The Don Imus controversy has again brought issues of race and gender to the forefront of public discussion, and it is interesting to me how quickly we forget that we still live in the midst of deep prejudice and stereotype. Where I live, people wear their disdain pretty openly: gang killings along racial lines; a hip hop culture that spares no offense. And yet people still marvel whenever the PC curtain is raised a bit and someone’s racism or sexism is exposed. On the one hand, I am glad that we are horrified: we should be. On the other hand, I wish people’s horror extended to 30th and Kenwood. But I digress…
Much of the talk has been about the way we speak of and treat women in our society today. Like racism, we like to think that we have essentially moved past the days of treating women badly simply because they are women.
Last night I tried to order a pizza. We had a couple coming over for our final meeting in preparation for their wedding in a couple of weeks, and I had told them that I would provide dinner. My grand vision of cooking something nice left around 3:30pm that day, and so I found myself with the Papa Johns flier in hand as they drove up. After placing my order, I was told that my card had been declined (after they made three attempts). This didn’t make sense as we knew we had money in our bank account, but I decided to just use our other card. When that one was also declined (though it has no outstanding balance), I knew something was up, so I asked the man on the phone: “Can you tell me why my card is being declined?” thinking that maybe their computer gave them an error code of some sorts that would tell me what was going on. “Because you have no money,” he said, and he hung up on me.
I hung up, totally shocked that he had hung up on me as I was about to tell him that I would just pay in cash. Doug looked at me and realized that this was one of those moments where Pregnant Erika was either going to call back and say something she would later regret or she was going to sit down in front of our guests and start to cry, and so he moved to the phone, dialed the number and asked for the manager. Lo and behold, the manager had been the one who had just been speaking to me, and as Doug calmly and coolly informed him that his treatment of me was not appropriate and that we would like our order placed, please, it was clear that as a man, Doug received a level of respect that was refused me.
As insignificant as this one instance is, it served as a reminder that some people will use my sex as a reason to treat me as less.
Next week I have the privilege of speaking in Scot McKnight’s “Women, Mary and Jesus” class at North Park. I have the chance to share with these young women and men a bit of my journey as a woman called to minister in Christ’s church. My story is a positive one, and I am grateful to be in a place to encourage. However, I know that many women in the church have very different, more painful stories to tell. And as much as we don’t like to admit that they are out there, or how common they are, those are stories that we need to hear as well.