Are You Going to Hurt Me?, A Response

Tim Challies recently wrote about his observations running in the early morning and the women whose path he crosses in his article Are You Going to Hurt Me?

The article resonated with me as a woman, Christian, and runner and I wrote a response. Tim posted my response in his Letters to the Editor. I’ve copied my response below for you:

Tim, thank you for writing the “Are You Going to Hurt Me” article. It brings to light the tension I have long felt as a woman, runner, (recovering) feminist, and friend of many good men.

As a woman, I walk around knowing that 50% of the population could hurt me if they so choose. Although I am strong for a girl, I am weak compared to men. Yes, I work out regularly, I lift heavy weights, I run, I do everything “right,” but I am weak. At best, I hope to be able to defend myself long enough to survive, to get away, or to get help; that is all.

As a believer, I walk around knowing I am equal in worth to men. I have strong parents who loved me and taught me true self-confidence, I am a daughter of the King. I have unique skills and talents because I am a woman that neither diminish nor are greater than a man’s unique skills and talents.

As a (recovering) feminist, I fight the lie that I have to be the same as men to be valuable. I fight the temptation to turn a blind eye to the unique image bearing of men and women. I want to be the strong, unafraid, woman confidently striding down the street or running down the dark path, but I am not. My ears are pricked, I eyes are peeled, and I’m always a little afraid.

As a friend, daughter, sister-in-Christ to many good men, I walk around with the security of knowing there are good, godly men who desire to protect me – even when I don’t want it. They care for me emotionally and yes, even physically. I know men who go out of their way to make me feel secure when I am running alone—they step to the side, they speak, their eyes do not linger with a lustful hunger. These men speak kindly, they walk me to my car, they hold doors—not because I am incapable, not because I can never walk alone to my car, but because they care. They remind me that my hope is not in myself, it’s not even in them, my hope is in the God who they reflect—the one who cares for me when I am alone and afraid.

Thank you for bringing this simple issue to light. It is a reality for many women and we need good men in all areas of our life.

Equal Play. Equal Pay.

I was 10 years old and riding in the car with my family; a Dodge Minivan, to be exact. The 1999 Women’s World Cup was fast approaching and I could not be more excited. My Dad starting singing the theme song from a popular commercial featuring Mia Hamm and Michael Jordan.

Anything you can do I can do better…

…I can do anything BETTER THAN YOU! was my loud reply

The women on the US Soccer Team were my heroes and idols. I wanted to be just like them. I could name every player and her number on command. My room was covered floor to ceiling in posters of women’s soccer players, swimmers, runners, and articles cut out from Sports Illustrated. I love sports. I love female sports. I love playing and watching sports.

I am part of the generation of girls who count the 1999 World Cup as a turning point in their life. I will forever remember Bob Gillespie’s article in The State newspaper decrying women’s sports and urging everyone to “wait for the hysteria to die back down.”

Well Bob, you were wrong and I’m glad. The popularity of women’s sports has only continued to rise and millions of girls around the world love and play sports.

Many of the players on the reigning World Cup Champion team were also influenced by the ’99ers. They too remember exactly where they were when Kristine Lilly saved a goal line shot with her head or when Brandi ripped off her shirt after beating China in PK’s.

The current generation of players are standing on the shoulders of these giants and they are reaching higher. They are demanding equal pay for equal play.

On the surface, this is a no-brainer; an easy decision for any non-female hating person. On the surface, I agree. Equal play, equal pay. Still, I think the issue is more complex than social media typically allows.

Let’s first acknowledge that women have been (and are still) paid less than their male counterparts for the same work across many (if not all) fields. This is not right. This should be challenged, called out, and changed.

The issue comes with how we define “equal.” I think most of us agree, equal does not mean the same. A butter knife and a steak knife are equally knives, but they are not the same. A chimpanzee and a rabbit are equally mammals, but they are not the same. With this in mind, I would argue men and women are equal, but not the same, especially in sports.

I work out regularly with guys and while there are somethings I am better at, across the board, even the weaker guys are bigger, faster, and stronger than me. I work hard, sometimes I’m more skilled, but all things (weights) being the same, I cannot keep up most of the time. This principal holds true across the majority of the male-female spectrum with regard to physical pursuits.

Drawing this out to sports, the work effort, hours of practice, and technical skills required are equal, but the results are different. The best female players in the world, the US national team, are on par with a talented U16-U18 boys team. Though the work is equal, in comparison, the result is not the same.

This being said, the women have achieved what their male counterparts have not – multiple world cup titles, olympic medals, and higher world rankings. All things being equal the women are competing at a higher level than the men and succeeding.

Admittedly, there are more factors than just the play on the field. Marketability, media coverage, sponsors, all factor into an athlete’s value to a company. I do not know the exact dollars, but I would imagine the marketability of the female players as reigning world cup champions is equal to, if not greater than the men. The players leading the charge for equal play, equal pay are some of the most highly marketable athletes in the world, particularly when marketing to women, though more than a few Sports Illustrated magazines have been sold as a result of the work of these women as well.

My concern for the movement, and the reason I desire clarity, is because I see a trend in sports (and Western culture in general) towards declaring men and women the same, and not merely equal. I fear a day when women’s and men’s sports will be combined and women will be excluded not because they’re women per se, but because after around age 13 they simply cannot compete on the same level as their male counterparts.

Women and men are different, but equal and those differences need to be celebrated. Women and men are much more similar than they are different, but much like a painting by Monet, the beauty is in the detail.

I still say equal play, equal pay, but let’s not confuse equality with sameness. Women and men bring different strengths and people to the game and that should be celebrated, valued, and rewarded, not minimized.

January Goals: A Review

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My view half way up Table Rock Mountain 

If you’re new here, I confirmed I am, in fact, crazy posted my goals for the year. As someone whose strengths are Achiever and Discipline, I really like goals. Goals keep me focused, motivated, and constantly improving. Of course, there’s also the downside which I wrote about recently.

My goal for January was to pray daily for women living in Muslim contexts in the Middle East, North Africa, and South East Asia. I would say I was about 70% successful in praying daily. More than the task itself, this goal refocused my attention and broadened my daily awareness of God’s blessings. I found myself appreciating my freedoms and privilege more regularly, like having enough food in the refrigerator or working heat in the winter.

When I began to pray, I wasn’t really sure where to start. I don’t know any women from these contexts, I’ve never been to the Middle East, Africa, or Asia, nor do I know much beyond my reading of fiction and non-fiction, including news sources. I felt very disconnected initially, my prayers seemed more like a recitation – what I was supposed to pray instead of my heart’s desire.

However, this all changed in week 2. I was challenged to pray the attributes of God in my “regular prayers” and I began to pray these for the women too. All of a sudden, God’s all-powerful, all-good nature became much more meaningful. My prayers gained weight and substance previously lacking. If I could trust God to act powerfully in their life – why should I doubt his power in mine? If God is merciful enough to redeem me, a broken and selfish person, then He is also merciful to ransom their lives too. Instead of feeling distant, contrived, and separated from my own life, my prayers merged into one prayer.

My compassion, concern, and prayers for the women were neither singularly spiritual, nor singularly physical – just like my own life. I do not pray only for my heart or the hearts of my friends and family, but for our physical needs as well. So, too it came to be with these women.

I don’t know what will come from this month. I know I have no power to change the living circumstances, the hearts, or the minds of the women in these areas. I do know, incredibly, God is not only powerful enough, but is already working! My own weakness, in yet another area of life, is an opportunity to showcase God’s power.

My one regret is I did not pray daily. Too often, my prayers centered around myself and immediate needs. I would get distracted in tasks and to-do’s or hyper-focused on my small desires. I crave the strength gleaned from uniting my heart with God’s heart beyond my own microcosm of the Universe.

As far as my other goals for the year are going, I already broke my “only books by dead people rule.” I mistakenly believed Harper Lee had already died and I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I do not regret it at all. This is perhaps one of the most poignant books written and was even more touching because I live in the South and was challenged on my own prejudices and bias in praying for the women in MENA, SEA. If you haven’t read TKAM since high school or within the last 5 year, I would highly recommend it. I’m also reading Plato so I feel like that makes up for it too 😉

In January, I also had my first day of solitude and it was worthwhile. I learned I must tire my body out first, before my mind, heart, soul will be still. Fortunately I went hiking and was able to do both! It was a great way to start the month and I felt a lingering “refreshment hangover” for several days. That’s right. I just compared a spiritual solitude to a hangover.

On the negative, I have not prayed through any of my notecards nor have I really started learning the arabic alphabet. I have downloaded the sheets though, so that counts for something, right?!?!

My goal for the month of February is no personal social media-pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum of importance from praying daily for Muslim women in MENA, SEA, but hey! it may actually be harder. Wish me luck!

Bright Young Things

d813cf4f-42f1-46df-98b2-6e982856d39a_pink-victorias-secretVictoria Secret is now marketing to pre-teen girls. “Bright Young Things” is the latest marketing slogan and product line; ironic, really. At least they’re honest. Bright Young Things. Yes, women and children are now things. Things are bought and sold. Things are thrown out with the trash when they’re no longer useful. Things lack inherent worth and value.

Let’s imagine the bright future that these girls have to face. Messages like “Call Me”, “Dare You”, and “Feeling Lucky?” are emblazoned on the underwear of these girls. Do we really want our 11, 12, or 13 year old “getting lucky”? Wasn’t this what the feminist movement was supposed to end? Women were supposed to be free to choose, free to not be dependent on a man for value. Now, instead of society imposing these pressures, we are telling our girls and women to label themselves; to brand their underwear (which no 11 year old boy should be seeing anyways) with messages that imply without the come hither attitude, they are uncool at best, worthless at worst.

The shackles of misguided sexuality are too great even for adult women to bear, much less young girls. Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer states that: “[These young girls] want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic.” source

Magic. Really? Is it magical to shove your finger down the back of your throat to throw up so you can look like a Victoria Secret model? Is it magical to refuse to go to a pool party because you still have baby fat? It seems Stuart and I have different interpretations of magic.

The God who created the Universe also created these young girls with their unique bodies. He cares about their stubby fingers, flat chests, and bony hips. He created their crooked nose and muscular thighs. The answer is not to dismiss a girl’s body as worthless. Pre-teen girls are usually just starting to notice their own beauty and others’ beauty. The beauty of the feminine form has been celebrated since the beginning of time. She should be free to embrace her beauty, body and soul, because it is given to her by God who knows her by name. He knows exactly how many hairs are on her head and just how many of those hairs are ruining her day with the worst hair day ever!

Bright Young Things is not tragic because it overexposes a girl’s sexuality. It is shameful because it exposes so little. Her body and sexuality are not reflected by ink on cotton; they are reflected in the image of God within her. Her beauty outshines the rising sun and the lilies of the field. Her true beauty will not wear out and it will not fade. Let’s imprint this on the hearts of young women and not on their underwear.