Everything sublime is as difficult as it is rare. Baruch Spinoza

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday's Fancy

 I am a woman whose foundation was set in the late 1960's. I grew up during a time when women were the chattel of their husbands. In most cases the ownership was benign, but real. Once married, the male had the control and authority where any kind of contract was concerned. They generally held the same within the home, the extent of which depended on the individual.

I was a young woman when the banner of equality for women was raised and carried into the halls of male dominance. The push-back from women was understandable at that time. Equality can be a frightening prospect. Along with independence comes responsibility. These were heady, turbulent times, but eventually women started to make inroads and their presence in day-to-day life in the workplace became common. So much so, that the young women of this time don't know how hard-fought this commonality was.

So, I am somewhat distressed by an insurgence of voluntary subjugation of young women to their husbands. Go surfing the blogosphere and you will find yourself landing on site after site of young women extolling the virtues of a male-dominated home. I know this is usually accompanied by biblical references, but as someone who thinks that is an excuse, I would say there is something else going on in these lives that makes them want to be a step lower than their husbands.

Marriage is a give and take venture. Nothing is equal at any given time, there is always one doing more than the other in any given circumstance. But if you start at the place that puts a person in a sub-position right off the bat, the balance is off.

From the perspective of someone who is older and who has lived in a time when this life choice was not a choice, I see this as naive. I wholly believe in the value of child rearing and motherhood. My opinion on this matter has evolved over time and I have come to the point of thinking that if children are had, they need the full-time attention of a parent. I believe that in the first year the mother is probably the best one suited to the job. 

This has sat on my mind for awhile. The good thing is, this is voluntary and no longer the law of the land. People may chose the way they live their lives and this is simply my wondering why one would chose this. I wonder about the daughters and how will the sons react in a wider world that doesn't hold the same value? Or, do you stay within a community that reflects your beliefs and not venture from it? I'm musing.


Ganeida said...

Uh~huh. I think we must be about the same age & I do remember saying to Liddy when she was still going to school that she had no idea what she was talking about when it came to equality of the sexes. I remember the bra bonfires.

I have come to the conclusion that having women with small children in the workforce is a criminal act! against both the mother & the child. The bible says you can't seve 2 masters & that is just plain true. Something gives. Too often I think the children miss out. Everyone only has so much energy, so much quality time to give & if that goes at work it's not there for your nearest & dearest.And I've tried not working, working, working part time & back to SAHM. I believe in choice but is it really a choice when a family can't survive on one income?

I have gone round on the *the man is the head of the house* thing too & ended up in a moderate biblical position because reality tells me the buck stops somewhere. Someone will ultimately be held responsible. This does not make me less equal or less important or without a say [can you seriously imagine me not having my say?]& it does not remove personal responsibility. I get concerned when I see women being treated like small children, denied responsibility & authority in any area at all. I do not see that as biblical. Biblically I think the man is meant to shelter, protect & provide for his young & the woman who is nurturing his young. Her focus should be on their children & his should be on them. This does not, imo, mean she can have no outside interests or work but that her *priority* is her home & children.

Sorry. I seem to have rabbited on considerably & not made much sense. And I also seriously hope I haven't been offensive.

Sandra said...

You haven't been offensive. I would step back a little and say that there are circumstances where parents can't be home. Sometimes there isn't enough money to live on and sometimes there is only one parent. But, on the whole I believe it is in the child's interest to have a parent who is able to focus on the child for the first few years. But I also think it is in the child's interest to get out and about with others, away from mom and dad. I do understand the desire to have a place in the world, as well.

I guess as a secular woman I have no understanding why someone would voluntarily place themselves in a situation where they are not equal partners. I can't imagine deferring on something based on gender. I will defer when it means more to him then me, or when I see it makes sense. But never because he is male and I'm not. My mind is equal to his, my judgement is sound and I am an adult. I have as much say in our lives as he does.
No I can't imagine you not having your say!

Britwife said...

I have also noted the influx of "Stepford Wives" out there, who live for the sole purpose of decorating their houses and looking nice for their husbands. Somehow, this spooks me. Maybe because I can't be bothered with either aspect of that sort of life. And thank heavens that isn't what my husband thinks is the ideal wife either.
I do have to say, that I agree wholeheartedly with your ideas on "being there" for your children. I understand that there ARE families where both parents HAVE to work. However, when we decided to have children, Mr. Britwife and I both agreed that we would cut back (immensely!) on our lifestyle and spending in order for one of us (turned out to be ME) to be home with the kids. We waited until our mid-30's to have kids - and I didn't want someone else teaching them to tie their shoes or teach them to walk, etc. I'm not saying that it's easy being home (all the time) with them...and it is definitely hard sometimes with money. But that's just the choice that we made - and I think the kids are benefitting from it.

Sandra said...

I'm more interested in the 'why'. I actually don't personally know anyone who is a part of this, I find it simply by casual surfing , all over the blogland. I can't say this is an accurate account, but it seems to be a serious number of women in their late 20's to mid 30's. What is the driving force? Is it religion or is religion an excuse? Have they been raised this way or have they come upon a movement and found something there? If it's the latter, what have they found that seems to have filled what they felt they were lacking?
Anyway, I do believe part of liberation is choice, and if women choose this, they can. I simply wonder why. And I wonder when I read some of these (not from your friends list Ashley) how content so many actually are. Too much reaching for something to justify their lives, IMO. But I'm a crabby old socialist/egalitarian type, so I'm not sure I can ever understand this. : ) I think I need to sweep it away and move on to my usual blather. But, I kind of wonder if a night away from hearth and home and a good stiff drink wouldn't be a tonic?

Ashley Dumas said...


I wrote a long comment and ran away to do something for the baby and Sienna started something here and I lost it. The perils of the 'family' computer
: )

I will try and sum up again some of my thoughts on this issue. First of all, I identify as an egalatarian. That means I think that husbands and wives are equal partners in the marriage. Deference should be given, like you said, out of compassion or common sense, but not along gender lines. I have many friends who identify as complimentarians. They believe that the husband and wife have rather clearly defined 'roles' and that the husband is the 'leader'. In other words the buck stops with him. Now the confusing part is that most of them also feel that this type of 'authority' has its limits but those limits are a gray area usually defined by the individual couple. For example, spousal abuse, substance abuse, etc... I have never heard of a complimentarian suggesting a woman stay in these situations but I have heard that they should seperate not divorce. Anyway I am rambling. The point is that ALL the complimentarians that I personally know were in contentious (not abusive) marriages at one time. All of them were miserable at one point in their life due to their disappointment with their husbands their disappointment with trying to raise young children and their exhaustion at trying to fulfill family and work place responsibilities. Our (my) generation has been so indoctrinated that a woman who does not work or who stays at home is a weak inferior unintelligent person that the pressure to be everything at once has really spawned quite a counter movement. These woman (that I know) have college degrees, they worked professionally, they are intelligent and independent. After having many kids and a busy husband and a busy career they all felt overwhelmed and realized that their marriages and just lives were falling apart. In order to 'get out' of the working Mom role, these woman began searching for a different role model than the 'liberated' 60's woman. They decided that staying home was the best option to raise the kids. They decided that staying at home should be turned into a valuable and respectable ambition and career. These woman think that respect and value is important to them. That is a vestige of feminism. This vigorous home making, home schooling, and blog preaching in my mind is the result of a lot of independent woman trying to show that staying home and leaving 'wordly' careers is a Choice and that is The Choice and that it can be done to an amazing level of competence. The Ph.D. homemakers abound : ) : ) The same pressures exist for these woman in other words it is important to them to be hand washing diapers, making their own bread, so that they can feel worthy and purposeful in their stay at home jobs. The whole idea of submission to the husband, in my mind, is mostly just an over exaggerated way of stating that you have decided to stop complaining 24/7, have realistic expectations, and make reasonable decisions based on your husbands input. Many woman spent a huge part of their early marriages fighting and basically treating their husbands like they were nothing but a pain in the butt : ) Ok most of them were a pain in the butt, but we all are and we all have to try and make your spouses comfortable by making sacrifices. Their was a sort of cultural man vs. woman thing set up in the 60's and women took to really losing respect for anything that had to do with a pig headed man:)
This attitude spilled over into marriage and of course though it has its roots in many real problems is not something you want to bring to a marriage. These woman that have totally espoused the submission doctrine saw that by trying to respect their husband they felt more peaceful. Their husbands felt less defensive. Their marriages began to improve. With time to devote to the house they were not as stressed out. Lo and behold, the 'evil' traditional home of the '50's" seemed to work better than the working mom home of the 70's-80's! It really started a back lash at the 'lie' of feminism that women should be expected (interestingly the idea was not 'allowed' but 'expected') to do everything.
None of the complimentarians I know have husbands that say , "Ok, woman do this or do that!" In fact this movement is often more upheld by the women then by the men in these communities. That being said, I think it could be a dangerous doctrine for the kids of these women as they perhaps do not have the backbone their Mom's had and then had to soften with this doctrine. I have also seen a few cases where women were slow to leave an abusive situation due to the submission doctrine. The negative side to this trend will most likely grow and then another knee jerk reaction in the opposite direction will likely arise. I think that a good marriage full of maturity and respect and common sense does not need a hierarchical chain of authority to exist peacefully but I can see how it has brought order and peace to some contentious situations. Oh my lord, I have really rambled on. Thanks for this topic. It was fun to try and verbalize this. I wish we could discuss it over coffee as this is one of those endless topics!!!!!!!

Bye for now


Sandra said...

Thank you so much for this response Ashley. It gives me an understanding of what I have been randomly finding on many blogs. As I said, this was not a topic off your list, but rather the seemingly endless blogs by thirty-somethings that I have randomly come across.

Since most people can understand that there is a balance in life ( I think), I guess the young women who have reacted this way to the stress they have felt have some deeper issues. Some people choose drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc., and others choose something like this.

I would think the risk lies in the children.

Thanks again, you brought clarity to something that has had me confused. Until recently I had no idea of the 'movement' and I was surprised. I know this is not unusual in individual relationships, but this seems to be a movement. Frankly, the way they write and carry on about the correctness of their ways, it really seems like a cult.