I participated in the hashtag #thingsonlychristianwomenhear. I finally recognized that God was calling me into the ministry when I was a member of a Southern Baptist church, a church that did not affirm my call because I was a women. Their policies didn’t allow it. It was a confusing time and an especially hurtful blow from people who were so readily affirming me in so many other areas. It was hard. I loved my church, they loved me. But they could not support me in what I was sure God was calling me to do. It felt like they could not totally see me.
Like most social media phenomena that catches on, there were a huge number of women tweeting their own stories through #thingsonlychristianwomencanhear and then some weird male replies about how we needed to stop talking about the church like that….it was weird. And completely unsurprising.
The next part is also completely unsurprising. There were some round up posts highlighting some of the tweets. Almost all of those highlights disproportionately highlighted white women. There were women of color using the hashtag. Mostly, they were not included in the roundups. Mostly they were not heard.
I wish I could tell you I noticed, but I didn’t. Danyelle at the Unfit Christian pointed it out to me. I was just excited my name was on the same list as some of my favs. Oops.
As white women who are saying, we are told especially harmful things because of our social location in the church, it is imperative that we hear our sisters say that same exact thing from a different social location, one that we in some ways share (ladies unite!) and also one we could never know (hello racial disparities).
Here is the thing that is TOTALLY BIZARRE to me. We say the exact same things to our sisters of color that we completely role our eyes at when men say them to us. When a man tells us they don’t know any gifted women who want in the pulpit, we know it is because they haven’t looked. If you twitter feed was covered in those who looked like you and no one else using that hashtag, you aren’t following enough women of color. They are there. Can you see them?
Y’all, we know WE KNOW how hurtful it is when someone cannot see us because of who God has designed us to be. We know, WE KNOW what it feels like to go into a space knowing you are not really wanted there. We know, WE KNOW how hurtful it is to go to someone and say “hey, will you see me?” and have them brush it off with a shrug and a comment that makes it clear that they will not.
Those of us familiar with this wound should be the first who are able to say I am sorry to those who have inflicted the same kind of hurt onto. We can do better. If we are the ones who are familiar with this hurt, we are the ones who should be the first to recognize when we inflict it on another.
I don’t know how to solve systemic sexism, or racism. I don’t even really know how to get my kids to church on time on Sundays, but I do know that God calls us to do what we can with what we have.
I went on Twitter and started the hashtag #womenofcolortofollow (after first starting one that incorrectly labeled these women. Y’all. I’m not trying to put myself out here as perfect. I messed up. I corrected it. I was not yelled at. I was thanked. We can do this.) If you don’t have a lot of women of color in your life, in your blog role, on your twitter feed start there. Other people have joined in.
White women, here I think is ultimately my question for each of us. Will we use our hurts in being excluded in conversations as a reason to box out other people so we can keep our space? Or, will we practice allowing the ways we have been hurt to inform our hearing hurts our sisters of color? Will we work toward the kingdom of God?