Voice

I feel their eyes boring into me. A piece of my body. Stolen.

I feel their eyes underdress me. A piece of my dignity. Stolen.

I hear their examination of my body. A piece of my self-worth. Stolen.

This is not who I am – not an object, not their possession, not a thing to be critiqued.

I am a woman.

Why is it that this kind of theft is acceptable – that I can’t make an insurance claim on my self-worth…for my self-worth is a lot harder to replace than a cell phone?  And why, in that moment of robbery, do I, a strong, self-confident, empowered woman, lose my voice? Why do I not have an answer or a response? Well, I am a Christian and so I must turn the other cheek, I must love my neighbour, I must bless and not curse. But, is it really loving to allow injustice to continue, is it really like Jesus to allow oppression to persist?

I’ve been a bridesmaid three times now and at each wedding, I’ve cringed when the moment has come for the best man to stand and “congratulate” the bridesmaids on being so beautiful. Congratulate – as if my beauty is something measurable and worked for. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be thought of as beautiful, but I don’t want to be beautiful if it means I can’t be strong, or intelligent, or a good friend. Or, even worse for me is the tender moment in a wedding ceremony when the couple are making the most important vows they will potentially ever make – the man promises to love, honour and cherish you always…and the woman, to love, honour, cherish and obey.  What is it about women that make society think they are things to be controlled? What are we afraid of – that a woman who is not below a man is an “unmanageable” thing? That another human being does not also have the right to free will?

But, this is not a rant about women’s solidarity, but about humanity.

When I am stolen from in a moment of objectification, the young man who shouts at me is also robbed of his true identity. He is a man. He is made in the image of God and he has been stolen from, by who, I don’t know, maybe himself, but this man is as disempowered as me in that moment – despite how it might look. And when a man needs a woman to obey him rather than partner with him, well, surely neither can fully understand what it is be fully human, to be fully alive. To be controlled or to control is to miss the beauty of equality.

Even as I write this, I can’t help but feel like I, a woman usually permitted to speak, to dress as I wish, to do what I want and who is considered as an equal in the workplace and in my relationships, has no real understanding of what inequality can actually look like. And I hold that. My heart breaks for the woman whose culture forces their lips shut or for the woman locked indoors for her only use is sex, or the man who shops for wives or pretends that the woman on his computer screen is real. But inequality is unacceptable and if there are those with no voice, or no understanding of anything more, or better, how can they speak?

So in this world of inequality, where we find so much brokenness, so much inequality, so much un-humanity who will speak up?

I am a woman and I am equal to every other human being who walks on this earth.

I am a woman and I have influence.

I am a woman and I have a voice.

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