I was having coffee with some amazing women after the Gathering of Women Leaders and Wendy Beech-Ward (previously of Spring Harvest fame, now working with Compassion) asked the question: “Why is it when [single] men get into leadership it makes them seem more attractive whereas when [single] women get into leadership, they are seen as less attractive?”
My first thought was, “Is Wendy trying to say we’re all ugly?” Which clearly she was not, as we just happened to be the most attractive group of women I have ever seen in one place for a long time. I mean the beauty emanating from our little gathering was like a sunbeam glowing out across Liverpool Street Station.
The next idea was that leadership is almost like growing a moustache. For men it is a sign of strength and virility, encapsulated by HP sauce in the slogan ‘A mo makes a man’. Whereas, if a woman happens to have a moustache, it is a massive problem. To read more about the way moustache growing is problematic, have a read of this post related to Movember.
I have therefore named this problem of the relative attractiveness of single men versus single women in leadership as ‘The Metaphorical Moustache of Leadership’.
I have met many single women who have experienced the Metaphorical Moustache of Leadership. As single women it is seen by many in the church that their leadership calling is really just an inconvenience that will prevent them from finding a husband, settling down or fulfilling their divine calling of becoming a mother. As you read this, you may be thinking ‘Are you kidding me? This is the 21st Century, nobody thinks like that anymore!’
I assure you, they do. Only last week I was at a conference where a woman speaker suggested that men needed to think every idea was their own and that if a woman wanted something she needed to manipulate men the man into thinking it was his idea. We only need to travel along the shelf of Christian bookshops as far as Wild at Heart by John Eldredge to discover men need a beauty to rescue, and along the shelf a bit further to find out from his wife Stasi, in Captivating that we women need to be rescued and to be told ‘how lovely we are’ (excuse me while I vomit onto my laptop).
A wonderful friend of mine is studying to be a doctor and has greatly struggled with the Christian women her age believing their career path is to attend university, meet a nice Christian husband and settle down to have some babies. And my other wonderful friend Vicky Walker (you should definitely read her book as it is amazing!) tells story after story of talented, capable Christian women she has met who see leadership as a barrier to meeting a husband and settling down. The Metaphorical Moustache strikes again!
The Metaphorical Moustache is not something limited to the Christian world. There are blogs and articles across the web debating about whether women should dumb down for men and talking of how men want women who are ‘smart, but not too smart’. When women are strong and single-minded they are seen as rude and obnoxious, while men who behave similarly are recognised as natural leaders.
The problem with this being in the Church is that we are supposed to be a prophetic voice into the world. We are supposed to be the embodiment of the kingdom on earth, ‘a city on a hill’, salt and light wherever we go, and yet women are being squashed, and deemed less attractive for living out the calling God has for them. The very thing that should make people most attractive; being fully sold out to God and living for Her*, in women is seen as abnormal because of constructs the world has built and the church has not yet smashed.
If you are a woman scared of stepping up into the calling God has for you, because of what society or Christian culture has told you, know that you are a daughter of the most high God, and your strength is given to you by Her.
If you are a woman in a leadership position and you are tired of the ways you are made to feel less than your male counterparts, I truly thank you for being a prophetic voice to the church. Your work and your life make more of a difference than you could ever know.
If you are a man, either in leadership, or not, please stand with us and call out those voices who seek to silence or undermine women who are called to lead.
I declare today that I am proud of the Metaphorical Moustache God has bestowed upon me, I will not allow the Powers to dim the light God has placed within me, and the call She has placed upon me, and if the world hates me for it, I will recall that it hated Jesus first.
*Natalie is referring to God in the feminine for lent.