Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Not too long ago I had a frustrating conversation with a colleague of mine. It started innocently enough with us mutually asserting that churches should be more inclusive of women in their services. Usually these conversations about women in the church fit into two categories:
  1. We fundamentally disagree on so much about what Scripture says about women, neither of us budges on our respective positions, and we both end up at least a little frustrated with each other.
  2. Or, we agree on basically every point, and rally together in hoping for a better situation in our churches.
I thought this conversation would be more like the second category, but somewhere in the middle of our discussion, it became more like Category 1. Which was strange because we agreed on the main point that women are created equal and, therefore, shouldn't be treated as inferior and limited to potlucks and the nursery . . . but we disagreed on several of the sub-points leading up to that ultimate conclusion.

Of all the things that frustrated me and caught me off guard in the conversation, I think the thing that got me most was his refusal to acknowledge his position of privilege as a male. Most of the men with whom I've talked extensively about gender freely admit that their maleness automatically gives them an advantage in myriad situations. Even if they don't fully grasp the extent of that privilege, they know it's there. (Or they fall squarely into Category 1 above and may know they're privileged but think that privilege is ordained by God.) This colleague, though, was willing to admit that--just maybe--he might be privileged, but he didn't really think he was.

For a while I pushed back, but eventually just stopped talking because we were going in circles and I didn't want to say something ugly. And I left the conversation exceedingly frustrated.

Upon reflection later, I got to wondering . . . in how many ways am I oblivious to the positions of privilege into which I was born or have earned? I'm not in poverty. I'm white. I have a good job with a consistent paycheck. I live in a country with a (comparatively) stable government. I have a college education. I have clean water and easy access to food. I have friends and family who love me unconditionally and will be there for me no matter what.

While I consciously know these privileges exist in my life, I know that I take them for granted, and they're definitely not in the forefront of my mind. And I don't feel the weight of my privileges in the same way I feel the weight of others' privileges that I don't share (maleness, greater wealth, a more important-sounding job title, etc.). 

I wonder how many times I've unthinkingly opened my mouth and hurt someone who doesn't share these privileges that I take for granted. 


  1. Karissa,

    Thanks for this post! I wish the guy you were talking to was as reflective as you are!


  2. Thank you. I wish that, too. And I appreciate you being one of the reflective good guys I mentioned!