Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stay-At-Home Daughters

Gina McGalliard wrote a fascinating piece at Bitch Magazine entitled "House Proud: The Troubling Rise of Stay-At-Home Daughters." McGalliard introduces readers to the Christian patriarchy movement, a fundamentalist subculture that emphasizes male authority over the family and rigid gender roles. Groups such as the Vision Forum and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood promote this patriarchal paradigm as God's vision for the sexes. Overlap between the Christian patriarchy movement and the Quiverfull movement have been observed.

In the Christian patriarchy movement, men are encouraged to be leaders and providers, while women are encouraged to be submissive wives, mothers, and homemakers. As McGalliard's article explains, daughters are raised with the expectation that they will submit to their fathers (and later husbands) and devote themselves to the domestic realm. Higher education and careers are discouraged for young women, because they would instill independence in women that would be inimical to the Christian patriarchy movement's aims.

As McGalliard notes, this movement is hardly on the fringes of fundamentalist Christianity. Christian Patriarchy and the stay-at-home daughters movement have the potential to seep into evangelical and fundamentalist communities:
"Such sexist views of women’s roles are certainly not limited to the Christian Patriarchy Movement. But unlike other extremely conservative religious groups such as the Amish or fundamentalist Mormon polygamists, which are typically closed off from the rest of society, the stay-at-home-daughters movement and the CPM might be capable of seeping into the already-booming populations of evangelical and fundamentalist churches and Christian homeschoolers, which already advocate a less-rigorous version of female submission."
The problems associated with such a vision are self-evident. First, its rigidly hierarchical worldview dehumanizes women and girls, denying them a say in their own futures. Girls, having been taught to ignore their own talents, strengths, and dreams, will emerge into womanhood stunted. How can someone take risks, make vital decisions, or be a fully mature adult if they have been taught to submit, submit, submit from birth?

Second, the movement also sends negative messages to men and boys. Shoehorning males into rigid "headship" roles teaches them to look down on women, equate masculinity with dominance, and suppress their own multifaceted personalities. Men's lives are boxed in by the expectation to marry, reproduce, and engage in hierarchical relationships.

Moreover, this paradigm of male "headship" and female submissiveness fails to account for domestic violence. If men are given arbitrary authority over women, some unscrupulous men will abuse that power in very ugly ways. To boot, if an abuser's victim has no higher education, no work experience outside the home, and an ingrained belief that she is subordinate to her abuser, what are her chances of escaping the abusive relationship? As McGalliard observes, Christian patriarchy creates situations of vulnerability for women:

"Despite the assertion of stay-at-home daughters that they are “protected” (albeit in a country where they have every legal right to walk away from their families and churches), it’s difficult not to view them as being extremely vulnerable. After all, men who grow up believing that women were created to serve their whims are generally the ones who are just as likely to abuse the women they see as “theirs” as to protect them from others."
I have a feeling we'll be hearing more about this movement. Let's keep an eye on it.

For additional commentary on the Christian Patriarchy Movement and stay-at-home daughters, visit the following links.

The Frisky: What Is the Evangelical "Stay-At-Home Daughters Movement"?

No Longer Quivering: Quiverfull Daughters: The Making of a Helpmeet

Under Much Grace (a Christian website that condemns the harms of Christian patriarchy)

Overcoming Botkin Syndrome (a website for those recovering from Christian patriarchy)

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