Amanda’s post on the dangers of letting your daughter go to college led me to this site, and boy is it something. The idea is that it’s an instructional for fine Christian ladies learning the art of submission, first to their fathers and then to their husbands. And it’s thoroughly disturbing, to say the least.
The site is run by two sisters, Elizabeth and Ana Sofia, who encourage women and girls everywhere to submit themselves to male authority. These women are good writers and they aren’t idiots, but their suggestions are pretty Orwellian and terrifying. Case in point:
We received a letter recently asking about the balance between a father’s authority and a daughter’s independence. Knowing that this question is a common one among girls making the transition from childhood to adulthood, we have decided to post our response to this family.
Dear damsels thinking yourselves in distress,
Your parents have both written to us to ask us our advice and encouragement on your situation (parents and maturing daughters striving to understand the balance between authority, liberty, maturity, submission, and responsibility.). What we would mostly like to do is share some of our thoughts on family dynamics in a household of adults.
Many stay-at-home girls believe that, as they become adults, their fathers’ jurisdiction over their lives will lessen. They feel that, in order to mature into individuals able to think and act for themselves, they must be “liberated” from another’s input into their lives. This is because we’re drowning in a culture that doesn’t understand what the Bible says about individualism vs. unity, autonomy vs. authority, or license vs. liberty.
Dear girls – don’t be afraid of losing your “individual personhood” or the ability to think for yourself, and don’t think that those are the signs of an adult. Any two-year-old girl has a mind of her own and most certainly thinks for herself. Every woman knows her own mind – it’s part of being Eve’s daughters. It’s not a sign of maturity to struggle for autonomy – that’s toddler stuff. The sign of our maturity and adulthood is when we willingly submit ourselves to God-given authority and therefore to God Himself. This is a struggle, and it requires strength, wisdom, responsibility and spiritual maturity.
Here is the difference between a child and an adult: a child has to be told what to do. An adult should have the intelligence and maturity to take the responsibility to pro-actively look for ways to further the father’s vision. From a child, a parent can’t expect much more than obedience. An adult son or daughter in a household should have a lot more to contribute to the family mission than mere obedience. An adult daughter, raised well by conscientious parents, will be able to think, will know how to live sensibly, will be discerning and self-controlled and self-disciplined, and will be wise and have understanding that may, in some areas, exceed that of her parents.
The sign of maturity isn’t that we simply “obey” our parents’ commands, but that we understand deeply what our parents’ hearts and goals are, and can anticipate and even exceed what they expect of us. A mature, adult daughter who deserves her parents’ trust most certainly isn’t the one who says, “I’m not a child anymore, Dad! I’m an adult! I’m old enough to decide for myself when to get up, and it’s not something you have authority over anymore!” (Literally, “I’m mature enough to demand my own way, and throw a tantrum and threaten to run away if I don’t get it!”) But she also isn’t the one who says, “Ok, ok, Dad, I’ll get up when you tell me to.” The mature daughter is the one that takes the initiative and says, “Dad, what time would you like me to get up? I know that spending time with your family before you leave for work is important to you, and I love that about you… so how can I help make it happen?” This is one thing that makes us different from mindless automatons with no wills of our own (which some girls seem mortally afraid of becoming.)
In other words, you should not only do whatever your father says, but you should be able to figure out what he wants ahead of time, and you’re a failure if you don’t. Also, independence, autonomy, and the ability to think for oneself are “toddler stuff.” True maturity comes from shutting up, recognizing your secondary status and submitting to your betters. Right.
Your mother mentioned that communication is an issue. This is an issue in every family, including our own. Women need to have a realistic understanding of how men – even the best men – communicate. It’s not the way women do. It’s not the way women expect them to or want them to. Every father has a hard time knowing how to communicate with his daughter. But there are ways that a daughter can help her father communicate with her.
Observation one: Daughters often need to initiate, especially at first.
Observation two: Daughters need to be really, really careful about the tone in which they pour out their hearts to their fathers. A father’s protective, shepherding instinct will make him naturally feel that every problem distressing his daughter is his fault. Daughters have a tendency to think sharing her heart = dumping all her frustrations and burdens and emotionalism and accusations on the shoulders of her poor dad, and then feeling even more emotional and distraught when he responds by acting bewildered and defensive. This doesn’t actually nurture the father-daughter bond.
Be honest with your father, unless it has something to do with you being unhappy or frustrated. Then lie.
God wants our hearts and all that they contain to be surrendered to our parents – and ultimately to God – to be molded and directed. Making yourself vulnerable in this way requires Trust. You must trust your parents, that they ultimately desire what is best for you, and that they are qualified to lead you and guide you simply because they are your parents chosen by God to raise you.
It also requires Faith. Faith that God will lead you through your parents, imperfect though they are. And faith in God’s promised blessings for your obedience.
When your parents have your heart you will truly “delight in their ways.” You will love what they love, hate what they hate, and desire their approval and company and even “think their thoughts after them.”
This is called “seeking after the hearts of your parents” just as King David was “a man after God’s own heart.”
Similarly, your parent’s hearts should be able to trust in you, as it says in Proverbs 31, “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her…” This means that they will have confidence in your obedience, when they are watching and when they’re not, that you will demonstrate loyalty to them and to every thing they have taught you, in what you speak and do, in public and in private.
Loving someone means giving up your own preferences and personality and turning yourself into their clone.
Don’t be impatient for Prince Charming to rescue you from your father’s “heavy hand,” thinking that once you’re married to your perfect husband, your authority problems will vanish. It’s folly to think it will be easier to respect and submit to a husband than a father.
We’re not ready to consider ourselves eligible for marriage until we’ve learned to trust an imperfect individual with our lives. To communicate with a man, which will always be a struggle. To submit to an imperfect man’s “whims” as well as his heavy requirements. To order our lives around another person. To accept the burdens a man places on us cheerfully. To esteem and reverence and adore a man whose faults we can see clearly every day.
These are things we will face every day as wives, just as we face them every day now as the daughters of our fathers. We need to practice now, trusting our heavenly Father to lead our earthly fathers, and our earthly fathers to lead us, even though we know they’re not perfect.
Dear girls, if you have a father who wants to be your Christian authority and protector, and lead you in paths of righteousness, you are three of the most blessed girls in America. Most the girls who write to us after having read our book beg for help because their fathers still don’t have the vision, and aren’t really comfortable with their daughters trying to live the biblical model at home; or that their fathers don’t have their own businesses and don’t have anything for their daughters to do; or that their fathers are indifferent to them, and uninterested in their lives. You have a father in a million. Let him know how grateful you are for him.
If you believe that your purpose in life is to submit to male authority, then no, marriage isn’t going to be much better than living in your father’s house.
Anyway, check out the rest of the site — it’s something. But it’s disturbing for reasons beyond the obvious “wow it’s fucked up that there are still women who believe they’re sub-human and undeserving of the same rights that their male relatives enjoy.”
It’s disturbing because it’s part of a continuum of domination and control, and while it’s fun to shake our head at the real nut-bags, the ideas behind their mentality are common and deeply-rooted. The vision of women as property and your personal “helpmeets” (to use their terminology) is the same vision of women that begets everything from intimate partner violence to child marriage. Amanda has a great post up about men who kill their female partners, and what I found striking were the parallels between the sense of entitlement that that religious patriarchs exercise and the mentality of men who feel entitled to abuse and kill their wives and girlfriends. Amanda writes:
In pretty much every situation, the man was attempting to control his wife or girlfriend through violence. Since it was an attempt to control, the violence escalated when the victim showed resistance, so unsurprisingly, most of the murders or attempted murders occurred after the victim left her abuser, made plans to leave him, or threatened to leave him. There were a few infidelities, but they were never the direct cause of the crime—most of the jealous killers made up the infidelity in their minds (some even accused their wives of having sex with male relatives like uncles or fathers, they were so out of their minds with paranoia) or attacked their ex-wives after the women terminated the relationship and moved on. Some of the killers were not jealous, but just killed or tried to kill because they were irate at losing their wives and the services/money they saw provided by their wives, but regardless of the nuances, across the board Adams paints a picture of men who feel that women are their property and who try to control their property through violence. Only one man seemed sincerely sorry at all that he’d objectified his wife repeatedly throughout their marriage in such a way.
None of this is surprising to feminists, who have long situated intimate partner violence and sexual assault as crimes of control and entitlement. They’re also strategies of more generalized domination. Rape and domestic violence are not isolated events affecting only the women and girls who survive them; they’re hate crimes, and they have the effect of injuring individuals and terrorizing entire communities. Women everywhere live on “rape schedules.” Women everywhere deal with the consequences of being viewed as property, even when those consequences are subtle. One obvious example is reproductive rights: The fact that forcing women to continue unwanted pregnancies is even up for political discussion demonstrates just how deeply we hold the idea of women as property.
Amanda has another post up about the Marry Our Daughter hoax site, and how it hits a little too close to reality. Some of the men who responded touted their “family values” as a reason they wanted to marry one of the girls on the site, and Amanda quotes James Dobson infamous argument that women push their husbands into domestic violence as a way of creating a socially acceptable space to leave a marriage. She also highlights the fundamentalist Mormons who blame rape survivors for not being appropriately submissive.
And that’s another theme here: Women are always wrong.
Women beget violence by being demanding or hostile, and they do it on purpose for their own selfish ends, according to people like Dobson. Women who experience violence weren’t properly submissive, according to people like fundamentalist Mormon leader Warren Jeffs. The model of daughter-submissiveness follows this mold — it isn’t about being Daddy’s Little Princess or an indulged, spoiled child. It’s about shaping your entire existence around Daddy’s whims, and living as his servant. It’s about never asking for anything, and never asserting yourself. From Visionary Daughters:
“Fathers need to prepare their daughters to be wives who are under submission, helpers to their husbands, mothers, keepers at home, and domestic entrepreneurs,” exhorted Scott Brown. “There is a real danger in raising picky, un-pleasable daughters who are unable to follow an imperfect man. We have no business raising wimpy ‘prima donna’ daughters.”
So they don’t necessarily want women to be helpless — they want them to be servants who are bright enough to guess what Daddy wants done before Daddy even asks for it, but not so bright that they actually start thinking they have rights and things. Vision Forum never promotes domestic violence or physically punishing women who step out of line. But if you consider another person property, and if you consider their autonomy an affront to your God, where is the argument against physically abusing them if they step out of line — especially if physical abuse is the only way you can keep them under control?
They make no bones about the fact that their world view is based on patriarchal rule — just check out The Tenets of Patriarchy.
The first, and apparently the most important, is that God is a dude, and that men are God’s glory on earth. Women are men’s glory — not quite as close to God as men, and certainly not quite as important or human as men. All of the tenets are pretty good, but this one might be my favorite:
Fathers should oversee the process of a son or daughter seeking a spouse. While a father may find a wife for his son, sons are free to take initiative to seek and “take a wife.” A wise son will desire his parents’ involvement, counsel, and blessing in that process. Since daughters are “given in marriage” by their fathers, an obedient daughter will desire her father to guide the process of finding a husband, although the final approval of a husband belongs to her.
The wording is important, though — men “take” a wife, and fathers “give” their daughters. While fundamentalists take these words literally, fathers “give away” their daughters in some of the most secular weddings. No one thinks twice about it.
Raising generations of obedient girls is dangerous. When girls are taught that they should seek to please men at all costs and that they should seek out domineering, egomaniacal men, they’re being set up for disaster. Men who raise their daughters like this and men who abuse their partners are the more extreme ends of the spectrum — but in the middle are lots of “normal” men who every day feel entitled to women’s bodies, women’s labor, and women’s submission.