Women Rising, Meghan Tschanz, Foreword by Carolyn Custis James. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021.
Summary: A global mission trip awakens the author both to the injustices women face throughout the world and the patterns of subjection she learned in childhood that held her back and which she learned to name and use her voice to speak against.
Meghan Tschanz grew up in a good conservative church and participated in a good Christian ministry in college. But she also absorbed teaching that caused her a lot of harm. It all had to do with being a woman and not a man. She was taught about purity, something to be protected, like a lollipop kept in its wrapper. She was taught about modesty, and how she didn’t want to be the cause of men sinning, with the subliminal message that her body, or at least some parts of it were bad and to be ashamed of. She was taught that women lived for men’s needs and wants. Then there were the passes men made, the remarks bosses and customers made that reduced her to an object, eye candy for their pleasure.
All of that was in her history, but below the surface until a year spent on a mission trip around the world. She confronted the male dominance of the mission. She is traumatized when a man pleasures himself while looking at her while she plays tennis. And she entered into the heartbreaking ways women were abused around the world. Beaten and raped by husbands. Subject to female genital mutilation. Deceived and trafficked. One of the women she reached out to was murdered by a client.
Meanwhile, she became involved in a relationship with a young man also associated with the mission. She’s attracted but also increasingly uneasy with the ways she feels controlled and has to “stuff” parts of herself. Those around her see the difference, how she stifles her voice to be with him. All this culminates as she reflects on her experiences, both with the women, and with the people and structures that have shaped her life. After trying so hard to cope and help women cope, she realized that things would not change without men being held accountable. Women endured all sorts of abuse, while men rarely were held to account, or not at all. She recognized the structures of patriarchy both in society and in the church that sought to control and use women, but not to permit them to be equal partners in society or ministry. It was believed that if women stepped up, then men would step back. She exposes the structures and strategy used to keep women “in their place” and the deep pain women experienced, that she experienced.
This is an honest book–about everything from sexuality and bodies to the times she fell apart under the weight of what she saw, and how prayer and friends helped. It’s a book meant to encourage women to raise their voice, to speak into the injustice of patriarchal church structures and societal structures that constrain women but never expect men to change or be held responsible. This is also a book men need to read. We need to understand the pain we as men have inflicted. We need to understand how our own irresponsible lack of control of our desires have caused women to be ashamed of their bodies when we are the ones who should be ashamed. We need to face why power and control are so important to us. What do we fear? There is mystery in the relations between genders and many of us would rather control the mystery than extend the respect that we want by listening, learning, and understanding. Fear is the prelude to wonder in the knowledge of God. The sad tragedy of patriarchy is not only are we robbed of half the gifts of the church, but we settle for the illusion of power and control when we could have wonder.
All this is to say, men, read this book. Some of it will (or should) break your heart. And it will help us support our sisters who are rising, reclaiming their voices, and bringing their whole selves into the lives of our communities.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.