Jonny Baker is Director of Mission Education for CMS and blogs at jonnybaker.blogs.com
One of the challenges around inequality and injustice is that not everybody sees it. In fact it’s often completely invisible to those with the balance of power or justice in their favour. This is always hard to believe when you are on the other side of things and something seems glaringly obvious and it feels like it is being willfully ignored. It sounds like a lame excuse – how convenient you can’t see it – open your eyes! Sometimes I am sure it is being willfully ignored but the optimist in me likes to think that quite a bit of the time it’s not willful. And it’s here that there is the most hope for change I think.
I have had several people over the years who have helped me see in relation to gender equality. Richard and Janice Russell were two people who took the time to create a space in a church Jenny and I were in when we were round the age of 20 where there was time for questions and discussion and exploring our assumptions, theology and ways of seeing. That was like having the scales removed from my eyes and it set Jenny and I off on a trail of commitment to working everything out as partners and friends and subsequently parents in our relationship together.
Jenny has helped me see and still does. I like to think I am sensitised to issues of gender (risky statement to make in public – gulp!) but Jenny is sharper than me and that has been a wonderful gift. Equals has helped me see a bit more. I found the sections on the workplace in the book particularly inspiring and challenging especially what happens around the performance of gender. As a result I have tried to open up discussions around how that gets played out in our team at CMS where I work so that we can try and see the challenges and issues that might be invisible until voiced. Two friends there in particular – Cathy and Berdine – have regularly helped me see and sharpen up my vision at work around the performance of gender. I hope my sight is better than it used to be. It’s not that we talk about it all the time but it’s become second nature such that when we have a pioneer day with speakers we’ll have a balance of men and women without thinking about it. The book The Pioneer Gift that we have coming out this summer similarly has about 50/50 chapters from men and women. And i genuinely think and hope CMS is a good place to train for both men and women pioneers.
Those pioneers also continually help me see. A friend Andrea in particular has helped me see how issues of shame are so powerfully at work in many peoples lives and how that gets played out in relation to women. Brene Brown and Janet Davis through their research and writing have deepened my understanding and vision so that I now see it much more readily.
So my simple thought which I hope I have learned over time is that in my experience I need other people to help me see if we are to to genuinely do life together as men and women, as equals. Who can help you see I wonder?