This is what the 75th Golden Globe Awards and the Church have in common / Will Moore
Feminism has taken to the global stage more prominently than ever in recent months. The #TimesUp campaign against sexual abuse in the workplace and in wider society, dominated Hollywood and the Golden Globes in January. The hashtag #MeToo circulated on social media in late 2017, sharing stories of sexual abuse, harassment and assault. Women have made their voice heard - loud and clear.
But what seemed missing at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, was the support of men. A majority of the female celebrities wore black in solidarity with the campaign, with many remarks of surprise that even some males were doing the same. This shock needs to be eradicated from the media. It is a backwards step to show surprise and astonishment at male feminists. It should be actively encouraged, if not assumed, that men have a role to play in uplifting and supporting women. Although some men took part in the black dress code, it was duly noted that all of the female winners used their speeches to promote the #TimesUp campaign, whereas the male winners kept silent on such issues.
However, it is not only in Hollywood that such allegations have surfaced. The hashtag #ChurchToo appeared, giving Christians an opportunity to tell stories of sexual harassment within the Church. Jayne Ozanne, a gay evangelical Christian, wrote open letters and participated in television interviews, describing her story of being raped by a priest in the 1990s. She then informed her (male) bishop who advised her not to take the allegations any further.
It would be wrong and utterly naïve to believe that the Church has no sexual misconduct when the rest of society does. It is evident that it is a widespread problem and it needs to be tackled head-on, something that the Church is not well-known for doing. Friends and family must listen to and support the victims. It cannot be something that is ignored and the first step is to listen to those stories. In order for equality to be achieved in the Church, women must not only have voices but must be listened to also.
Anyone who attempts to brush aside allegations, the majority of whom are men, fail to see the damage to individuals that these situations have caused and Church leaders must be held accountable. It would be wrong to forget that there are male victims of sexual abuse too, particularly in Church settings due to the misuse of powers that were only given to men.
Sarah Mullally was recently appointed as the next Bishop of London, the third most senior post in the Church of England. The decision was met with much controversy, despite it being Church policy that women can be priests and, indeed, bishops. There are those who still reject women in ecclesial leadership for biblical and/or traditional reasons. However, for progressives (although, it seems ridiculous to use such a term in reference to the basic right of gender equality) like myself, this was a huge step forward in Church thinking and in Church leadership. It is in moments like these that Christians must support the role of women in society and in the Church, as they become enabled to do roles that have been previously male-dominated. For those in support of the appointment, it is crucial to openly show endorsement of Mullally and to defend any criticism that lurks in conversation or on social media.
However, female empowerment has to begin at the grassroots, in local individual churches. Men must not stand in the way as obstacles but must stand up for the rights of women. This means encouraging women to lead services, to preach and to be actively involved in church roles, particularly those which have been previously male-dominated.
Campaigning, petitioning and protesting for the rights of women, in Church or in wider society, do not have to be exclusively female activities. Feminism is a fight for equal rights – for everyone to be heard, treated equally and have complete freedom. However, it is critical that male feminists do not overshadow the voices of women but work to support a platform for them on which they can be heard.
In her speech, after receiving the Cecil B. de Mille Award at the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey talked of a new day on the horizon. She exclaimed to the standing ovation ahead of her that this new era will be because of “a lot of magnificent women”, but also “some pretty phenomenal men”.
It is from the efforts of everyone, of all genders, that this egalitarian society can come into fruition. It is imperative that the Church becomes a part of this new era now and not a few eras later, as it has a tendency of doing. We must be on that horizon, supporting and empowering women in churches, whether in ministerial roles or just as fellow Christians. Men and women alike have a role to play and it would be an incredible detrimental shame if the Church wasn’t a leading force in this surge of feminist movements.
Words by Will Moore
Artwork by Andrea Vega