Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Before and After

This is the paper I turned in for my Intro to Women's Studies Class, which I refer to as my Feminist Studies Class. The professor asked us to choose a topic or event somehow pertaining to our class and discuss how we thought of it prior to the class and how we see it now. It was a terrible, terrible class in so many ways. When we discussed marriage in class she praised marriages that divide everything evenly down the middle, housework, childcare, paid labor, etc. When I asked about complimentarianism she dimply dismissed it as being too good to be true. What a poor education that a student isn't even exposed to the other side.

Prior to this class I thought I had a good marriage and a good spouse (he married me after all.) Friends for six and a half years, married for nearly four, Tommy and I are best friends. We are fortunate to both come from families in which our parents are still married. Tommy and I also share similar, if not identical, views on politics, theology, economics, childrearing, and gender relations.
As it turns outs, our view on marriage, and our marriage itself, is so extraordinary that feminists don’t even believe one like it can even exist. When asked about this form of relationship, most feminists will simply dismiss the idea thinking it is impossible, such a marriage could never exist, and it’s not even worth entertaining, let alone studying. This position is blown-off as closed-minded and outdated.
What is this view one might ask? Don’t tell the feminists, but it’s called the complementarian position. In summary, this position says that men and women are different in their roles and abilities but equal in their value. This position is supported by conservative Christianity. My religion deeply impacts my worldview and I cannot disregard those beliefs in a discussion of womanhood nor do I feel the need to.
Before this class, my husband and I both placed a high value on women’s work. The laundry, dishes, sweeping, meal production, childcare and so forth are all jobs typically done by me. It can be a blow to my pride that I don’t get a bonus for a good job ironing. The only raise I get is to put my feet up at the end of the day. Even if I toot my own horn, no one is going to advance me into management. I don’t take a check to the bank every other Friday (though who does with direct deposit?) But I am paid in a different currency. Tommy loves laundry day, having his pick of clean boxers; he’s practically giddy when he slides into the clean sheets. He never forgets to thank me. I pay myself by spending less in a month on groceries than what most spend in a week. I get the joy of knowing where my son’s ticklish spots are and how sweet it is to have him fall asleep on my chest. I now see these as invaluable opportunities. They are not in the shadow of what my husband does, but a reflection of what he does.
We also place a high value on my husband’s work both as a master’s student and as a paid employee. Thanks to feminism I have a new appreciation for how family focused Tommy is. Tommy chooses to remain in a job that allows him flexible scheduling so he can watch our son occasionally and still get in his hours. He could be making twice as much (be still my heart) if he did the same thing for another employer. I now realize how much I took for granted his family friendly workplace whenever we took lunch and hung out on a whim, or whenever I asked him to come home early, just because.
Our views of complementarity come from the Bible. But what about patriarchy, doesn’t the Bible promote oppression of women? Before learning about feminism I didn’t realize how poorly understood patriarchal societies and women’s status within them were. In patriarchy, men carry the responsibility, and the ultimate decision making ability. These men (ideally intelligent like my husband) know to consult their equally intelligent spouse prior to taking any action that would affect the family. In the Bible one can see that even Adam was held responsible for Eve’s sin of eating from the tree. Women aren’t to be commandeered because they are weak and irrational, but protected because they are valuable.
A feminist might say that religion exists to control women’s sexuality because it was a threat to early civilization; they believe early laws will reflect this. Yes, some of the laws in the Bible are in effort to instruct women in the purpose of sexuality. Some of them are in effort to instruct men. All of the laws recorded in the Bible were written because God expects his people to be holy; yes he expects even a woman's sexuality to be holy. Many of the laws are followed with consequences such as stone the man who rapes a woman. Yet it is men in the book of Proverbs (which incidentally personifies wisdom as a woman) who are instructed to control their springs, warning him to never share his springs with strangers. Because my husband has heeded these instructions, his fountain has been blessed and he rejoices in the wife of his youth. (Prov. 5:18)
Being a wife and a mom is not simple. I benefit from support and encouragement. For all of feminism’s claims of liberation and enlightenment, there is no support found here for me. Freedom from childbearing? Liberation from the home? Sounds like bondage to loneliness and futility to me. And Betty- it’s not the vacuum sucking the life out of you, it’s all the time you’ve spent stirring up dissention.

I received a 9 out of 10 for this essay. Her comment at the end was to say that she didn't really agree, but thought it was well written. What do you think?


  1. Awesome Jessica! I'm so proud of you for writing this. And it really is written extremely well. I'd never heard the term complementarian relationship before, but I really like that. If anything, I hope that you planted some seeds in your professor's heart!

  2. Wow, sweetie, you knocked my socks off!! You really are a gifted and talented writer! God has blessed you with a wonderful gift. submit it to some Christian women's magazine! I am so glad you are my daughter. Love, Mom

  3. Definitely agree that it is well-written and that super-feminism is off base on many things!
    However, I wouldn't stretch complimentarianism quite as much. I think men and women definitely are assigned different (broad) roles in church and home, but I don't think those roles necessarily extend to abilities, housework or careers, for instance.
    Glad you gave your professor your honest thoughts, too! That can be tough in those classes.

  4. Love it. I think the Bible is clear about the difference between men and women while also being clear that every Christian (man or woman) should pursue the desires of their redeemed heart. I totally agree with the sentiment that if a woman desires in her heart to make a home for her family and raise her children, she should do so and be respected for it. I also think there are women (such as myself) who desire to be that woman, but to also pursue other things outside of the home such as a part time job or other business. My family benefits from my sense of accomplishments outside the home. But it's all about the desires of you heart - both men AND women should be pursuing them and there should be mutual encouragement the whole way!

  5. Titus 2: 4-5 Train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

    I think so long as a woman can do those things, there is nothing wrong with working outside the home. But if her work inside the home begins to slack, she needs to head back home.
    Some seasons of life we must give up the desires of our heart to serve others.
    There is obviously no one pattern every marriage must fall into.
    Thank y'all for all the comments, great stuff to think on!

  6. Extremely well written. It should be published somewhere. Tommy, start looking for venues.

  7. Gifted writing! Your observation skills and views are spiritually mature and spot on.

    You should journal your thoughts as often as you can and write down contributing sources for some later writing effort (such as a book). Women need to hear more from normal (mature, intellectual, well adjusted) Christian women like you and not from those heretical Word Faith (a.k.a. Prosperity Gospel, Name-it-claim-it) ministers (e.g. Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Marilyn Hickey. etc.).

    Of course this is just one older mans opinion.

  8. Jessica,
    Loved reading this. So nice to see that not everyone thinks this an outdated viewpoint!



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