Why do men fail to trust women? In his last post responding to Damon Young’s HuffPo piece, Alastair suggested a number of reasons men fail to trust women: including that men are taught not to trust their own (nor women’s) feelings, differences in perception and experience, a gendered confidence gap, and a number of salient issues that pertain to allegations of abuse and why the abused one (often, a woman) has a hard time being believed.
Here is one additional, glaring thing that I wanted to add: haven’t men always failed to trust women, because somehow there is an innate belief that women are less trustworthy? History is replete with examples of women’s testimonies in court not being believed, of women being considered hysterical witnesses, of women not being considered as able to participate in discussion, weigh opinions, to vote.
I am grateful to be a woman in the 21st century rather than in the 18th century, when I would not have been able to participate in both law school and seminary: both realms considered beyond the reach of women (a hat tip here to Hannah More, as one of the women who worked hard to change the world despite being an 18th century woman!) However, even as a woman in the 21st century, I am affected by this subterranean suspicion that women are somehow less trustworthy than men. And sadly, in the church, the Bible is often touted to support that view.
1 Peter 3 refers to wives as “weaker vessels” than their husbands, and then there are those clanging words of 1 Timothy 2:14 where we are reminded that it wasn’t Adam who was deceived, it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (And, I am struck by the fact that Adam is named as an individual-not-blamed, while Eve-as-individual is not named… it the more generic “the woman” who was deceived… as if Adam as an autonomous agent is an exception, but all women are innately deceivable.) Are these not hints, then, that even in God’s economy, women are less able to act, less able to discern, just…. less able? In other words, are there theological reasons for women to be considered less trustworthy?
I haven’t met many willing to own this statement outright, but it seems to me that it lies as an undercurrent beneath some of the discussions about women in leadership in the church. Being prone to being busy bodies and gossips as they are (1 Timothy 5), and being deceivable and weaker (the Bible says so) – surely then women should remain silent?
This week before Easter gives me cause to pause and reflect.
In the hours before his death, Jesus charged John with the care of his mother. I take it he did this because, in His perfect way, He acknowledged her as a “weaker vessel”: not as less able, but as older, grieving, and socially, emotionally and economically vulnerable in a way that the younger male disciple was not.
But in the hours and days after his death, God in His sovereignty entrusted a group of women to be the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Women, whose opinion counted for nothing in court. Women, who couldn’t vote. Women, who were regarded as less able, and innately less trustworthy. But it was to these that the Angel first testified that Jesus had risen from the dead, and to these that Jesus first appeared and commissioned to bear witness to his resurrection.
Of course, the disciples didn’t believe their story. Of course they didn’t trust the women: “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11) Surely the women were mad? Or frightened? Or too full of feelings? And so wasting no time, the disciples ran to see for themselves.
That first Easter, nobody trusted the women.
But I’m reminded on Easter that Jesus did. He trusted the women.
And it tells me that somehow, when it comes to bearing witness to Him, He trusts me too.