I was lucky enough to be raised with an abundance of good men in my life. Not just my father, who was deeply insulted any time someone asked him if he was longing for a boy (even after the three daughters, then the seven grand daughters all in a row). He would reply, we LOVE girls. Who wouldn’t want another girl? Not just his father, who I saw cry once over the lack of care he was witnessing to one of his granddaughters. There have been just so many good men in my life.
There were especially a lot of good men in my church, the brick church named after the road it was built on. These men were just like that church building. They were strong and welcoming. They drove mini vans and helped put up tents, and rode bikes next to girls who were kind of slow going on the trip through Michigan. They told us we were strong. They were encouraging and made sure we too got a turn with the power drill on the deck we were building in Appalachia. They were kind and caring and treated us with dignity. Even when we had to ask them, red-faced, to please stop at the next gas station because a 14 year old’s period can be kind of unpredictable. They were good men. They weren’t flashy about it. They just were.
I was raised in a church more conservative than I am now. These men that I speak of have more conservative theologies than I do now. While we sometimes disagree on exactly what feminism is, or the point of it, these men continuously modeled to me what a good man looked like. They encouraged their wives in their dreams, they advocated for the women’s shelter in our town, they relentlessly poured into the boys and the girls in the youth group. They loved us well. They loved me well. They made it easy for me to find a good man, like them. I married him. I had two daughters with him. He loves us well.
Once, in college, I was back home working at a country club. I was assessing how much coca-cola we had in the stock room which was attached to the “men’s only grill.” I was crouched down and counting, when I head the comments. It was also being assessed, at least my backside was, as well as the bodies of all the women Tiger Woods had slept with. I finished my job. I stood up and turned around, only to be confronted with a man from that very church. A father of one of my peers in that very same youth group. He occasionally drove the van. We both blinked at each other before I scurried out, mortified. He wasn’t mortified, he was angry and my boss got an earful about how there was a woman present in the men’s only lounge. He wasn’t embarrassed he had been objectifying someone who could be his daughter. He was angry he got caught in a space he believed it was safe for him to do that.
I was shocked. I wasn’t shocked that this happened. I had been in mostly male spaces a few times and I knew that men talked like this. I was just naive enough to believe that Christian men didn’t talk like this. I was naive enough to believe that my church was a place where men who objectified women were taught differently.
I was fourteen when the Monica Lewinsky scandal came out. I was embarrassed watching the news with my parents, but ever the educators they took it as a teachable moment. This isn’t okay Abby. Treating women with anything less than respect isn’t okay, especially when you are in power. Especially when you are the president. I know this to be true. My church, while never overtly political, mentioned that this was inappropriate behavior both from a married man, and from a man with a lot of power.
I haven’t heard anything from my very specific tribe, but it breaks my heart evangelical men who have endorsed Donald Trump, men who while I disagree, I believed respected women as fully people, as full image bearers of God are standing by him. They are brushing his comments aside. They are brushing his accuser aside. I know that I am late to the party, but I still don’t know what to do with this information. I don’t know what to do with the information that the same men who took Bill Clinton’s unacceptable treatment of women as an opportunity to teach me that it is never okay for a man to use his power for his own sexual gratification at the expense of a woman, are now saying this isn’t a big deal.
I guess I was hoping that wasn’t about politics. I guess I was hoping that was about basic human decency. I guess I am shocked. These are not the evangelical men I know, but apparently they exist, and my heart is just so dissapointed.