not overly kind to women. My daughters will grow up in a world where 1 in 3 women are beaten, raped, or abused at some point in their life, often by a family member. They will grow up in a world full of cities like Delhi where rape occurs every 18 hours. A world where 15 year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by an al Qaida assassin as retribution for her defiant decision to… go to school. They will likely grow up in this country (USA), where right now 100,000-300,000 underage girls are suffering as victims of sex-trafficking, where a woman is beaten or attacked every nine seconds, and where more than three women a day are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands.
My two daughters will grow up in the Christian faith, a faith that while better than most, has not always been overly kind to women. They will grow up in a faith that still leans on the thought and work of men like Thomas Aquinas (who despite what I write here, remains one of my favorite theologians), who believed that women were defective or misbegotten men, and that it was to their own benefit to be subjected to men men who were wiser and possessed greater reason (Summa Theologica, I, q92, a1). My daughters will develop their sense of value within a faith that has for centuries relied on Thomas’ teaching that the only function for which women were created as ‘helper’ was procreation, since another man would be a better helper in any other given task (same section). My daughters will voice their thoughts in a culture where women historically, according to Aquinas, were as reliable as “children and imbeciles,” (ST, II-II, q70, a3).
A lot has changed since the days of Aquinas, but not enough.
And so, my New Year’s Resolution this year is to join the effort to make the world a better place for my daughters. I’ve resolved to be a feminist in the truest sense of the word: to advocate social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men (dictionary.com). In the spirit of the great Jonathan Edwards, himself a champion of his wife Sarah, I list my own resolutions as follows:
Resolved, to examine my thoughts, speech, and actions; casting aside any actions or mannerisms that treat women as less than men, or treat women as less human.
Resolved, to follow the New Testament example of placing the emphasis on loving my wife (rather than the modern emphasis of leading her).
Resolved, to lead in my own home by serving my wife and daughters.
Resolved, to make it my habit to listen to and learn from women, just as I do from men: read books written by women, watch talks delivered by women, learn from the teaching of women, and listen when women speak in everyday life.
Resolved, to continue to support, equip, and empower the many women who lead and teach in my church.
Resolved, never to use the word ‘girly’ as a derogatory substitute for ‘weak’ or ‘nonathletic,’ especially when speaking to my son and to quit using all other unhealthy gender stereotypes, e.g. men are better drivers (or should drive instead of women), women are weaker emotionally, women are irrational, etc.
Resolved, to appreciate and beneift from strong leadership ability in women, whether in work meetings or in my own home.
Resolved, to never give attractive women preferential treatment over less attractive women, even if only in my own mind.
Resolved, to strive to use illustrations that carry broad appeal for women as well as men when teaching mix-gendered audiences.
Resolved, to encourage my daughters’ “masculine” interests (legos, cars, building blocks, rough-housing, anything blue) as well as their “feminine” interests (dolls, dress-up, anything pink).
Our daughter will be born into an unkind world full of oppression, rape, abuse, and marginalization. We are naming her Olivia Hope, “bringer of peace and hope.” We know her name, but not her fate. May her fate be that God would use her to do in part what only He can do in whole.
And may the world be kinder to Olivia and Audrey than it was to those who have come before, and may it be even kinder to their daughters.