Longing for Change: Our Culture After #MeToo
Katie McCoy, April 2, 2019
A year after one major media mogul was fired for sexual misconduct, another major media mogul was fired regarding his sexual misconduct, and there have been countless offenders in-between. Oscar-winning celebrities, world champion athletes, and talented students are breaking their long-buried silence.
We’re watching as the rats crawl out of the sewers, so to speak—and praise God they are. These men must be held accountable for their reprehensible actions, and it is right and fitting that they face legal and vocational ramifications. But, like any New Yorker in the summer, we have to ask ourselves where are all these rats coming from, and how have we let them flourish right under our nose?
How is it that in a society as progressive and equality-driven as ours, women were so objectified in some of the greatest bastions of equality and progressivism, like mainstream media, education, and Hollywood? Why in an age of women’s empowerment, must women still fear exploitation?
It’s been a year since the eruption of the #MeToo movement, but not much has changed.
True, we have a social nomenclature and are facing the issue. We have new hashtags, new bumper stickers, and—to be fair—a new social awareness. But we’re still asking some of the same questions.
Perhaps that is because we have lazily accepted that legislative change alone ensures our inalienable rights, that genuine cultural change can be sought and secured through legal measures exclusively. Although the answer the #MeToo movement seeks will result in a social change, one of the biggest lies modern Americans believe is that we’re one more policy away from true equality.
This misconception is so prevalent, so ubiquitous, we often don’t even recognize it when we hear it. Just one more structural change to our workplace laws, just one more educational initiative in our school system, just one more social movement, and we will finally achieve a society that recognizes the equality and worth of every human being.
In a January 2018 edition of Newsweek entitled “She Persisted,” Senator Elizabeth Warren exemplified this when she praised the impact of women’s advocacy through the Women’s March and #MeToo, noting that, “The power hierarchy in workplaces across America began to tremble.” For Warren, the overthrow of hierarchy will bring true equality.
Or, consider the words of a young woman named Nasrin Taslima, a former Muslim who believes the key to women’s equality is the abolition of all religious beliefs. “Secularism is necessary for women’s freedom simply because religions—all religions—are opposed to women’s freedom.” For Taslima, and many young like her, the expulsion of God will bring true equality.
But perhaps equality isn’t really our problem. The Millennial generation is the recipient of a very different culture than women of 50 years ago. The impact of the feminist revolution on every aspect of a woman’s life can hardly be overstated. Women are indeed equal members of society.
Yet, despite all our previous attempts, we have not yet educated or legislated our way out into a more righteous society.
As good and right as social changes can be, as beneficial as our laws and policies may prove in acknowledging a person’s equality, they cannot confer a person’s worth. Our equality concerns our relative value to others. But our worth concerns our identity from God. In other words, what ensures the dignity of women is not our culture, our laws, or any other external factor that society can create. Rather, the dignity of a woman is grounded in who she is: an image-bearer of her Creator.
A year after the eruption of #MeToo, our culture is longing for change.
In fact, we are clamoring for the core beliefs of Christianity, but we often don’t recognize it when we hear it. The Christian worldview teaches that a woman is equal in relationship to a man. That may sound elementary, but consider it with our cultural questions in mind: When God introduced the creation of man and woman in Genesis 1, He gave them the same mission, the same work. There was no difference in their assignment to rule and fill the earth; there was no gender inequality in their work; there was no disparity between the value of their contribution to God’s mission (vv. 26-29). She was equal from the very beginning.
But the Christian worldview goes even further. Our faith proclaims that a woman’s worth comes not from her relationship to others, but from God. She is worthy of dignity because she bears the imprint of the Divine. Her equality is relative in relationship to others; but her worth is absolute in relationship to God. Society cannot confer this intrinsic quality of a woman’s personhood; society can only acknowledge it.
In other words, the absolute worth and dignity of women hinges on the reality of a Creator.
As our culture continues to navigate the issues that #MeToo brought to light, the solution we pursue will express what we believe to be the problem that caused it. The cure will reflect the diagnosis. If our society believes the problem is exclusively social, then we will—yet again—pursue social solutions for spiritual ills. But if #MeToo reveals that, despite our strides toward equality, our culture still fails to recognize human worth, then the cure is more comprehensive than what we can change through movements and policies.
For the Christian, the #MeToo movement is a call to bold proclamation. As ambassadors of Christ, we belong in this conversation. Advocating for the absolute dignity and worth of those created in God’s image is the rightful domain of those who know and represent Him. Despite our society’s inclination to marginalize Christianity from the public square, it has identified the symptoms of the very diseases that the influence of the Church has historically remedied.
A year after the eruption of #MeToo, and the influence of Christians can bring true change.
Cultural revolutions can only bring us so far. Let us not shrink away from facing the injustices this movement has revealed. Let us advocate for and defend the dignity of every woman, not because of her relative value to others, but because of her innate worth as an image-bearer of God. And let us proclaim this truth with confidence to a culture that is every attempting to cure itself by simply managing the symptoms.
This article was originally posted at LifeWay Voices.
Assistant Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies and Editor of Biblical Woman at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Katie McCoy serves as Assistant Professor of Theology in Women's Studies at Scarborough College of Southwestern Seminary. She holds a PhD in Systematic Theology from Southwestern (2016). Her research focused on Old Testament laws about women's personhood and what they teach us about women's dignity and social justice.