According to the United Nations Gender Inequality Index, gender inequality remains a significant problem despite numerous advancements. Women face more poverty and violence, less education and wages, and a reduced political representation. The situation is most definitely unjust, and can seem rather insurmountable. Even so, there are things each one of us can do in our everyday lives that can advance the cause of gender justice. We can shape up, speak up, and press on.
Contrary to the popular saying, ignorance is not bliss. It perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes, and can indirectly facilitate injustice. That’s why we need to shape up and get informed about the gender justice situation in our local area and around the world.
For statistics and general information, the UN Gender Inequality Index or the Half the Sky Movement are great places to start. Many organizations are developing great resources that are free or low-cost to use and share, including the Sophia Network, the Junia Project, and Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE).
Why not read a book? Some of my favourites include 7 Deadly Sins of Women in Leadership by Kate Coleman, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, The Liberating Truth by Danielle Strickland, and Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James.
Insight can also be gained from comparative justice struggles, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s autobiography. This is just a small sample of the excellent resources available to help us shape up.
Rosa Parks was a woman who most likely did not anticipate the outcome of her decision. In the segregated southern United States, she boarded a bus and sat down in the ‘coloured section’. Tired of the injustice, she refused to stand and allow a white person to take her seat because the ‘white section’ was full. This small act meant something big, and was a key point in the movement for racial equality.
By Rosa’s example, we see that our words and actions do not need to be big to make a difference. What are the ‘segregated buses’ in your daily life and how can you speak up? Maybe it’s questioning a double standard (e.g. single women are old maids and single men are bachelors). Perhaps it’s challenging the pervasive problem of gender shaming (e.g. real men don’t cry). It could be using your voice in other ways at work, at home, with friends, or online to raise awareness of gender injustice. The more we shine light on and in the dark places of injustice, the less power they have over us. Your seemingly small acts and words can influence and inspire others in big ways.
If you haven’t already noticed, advocating for gender justice is a long and difficult road with plenty of resistance. Compound this with our culture’s emphasis on immediate and easy gratification, and you can see why perseverance is essential to winning not only the battles, but also the war against injustice.
We need to gain inspiration from those who have gone before us, such as women in the suffrage movement, and those who are going now, recognizing that we are stronger together than we are apart (Ecc. 4:9-12).
Who is your inspiration, and who can work with you in everyday gender justice?
One of my favourite perseverance verses is 1 Corinthians 15:58, which says, “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.”
Gender justice is not primarily our work; it is God’s work. God is moving all of us towards redemptive justice not only as it relates to gender, but in all areas. It is precisely for this reason that we must pray. William Carey once said, “When we work, we work. When we pray, God works.” In shaping up, speaking up, and pressing on, we are joining God’s movement. Let’s get going.
Tami Zacharias is the Human Resources Director with Operation Mobilisation (OM) Canada. Her free time is spent drinking tea, blogging, reading, and finishing her BEd in Adult Education. She blogs here.