Today is a day of collective Eshet Chayil.
Today is International Women’s Day. And I wish it wasn’t. I wish it wasn’t necessary to take a day to celebrate women
Maybe I take the typically chauvinistic perspective and ask why we take a day to do this, but do not do likewise, or at least not with the same gravity and publicity for men (apparently there is an international men’s day – it’s in November).’s achievements, contributions and continued struggles.
And then I remember. Every day men’s achievements are celebrated, it goes with out notice because it is normal. It is the everyday fabric of our life to celebrate men and take women for granted. Our culture operates in a way that gives men authority by default, privileges their status and orients society around their behaviour.
That’s why a day is needed to say something different. To draw lines in the sand that relegate cynics to the league of the also ran. To praise women who achieve, and women who achieve by simply surviving. The virtue is not in grandiose claims or conquering Everest (although this particular female first deserves every accolade) but in the living of life to the full.
Fullness of life is not determined by success or status. It’s not the Margaret Thatchers or Hillary Clintons that define the role of women. It’s not Taylor Swift or Anne Hathaway either. It’s my mother and my sisters, it’s their daughters with their whole life ahead of them. It’s doing what you are called to do, doing what is in front of you, and doing it without having to battle for the right to achieve it because you are a woman.
But on this day, when women are celebrated, applauded and encouraged, is it possible that men could feel left out? The response that men get 364 days of the year to parade their achievements doesn’t quite do justice. Because the world is changing, and even when it is changing for the better, that doesn’t mean change is easy.
While the church takes its time deciding the role of women in leadership it misses the men that are slipping out the back door. There are roughly twice as many women as men in church, and although men frequently control the leadership of churches they feel power and position slipping from their grasp. I’m not saying that this is the right response, but it is a common response, and it is one that needs to be acknowledged. Where purpose and position used to be axiomatic, they are now conditional and shared, there’s a transition that is taking too long, and it is a transition that leave women still struggling, and men seemingly displaced. It is the world where things are rarely easily won.
It’s this power shift that causes the problems. It is why a day such as today is both needed and lamentable. The fact that we have to fight for rights and equality and not live in the light of should never need stating. Steve Holmes put it beautifully this morning, “I’m not going to try and illuminate the sun. I’m not going to try and dampen the sea. I’m not, any longer, going to try and defend the ministry of women in the church.”
I don’t think the church should trade in their sermons for Ultimate Fighting Championships. And nor do I think that means the church must be gilded in petals and painted pink.
The church should shine a light to the world and proclaim loudly that men and women do not win at the other’s expense.
Today is a day when men should celebrate the women they know, the heroines of their life. And when they should stand beside those they do not know and need an advocate to give them a voice. It is a day when we should cry out for the women of valour who are living out their purpose in the great and the grit. A day when the name Eshet Chayil should be shared with abandon.