When Privilege Goes too Far

miezN9WIn a 2005 speech at a concert in South Africa, Nelson Mandela said this:

For every woman and girl violently attacked, we reduce our humanity.

Tragically, by this metric, we are in cultural free-fall. According to a 2011 Center for Disease Control survey, “nearly one in five women has been raped or has experienced an attempted rape. The results also found that one in six women has been stalked, and one in four have been reported being beaten by their intimate partner.”

Heaven help us.

Thankfully, most of the time our cultural bias toward male privilege does not result in explicit violence. And yet, it’s also true that because our culture permits privilege, the door is opened to violence against women. After all, if women are second-class citizens–if they are objectified and commodified for men’s entertainment–how long before they become the object of violence?

So whether it is the 71% of Ethiopian women who reported physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime…

Whether it is women murdered in my beloved Guatemala, where according to this post, 2 women are killed, on average, every day…

Whether it is sexual assault in the U.S. military, where it seems like a new story comes out every day that implicates U.S. commanders with allowing and perpetuating a culture of violence against women

Or whether it is the gruesome kidnapping and 10-year imprisonment and assault of 3 women in Cleveland..

…it has to stop.

Jesus stands against violence against women. John 8:1-11 tells us the story of a women who is caught in the act of adultery and then dragged before Jesus to be a pawn in the Pharisee’s attempt to entrap him. For this poor woman, violence was likely behind her, and then violence is surely ahead of her if Jesus commands the men to stone her. On the other hand, if he refuses to issue the command, he comes off looking like he is against the Mosaic law. It’s a charged and difficult situation. What does Jesus do?

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Advocate. Defender. Challenger of the status quo. Jesus puts violence against women, and male privilege more broadly, to rights.

In that same spirit, I want to offer this list of 10 things that men can do to stop violence against women. While it lacks an overtly spiritual lens, it’s nonetheless a valuable resource. In particular, I appreciate the exhortation to self-awareness and understanding.

Because condemning violence and redeeming privilege starts with admitting that as men we have both within us.

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