It was about a year ago when I read a story of a young woman, a pastor’s wife, who blogged about how she was going to make it her life’s purpose to be the perfect wife and mother. She was going to keep her mouth shut and serve her husband faithfully, have sex whenever he wanted or needed it, be modest publicly so as not to make her husband jealous, always deflect attention from herself and towards him, and basically be the fulfillment of all his fantasies or ideas of what a woman and wife should be. She received an incredible amount of ridicule for that. It felt unfair
So, I felt sad for her. Not in a condescending, pitiful kind of way. Just sad because I knew she meant well. In her world, being the perfect woman and wife looks just like how she imagined and described it. She could be no other. At that point.
The same applies to the Duggars. I don’t think they have chosen this lifestyle. They’ve been born into it, trained by it, and rewarded by it. For them to think or behave otherwise would be a direct betrayal of everything they have learned or been trained to become. It would be a spiritual and a social suicide for them. At least they think so.
Like Aimee Lutkin writes in her excellent post, A post about how to raise your daughter so she doesn’t end up like Anna Duggar went viral:
”Anna Duggar was taught that her sole purpose in life, the most meaningful thing she could do, was to be chaste and proper, a devout wife, and a mother.”
What really got me thinking about this more recently was when I read the also sad Ask Pastor John Piper post where Beth says she wants to be a police officer. But since she is a complementarian, if she gets married and her husband objects to her being a police officer, she will quit. Piper’s advice is clear: women should not direct, order, or have authority over men. Period. If you shape your whole life by scripture, then women should submit to men as they do Scripture.
I felt sad for Beth. Again, not in a “poor stupid girl” kind of way, but in a genuine lament kind of way.
Now, I realize I am looking at this from my particular perspective just as they are looking at it from theirs. So, for example, if my daughter met a man that told her he objected to her being a police woman and that she should quit, I’d expect my daughter to say to the guy, “FFFFFFF*** Ya, right! See ya later loser!”, and move on. But what if I raised my daughter in a complementarian culture where this would be totally normal, expected, and applauded? She may feel she’s fulfilling her highest destiny as a woman and feel incredibly fulfilled in doing so.
Actually, my daughter just missed it. I grew up in a complementarian kind of culture. Lisa and I were very much into a milder version of it. But we started, many years ago, to break away from that mentality when we realized Lisa was being asked to be less of a person, less free, and less happy as a result. I can personally attest, as may you, that when we are deeply embedded in a worldview, no matter how oppressive it might be, we find ways of making a life within it and even achieving certain levels of contentment and happiness. When we’re inside a worldview it is the only paradigm available to us. There is no choice.
Which is why I don’t blame the women I believe are stuck in them. Personally, again from my own perspective, I hope they wake up. Just like I must. Just like we all must. Every oppressive system needs perpetrators and victims to work. I think it is wise to try to discern the difference.
This is all sad because it all comes down to men getting and doing what they want while women must submit their dreams and aspirations, even their intelligence and strengths, to those of men. In fact, they must often abandon them, as we see Beth is willing to do… not because she resentfully must, but because this is the honorable, spiritual, and most beautiful sacrifice a woman can make.
So I believe Beth and the Duggars and all the women they represent are just a small part of the issue. The issue is systemic. The oppression and suppression is global, permeating even the air we breathe, deeply established in our minds, our transactions, our speech, our behaviors, our laws, our structures… in everything.
It takes a great deal of continued effort to break free from it.