Last week Doug and I watched North Country. This is the movie where Charlize Theron portrays a woman who enters the mining industry in Northern Minnesota and wins a landmark sexual harassment case in 1984. It was a difficult movie to watch.
As I sat and watched the portrayal of a large group of men doing unthinkable things to women in an attempt to preserve a “male-only” workplace, I felt so troubled and sad. I felt physically sick at different points, and I was aware that part of what made watching this movie so hard is that I have a daughter. It is one thing to endure something unjust yourself. I am learning that it is quite another to imagine the same injustice visited upon your children.
It was incredible to see this movie and realize that the events portrayed were in the not so distant past. My own experience with sexual harassment happened in 1994, ten years after this movie’s setting. I was too intimidated and afraid to speak up for what was happening, but one of my co-workers told our supervisor, and my employers acted swiftly and decisively in my favor. For all the ways that sexual harassment laws have made employers and co-workers feel paranoid, I am one who is grateful that they were there to protect me. It is interesting to note, however, that while my employers were so quick to act on my behalf, there had been a long line of women before me whose complaints and suffering had received no response. Because of my family’s friendship with someone significant in the company, I believe that I received justice when others had not.
That same week that I watched the film, I had been reading and listening to various blog postings and discussions about the role of women in the church. I encountered a large number of Christian men (many of whom I have respected and learned from over the years) who see the fact that I occupy the pulpit as a core offense against the “non-negotiables” of the orthodox faith. I had told Doug that, for the first time, the things I had read and heard about what many deemed to be my “role” had made me feel genuinely depressed.
It is staggering that watching the movie North Country and reading some Christian blogs could inspire even remotely similar emotions in me. It is staggering that both can make me feel intimidated and afraid. This makes me feel confused and very, very sad.