In which I am part of the insurgency

Sometimes I think that there is a war on women. It may be unofficial but oh, sisters, it’s pervasive and horrible in some ways, culturally acceptable and mundane-but-devastating in others. The battles go from the rape tactics of war in Sudan to the sex trafficked of eastern Europe, from the pervasiveness of girlie-girl hyper-sexualised stealing of childhood to the proliferation and acceptability of pornography.

I am even beginning to wonder if the evangelical culture war about “biblical” womanhood – narrow stay-at-home vs. working, from complementarian vs. egaltarian (full disclosure: unapologetic egaltarian here) – is disingenuous at best and neutering half the church at worst and, to be honest, completely missing the point. And then when I wrote this small post of promise to my own glorious girls, I was surprised by the response, by the women that are still sharing and sending it and saying that they, too, will make that promise because we all feel the battles there on the scale, too.

I’ve always had my ear to the ground for women in the news but then when I read this piece about almost an entire generation of missing girls in India and China due to gender selection, the only word I could think of is holocaust because this attack on women, world-over, from womb to grave is truly a reckless slaughter and destruction of lives, in big and small ways, isn’t it?

Forgive me the analogy if it offends. That is not my heart ever.  But maybe our culture, our world, is the good German, just going along with the flow, keeping their head down and eyes on the work that applies only to them and their family.

If it is a war on women, I can’t be Winston Churchill. I am not the one leading the charge and very few listen to my small voice with its strong Canadian accent. I may not be a Katie Davis or a  Christine Caine or a Dorothy Day. I may not be a Nancy Alcorn, let alone a Mother Theresa or an Oprah Winfrey or any other well-known woman fighting some small or large battle in this war against our sisters, mothers and daughters, our friends. Our big voices of freedom and workers for the wholeness of women stand as the generals and governments, the tacticians and leaders are our Allied forces.

No, I am not that important. I am small. 

And my life is a bit small.

So I will be the French Resistance. 

I will be the small underground movement, the insurgency, the one taking every opportunity, however small, to strike a blow for the Kingdom’s way of womanhood.

It’s in the small ops then. The monthly cheque sent off to Mercy. The determination to value my daughters and sons for their intrinsic worth, their mind and hearts as well as their appearance. To give respect and honour to the stories of women around the world – and in my neighbourhood. The raising of my tinies to follow the example of Christ first. It’s in the refusal to ignore the stories – however much I want to stick my head in the sand and act like it’s not happening. It’s even in the writing of the letter to a small girl in Rwanda who lost her parents to AIDS every month. Even in the honouring of my own gifts to give (ack! Such a hard one). It’s in opening our homes with true hospitality especially to the lonely. It’s in foregoing Christmas presents to buy a goat for a family overseas. It’s in using my words to love us all.

It is making space for God behind enemy lines.

If the big moments, the opportunities to rise up for something bigger come up, I will be ready to jump in, to cast off my underground status, ready to leap to the front lines. (I hope. Who knows? Are you ever ready?)

In the meantime, the Allies depend on us, ma soeurs de coeurs, to dismantle the enemy from inside enemy lines. From inside of our own hearts, from inside of our daughters and sons, from our friends and then, lending our hearts, our hands, our ears and our voices for our sisters world over.

So friends, what is your role? What tactics are you using to undermine the enemy?

Places to get involved that I love:
Mercy Ministries of Canada (or the United States or the UK) – For women that struggle with life-controlling issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, physical and sexual abuse, depression, eating disorders and self-harm.
The A21 Campaign – fighting against sex-trafficking
SheLoves HalfMarathon for Living Hope – a local endeavour to raise funds for women who have had their faces cut off by the LRA to receive restorative surgery and therapy.
World Vision – sponsor a child or a family around the world.
Compassion – sponsor a child or a family around the world.
Watoto – an orphan and widow care ministry in Uganda.

Image source

post signature

  • Jenn

    Amen Sister…I like that, the insurgency. I’ve realized that through my daughters I will know many girls and how I treat them will be the truths they speak to their friends, our sphere is never as small as we think it is. I tell my sisters, my friends, my daughters about their inherent value. I support organizations that value women. I educate myself about the atrocities done to women and children around the world so that I can no longer live in ignorance.

    • Sarah Bessey

      You’re right – our sphere isn’t as small as we think it is. And eve if it is, I’d rather reach my daughters and my son than “reach millions.” Letting go of the evangelical hero complex is tough, man. 

      And the work you are doing, ah, it blesses me.

  • autumn.r.shea

    Genesis 3:15  And I will put enmity
    Between you and the woman,
    And between your seed and her seed;
    He shall [d]bruise you on the head,
    And you shall bruise him on the heel.

    It IS a war on women!  From the one who hates us most. 
    Thank you for another beautifully written post.  Your words resonate with my own heart-thoughts.

    • Sarah Bessey

      You’re right, Autumn. 

  • Pam Elmore

    Sarah, you have made a connection I’ve been struggling to figure out how to make on my own blog. Thank you.

  • rayhollenbach

    At first I thought, “Using WWII images is a mistake” mostly because your readers are likely too young for such illustrations, but on second thought I grew to like your choice because it was the last war in which everyone had a role to play, not just the Churchills and Roosevelts (tangent: are you familiar with Simone Weil?)

    As the father of two daughters, *I* have a role to play as well. It starts with honor and affection toward my wife (their mother) in ways that demonstrate that a woman’s worth does not flow from any worldly estimation but by the simple fact that she bears the image of God and is a co-heir to his kingdom. It continues in my daily choices to recognize and praise the true qualities of my wife in the hearing of our children so they will desire to imitate her. I think there’s a post waiting for you to write: “how fathers can join the fight.”

    By the way, if you’re going to be in the French Resistance, you can still slip out in the middle of the night and blow stuff up!

    • KathleenBasi

      Can’t you just see Sarah with her hand to a fuse? :)

      • Sarah Bessey


    • Sarah Bessey

      I thought it was a mistake because I claim to be so tired of military metaphors but here I am using one myself! Ha! (Oh, hypocrisy…)

      You absolutely have a role to play as a father, you’re right. And I’ll let you do the fathers post, Ray – you konw so much more than I in this.

      (Also, yay for blowing stuff up!)

      • Ed_Cyzewski

        The American in me is all warm and fuzzy inside after reading all of those military metaphors and blowing stuff up. Could we work in some references to meat too? 

        But seriously our failures to women range from ignorance and naivete to outright antagonism and fear-inspired hatred. I like the fact that you’re thinking on a smaller scale because I think that’s really the most credible way forward for us in our smaller communities. It’s hard to make a large diagnosis from a limited perspective, even if we can see its symptoms quite clearly. And therefore, as we see the larger problem manifested in smaller symptoms around us, we can take effective action and treat the problems on that level, rather than possibly misdiagnosing the larger problem and then spinning our wheels with non-solutions. That made sense in my head, but it sort of came out all disorganized… Suffice to say, I agree. 

  • KathleenBasi

    This has been on my mind a lot lately, too. I’ve come to the conclusion that my job is to blog, because it might affect you know, a half a dozen people–to teach NFP–and most importantly, to teach my children. Here’s my manifesto:

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thanks for the link to that, Kathleen. I am actually in the middle of one of those books right now – the Cinderella one. How timely!

  • Bkneel

    You are where you should be and doing it the right way. go girl

  • Esther

    Woo!!  Have you read Radical Homemakers yet?

    • Sarah Bessey

      No, I haven’t – haven’t even heard of it, actually. But I like the title!

      • Esther

        Shannon Hayes is the author. I didn’t mean to suggest you should have heard of it. It isn’t, unfortunately, mainstream, and it also isn’t in the Christian subculture. But it is a book that I love, and it sounds a bit like you. 

        • Sarah Bessey

          I just read about it on Amazon – it’s on the wish list now! My library didn’t have it, rats. 

  • Sheila Whittenberg

    Hi Sarah, I agree with your thoughts about the war on women and am glad that you are calling attention to the ways that the world degrades women.  However, as someone who lives in Germany, I would urge you to refrain from stereotypes from the past.  Germany has spent 60 years doing everything they can to ask forgiveness for what happened in WWII. They are a generous people and donate to charity per capita more than any other country in the world.  Also, Germany is probably the most woman-friendly country in the entire world: they go to great lengths to make childbirth a pleasant experience, the gov’t subsidizes excellent childcare so that every woman has options, and our preventative healthcare is first rate. I work with an organization in Berlin that helps trafficked women get out, and because of Germany’s social system, we are able to help many women.  Being a woman in Germany is a blessing. 

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thanks for the clarification, Sheila. I appreciate it – yes, you’re right, I didn’t mean it that way in the least and appreciate you sharing the truth here.

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    So beautifully said. I think it is in the small ops – and I love the idea of being the French Resistance in such a war. We do need all the soldiers we can get. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Kelly

    You may think your impact is small, but it truly is not. Sara, your words are beautiful but even more so, they are powerful.  Words evoke, enliven, and create, don’t they? Ever since that post (the promises to your daughter), I’ve thought so much about my own words and their potential.  It took a whole lot of “little” soldiers to back up Winston Churchill.  Don’t undermine your part for it is big and it continues to spread. Thank you for your words and your ways constantly challenging my own!

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thank you so much, Kelly!

  • Henry Imler

    Great perspective, Sarah. I love the way you’ve reframed the approach.

    I don’t enjoy a large amount of influence, but with the little that I do have, I try to humanize and empower every women I meet.  

    It is usually small things, like asking them to pray at meals or standing back and listening as they give feedback during a discussion I’m leading. I challenge their thoughts like I would for any person (treat them as if they’ve arrived, not with kid gloves).  

    I am lucky enough to be an adjunct instructor of religion at several Missouri schools.  In those classes, I try to humanize and give voice to women’s stories.  I try to give my students “ears to hear” and “eyes to see” when it comes to what you call “the War on Women.”  It is absolutely incredible to witness the light go on in male (and sometimes female) student’s heads when they realize what has and is going on.

    And I don’t go to mens-only groups.

    • Erin Adams

      Ah!  Being treated with kid gloves.  That really bugs me.  Or being called hormonal or emotional, therefore not worthy of being listened to.  
      I think it is interesting that you mention not going to men’s only groups here as a way you are fighting this war.  Can you share more on that Henry?  My husband is of the same mind.  He doesn’t like the atmosphere & will be take part, even (or especially?) at a church men’s group.  The guy friends he has are all non-Christians, at this point.  In churches we have been in in the past, he has found most men to be condescending to him, because he is not into machoism.
      I have sometimes thought if he were to be part of men’s groups, he could teach a different kind of “manliness” to the other guys.  He disagrees.  Which is fine.  Just curious what your take is.

      • Henry Imler

        As to your men’s-group question, I stay away from them for a variety of reasons.

        I do share your husband’s distaste for the atmosphere, but that is not why I don’t go.  I don’t go primarily because I don’t want to grow towards God apart from my wife.  I want us to be on the same page spiritually.  I value her role in the formation of my being so much that I won’t go into a gender ghetto to “do God stuff.”  

        But, it is not only Meredith’s input that I value, but all of the women (and men) in my community. I can’t tell you how many times it was the women in my groups that have spurred me on towards growth towards God (and each other).I won’t cut them out, I need them as I need men in my community.  And I won’t participate in gender segregation in church on principle.

        BTW, It is astounding how often people who consider themselves to be feminist-leaning use the hormonal/emotional rhetoric when delegitimating a woman’s position.

        • Erin Adams

          Thanks Henry!  My husband has said the same thing & I understand it.  Thanks for sharing.  There is much harm when the sexes don’t learn together, getting input from each other.

          • Sarah Bessey


    • Sarah Bessey

      I agree with Erin – being treated like a hysterical female drives me crazy (you might say it makes me “all emotional” ha!). This is a great perspective, Henry – thank you so much for sharing it.

    • Paul DeBaufer

      “And I don’t go to mens-only groups.” AMEN!!!!!!! I cannot even see the purpose of men’s only groups, there is an unspoken attitude that the sexes should never come together unless it is married couples groups. Nonsense, I say. Definitely not the way of Jesus.

      Jesus humanized and empowered women.

      God bless you Henry.

  • Lyn Hallewell

    This has been on my mind lately too. In the past I have thought, “Who am I?” “How can I make a difference?” but I’ve come to realise that I can. We all have our own communities, our own networks and it’s through these that we can make a difference, by getting the word out, as well as supporting NGO’s, child sponsorship etc. We may be small on our own, but if lots of small things come together then you have something big 😉

    • Sarah Bessey

      Exactly – “if lots of small things come together then you have something big.” I like that!

  • Joy Bennett

    Preach it sister!!!!

  • Leigh Kramer

    Amen, Sarah!  We may be small but we can do something and we can surely make a difference in the lives of others.  Better to try and encourage a revolution than do nothing at all.

  • Erin Adams

    This is great Sarah!  Important world changing stuff happens in the “small stuff”.
    I have a long time friend who is staying in a seriously abusive marriage & keeping her children there with her.  As I have seen peeks into her life, I can’t believe how ignorant I was in past about domestic abuse.  
    Something I try to do to fight this war is speak truth to her, about her worth.  I pray for courage for her.  And when I hear people in the church questioning if abuse is “real” or serious, or ask “is it physical?” (as if other abuse is okay?!) & will not stay silent.  It is really & it is deadly.  Deadly to the heart & soul & possibly to the body.  It must be addressed & taken seriously.  And those woman & children need love.  Even when she shuns me & says she doesn’t want to take any help, I tell her I love her still.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Yes – and praying for you and your friend, Erin.

  • Jenn

    Ah the insurgency… I like it!

    I can’t change the world – but I can shape how my children see the world, I can encourage those women and girls in my sphere. I’m thankful for a father who gave us girls the gift of believing in ourselves, of knowing we were beautiful when we were kind, loving and respectful to those around us – not when we wore a pretty new dress and who is doing his part to teach my daughter those same things.

    • Sarah Bessey

      That is indeed a gift, Jenn.

  • Anne J.

    I love how you phrased this – small ops!  I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of so many of these issues that I end up doing nothing and trying to stick my head in the sand…I know that is SO wrong but I do! Thanks for putting this in a way that reminds me not to ignore these things but to figure out the ways to combat from where we are.
    I am fortunate in  my job as a high school teacher that I do get to be present for some pretty hurting girls, and boys too. It’s a privilege for me that some kids will choose to confide some of their very serious issues to me.  I hope that just by trying to treat them with some compassion they feel a little love…they might not know it’s from Jesus, but I like to think it still hits them.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Yes, a high school teacher – that is a calling and a ministry, absolutely.

  • Janet

    Bravo to you and to your courageous heart. 

    I have been trying to be available in my own small community, and with the people who stumble into my world, but I also have been trying to figure out how to expand service to the very poor and the exploited.  I’m seriously thinking of volunteering daily at the Catholic Worker, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen that has been around for over 100 years (literally).

    • Sarah Bessey

      Wow – that sounds fantastic, Janet!

  • Moonsn11

    French Resistance- I like it!

    This was inspiring! 

  • Paul DeBaufer

    Excellent post!

    Insurgency, I like that. Insurgency reminds me of Jesus’ approach. He and a rag-tag band of ne’er-do-wells, outcasts, and not good enoughs (including women) changed history and the lives of people.

    I find the attitudes and treatment of girls and women here and worldwide by secular societies offensive enough–despicable, evil. Yet I am even more offended when those in the name of Christ would enable, foster, incorporate those attitudes within the church and without.

    Because the Gospels were written by men the role which the women had get slight attention. However, the little attention that they are given is world shattering. Jesus humanizes, respects, and empowers women. Mary, Martha’s sister, sits at the feet of her rabbi, the traditional position for a disciple. When Martha complains that Mary is not engaged in the proper role of a women, Jesus corrects her. The woman caught in adultery is uplifted, given her respect and humanity in the face of those trying to rob her of it. The Samaritan woman, who had relationship issues and one can imagine a woman used and abused, He restores her humanity and sense of self-worth (and isn’t she really the first evangelist? She runs to town to tell everyone about the Messiah, and they come to believe). The women were ones who did not abandon Jesus when He was arrested and walked to Golgotha, the men were thinking of a violent revolution, but the women followed the insurrection. The women were the first to see and talk to the risen Christ. Need I go on? Yet, we seem to neglect these things, this view of women that Jesus has and the Gospel writers teach us in favor of an instruction meant for a specific group at a specific time and place in history by Paul or pseudo-Paul. This is an embarrassment.

    But to allow those attitudes to allow us to enable the mistreatment and a war on women is inexcusable.

  • Carrie

    A friend just shared your blog with me.  Wonderful.  I founded an anti-trafficking organization for moms called Someone’s Child.  Our hope and prayer is that we can unite women, encourage them to use their own unique giftedness to combat one, if not the, worst atrocity of our time!

    May we all fight the insurgency united together – may we NOT turn on each other. :)

  • RawFaith

    You are so right… there is a war on. As a woman in my early 50’s who’s always had jobs in predominately male fields including working at churches in ministry and now teaching guitar / bass / drums I see the war played out right here locally on a daily basis. On a personal practical level I try to always encourage the girls and women I deal with to live their lives fully, regardless of what the church or society or anyone else tells us to do. Even with music lessons so many of the girls start with an underlying attitude of “it’s too hard… I can’t do that.” I love seeing them blossom and reach the point where they are confident and willing to try anything. I remind them that we too are created in the image of God, and that we are not second class citizens in His eyes, even if we are sometimes treated that way in the church. I also mentor a lot of teen aged girls and remind them that they should not have to put out sexually to be loved by a guy. We can’t change everything but we can make a difference with the people who populate our worlds. We can make a commitment to live as strong, passionate women. That’s something I love about the legion of 20 – 30 something Christian women who are being that voice to your generation. You always make me happy to see you in action. Thank you.

  • Jlovasz

    Sarah, after having received a bachelor of theology that had no place for women in the church and years of pondering how a God that formed us in His own image, male and female, denoting respectively strength, courage and forthrightness, alongside of beauty, relationality and sweetness could ever have possibly misaligned them. Not too long ago I didn’t even know what the word “egalitarian” meant. It is currently not only central to my theology, but I feel deprived of not having known the side of God manifest in your gender. Suffice to say, Sarah,  I am now very aware of your concerns, appreciate your post and am with you in prayer and spirit.
    Unfortunately, many of us men do not have any idea of what God meant when He said that He made us in His own image. What we tend to miss is the softness, beauty and loving kindness that is not only an intrinsic part of God’s nature, but manifest in your gender.

    Kindest regards,

  • Diana Trautwein

    Sarah, I am very late to this table, but want to just leave you a word of thanks and encouragement anyhow. There is indeed a war on women and it is worldwide and it is getting worse after a few decades of hopeful change. It is sad, tiring, frustrating, depressing. So I am thankful to read these good comments – many of them from men as well as women – indicating that there is a growing resistance to this devastating and deadly trend. When Rachel Held Evans had her big synchroblog last May, I wrote this essay about my journey as a mid-life seminarian and pastor, a life I retired from at the end of last year. I think buried in there somewhere is a sense of why I resonate so strongly with what you’ve written here. And I thank you for it.