Strange environments worry most of us if we’re honest. We don’t know the rules of the game, it takes a while to pick up the signals and sometimes we feel like the outsider. We can even feel like the enemy. So spending a Saturday at the ‘Stop Porn Culture’ conference was an unusual experience for me. The female:male ratio meant that I was impressively outnumbered, I was too conservatively dressed to feel at home and as a Christian I was in a minority. As a man I’m more used to settings where all the speakers are male than those where all the speakers are female. It’s interesting to recall my feelings as details of abusive male proprietors and producers were referenced time and time again. I felt uncomfortable, I felt culpable, I felt guilty. And because there were no male speakers who could have portrayed a more wholesome picture of masculinity this feeling was unresolved throughout the day. It made me think about the ease with which I accept men speaking from a male-only platform about women with no corrective balance with which to adjust the picture. I was also reminded that being in a minority makes you more watchful, more nervous and more likely to interpret things negatively. Human dynamics are like that- we are relational to the core so any sense of being ‘shut out’ is bound to create unhealthy introspection. This is where the self-blaming game begins – ‘It must be something wrong with me’. I am in a privileged position: I am white and I am male and thanks to a secure foundation I rarely have a default setting that says it must be my fault (even though sometimes it is). I was also in the advantageous position of having three Christian feminist friends to talk to and to interpret experiences with. How would I have felt without them? Sometimes the language from the speakers was foreign to me both in terms of heroes of the feminist movement and in terms of pornographic activity. How do we feel when we don’t get it? As a Christian we throw terms around rather too freely assuming that others will get it via osmosis. Life is not like that. Language creates real barriers for the outsider which drives a wedge that means: ‘These are not my people’. So my appeal is simply this: Be more aware of who we are talking to, be more friendly to those who struggle to fit in and let’s have more balanced platforms in Christian gatherings so that women and men feel equally at home.
With thanks to Natalie, Jen and Sarah.