by Katie Blott
As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. 43Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. 44She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her haemorrhage stopped. 45Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ 46But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ 47When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’
Luke 8: 42-48 – NRSV
On 10th June, I wrote a piece entitled ‘Am I a Racist?’ and in it I asked: ‘Why do we care so much about racism, but don’t seem to care at all about gender violence…?’ In a recent discussion with my daughter Katie, she volunteered to expand on this theme, and what follows is her guest blog, in her own words.
Following the tragic and brutal murder of George Floyd and the rise of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign in the UK, I realised that I was starting to view society in the UK in a different light than I had a few years ago. Most mornings over the past month, I would wake up to news reports on my phone that were solely focused on the BLM movement, and began to see that this was the sole focus of the media’s attention. Although I completely understood the outrage of the BAME community towards Floyd’s murder, I couldn’t understand why other news wasn’t being reported. To my dismay, I saw that there was no acknowledgment in the media towards the LGTBQI+ community during ‘Pride Month’ this year. This therefore led me to question whether some lives are valued more than others in the UK? To be more specific, are the lives of both white and BAME men held in higher regard than those of both white and BAME women?
I feel that I must bring up the uncomfortable topic of sexual assault, when tackling the issue of the treatment of women in the UK. Unfortunately, the proportion of females who are victims of sexual assault at some point in their lives in this country is five times higher than that of males. Furthermore, in the UK, 64% of females have been victims of sexual harassment at some point in their lives. 80% of those victims didn’t report their harassment, either to their workplace, or the Police. This is because they feared that it would have a negative impact on their career and working relationships, and other victims felt they wouldn’t be believed, or taken seriously. If these acts go without being reported, does this mean it’s acceptable in the UK to both physically and emotionally traumatise a woman solely because of her gender? These shocking statistics have led me to believe that although women have far more freedom and respect in the 21st century than in previous generations, we still have a long way to go in terms of educating men that men exercising control over women’s bodies is totally unacceptable. What I would ask you to consider is this: How can we expect to protect the BAME community who make up 10.8% of the UK population, if we aren’t able to properly protect 50% of the UK’s population from misogynistic acts?
I couldn’t begin to write about how I feel about gender as a theology student, without taking into consideration the radical view of Jesus towards women. The further I go into my New Testament studies, the more aware I’ve become of how enlightened Jesus was towards women and the oppressed, despite the culture of his times. The Bible passage I’ve quoted from Luke’s gospel demonstrates Jesus’ radical attitude towards women. Jesus is on his way to cure the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leader, but he’s stopped by a ‘bleeding woman’ who is healed by touching Jesus’ cloak. She’s healed spiritually by her faith in Jesus. What is most radical about the passage is the fact that in Jewish custom, this woman would have been regarded as being ceremonially ‘unclean’. By her touching him, under the rules of the time, she consigned him to a long process of ritual purification. She was an outcast, in both a social and religious sense. Therefore, engaging with this woman in any sense would have been outrageous, for the time it was written. However, Jesus describes her as his ‘Daughter’, and tells her to ‘Go in peace.’ This shows the compassionate nature of Christ and how even the most downtrodden in society can be saved by the powerful nature of God’s universal love. If all people today could aim to be more compassionate and understanding towards women, as Jesus was to the bleeding, ritually impure woman, I believe we’d be living in a far more loving and accepting society. Not only would this society help women, but it would help all other minorities, including the BAME community.
I’d like to finish with a quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her book “We Should All Be Feminists”. Ngozi Adichie is an influential writer, who has dedicated her career to fighting injustice in the areas of gender and race. I feel she eloquently summarises how strongly I feel about gender, and this brings me to my final and most important point, that women’s lives matter too!
“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we should begin to dream about and plan a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how we start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must raise our sons differently.”