Wait . . . What?!” After marching around the living room, singing along to “Sister Suffragette” from our Mary Poppins soundtrack, my daughters had stopped to ask me what in the world a suffragette was.
When I started to explain that women at that time didn’t have the right to vote, I was interrupted by my incredulous third-grader, eyes wide in disbelief. She simply could not comprehend a world in which it was normative for only men to vote.
Thankfully, my daughters are growing up in a world in which women now have the right to vote in every country on the planet (with the exception of Vatican City). Economists note that women are wielding increasing economic power, both in terms of employment and spending.
Yet inequities certainly still remain: Women continue to face a significant pay gap when compared to men doing equal work; a “glass ceiling” persists when it comes to women in positions of executive leadership; and while women’s political power is increasing, globally women make up only about one-fifth of national governing bodies. Meanwhile, millions of girls are barred from access to education. And as women around the world face gender-based discrimination, we’re simultaneously subjected to cultural messages linking female “power” primarily with sexuality and the male gaze—a distorted understanding, to be sure.
As Christians, what are we to think of these disparities and distortions of power?
First, we understand power differently. We humans tend to hunger for power—for control over others, for self-aggrandizement. In Scripture, we see this human view of power repeatedly linked to vices like greed, lust, pride, and injustice.