FMS Foundations: with Emma Walters
Over the next few weeks, we're looking at First Man Standing, exploring in a series of interviews how it came to be and what the journey ahead might look like. The series will mix passion and action with the knowledge and experience of some leading voices in the area of male violence towards women and men's ministry within the UK church.
This week we interview Emma Walters, an ordinand in the Church of England, who helps us explore how men can be advocates, speaking up where they see violence and sexism. You can watch the video back, or catch up with the summary below.
Gaz: Can you give me any examples of any time in your church life where you had something thrust upon you that was inappropriate or where you thought 'hang on a minute, that's not right'.
Emma: I think something that springs to mind which is there in church culture as well as in wider society is the idea that it's women's responsibility to be dealing with these issues. I can think of a book that was given to me where there was a list of things that women should be doing. It included making cakes for men, it included making sure you were wearing t-shirts that didn't have any possibility of showing a bra strap by mistake, and this big long list gave lots of ways women needed to be dealing with things, which were actually heart issues for guys... practically and spiritually.
Gaz: Have you got any tips for us as blokes as to how we can be better allies?
Emma: I feel like what I really want is to have power in a situation. That might look like a guy stepping back so I can step forward, not that I want preferential treatment. We need to be aware of the power dynamics at play... For guys it's interpreting at what point you need to step forward in front of a woman to protect her and at what point you need to step behind her so that she can go forwards.
Gaz: How can men approach women to help... are women going to be scared? Am I belittling them? I want to help but I don't want to cause more problems... Do you have any helpful tips?
Emma: It's really good that stuff is going on in your head! Making eye contact and being chatty is helpful - not too intrusively! Give women the choice... say 'Would you like me to stay with you until your bus comes?' And if they say 'no we're fine thanks' then go back to your evening. If they say 'yes please', then introduce yourself - small talk! It's giving the power back to women, giving the choices back to women that's the really important thing. Women are so used to saying no and that being completely ignored. Having the power to say 'don't come near me, I'm fine' needs to be a choice.