Friday, January 7, 2011

The New Trend in Christian Patriarchy - Stay at Home Daughters

I am a 36 year old disabled woman who has been variously labeled "fat", "crazy", and "a hippie weirdo." I now try to embrace labels that others use in an attempt to "shame" me into being someone more "acceptable". I am passionate about issues of race/racism, criminal (in)justice, fat acceptance, and mental health advocacy. I blog at My Name Is JuJuBe and I am on the team at The Intersection of Madness and Reality 



"Daughters aren’t to be independent. They’re not to act outside the scope 
of their father. As long as they’re under the authority of their fathers, fathers have the ability to nullify or not the oaths and the vows. Daughters can’t just go out 
independently and say, ‘I’m going to marry whoever I want.’ No. The father has 
the ability to say, ‘No, I’m sorry, that has to be approved by me.’”
No, the above quote is not from 1910. It is not even from 1960. No, it is not from those days long ago when the only role that a woman could conceive of filling was that of a wife and mother. Nope. This was a recent quote from Doug Phillips, founder of the Vision Forum, a leading proponent of the Christian Patriarchy Movement.
Vision Forum Ministries is, according to its Statements of Doctrine, “committed to affirming the historic faith of Biblical Christianity,” with special attention to the historical faith found in the book of Genesis, when God created Eve as a “helper” to Adam. According to Christian Patriarchy, marriage bonds man (the symbol of Christ) to woman (the symbol of the Church). It’s a model that situates husbands and fathers in a position of absolute power: If a woman disobeys her “master,” whether father or husband, she’s defying God. Thus, women in the Christian Patriarchy Movement aren’t just stay-at-home mothers -- they’re stay-at-home daughters as well. And many of them wouldn’t have 
it any other way.

The stay-at-home-daughters movement, which is promoted by Vision Forum, encourages young girls and single women to forgo college and outside employment in favor of training as “keepers at home” until they marry. Young women pursuing their own ambitions and goals are viewed as selfish and anti-family; marriage is not a choice or one piece of a larger life plan, but the ultimate goal. Stay-at-home daughters spend their days learning “advanced homemaking” skills, such as cooking and sewing, and other skills that at one time were a necessity -- knitting, crocheting, soap- and candle-making. A father is considered his daughter’s authority until he transfers control to her husband
Source

Now, I am a firm believer in a woman's right to choose what role she wants to take on in life. I am convinced that a woman who CHOOSES to be a stay at home mother, and to fulfill a more "traditional" gender role should be allowed to do so without being judged. But, I likewise believe that if a woman wants to pursue a full time career outside of the home, and eschew family life, she is entitled to do that as well. And, I do believe that a woman CAN balance a career AND a family, if THAT is what she wants to do with her life.

What makes this movement so disturbing is that the element of choice is nearly non-existent. A young girl whose family believes in the Christian Patriarchy Movement is NOT told that she is free to choose her own path. No, she is instructed from birth that her role is to serve the men in her life... first her father and then her husband. She is taught that a man is the ultimate authority, and any of her desires that conflict with the instructions of the man should be repressed, as they are evil in origin.

A young New Zealander named Genevieve decided to live at home until marriage after trading in her dreams of becoming her country’s first female prime minister for ambitions to become a Christian homeschooling wife and mother. Now the author of the Isaacharican Daughters newsletter, Genevieve exemplifies how young women in this lifestyle are encouraged to subsume their own thoughts and identities into those of whichever male figure in their lives currently acts as the authority. In writing about the process of swapping her father’s “vision” for her new husband’s, she notes that a woman having independent thoughts is evidence of Satan gumming up the works.

'My loyalties have had to undergo a change. I was used to thinking Dad knew best. Now I needed to learn to think that Pete knows best. I used to do things and invest my time in projects according to what I knew Dad would want me to do. Now I needed to be guided by what Pete wanted me to do. When faced with a problem or option I couldn’t think “What would Dad have done in this situation?” Now I had to think “What would Pete do in this situation?” These were exciting times and difficult as during this state of flux -- learning to replace one man’s vision with another -- the devil would come around and say, “But what about what you want? What about what you think?” '
Source

Vision Forum starts programming its children early in life. On their website, one can purchase a number of toys and books strictly delineated according to gender. There is the All-American Boys Adventure Catalog, featuring items such as guns, bows and arrows, and toys/books designed to encourage budding scientists and detectives. The Beautiful Girlhood Collection includes sewing and craft kits, dolls, and kitchen items. Talk about preparing a child to "stay in their place" early! I wonder what a "Vision Forum" parent would do if their little girl wanted to purchase a play sword, or their little boy wanted a child's stove and oven??

Now, as a woman who DOES want to play a more "traditional" role in my future family- that of a housewife and mother- I have thought long and hard about how I will raise my children. Personally, I cringe when I hear parents tell their little children that they cannot buy certain toys because they are for the wrong gender. I intend to allow my children decide what THEY want in life... and if my daughter wants to be a doctor and my son wants to be a stay at home father, then they will have my full support.

The Christian Patriarchy movement seems to be based on fear. Fear that their daughters will succumb to temptation if they are allowed contact with the "outside world". Most of the believers in this movement home school their kids, so they are not exposed to ideas of gender equity. They seem terrified that their children will wander away from home and become Godless communists. The Botkin sisters are authors of the book So Much More: The Remarkable Influence of Visionary Daughters on the Kingdom of God (published by Vision Forum), and creators of the documentary film Return of the Daughters. Although they have never been far from home, the assert that the outside world is a dangerous place for women.
The Botkin sisters aim to validate living a life of confinement with staunch, if unfounded, opinions and beliefs regarding college. “College campuses have become dangerous places of anxiety, wasted years, mental defilement and moral derangement,” they write. Although neither of the sisters has attended college, they also claim universities are hotbeds of Marxism that forbid a free exchange of ideas and seek to indoctrinate students in leftist thinking. Elsewhere, they quote a document from the pro-patriarchy website Fathers for Life that states that the “prime purposes of feminism are to establish a lesbian-socialist republic and to dismantle the family unit,” echoing Pat Robertson’s notorious statement that feminism is a “socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.”
Source

Now, I have my own issues with some "feminists", but I believe in free will for ALL people, and I do not believe that it is a woman's "job" to be subservient to her husband (or father) simply because she was born with a vagina. I believe that it is the role of both spouses to support and love each other. To allow each other to grow, and to pick each other up when the fall. But, the Christian patriarchy movement seems to believe that not only should a woman suppress her own needs, thoughts and desires to capitulate to her husband, but that is it ALSO her fault if he fails.
Although the Botkins and their stay-at-home sisterhood believe that women have a duty to be obedient, if men fail in their endeavors -- their work, their marriages, their faith -- guess who’s responsible? “If our men aren’t successful, it largely means that their women have not made them successful. They need our help,” the Botkins write. Wives, claim the Botkin sisters, have the ability to “win” over their husbands with respectful and submissive behavior, for when the husbands observe this, they will become “ashamed and repentant.” (The sisters are strangely silent on what to do if this isn’t effective.) And daughters have the same responsibility: “Before you can accuse your father of being unprotective, ask yourself: ‘Do you make it clear to him that you are a woman of virtue, worthy of his special protection? If your behavior was more gentle, feminine, respectful and lovely would he be more inclined to be protective of you?’”
Source

Personally, I believe in a man being the "head of the household", and in many situations, I would be willing to defer to the wishes of my husband. HOWEVER, I do not believe that a man is infallible, and I believe that a husband and wife need to work together to decide what roles each will take on in the relationship. I do not believe that these roles need to be strictly based on gender. I also believe that a man has responsibility to abide by the wishes and needs of his wife as well. And, most of all, I believe that a child should be raised with the notion that THEY can decide what path they want to take in life.

The Christian Patriarchy Movement seems to teach boys that the world is their oyster, while it teaches girls that they need to be servants to the whims of the men in their lives. That to me is, well, kind of sad... and a bit scary.

**originally published at My Name is JuJube