I got permission from my friend, the Rev. Kaji Dousa, to share a pointed Facebook post she wrote last week when she was attending a conference. The sad thing is that although we could read this as a bit of “hot goss,” it’s a strong statement that could have been written by many of us while at many church conferences.
Time is UP, boys.
We’re not going to giggle and dodge your icky hugs, your ass gropings, your comments about our boobs, your sexist put-downs and come-ons. We’re going to look you in the eye and say, “Who the hell do you think you are, and who do you think you’re talking to?”
We’re not just going to share what happened to us through the whisper network, we’re going to organize a formal response and report you. We are going to hold you accountable for behaving like a pig, and we’re going to make sure that you are no longer allowed to be a malignant presence that assures that women remain on the margins of our work and our gatherings.
Women are gathering power and learning how to use it. Some of you who have been getting away with your predatory behavior for years will no doubt pout and whine and claim that you are the victim of a witch hunt. To that I will respond with the words of Lindy West, “Yes, this is a witch hunt. I am a witch, and I’m hunting you.”
I am delighted to be at this conference (& anywhere else, for that matter) to learn and grow.
I am the Senior Pastor of a church with a multi-million dollar annual budget. This means that most of my peers are men. I will talk to them. Do not assume or presume anything in these conversations except collegiality.
So no, my conversation with my friend/colleague should not be characterized as him talking to his “girlfriend”. Comments like this are a clear attempt to diminish my power and to put me in my “place” so that I cannot network and speak to the men with whom I need to be in collegial relationship. I am not here for this, nor should you be.
If I am friendly to you I am not flirting with you. There are no exceptions to this.
My attention to my aesthetics is not an invitation for sexual advances.
I am *NOT HERE* to hook up with you or anyone else.
So don’t test me with a lingering hand or an inappropriate joke. I may choose to laugh things off to diffuse tensions but that is not affirmation that you should try more.
Do not presume anything but my integrity and my fidelity to my vows. If you forget about this, you have permission to allow the unmistakably bright rocks on my left finger (though this shouldn’t be necessary) to serve as a reminder.
Just because you remove your ring before conferences (yes, this is a thing) doesn’t mean that the rest of us do or want to.
I thought that this would get better once I got married but then I remembered that no one is safe.
If any of this describes your behavior towards me or something you witnessed, please don’t slide into my DMs or corner me in the hallway with comments, excuses or apologies. I’m so accustomed to all of this that I’m not even mad. All I want is for this to stop. Don’t explain. Just do better.
And finally, for God’s sake: do not pet my foot. (!!!)
Alright. Carry on.
Don’t look for a sparkling ring on our left hand, either. None of us, married or not, are at conferences to provide cruising material for you. Stop sexualizing our encounters. Don’t hold me for an extra long hug: yuck. If I am charming, gregarious, engaged and cute it doesn’t mean I want to sleep with you. If I do want to venture into that territory I will let you know directly because I’m a grown-ass woman and not a target. In twenty-two years of ministry I have briefly dated one colleague. When he first propositioned me he was in final fellowship, still married, and I was a seminarian. I’ve learned a lot since then. I did tell him off at the time but I also should have reported him to the Association. He was a charming, self-effacing and serial violator of professional boundaries.
I am grateful to Kaji and to all the other women in ministry who support each other in dealing effectively with the pervasive culture of objectification and sexism in our collegial circles. Thank you also to the men and trans folk who speak up and out against this harrassment, who do not protect predators and who do not constantly expect women to do all the emotional labor addressing this issue. Thank you to the conscientious leaders within our denominations who are working to change structures of reporting and accountability for greater impact and health in our ministry.
Looking forward to hearing from other women in the comments. Cis-het men,it would be good if you would sit this one out and just listen.