Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Christian Patriarchy Movement Scapegoats Women

A Nubian goat, not to be confused with a scapegoat
Over the past few weeks, I've been blogging on prominent figures in the Christian Patriarchy movement, including the Botkin family, Kevin Swanson, and Doug Phillips. I've been noticing a pattern in how Christian Patriarchy voices talk about the sexes: women are inordinately blamed for misfortune. Even in instances where misfortune stems from systemic problems, or from a man's poor choices, someone will find a way to blame wives and mothers.

First, in a commentary about Doug Phillips' infidelity scandal, Doug Wilson suggested that a sleazy "Delilah" using "sexual jiu jitsu" is sometimes to blame when men "with lots of testosterone" commit adultery. The fact that such men consciously choose to engage in infidelity wasn't emphasized as much.
"A man with lots of testosterone is in a position to start a dynamic ministry that speaks to thousands, that fills conference halls, and that rivets people to their seats. Taking a hypothetical, that very same man is also in a much better position to succumb to the blandishments of a stripper with a stage name of Foxy Bubbles, and all in the settled conviction that his sin will not find him out. How could his sin find him out? He rivets people to their seats.

Samson eventually had his eyes put out, but even before he lost his eyes he was not able to see what Delilah was doing with and to him. The thing that God was using against the Philistines, his strength, was also the thing that Delilah was using in a series of sexual jiu jitsu moves against Samson. It is an old trick, and it still works very, very well."
Next, during a recent edition of Generations with Vision, Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner discussed Doug Phillips' resignation from Vision Forum ministries over an inappropriate relationship. Buehner essentially blamed adultery on spouses (read: wives) who do not cater to their partner's sexual needs.
"When that vow is broken, then a wife or a husband is turning their spouse over to be tempted by the Devil. You're turning your spouse over to say, 'Devil, have at my husband or my wife. I was the protection of that sexual desire. I was the outlet, and I've decided that I would rather that person be tempted by the Devil.'"
Swanson recounted a time when his wife was talking with church elders' wives, reminding them of their conjugal duties as outlines in 1 Corinthians 7. The implication, it seemed, was that Christian wives owe sex to their husbands, and if they fail to do so, they're not truly supporting their men.

In part VI of the Botkins' "Ready for Real Life" webinar, the Botkins complained that some homeschooled children fail to thrive as adults. Victoria Botkin blamed mothers for poorly preparing their children for adult life.
"We have to be honest and say that the weakness is that it's mommy-driven ... I know that what homeschool mommies like me love most is to gather our chicks together and snuggle up together on the sofa with our cups of cocoa and just have a wonderful time reading together. This warm, cozy mothering style is very good and it's very nurturing when the children are little, but we have to face it, as they get older, this is simply not a good formula for training up cultural leaders. So, as our children grow up, the way we interact with them and the way we mothers discipline them has simply got to grow with them."
Moments later, Geoffrey Botkin blamed mothers for raising "dwarfted" and "emasculated" young men. The idea that his movement's homeschooling paradigm might be the problem was not considered.
"We notice that parents' teaching styles and techniques and priorities really are not growing with the children. We're keeping the children young. We're keeping the children undeveloped, and part of that is because mommies who are still driving the process, and because so many dads are not as engaged as they should be, mommies would like that warm, cuddling, secure, sheltered life to continue far into life as adults, as adulthood. And so too many young men, young boys are growing up being dwarfed or emasculated by the world and its real-life issues."
In part IV of the webinar, Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin blamed girls in the Christian Patriarchy Movement for failing to engage in the sciences. Elizabeth Botkin blames girls and women for assigning themselves a passive role, ignoring the fact that Christian Patriarchy culture actively suppresses females.
"It's very easy to think that these are guy things ... and to think that our role will never require us to know any of these things. That's because often, we girls have actually assigned ourselves a role as women that's a lot smaller than the role the Bible gives us, and we think, 'Oh, well we'll never have to be involved in invention or engineering or exploration, because our job is to do the dishes and the sewing', and we let ourselves off easy."
Anna Sophia blames girls for engaging in stereotypically feminine pursuits instead of science and technology, ignoring the fact that this is exactly what the Christian Patriarchy Movement demands that girls do.
"You've got to wonder why is it that homeschool girls today are not doing any of these things. We see a lot of girls who are pursuing small handcrafts but not these bigger, dominion-oriented things. But there's really no reason why they couldn't be using their gifts for design and fine detail processing, for example, to do web design or graphic design instead of scrap booking and kitting."
The pattern resurfaces again and again. In Christian Patriarchy Movement rhetoric, women are to blame when something goes wrong, when their men stray, and even when they do everything they've been instructed to do. Why are leaders in the Christian Patriarchy Movement so eager to blame women and girls?

First, women serve as useful scapegoats for men. Christian Patriarchy men may not want to accept responsibility for mistakes, and so they blame women. In doing so, Christian Patriarchy men preserve their collective self-image as (supposedly) responsible leaders over the home and church. Christian Patriarchy women, having been taught to devalue themselves, internalize this self-blame and scapegoat other women in turn.

Second, scapegoating women serves to keep Christian Patriarchy women's self-esteem low. If Christian Patriarchy women have been taught since girlhood that they are inadequate and blameworthy, their low self-esteem will make it easier for men to control them.

For all its talk about protecting women and girls, the Christian Patriarchy Movement seems more invested in subjugating and blaming them. In a 2012 commentary at Religion Dispatches, Julie Ingersoll pointed out the sad state of affairs for women in the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements.
"In biblical patriarchy, the refrain of "women and children first" hides an agenda whereby the women are "first" only insofar as they keep their place which is subordinate to men ... tragically, a biblical woman is also "first" to take the blame for marital problems, "first" to be excommunicated as part of church discipline, "first" to serve her father and then her husband in his vision for dominion."
This needs to stop. No more scapegoating. No more misogyny. No more narcissistic men who want all of the power but none of the responsibility when things go wrong. It's time for people to reject the Christian Patriarchy Movement, allow women to be adults, and expect men to behave like adults.


  1. It simply defies my brain to understand these people. The men...well that's kinda obvious...but why do women willingly go along with this? I cannot get it. Whatever goes wrong, it's such a convenient thing to blame the woman. sigh....sometimes I think we are still close to being in caves.

    1. Sherry -- Some of those women have probably internalized all the misogyny. Others may disagree with the scapegoating, but are trapped in the CPM culture with few ways out.

    2. There are incentives for women: mainly promises of perfect marital/family bliss and the glorification of motherhood and homemaking. If you just follow the supposed biblical roles, you are supposed to receive the supposed biblical promises of devoted husband, obedient children and your rightful place as the honored, cherished heart of the home. The small print is that if you don't experience these rewards, it's because you're somehow not doing it right. Thus the movement can take away the promised fulfillment with the left hand of judgment, while continuing to offer it with the right hand of fellowship.

    3. Kristen -- Welcome! Thank you for the insights into why some women find the CPM appealing. It can be baffling to an outsider, but it helps to understand what the movement promises women and why they stay.

  2. Part of the Patriarchal teaching is that you must shelter your children. I had noticed many years ago when listening to one of these speakers discussing this very topic, that they NEVER talked about how/when to stop sheltering and start letting your children go (releasing them to grow up and leave home). Now I find out it's mom fault - that we wanted the "sheltered life to continue far into life as adults". This is CRAZY! I am so glad that we are not involved in this movement! I don't know how women put up with this insanity.

    1. Clearviewfarms -- Thanks for stopping by! I agree that the CPM doesn't send clear messages about when and how to stop sheltering young people.


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