Mel Gibson, the actor, really an actor with whom I quarrel with sometimes, given his politics. He made a movie several years ago called, “What Women Want.” The soundtrack of the movie is better than the movie itself, but the storyline was a bit unique in its time. Mel’s character, by some freak accident, gained the ability to listen to the thoughts of women, to probe their minds and hear what they were thinking, to magically know what in fact they were feeling. At first, it was “a dream come true,” as he had the ability to get all the sexual encounters with women that he wanted.
He knew exactly what to say to them to seduce them. He would manipulate women, read their minds leaving them astonished at his sensitivity. It got to the place where he was bending them to his control and he could anticipate the thoughts and feelings of women he had any desire to know better.
As the movie went forward the plot thickened as Gibson’s character began to not only hear the desires and romantic interest that woman might have, but he was also hearing of the wounds and hurts, the pain that men were causing women, and he himself had caused, the hidden and unspoken pain that many women felt every day, never spoken out loud, that he had no clue about. They were feelings and pain most often experienced at the hands of men and by his own hand. It really hit home for him, as he began to hear the thoughts and pain coming from his own daughter, his own child with whom he had struggled to have a meaningful relationship.
At a point, his own sixteen-year-old daughter experienced the treatment of her boyfriend’s, behavior that Gibson was all too familiar with, bringing home his own actions. It was like a mirror placed directly before his eyes. All of it was too close to home and the movie went on from there.
What do women want… particularly the younger women among us and around us? What do they want, while men on the flip side of that coin, the louder, and often more dominant and demanding side of the coin? Men often fail to ask, or seek to understand what women want, but rather we declare, “What’s the fuss?” It’s just the battle of the sexes, we say, and the reality that women face as they navigate through this world. It’s just the way things are, we surmise. It’s the way things have always been, we surrender. It is how we have socialized men to behave and taught women to react and to respond.
It got me to thinking, how and when do women get to live without apology in the world? Especially when women and their stories get buried so deeply and so often denied free expression. Too often they are victims rather than victorious in our culture. I suspect the incidences of men behaving badly, of men whistling at the construction site. Or making persistent and unwanted advances making women feel less than, is something that woman face routinely. Rather than randomly, just a part of their everyday lives. But that should not have to be. Have you noticed that they are now advertising on TV, …24 hour, seven days a week therapy over your telephone for a hefty monthly fee, just because relationship issues are so demanding in our culture now…? The tagline is a woman sitting in the midst of the culture, saying, “…the therapist makes me feel in the best way possible.”
What’s the fuss, some men may ask? The deeper, more important question is, however, how will women get to live in our society when the glass ceiling that may have a million cracks in it, is still not broken through? The fuss is in, why isn’t fifty percent of the population represented in politics and education, represented in administration, the corporate world and in every endeavor or even in the church by now? And, when will we cease speaking to women as objects rather than human beings with thoughts and feelings, with abilities and worthy of constant respect?
In our Wild West media culture with social media platforms consuming so much of our time, one can be as bold as they want to be while holding that tiny device in the palm of their hand. How do we as men speak to women, especially our younger men as they engage younger women, when the image men and boys are fed in our culture is seasoned by people at the highest levels in our society, boosting about grabbing body parts.
In the airport in Florida recently, there were billboards everywhere advertising and calling for an end to human trafficking. It’s one of those dirty little secret problems that America has and does so little about. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, let’s face it, women still seek to find liberation from the shackles of sexism. The problems are not new, and it cuts across all kinds of lines. Women of color deal with sexism and racism too.
But still, what’s the fuss? Young girls today are overwhelmed with beauty standards, that most of them cannot possibly live up too. Too many young girls still use teen magazines to teach themselves about what constitutes beauty and still struggle to understand their own sexuality and too many young boys use porn to figure out how to relate to the girls in their lives. How do we get out of Egypt with this army of negativity closing in on us, tracking our young people, overwhelming our youth today?
I content that God has provided us with the tools and the means to turn the tide of what ails our culture and particularly our struggling youth. Maybe a clue to the answer lies in the relationship we can still have with women of every stripe and especially with children who look to us to be anchors of clarity.
We, in the church, tend to leave the gritty stuff to the professionals or to anyone else who will volunteer with the younger population. We don’t want to talk about sex with them, we tell them just don’t do it and think that is all that is needed. We fail to teach our boys how to be respectful men or teach them that human interaction has boundaries and expectations. We don’t want to do this work, but we must do it.
It’s the way forward in our community. It’s our work to make sure we know what is wanted from the women and girl in our lives, and it is time that women and girl continue to find their voices, and it is time that men understand what it means to be men and teach our boys to be men, instead of animals on the prowl and after objects.
If my words are a little graphic on this issue, I apologize. It is time we got real and faced the fact that we are losing too many in the culture, especially our youth because we are afraid to be honest with them and too afraid to ask God to help us part these seas of difficulties that seem to hold so many in bondage. We are too afraid to tell each other the truth about the hurt we cause the women in our lives and deny women the voice that is rightfully theirs to be expressed and valued. Maybe it is time to start by saying, for some of us to say, “I am a recovering sexist!” Maybe it is time for the church and the wider community to do the same. It may be a clue, as to what women really want. To move toward knowing that we can all do better and be better. I’m just saying!
Rev. Stephen W. Camp is a Hartford native and the senior pastor at Faith Congregational Church, UCC 2030 on Main Street, in Hartford, CT.
faithmatterstoday.org – We offer an extravagant welcome to you!