Why Worry About Women?

[This article first appeared at Nick McDonald’s The Radical Journey, a blog I wrote for occasionally last year before starting my own here.]

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Why Worry About Women?

There are two types of women in this world: those I know and those I don’t. I think God wants me to be concerned for both types, and a recent newspaper article brought this home to me with some very tangible information about women who fall into the second category.

Women I don’t know

The Independent ran an article on the conditions women face around the world. Some of the news is horrible, of course, but some is startlingly upbeat.

The best place to be a woman in national politics is not the UK or the US, but Rwanda. Women hold 45 out of 80 seats in the Rwandan Parliament, while in the US there are only 95 women serving in the House and Senate (out of 535 members total in the two houses) and the UK Parliament is hardly better with only 21% women.

So Africa is a surprisingly good place to be a woman, right? Not elsewhere on the continent. For example, more women die in childbirth in South Sudan than anywhere else, a staggering 1 in 7 according to Médecins Sans Frontières. Contrast that with Greece, which the Independent labeled the best country for giving birth with only 1 death in 31,800 births.

For making a living, Norway and Sweden have the highest wages for women compared to men (about even) while Saudi Arabia ranks lowest where women make 20% of men’s average earnings. It’s not all bad in the Middle East, though. The highest ratio of women participating in higher education worldwide is in Qatar, where women outnumber men 6 to 1 in post-secondary schools. The lowest ratio of women to men is in Chad, where men outnumber women 3 to 1.

The bottom line is that the condition of women around the world doesn’t seem to meet what we would expect for many of the categories detailed in the Independent.

A woman I do know

I’d like to think that my daughter is irrepressible, and that as she desires to follow God and use the talents he’s given her she will not be swayed by the world’s mores and judgments. But I know that the hopes and plans of even the strongest people, women and men alike, can be crushed by the words and actions of others. And I know that my strong, smart daughter is no exception.

This wonderful young woman (I practically gag at being forced to face the fact that my wonderful girl is now a wonderful woman) has plans, plans that she hopes to honor God with. She is pre-med and wants to become an Ob-Gyn. When I asked her if she wanted clinical work or a surgical practice (did I mention she’s really smart and talented?) she immediately told me that she doesn’t want to do surgery because surgeons don’t get to have long-term relationships with their patients and their families. Eventually she wants to work in a developing nation, delivering medical care to those who cannot even imagine what it is like to have a doctor of their own.

So have I brought the two types of women together through my daughter’s ambitions and the world’s needs? Yes, but perhaps in a way that you may not expect.

What God says, and what we can do

Early in his ministry, Jesus summed up his purpose on earth: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19.) That’s freedom for me and you and my daughter and the pregnant mothers in South Sudan, now isn’t it?

Of course, Jesus was talking ultimately about spiritual freedom. But he also backed this up with physical manifestations of this freedom. In fact, Jesus himself identified how people could be assured that he was the promised Messiah. “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matthew 11:5.) Then he backed this talk with action. (Mark 5:25-35.)

Make no mistake; the way things are around the world, men are in a position to do a lot more for women than men are doing right now. So how do we carry this out for women we know and women we don’t? God has put each of us in positions where, by God’s own power and according to his will, we can lift up others.

I hate to sound faddish or cliché, but a lot of it has to do with knowledge and empowerment.

1)      Get informed. Stay open to learning about what is happening in the world just as you want to know what’s happening in your own family. Seek out and read articles like the one linked at the top of this post. Pray for opportunities to help and find a way to act on them, whether it means sending money, writing to Congress, or anything else God puts on your heart.

2)      Take advantage of the opportunities God gives you with the people around you. Does your sister or girlfriend or wife or daughter or mother need something you can give? Give it. Does the harried mother in the checkout line behind you need to get through before you so she can load her groceries and her children in the car and get home? Offer a smile and a kind word, and let her go ahead of you even if you are only buying a quart of milk and a candy bar.

3)      Fill in your own blanks here. You know what you can do, and you probably already know someone you can do it for.

A job worth doing

But why is empowering women so important? As much as I’d like to say it’s because young women with as much promise as my daughter deserve to be supported and empowered, that’s not the real reason. Neither is it because there are women around the world who face tragedy daily, hourly, even by the minute.

No. It’s because doing good to others – those within God’s kingdom and those without – is a calling we are all told to follow (Galatians 6:10), because all of us are made in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27.)

So I’ll pose the question again: Why is it important to empower women? Because women are made in the image of God.

And that’s reason enough for me.

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15 Responses to Why Worry About Women?

  1. Aimee Byrd says:

    I’m going to think on this one Tim…
    I am thankful for what you have shared about your daughter, and for the encouragement that you give women everyday!
    However, there is so much debated about the roles that women are to be empowered in. And maybe the feminist movement has tarnished the word “empowered” with much of its agenda that is not really good for women. That’s maybe why I prefer to say “encourage” or “support.” And along these lines, many women become the barrier to this kind of encouragement that I believe you are talking about because they are offended to have a man “empower” them. They seek to empower themselves, which goes way beyond the biblical doctrine of vocation which I think you are touching upon (in which our motive is loving God and neighbor).

    • Tim says:

      I know, empowerment is an awkward word. I tried to use it in the sense that at present men seem to have more power in this world than women do, and it creates an artificial distinction which can cloud the fact that men and women are not only each God’s image bearers (Gen. 1:27), but are also male and female “are all one in Christ Jesus”. (Galatians 3:28.)

      As long as men hold more power than women in this type of artificial imbalance, men are in a position to empower women. Instead, in our communities, our nation and around the world, those in power tend to hold on to it and subjugate those without power. In this world, those without power tend to be women, children, the poor, the strangers among us. Hey, it sounds a lot like Deuteronomy 10:18!

      So that’s what I meant by empowering. It probably just didn’t come across all that clearly. 😉

      Tim

      • Aimee Byrd says:

        I wasn’t trying to say you came across poorly using that word. I just was mentioning the presuppositions that word carries when I read it.

        • Tim says:

          In no way did I take your comment as criticism, Aimee! I just realized there was more I could have said to fill out what I meant and wanted to get it out for anyone who reads the comments section.

  2. Tim, have you read Half the Sky? I’m wondering because it’s the first thing I thought of when I started reading.

  3. Nancy Van Wyck says:

    Tim this has nothing to do with your new blog here but did not know how to find your old blog about the 100 year old Apple Cake recipe, and wanted you to know that I made it today and I did not change it at all. My husband and I just loved it. Its the best one yet. Thanks so much for shareing it.

  4. Sarah Tun says:

    As a woman I’d like to say great article! But too, in my ‘world’ where women are – for the most part – empowered, I feel the need to express the flip side: that men also need empowerment. ‘God made man … and saw that it was not good that he was alone.’
    Now please read me out folks and don’t think I want to reverse the status of women. FrankIy I don’t think a man could get away with raising the points I’m about to make, without being given some serious darting glances…
    Man needed a companion, a helpmeet. That’s what it says. That’s all it says.
    It doesn’t suggest women are inferior to man as has been percieved throughout the ages. Rather, my take on it is that woman didn’t need a helpmeet…
    Now I’m not putting men down either so please keep reading…
    The joblessness in the West is escalating and the cost of living soaring. People of both genders are being educated to post graduate level. Both women and men have proven they are very capable of doing a great job. But because both men and women are in the workforce there aren’t enough jobs for everyone.
    I don’t believe in putting women back to being ‘barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen’ but there is a problem created when we empower women and men lose power.
    Jesus signaled loud and clear that women were to be valued. But men need help – that’s how they’re made.
    It seems we’ve created some new problems that have arisen by solving some others.
    … And I haven’t even begun to raise the issue of kids… kids being raised often spending more hours in nurseries than with either parent.
    Would love to know how people take my comments.

    • Tim says:

      Good points, Sarah. I think when God said it is not good for man to be alone, he wasn’t suggesting that man needs a mate so much as that creation was not yet complete. It wouldn’t have been complete if woman were created first either. Both women and men are part of God’s completed creation. I don’t know if this is making much sense. I touched on the topic a bit with an earlier post here, too.

      • Sarah Tun says:

        I read the other post now too. Yes, totally. Society and the world needs both genders and not just to procreate. There are certain ways that men are more able and in other ways women more self-sufficient. Overall, we need both men and women to make this earth/world thing to ‘work’ – though the axis thing is up to God of course!

    • Jeannie says:

      Hey Sarah! I think empowerment in its best sense goes beyond (or should go beyond) employment opportunities and child care. I think when one sex’s empowerment causes another sex’s disempowerment, then that is a problem with how our society/world is structured, not with the empowerment itself. As Tim said, God has created each of us in His image: becoming the person He’s called us to be so that we can fully and freely glorify Him is not something that should take away from someone else’s rights or privileges.

    • 'Becca says:

      I’d love to see men empowered to feel that it is okay for them to take care of children. Our society constantly devalues fathers as competent parents (TV commercials, etc.) and I hope that’s not what you meant by, “men need help – that’s how they’re made.” PEOPLE need help; we are not meant to be individually self-sufficient.

      I agree that “there is a problem created when we empower women and men lose power.” Just as we removed barriers to women in traditionally male professions and improved math and science education for girls, we need to remove barriers to men in caring professions (nursing, teaching, childcare, eldercare) and improve nurturing education for boys. Instead many schools have cut home ec completely and teach nothing about childcare. A lot of people of both genders these days have no idea how to cook from scratch, maintain a home, or care for a baby. We need to empower everyone on that front.

  5. Sarah Tun says:

    Hi Jeannie, I thought I was suggesting there’s a systemic problem. Apologies for any lack of clarity. I agree – if we’re all living on a teeter totter and the only way we can rise up is to make someone else fall down, that’s no good. But though I don’t advocate it, that seems to be the nature of many cultures (which is where we came in). Not sure how to change the situation. We in the West seem to have improved the woman’s plight but it has created other problems. I’m not saying men and women are not equal, because I believe they are, but they are different and have differing needs, have different abilities, both as individuals and as genders. I think that’s self evident. Maybe that’s not a popular way of thinking…
    And I’m thinking of the kids too, some of whom seem to get little parental time because both parents need to work. That’s not new either but it seems to be more prevalent than it used to be.

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