What could I say in response to the news of another woman being murdered by a man, that I haven’t already said? What else is there to say, when the hopelessness and darkness settles once more?
When I heard the news of Courtney Herron, my immediate reaction was hopeless, bitter, anger. I could write, again, of times that I have been the victim of sexually aggressive behaviour by, and been intentionally made to feel inferior to, men.
I could join the chorus of voices that are singing the crimes of violent, abusive, angry, and insecure men – or, this time, I could quietly sing a different song, and hope that maybe someone will hear it, and join in. A song that is much more beautiful, yet much harder to sing. A song that uplifts rather than attacks, but at the cost of overlooking the hurt caused. A song of the few good men, not of the many bad. A song of forgiveness, of love and appreciation, and of truth. This time, in as much pain as I am in, I will choose to sing that song.
So, I’ve compiled a list of just a few of the times my life has been influenced, or simply blessed, by a few good men:
My Dad: is somewhat ‘old-fashioned’. But my Dad also taught me how to use tools, cook, behead a chicken (I haven’t… but I know how to), and do washing. He suggested that I play sport. He drove me to soccer training every Tuesday, and games every Saturday, even though he drove all day, every day, for work. He told me to take on the boys I played with; that I was just as good as them (sometimes better).
He taught me how to throw a javelin – like he used to.
My Dad has never seen women’s sport as inferior to men’s. He always watches women’s soccer when it’s on. He loves women’s AFL, and tells me about the games. He knows the female cricketers by name and talks about their performances (…and I still don’t really care that much, but I care that he knows).
He taught me how to understand cricket. He patiently went through all the rules, all over again, at the beginning of every season (imagine being asked what an ‘innings’ is at the start of every game), until I finally started to get it.
My Dad is a loyal encouragement in my writing, even when he disagrees with what I write. He opens the jars I can’t open, and re-homes the spiders I need re-homed.
My Dad fought the courts to keep my siblings and I together, under his care, as a single father; and he worked tirelessly, every day, so that he could provide for us.
My oldest brother: was my role model growing up. He taught me the basics about ball skills in soccer, but also taught me that only practise got him to his skill level, and only practise and dedication will get me there too.
My oldest brother taught me, at about 7 years of age, that I can’t be unsure about my salvation. He has always encouraged me to pursue God with everything I am. He taught me to trust in God, but also “not to be an idiot” (his way of teaching me about wisdom).
My oldest brother, after I was hit by a car and looked in a bad way, told his best friend that I couldn’t die, because God was going to use me to do greater things than him.
My youngest-older brother was my closest friend, confidant, and spiritual encouragement. When our church fell apart, and left me disillusioned with Christians and church, he never stopped prompting me to come back.
My youngest-older brother taught me about sex-trafficking and slavery, and how Christians need to oppose it. He told me to let companies know that I would not support them if they did not support humanity.
My youngest-older brother recognised gifts in my life that I had not yet recognised. He taught me that being a woman did not make me less, and he told me to speak out when men try to do wrong by me.
A good man heard me out when I pointed out to him he often acted sexist. In terms of authority, he could very well have dismissed me (I wasn’t exactly ‘gentle’ about it either). But I saw him stop himself from objecting, and think. And after that conversation, I saw him change, and become more respectful.
A good man expressed utter contempt when I told him about a time when I was sexually assaulted. He told me that hearing these things breaks his heart; and that he is disgusted by such men and their behaviour.
A good man, a power lifter and personal training mentor, told me that he wished more women would lift weights, and focus not on being “sexy”, but on being strong.
A few good boys were my first non-blood brothers. They taught me how to spear tackle people and pass a rugby ball. We had sleepovers, and they taught me how to ride a bike. They tried to get me on board with eating baby octopus (I mean like, the head, the brain, the tentacles… everything), and told me I couldn’t be Samoan until I ate one; so, unfortunately, I’m still white.
A good man was my spiritual mentor as a teenager. He listened to me when we spoke, and answered my questions patiently and gently. He taught me to be patient with God’s plan, and how to assess the motivations of my heart.
A good man and teacher gave me a stick with the word “companion” carved into it, when I was in grade 6. He knew what this stick would mean to me, of what it represented to me, even though I hadn’t told anyone. I still have it sitting on my desk.
A good man was my youth leader. He recognised a gift of leadership in my life, and gave me opportunities to grow in it.
A good man (and genuine cuss-from-the-sidelines coach; not a marshmallow) called me over to the sideline when I was 19, after I had lost an opportunity on goal because of hesitation. He asked me if I knew why he had chosen to play me in attacking midfield rather than my usual defensive position. When I couldn’t meet his eye, he told me it was because he knew I could play it, and he wanted me there. He told me that I usually only make mistakes on the field when I doubt myself; and it needed to stop. He told me I was a great soccer player, and that the only person there who didn’t think I could beat them, was me.
This good man, in this small moment, and without realising it, impacted my life very significantly.
A good man was our pastor, and always made everyone feel warm, welcome, and safe. He encouraged my family in trying times, when many did not. He taught me, though may not know, what it truly means to be a leader. He taught me about sacrifice, and about putting others first, especially when it hurts. He taught me about forgiveness, and redemption, and how God is always faithful, even in the flames.
A good man, seeing that I was uncomfortable at work when another colleague kept touching and splashing me (water park), stepped in and told him discreetly but sternly to knock it off.
A few good boys who I played soccer with saw me as an equal; in skill (until puberty made them all testosterony and left me with all this stupid oestrogen) and in life.
A good man recognised that something was really wrong with me after a work incident. He didn’t want to intrude, so told a trusted person to check in with me because he was really worried. He didn’t know me that well, but he paid attention, and he cared.
A good man went out of his way to ask me how I was feeling after Aiia was murdered. He told me that he would always walk me to my car if I didn’t feel safe, and that he will always protect women.
A good man, after seeing a heartfelt post I wrote about the pain of being a woman, made an effort to message me; he admitted that he didn’t know how he could respond to my post, but still wanted to encourage me in who I am and what I do.
Two good men were always open to discussing anatomy, physiology, exercise, and rehabilitation. They are not much older, but are far more qualified and knowledgeable, than I; yet they never spoke like that. They listened to my ideas and considered them intentionally. They taught me skills, and shared their own knowledge and experiences.
A good man, recognising that I was an intelligent student but mucking up at school, sat me down and asked me what was going on. He waited patiently for me to tell him the truth, even when I was disrespectful. He listened as I told him I wished teachers would stop seeing anything worth while in me, because it’s not there. He told me that it was there; that I am intelligent, and that I am capable, and that he wasn’t going to give up on me just because I told him to.
A good man, my lecturer, saw my love for human anatomy and physiology, and gave me one of his own personal textbooks – one in a series that he often uses himself (if you don’t know academics, this is a profound gesture).
Two good men were the first male feminists I knew. They fought for, and upheld, women’s rights, and respect for women, and they hurt when we hurt.
A good man explained to me why he doesn’t think that women should preach in church. He explained to me that he sees no difference in equality or value between men and women, but that he believes that we have different roles; and he hates when men abuse their roles to hurt women. He listened to my thoughts on the matter, and acknowledged that I had some good points, and we both left feeling uplifted, appreciated, and heard.
A good man posts regularly on social media about how men need to respect women more. He was one of the first people (and only men) that I saw express their heartache, disgust, and pain after Aiia was murdered. He is incredibly honouring and caring.
A few good men teach and discuss theology with me (and, I should mention, are really patient with me) even though they might not necessarily think that women should lead in church. They believe that women have every right to education and ministry work. They don’t treat me any differently, and they don’t make me feel inferior. They believe it’s their responsibility to love, protect, and care and provide for us – not because they think we are weaker or incapable of doing so; but because they value us.
A good man wrote a paper, not too long ago (straight-up dealing with the most controversial Bible passage in the matter) defending women in church leadership and gospel ministry. He knows that men and women typically suit different roles, but that this does not bar one from preaching or leading.
Another good man wrote a book about the value of women in Jesus’ ministry; and another good man vehemently (and publicly) defends women’s rights in Christian life, ministry, and leadership against chauvinism and misogyny.
These good men have decided to fight for an issue that, really, doesn’t benefit them. It would be so easy for them to sit back and enjoy the comforts and privileges of being men with power; but they have decided to fight for women, and fight for women to be heard, because they believe it is the right thing.
A few bad men have done me wrong. They have hurt me, and they believe women are inferior. They glorify violence, either in heart or deed, and take what they want by force. I’m not denying that.
But more than just a few good men have influenced my life for the better; have loved me, protected me, comforted me, supported me, taught me, defended me, and respected me as their equal. Some of these good men still say or do sexist things – mostly unintentionally – but that doesn’t mean that they would ever, ever hurt a woman. I know more of these good men than the bad in my life. Largely due, I have to say, to the fact that most of these men are Christians, who understand that God values men and women equally, so they must too – and in fact, that they must value the other more.
It grieves me to hear of another woman’s death at the hands of a seemingly unremorseful man. It breaks my heart, makes me angry – so angry, and when I think about what happened, makes me nauseous.
But it grieves me that my good men are being hated because of the actions of a few. These men, who have grown and uplifted me, are being blamed for crimes they have not committed. These men, who have loved me, and whom I have loved, struggle with pain too.
Yes, they have easy lives compared to us, and yes, they often refuse to acknowledge this; but as they have fought for me – my rights, my integrity, and my value – I will fight for them.
My heart breaks for Courtney Herron – for how society failed her, and for how life was violently ripped from her by an evil man.
But her blood is not on the hands of my father, brothers, teachers, or friends. These good men would have risked their own safety to protect her had they had the opportunity.
Yes, sometimes men need to eat their own pride and not be offended when they are told to be better men. They need to be able to hear about how we are treated, and not feel the need to object, but to admit that at least in some way, at some point, they have been complicit.
But women need to admit that, if we were the sex physiologically predisposed to violence, and had the physically stronger bodies, we would be no better. We need to recognise that it is our job to protect them too; emotionally, and spiritually. In our strength, we must be their strength – even when they refuse to admit that they need us. We must love at the cost of our own pride, and even at the cost of our own rights.
Because there are more than just a few good men willing to do the same.