Oppressing women, the Christian way

A couple of weeks ago I posted on the ludicrous bit of misogyny that is Kirk Cameron’s “marriage-strengthening event.” I said that it was important to recognize that the Christian teaching that women were meant to be helpers and servants to men is sadly not uncommon. I provided a link to a news article that quoted Michele Bachmann, a current candidate for President of the United States, saying that wives should submit to their husbands.

GirlWell, there’s more where that came from. Lots more. Ophelia Benson has been posting quite a bit lately on the Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy movements. These movements are made up of families in which daughters are raised to cheerfully embrace their God-given roles as servants to their future husbands. They are trained to handle massive amounts of domestic work, to eschew “worldly” things like aspirations or higher education, and to be whatever the men in their lives want them to be.

Libby Anne is a former daughter of Christian patriarchy who has emerged as a prolific writer and critic of the movement. From the summary of her upbringing:

Daughters of Christian Patriarchy are essentially servants in their own homes, but this does not mean they are necessarily miserable and unhappy. While some daughters of Christian Patriarchy rebel and inwardly resent how they are being raised, most don’t. Most accept what their parents teach them as true, and look forward to their wedding day as the beginning of their lives. This was me. I was perfectly happy to help with my younger siblings and cook for a dozen and do load after load of laundry. At age ten, twelve, or fourteen, I was being trained to be a “helpmeet” to my future husband, preparing for my life’s role by working alongside my mother and serving as junior “helpmeet” to my father. I dreamed of my wedding constantly, and thought of what a wonderful wife, mother, and homemaker I would be. A wife and mother was all I wanted to be, because any dream of anything else was nipped in the bud before it ever took root. I truly believed that this was what God wanted of me, and that serving my family and raising my siblings was serving God. And I gloried in it.

Of course the girls are not just forced into their roles, but indoctrinated into it. They are taught to want the subservient roles that men (and their God!) have prepared for them. Another escapee of the movement writes:

It sounded so romantic when I was ages 10-13. I was going to be amazing someday! My husband was going to be pleased that I was so good at caring for children and keeping house. I was practicing submission to my father, taking it very seriously whenever he pointed out some behaviour of mine that “would infuriate my husband someday.” He knew what God wanted, and what men wanted. If I wanted to be successful and happy someday, I had to start by pleasing my Daddy.

Frightening, yes – but the heartbreaking part is what happened as she got older.

I put my whole self into my role as a stay-at-home daughter. I loved studying, but I couldn’t keep up with my self-taught high school materials and get all of my work done, so I gradually fell further and further behind. But school wasn’t as important as pleasing God. Sometimes I wished that I had the chance to study more than just cooking, cleaning and sewing, and I did ask my parents if I could take some classes while living at home, but I was reminded that it would only be a waste of time and money to go to college when none of that education would apply in the home. A college atmosphere could take my focus off the Lord, and fill my head with thoughts of career and rebellion. After some begging on my part, Dad said he would permit me to take a few online courses from a very conservative school if I insisted, but it was clear that this was not what he felt was wise. He also said that I had to finish all my high school material first, and that my school work could in no way interfere with my household duties. I was so overwhelmed at the thought of trying to keep both my father and a school happy, that I gave up on the idea of further education.

Heartbreaking.

Keep in mind that Christian patriarchy is just a few steps removed from the complementarianism espoused by most evangelical Christians and Catholics, who teach that men and women have separate God-given roles. As Libby Anne explains in her piece above, Christian patriarchy simply takes these beliefs to their natural conclusion.

I was reminded of these similarities just yesterday, when I learned that a popular American evangelist and author was instructing Christians not to listen to another popular evangelist and author because she’s a woman. Quote,

But I don’t want to get into a relationship of listening or attending a church where a woman is becoming my pastor, my shepherd or my authority. I think that would be an unhealthy thing for a man to do.

Yes, it’s fine to learn the occasional thing or two from a woman, but don’t learn too much! Then you might have to admit that a woman had something to teach you, that she’s something more than a follower and a servant.

And we can’t have that.

Image source: seriousbri

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2 Comments

Filed under Human Rights, Relationships, Religion

2 responses to “Oppressing women, the Christian way

  1. Selma

    Hi!
    – How widespread is Christian Patriarchy in the US?
    – How do their views, like that of the pastor you quoted, compare with what the Bible says about leadership: “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'” (Matthew 20:25-28) … and compare to the actions and words of Jesus:
    ” As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” ” Luke 10:38-42

    It’s terrible how people can indoctrinate their children in a way that does not allow them to make their own decisions and not allow them to challenge these views, whatever they are.

    • According to this article, the Christian Patriarchy Movement population is estimated to be in the low tens of thousands.

      I’m not sure what you’re asking regarding the Bible and leadership. It’s not as if those texts are some sort of a guide, so I’m not sure why you would want to ask that question. If anything, I would think the relevant parts of the Bible for this discussion would be those that talk about the place of women in society specifically, rather than those that talk about leadership in general.

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