As an author, part of my job has been publicity. Confession time: I hate it. I don’t know about other authors, but I don’t write to be famous. In fact, I really rather enjoy being anonymous a lot of the time. Which isn’t particularly helpful if the end result is no books sold. All those editors, publicists and hard-working legends at the publishers need to feed their families, too. So sitting back and hoping for the best isn’t a particularly good idea.
The sad fact is that although women write the majority of books, in the secular world it’s the men who tend to get most of the press time. The situation is even more pronounced in the Christian world. Women I speak to from all sorts of workplaces and ministries often struggle to have their views recognised in male- dominated spaces. We’re mostly polite. We’ll often preface our trembling words with phrases like, “I don’t mean to trouble you, but…” or “I might be wrong, but perhaps we should think about…” To stand up and promote our views or work can be seen as the height of bad taste. Or worse.
But why is it all so difficult?
First of all, there is the fact that we are followers of Jesus, who, you know, wasn’t such a big fan of human self-promotion. I am here to serve Christ, not to be served by creating a name for myself. I am here to tell others about Jesus, not to tell them to buy my stuff. The whole point of what I write is to point people to Jesus. He’s the one worth paying attention to. Not me.
But why is it that a lot of wonderful, godly, educated, caring, gifted women are still more likely to be working quietly in the background than being heard on important issues? Women who are in professions that require self-confidence often struggle to put themselves forward, or suffer major cringe attacks at being misunderstood as crass or proud or self-seeking. Part of this is our own natural reluctance to self-promote. Part of it is our Christian commitments that seek Christ, not ourselves as the one to be promoted. But as a woman, I came to realise that part of the problem was simpler than that. Part of the problem was me.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t learned to be assertive. It wasn’t that I was too polite. The real problem was I had failed by not lifting other women up.
That process was neatly discussed in recent weeks in a Washington Post article about women in the White House. As Cassie Werber later expanded in a Quartz article, the process of being heard is a team sport, and the women in the white house had perfected a simple technique to be heard: Amplification.
Amplification is simple. We repeat the good points that other women make. We champion the good work that other women are doing, giving them credit for doing it. Instead of focusing on our own feelings of insecurity, we stop ignoring the other women around us who are quietly serving. We amplify them.
A while back, I decided to start doing what these women have been doing all along. Instead of promoting myself, I started encouraging people to read books written by women who are articulate and intelligent (like Christine and Cecily, for example). I made a choice to raise up the women who are already saying things worth hearing. It’s a hard thing to do if you’re feeling insecure. Werber quoted Sheryl Sandberg from Lean In, where she said:
“In the days of tokenism, women looked around the room and instead of bonding against an unfair system, they often viewed one another as competition…women wound up being ignored, undermined, and in some cases even sabotaged by other women.”
Amplification is the opposite of that. We bring the hidden service of other women to light, so that we can learn from them. We put aside our own interests and seek the good of others, as Paul encouraged us to do. We raise other women up, instead of competing against them.
This isn’t a “Boo men, Yay women!” thing. The best Christian environments are places where men and women work together for the glory of God. I am grateful for the ministry of many faithful and godly men over the course of my life. Followers of Jesus are all on the same side, no matter their gender.
But the statistics indicate that it’s still a struggle for women to be heard, especially when the gender balance is tipped in one direction. So it’s worth making the effort to notice the quiet women around us who are sharing the good news of Jesus with others. It’s worth amplifying the voices who aren’t naturally being given the microphones. When we treat other women with respect and honour, we help create an environment where everyone can be given a voice.
For Christians, this means we hear the quiet but godly voices of women who have a perspective to bring on faith. We seek out the women who speak God’s truth faithfully, even if they are a little quiet. We raise up the servant-hearted disciples of Christ, and help others to hear what they have to say. We publicise the testimonies of women who served Jesus through history, who remained faithful in the face of trials and hardship. We champion the women around us, for the long-term good of the church as a whole.
Amplification isn’t always a natural habit. But it’s one worth developing. So have a think: which women can you amplify today?
Kristen Young lives in Central West NSW, with her husband John and three children, and has been involved in various forms of ministry for over 15 years. She loves telling children and young people (including the busy young people (including the busy young women in her parish) about Jesus, and still manages to find ways to procrastinate in her spare time. Kristen is a graduate of Sydney Missionary and Bible College.