Is it Possible for Women to Step Up Without Men Stepping Back?

n4xgvw6In a comment a few weeks back, I got this insightful suggestion from a dear reader:

Maybe instead of trying to end male privilege you may want to extend the same privileges to women. Then men won’t feel like you are trying to take something away from them.

I’ve been sitting with this since then and here are two thoughts on the topic:

There’s not enough space to simply open doors for women without men stepping back. And, further, in the Kingdom, stepping back is actually good for men.

Let me break these two thoughts down a bit.

In her book Making Room for Leadership, MaryKate Morse uses the metaphor of physical space to describe how much power someone does or does not have. A person with a lot of power takes up a lot of space, and the converse is also true. And, for Morse, how much space a person takes up has a lot to do with who they are (or aren’t), with things like gender, ethnicity, positional authority, personality, age and access to resources factoring prominently into the equation.

My perspective is that there is a finite amount of social space or power. After all, there’s only one school principal, or soccer coach, or business owner, or CEO, or president. What I mean is that, in most contexts, there exists a cap for how many individuals can exercise influential leadership. And so how that limited social space gets filled is indeed a crucial question worth pondering.

As we’ve seen, in most every corner of American culture, men take up the most space. Visually, let’s say that currently the picture looks like this:


If indeed it’s true that space and power are finite, in order for the equation to change, two things will need to happen. First, men will need to give up power and, second, women will need to take up power (or, if you will, Lean In). I’m expressing this conceptually here; believe me, I know there are plenty of conversations to be had about how each of these things can and should actually happen. In any event, the redistribution zone is in gray:


And if that power is redistributed in healthy ways, if we can discern a way to share power equally, the final picture could look like this:


The bottom line, then, is that we need men to lay down power in order for women to take it up. And until that happens, there’s not enough social space or power for both genders to fully flourish.

Secondly–and this is the really good news for men–in the Kingdom of God giving up power is actually a good thing. I’ve written about this before, (here, here and here) and so let me repeat myself:

When Jesus invites us to surrender our male privilege, he’s inviting us into his story. He’s inviting us to use power his way and not the world’s. Seen this way, then, it’s an act of discipleship, as surrendering male privilege is one way to emulate Jesus’ surrender of his divine privilege.

So let me be clear: I do want women to enjoy the same privileges as men. In part, I just think that we get there by discipling men into joyfully and willing releasing power.

What about you? What resonates for you from this post? What doesn’t?

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