Much has been done to improve the lives of women around the world. It is clear, however, that such changes will not lead to permanent progress unless they uplift the men in those societies as well. The Christian Science Monitor wrote about an example of progress toward gender equality in a recent article on men in Turkey who are speaking out in order to protest against attitudes toward women (see “In Turkey, a show of male solidarity in tackling violence against women”).
It’s often easy to stereotype the situations both genders face, but what is actually needed is a willingness to recognize that the core of the problem isn’t so much about whether men or women are dominant as it is about the belief that we are all material beings – some less worthy than others – competing with each other for love, peace, stability, and safety.
This view of individuals as either abusers or victims is a mistaken view of who we are and who God is. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, presents the correct view: “In Science man is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry. His origin is not, like that of mortals, in brute instinct, nor does he pass through material conditions prior to reaching intelligence. Spirit is his primitive and ultimate source of being; God is his Father, and Life is the law of his being” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 63). According to this Science, each of us is a spiritual idea of God, loved and cherished by our divine Father-Mother. In spiritual reality, neither women nor men are valued any less than the other.
Strength, intelligence, courage, patience, love, wisdom, and so on appear in the lives of women caring for families, working at their jobs, and doing good for the world just as they are present for men. And they are indications of real identity. These qualities, in turn, counteract the belief that men (or women) could be predators, cruel, selfish, and so on. Such attributes do not and cannot originate in God, good, who is Spirit and divine Love.
Christ Jesus showed that both men and women are created equal. He healed women as well as men, and was approachable even by women who would have been considered beneath a man of his social status.
One example is the woman who had suffered with “an issue of blood” for 12 years. The Bible says she “had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any.” When the woman touched the border of his clothing, the bleeding stopped at once. Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” The woman “came trembling” and explained in front of everyone why she had touched him and that she was healed immediately. Given the cultural rules of the time, Jesus could have been angry, perhaps even abusive. But he wasn’t. He was compassionate. He said, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace” (Luke 8: 43-48).
To me, Jesus provided a shining example that men can be tender and gentle and that God is our loving Father. My own father died when I was a teenager, but I’ve had many experiences of “fathering” since then. One occurred when I needed to buy my first car. In my prayers about making a purchase, I mentally replaced the stereotype of predatory car salesmen preying on women with the realization that God, as Love, was governing every detail of the event and could not make anyone so unlike His loving nature.
Later, I learned that this dealership was famous for pressuring people into deals, but when I walked in, a salesman quickly and kindly helped me find the exact car I’d hoped for. During the purchase, when another salesman tried to push options on me, the man told me not to let this other salesman push me around. That saved me a lot of money and got me a better deal. On his own time the man also helped me get car insurance, register my car with the state, and put the license plates on my new car for me. He kindly fathered me through the whole experience.
Compassion, understanding, intelligence, and similar qualities are not separate from us or others. They are qualities that exist in the God-given identity of everyone today, and our increasing understanding of this brings growing evidence of them in our lives and the lives of others. As we pray to see our spiritual origin, made equally in God’s image, we will be helping the world to become a better, kinder place – one that is better for women and for men.