International Women’s Day 2018: #PressForProgress

March 8th, 2018

Adopted in 1975 by the United Nations, March 8th marks International Women’s Day, a commemoration of the movement for women’s rights. This year, the campaign theme is #PressForProgress, a response to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report that gender parity is over 200 years away. Despite progress on a multitude of fronts, we still have a long way to go and must not become complacent or discouraged. While 200 years is a long time to wait for worldwide gender parity, #PressForProgress encourages us to speed up that timeline through commitment to gender inclusivity and maintaining a gender parity mindset.

International Women’s Day can also be an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the gifts of women in our lives and in the life of the church. As a clergywoman, there are frustrating days when fighting gender-related issues feels like an uphill battle, but at the same time, I am thankful for the particular ministry that I am called to and embody. We are not finished fighting for equal pay and equal opportunities. We still have to challenge and call-out sexism and gender-based violence in the church. There are days where I wonder how much easier it would be as a white man, and yet I cannot imagine doing this work in any other embodiment.

Meditating on International Women’s Day, I am particularly grateful for the camaraderie and gifts of my fellow clergywomen. Through social media and in-person interactions, I have a community of powerful, grace-filled, and supportive women who understand deeply that success is not a zero-sum game. When one of us writes a book or starts a creative ministry or is called to a high-powered position, we all share in her achievement. There is room enough for all of our gifts and talents, and it does not diminish our own to lift up others. There is collaboration rather than competition.

The groups of women of which I am a part function directly in opposition to the myth that women cannot get along or will always backstab one another. These women are not petty or superficial but deeply wise and generous. I wish that this was the vision of female friendship that had been presented to me as a girl, and I hope that these are the kinds of communities in which following generations will flourish. To me, this is a kind of realization of the Reign of God or, at the very least, an alternative to a culture that wants to pit women against one another out of the fear of what we could do if we came together.

We should absolutely use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to #PressForProgress, to continue breaking glass ceilings in the church and elsewhere, but we can also look around and appreciate how far we have come. We can commit to modeling the kinds of communities we want to see in the world towards the goal of gender parity on our own terms, on terms of a more just, more equitable society that rejoices in all types of gifts, not only those that are valued on the terms of capitalism. The church could be fertile ground for such a movement if we are willing to embrace it.

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